Friday 30 October 2009

YOUNG ADULT REVIEW: Room on the Broom - Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

BOOK BLURB:

An excitingly interactive edition of the bestselling, prize-winning ROOM ON THE BROOM. Available in a set with the original paperback, the CD includes a full-length animation to watch, listen or read along to, plus a whole host of interactive games including Dodge the Dragon and Broomstick Catch. Printable activities include a toy theatre, card games, and posters too! You can even create your own story using images and characters from the original picture book.

Hours of fun, perfect for the whole family to enjoy over and over again!


REVIEW:

Reunited again the team that brought you the Gruffalo have a new story, a zany adventure and a cast of characters so beautifully drawn that the colours just jump out at you. But wait, that’s not all. Add to the mix a CD that contains all sorts of bonus’ alongside a readalong at your own pace, some great pictures and an animation and you’ve got everything to give your Young Adult a treat or two at this bewitching time of year. A great book and one that I’ve stashed to one side for a certain nephew’s Spooky Party gift.

YOUNG ADULT REVIEW: Dark Visions - LJ Smith

BOOK BLURB:

The strange power: Kaitlyn is an artist, but not an ordinary one; everything she draws comes true. When she is invited by Dr Xetes, a scientist who is studying psychic abilities, to join his school of "talented individuals" in California, Kaitlyn is only too happy to go. There she meets Rob, a healer, and Gabriel, a dark lone wolf, who apparently wants nothing to do with her. But with so much supernatural energy going around, it's hardly surprising that the psychics soon develop a telepathic link that can't be broken. The Possessed: Having learned the dark secrets of the psychic institute, Kaitlyn and her new friends are on the run, not even daring to contact their parents or old friends. As the group hide-out together they grow closer and Kaitlyn finally discovers Gabriel's dark secret: he's a psychic vampire. In order to survive he needs to drain other people's life-force, but he's been holding back to keep others safe. Kaitlyn offers herself as a source - and finds the experience not entirely un-enjoyable. The Passion: Back at the lab, captured like animals, Kaitlyn and her friends are still in danger from the evil Dr Xetes. To escape they will need to face the true meaning of what their psychic link really means. But Kaitlyn is battling with an internal conflict too: Rob or Gabriel? Sunlight or darkness? She'll need to search her heart for the answer.


REVIEW:

With readers having got excited with the forthcoming Vampire Diaries (ITV2 has the UK rights to show it) based on the books of the same name by Lisa, we decided to take a look at some of her other books and were pleasantly surprised as well as extremely happy to discover that we were to receive a compendium.

What you get in this volume is a series that allows the reader to experience the growing of the characters not only emotionally but also physically as she seeks to come to terms with her own gifts. Its dark in places, light in others but a series that really will stay with you. Whilst the series was originally written a decade ago, its still fresh and will definitely strike a chord with the reader as much today as they did upon original release. A great offering and a bargain at the price.

Thursday 29 October 2009

YOUNG ADULT REVIEW: Billy Bones - Christopher Lincoln

BOOK BLURB:

The Bones Family lives in a dark closet, guarding the secrets and lies (little white ones and big whoppers) that belong to the hideous Biglums. But Little Billy Bones craves the excitement of the big wide world outside.

Then Millicent, a new friendly Biglum, arrives at the mansion. And when a skeleton-boy with a hidden history meets a no-nonsense orphan girl with a nose for mysery, the truth is bound to burst out of the Secrets Closet. . .


REVIEW:

Since the passing of Roald Dahl there hasn’t been any author who has managed to produce a book that can win the readers over the way he could. That will all change with the release of Billy Bones by Christopher Lincoln who not only enthuses the reader with his story telling style but will also keep them fascinated, curious and above all energetic enough to demand just one more chapter before bed.

Beautifully scripted alongside a wonderment that really does keep the reader glued to the page, it’s a story of morals, of inventiveness and above all a tale that will give the reader a cast of characters to love throughout their adventure. A definite touch of Dahl within and something that I really can’t recommend enough.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Guilty Pleasures (Anita Blake 1), The Laughing Corpse (Anita Blake 2) - Laurell K Hamilton

BOOK BLURB:
The fantastically addicitive first Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, novel

‘I don’t date vampires. I kill them.’

My name is Anita Blake. Vampires call me the Executioner. What I call them isn’t repeatable.

Ever since the Supreme Court granted the undead equal rights, most people think vampires are just ordinary folks with fangs. I know better. I’ve seen their victims. I carry the scars...

But now a serial killer is murdering vampires – and the most powerful bloodsucker in town wants me to find the killer.


REVIEW:

With the whole Anita Blake series now coming under a new UK publisher, we thought that perhaps now was the time to review it from the beginning as each offering arrives through the mail. So here is book one, Guilty Pleasures, the tale that began it all, as seen through the eyes of a new initiate to the series, Lady Eleanor.

At first I was a little bit worried that this book was going to go the way of the Merry Gentry series, too much sex, very little plot. I was relieved and slightly surprised to find Anita Blake, in this offering, appearing to be a conservative young woman and I did feel that this novel felt like jumping into a story that was half way through before it even began. Personally, I’d have loved at least an info dump as to why and how she became a necromancer but perhaps that’s a story that will be picked up on later in the series and if it hasn’t been perhaps there is a prequel in the offing.

The story itself was a fairly average tale with repetative phrases alongside no real twists and turns, fairly bland characters (due to no real descriptions or history) with an ending that felt not only rushed but an anticlimax. Don’t get me wrong it was OK and did fill my reading time however, overall for a debut novel, I’m surprised that this one led to so many sequels.


BOOK BLURB:
An enthralling Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, novel
‘The older the zom
bie, the bigger the death needed to raise it.’

After a few centuries, the only death ‘big enough’ is a human sacrifice. I know because I’m an animator. My name is Anita Blake. Working for Animators, Inc. is just a job – like selling insurance. But all the money in the world wasn’t enou
gh for me to take on the particular job Harold Gaynor was offering. Somebody else did, though – a rogue animator. Now he’s not just raising the dead... he’s raising Hell. And it’s up to me to stop it.


REVIEW:

The second Anita Blake novel and this time she battles the shambling Living Dead (Zombies). The plot for this story, whilst still not perfect was better than the original outing with the tale being mainly about Anita with no real additional character subplots that distracted me from her exploits and could be read as a standalone if you haven’t read the original novel.

However, what got to me was the dreadful fashion sense of Anita and I’d have liked better character description as to be honest I’m still in the dark about how Anita looks other than her short stature. I also felt that there still isn’t enough character depth to give her a more rounded feeling and with hints within the tale that there were deeper issues only heightened my need for this information which was sadly denied. On the whole I still have issues with the series but its going to be one I’ll stick with so that I can see how it pans out, there are worse books out there and with the hype surrounding LKH it might be a fun journey.

Wednesday 28 October 2009

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Pandaemonium - Christopher Brookmyre

BOOK BLURB:

The senior pupils of St Peter's High School are on retreat to a secluded outdoor activity centre, coming to terms with the murder of a fellow pupil through the means you would expect: counselling, contemplation, candid discussion and even prayer - not to mention booze, drugs, clandestine liaisons and as much partying as they can get away with. Not so far away, the commanders of a top-secret military experiment, long-since spiralled out of control, fear they may have literally unleashed the forces of Hell. Two very different worlds are on a collision course, and will clash in an earthly battle between science and the supernatural, philosophy and faith, civilisation and savagery. The bookies are offering evens.


REVIEW:

If there’s one thing you can say about Brookmyre is that he’s not only got a very dry sense of humour but he seems to know exactly how to pace a tale to keep the reader not only glued but enchanted by his offering. Its got enough punching power to risk a few rounds in the ring with any of the current heavy hitters and will perhaps potentially lead the author into the ring for one of the most humorous books of the year. Whilst some will say that its not his best work to date, as an introduction I thoroughly loved it and if the quality of this offering is anything to go off I’ll definitely be seeking other titles out. Finally add to the mix great characterisation, punchy descriptiveness and a school bus full of teenagers alongside some daemons and it’s a powder keg just waiting to combust on your bookshelf.

ART BOOK REVIEW: Scream - Steve Ellis

BOOK BLURB:
Avid horror fans will enjoy learning to draw classic characters of the night with this unique book. Its basic instruction covers shapes, lighting, gesture, texture, facial features, anatomy and much more. The extensive colour section teaches readers about traditional painting and digital colouring. The book includes over 23 demonstrations for the creation of various classic characters and settings, from starting sketches to finished coloured art - including a variety of vampires, witches, wolf man, "Frankenstein"'s monster, zombies, werewolves, ghosts and more.


REVIEW:

With Halloween fast approaching every one wants to know how to create the creates of Fearsome creatures of myth and Legend. But how exactly do you do that and where do you start?

Well wonder no more as Steve Ellis takes the time to show the novice artist tips and tricks to creating their holiday fiend as he tackles the subject from basics such as colour and shading through to placing as well as posturing for the best results everytime. Whilst this may not be the best book for those with no artistic talent with some hard work alongside some of the tools suggested within some of the results will truly be mind boggling leaving many wondering how you went about and created the piece that they’re viewing. With each creature featured (there’s Zombies, Vamps, Were’s to name a few), Steve takes the artist hand through each individual step so that you can see his words in action, which makes this a very comprehensive guide. Add to the mix a vibrancy of apparent movement alongside making sure that each medium is covered from paints, to pen and ink alongside covering basics such as creating the right biological structures to give it a sense of realism and you’ve got a great addition to any artists library. It is fun, its given me quite a lot of tips and above all the huge expanse of available features has made this something that I’ll utilise quite a lot for my own personal art projects.

Tuesday 27 October 2009

POETRY BOOK REVIEW: Vampire Haiku - Ryan Mecum

BOOK BLURB:

The haiku journal follows our vampire narrator from the birth of America all the way to present time, as he writes sporadically through the centuries. The playful main character has a long biography that winds through numerous wars, a certain tea party in Boston, living the high life during the Great Depression, corrupting Emily Dickinson. The poems intertwine three main elements: being a vampire, living during the entire history of America, and forever longing to find and be with the woman who turned him into a vampire many years ago as he crossed the Atlantic Ocean on the Mayflower.


REVIEW:

After the Zombie Haiku book of last year we get to see the pained “soul” of the Vampire in this years offering. Its amusing and written as if hundreds of years apart covering the “turning” or rebirth of the character through to their own blood letting and life throughout the years. It’s amusing, it’s easy to pick up and read a few pages and makes this something of a poetic bathroom book that will have many visitors flicking through and perhaps taking a bit longer than intended as its quite an interesting offering.

If you’re stuck for something special for that Goth or Fangbanger in your life then this is the ideal gift either for their special night or for Christmas Day, however make sure that you don’t take it into the light of day, its unhealthy for many of the brethren. LOL

HORROR REVIEW: Body Count, Last Rites - Shaun Hutson

BOOK BLURB:

The figure in the mask stumbles bleeding through the streets, his pursuers closing in. They also wear masks, but they don't stumble. They stalk. They carry machetes, clubs and knives. And they know how to use them ...Who is kidnapping seemingly random victims and then slaughtering them in an elaborate game of cat and mouse? And why are these murders being streamed over the internet? Watching the horror unfold at New Scotland Yard is Detective Inspector Joe Chapman who searches for clues, hints - anything that might tell him where and when this savage hunt is happening. He'd give anything to know. But DI Chapman is about to learn that you should be careful what you wish for. Very soon, he will be closer to the blood-letting than he could have imagined. Forced to fight for his life and the life of someone he holds dear, the only way out looks to be to rack up the biggest body count. But even that might not be enough.


REVIEW:

Shaun used to one of my top five favourite authors and with his earlier works always fulfilling my reading need his work ended up at the top of my TBR pile.

However recent releases have seen him slipping further and further down my favoured list until now he's clinging on by his fingernails.

This opinion of him isn't improved with his latest offering in which a Policeman who whilst searching for his runaway daughter gets thrown some bizarre cases that seem to defy logic. The fact that the victims are all criminals make ie even more incredulous but what really took the biscuit was how this aged, unfit copper was able to become more than human as he leaps trashed cars like a proverbial superhuman. As with most writing I can accept the improbable but the impossible really does take the mick. A great shame to be honest, although the main pleasure I got out of this book was to envision the protagonist as Philip Glenister's DCI Gene Hunt. However, Shaun is going to have to reinvent himself as I wonder how many fans he's not only losing but how many are thinking of constructive ways to plot their revenge for another poor release.



BOOK BLURB:

Almost beaten to death by a gang of violent teenagers, schoolmaster Peter Mason wants nothing more than to escape the simmering violence of London, his broken marriage and the memories of his daughter's death. The perfect chance comes in the form of a position at a prestigious boarding school in the heart of the Buckinghamshire countryside. But the past is always lurking in the background. Not just his own past but that of the school and its former staff. Mason becomes obsessed with discovering what became of his predecessor. The man's mysterious disappearance remains unexplained, leaving a chilling legacy behind. Mason finds that there are strange events occurring at the school - violent and sinister events that have happened before and will, if he cannot stop them, happen again ...


REVIEW:

If there’s one thing that Shaun always does well its pick a role that not only fits well within the situation to which they’ll find themselves but also find a way to twist the readers perspectives allowing them to see the heroism of the common man depicted in its greater glory. Here the character is a teacher who after suffering emotional and physical trauma seeks to find a new life. Having talked to his ex-wife he is persuaded to find a new position away from the place where the attack took place and manages to get a teaching placement at a private school that comes with the added bonus of a new home.

Whilst looking round the cottage he finds disturbing images of his predecessor which leads him into an investigation, during which his colleagues are all closed lipped about the events. Help comes in the form of the female member of staff with the relationship developing as events unfold. Things in the classroom aren’t going as well, as he finds that there is a small click amongst his pupils that know more about him than he’s revealed which leads to paranoia that escalates after his love interest ends up missing.

The book itself is unfortunately tedious with very little happening as if the author had a good idea for a novella that had to be stretched to accommodate a novel brief. Add to the mix Shaun’s almost superstitious usage of certain words within the text and it does leave you wondering if he’s had his day. However, what really got to me was that after so many carefully created plots that he turns out a novel that felt too much a cross of the “Wicker Man” and “Class of 1984” which sadly had none of the originality of either. For me Shaun really has lost it and I only hope that at some point he’ll take a long hard look at what he’s been releasing and asks the fans what they want rather than relying on his name to sell an inferior product.

Monday 26 October 2009

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Dracula the Undead - Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt

BOOK BLURB:

The official sequel to Bram Stoker's classic novel Dracula, written by his direct descendent and endorsed by the Stoker family. The story begins in 1912, twenty-five years after the events described in the original novel. Dr. Jack Seward, now a disgraced morphine addict, hunts vampires across Europe with the help of a mysterious benefactor. Meanwhile, Quincey Harker, the grown son of Jonathan and Mina, leaves law school to pursue a career in stage at London's famous Lyceum Theatre. The production of Dracula at the Lyceum, directed and produced by Bram Stoker, has recently lost its star. Luckily, Quincey knows how to contact the famed Hungarian actor Basarab, who agrees to take the lead role. Quincey soon discovers that the play features his parents and their former friends as characters, and seems to reveal much about the terrible secrets he's always suspected them of harbouring. But, before he can confront them, Jonathan Harker is found murdered. The writers were able to access Bram Stoker's hand-written notes and have included in their story characters and plot threads that had been excised by the publisher from the original printing over a century ago. Dracula is one of the most recognized fictional characters in the world, having spawned dozens of multi-media spin-offs. The Un-Dead is the first Dracula story to enjoy the full support of the Stoker estate since the original 1931 movie starring Bela Lugosi.


REVIEW:

As a huge fan of the original when I originally heard of Stoker’s descendant writing a sequel based on Bram’s notes I thought that this was either going to be a great book or worryingly a cheap cash in on the Stoker name. What was presented however was a tale that I thoroughly enjoyed. Whilst I couldn’t exactly read this in one sitting, it was a book that I was able to savour a chapter at a time. A great offering and one that I suspect will grip a large number of other Stoker Fans perhaps leading to new tours of the places mentioned within. With a new dark Vampiric monster to hunt it might well be the creature more fearsome than the count as we know that the female of the species is more dangerous than the male as is quite obviously proven within this tale.

FACTUAL BOOK REVIEW: Ghosts Caught on Film 2 - Ian Eaton


BOOK BLURB:

From shadowy figures, strange mists and apparitions to angels and demons, "Ghost Caught on Film 2" is a compendium of extraordinary phenomena caught on film. Jim Eaton has spent over ten years studying thousands of ghost photographs and here he presents a collection of the most intriguing in seven enigmatic chapters. This title includes a gallery of explainable photographic effects that are commonly mistaken for pictures of ghosts. The best selection of ghost photos yet published is accompanied by illuminating commentary - whether you are a sceptic or a believer, you can't help but be drawn into the unknown.


REVIEW:

A general photo book about what people to believe to be apparitions, as well as explaining how some images can be faked or even accidentally done by the photographer such as exhaling on a cigarette just prior to taking the shot. It’s a great stocking filler for the holiday period and will interest those with a fascination in the paranormal, perhaps even a great Halloween gift such as us featuring it here. It will leave you questioning some pictures but its definitely a spooky experience for the reader and one that might help you capture that special image of your own.

Friday 23 October 2009

CRIME FICTION: The Darkest Room - Johan Theorin

BOOK BLURB:

'For several hours I believed that my daughter had drowned and my wife as alive, when in fact the reverse was true'. It is bitter mid-winter when Katrine and Joakim Westin move with their children into the old manor house at Eel Point on the Swedish island of Oland. But their new home is no remote idyll. Just days later, Katrine is found drowned off the rocks nearby. While Joakim struggles to keep his sanity, Tilda Davidsson - a young policewoman fresh out of college- becomes convinced that Katrine was murdered. Then, on Christmas Eve, a blizzard hits Eel Point. Isolated by the snow, Joakim does not know that visitors - as unwelcome as they are terrifying - are making their way towards him. For this is the darkest night of the year, and the night when the living meet the dead.


REVIEW:

With publishers looking further afield than their native lands to discover new talent its probably comes as no surprise to many that the Scandinavians are being picked up by the Crime publishers over in the UK. Here in Johan’s second novel is a tale of intrigue told almost from an Urban Fantasy point of view rather than the pure crime angle which gives this a new flavour within the genre as well as steadily building to a conclusion that leaves the reader wondering which way its going to go. A definite author to watch and with this being Johan’s second novel will definitely make him a force to reckon with in future releases. Cracking.

FICTION REVIEW: Divas - Rebecca Chance

BOOK BLURB:

Stunning good looks, a gorgeous fiance, a bottomless trust fund, London's leading It Girl, Lola Fitzsimmons, leads a charmed life, a pampered princess whose rich father funds her every whim. Evie on the other hand has had to work her own way up life's greasy pole - literally! But, having hooked herself an indulgent sugar daddy, Evie has been able to give up her pole-dancing career, abandoning New York's seedy strip bars for a luxury Manhattan penthouse. Both Lola and Evie are about to meet their nemesis. Overnight, Lola's credit cards are refused, her fiance disappears and she finds herself locked out of her own Chelsea mews house. That same day, Evie is abruptly thrown out onto the streets. One woman lies behind their misfortune. With Lola's father lying helpless in a coma, her icy stepmother has seized control of the purse strings - and cut off her spoiled stepdaughter without a penny. The same stepmother who happens to be married to Evie's sugar daddy. Although the two girls loathe one another on sight, Lola and Evie must team up if they are to defeat their common enemy: the Ice Queen herself. Let battle commence.


REVIEW:

This book tells the story of an IT girl losing her trust fund, getting arrested for her Fathers death and living off her ex-fiancé who is now gay, sounds like fun? Add a stripper, a wicked step mother and a rather silly relationship and you have this tale rounded up. The twists, if you can call them that, were so transparent that they were not only laughable but made this novel the equivalent of watching a cheap daytime soap with less class, no realistic plot and attempted to be covered with author indulgent sex. Add to the mix a woman who only cared about getting her pasties (and we’re not talking Cornish here) back, which just went to show how lame this novel was. My advice for everyone who reads this review is to ignore this offering, buy Jackie Collins or the Beano as both have much more merit, integrity alongside a believable plot than this offering.

Thursday 22 October 2009

NEWS and COMPETITION: Arthur and Guenevere Signing

Hail Mighty Readers,
The Knights of Random House have let us know that theres to be a special event over at London's Forbidden Planet on 31st October 2009.

Arthur and Guenevere have slain thier way through the forces of evil to transport through the Dragon paths at Stone Henge to the present to sign copies of the TV Tie in books that have been released by Random House.


Now back for a second series, Merlin which has seen audience figures in the UK of over 6.2 million, the time felt right for the complicated spell to bring this epic couple through from the past to meet the public of today.


For your chance to meet Bradley James and Angel Coulby get to the store between 3 and 4pm as a fun day will be had by all and a more perfect way to end half term cannot be had. Expect surprises, expect the unexpected and above all enjoy the books to keep that magical world alive in the imagination. For the magic is within.

Random House have also kindly given us a couple of books for a mini competition. However not only will one person win the ties ins but the choice of either the Annual or the Activity book. And if that wasn't good enough they'd also be placed into a winners barrel (with other winners from additional sites competitions) to win a signed copy. How cool is that? To enter please answer the following question:

Which actor voices the Dragon in the series Merlin?
A) Anthony Hopkins
B) John Hurt
C) Marion Michael Morrison

Send your answer to drosdelnoch (at) hotmail (dot) com with Merlin Competition in the subject line. Please enclose your answer and address. Competition closes on the 26th October with the winning name drawn at random from entries received.

INTERVIEW: Nicole Peeler

Having written and read as an academic, it took one book from the Urban Fantasy Genre to help Nicole find a voice for her fiction. Now, with her first book released by Orbit, she can be found on the shelves of a bookstore near you enticing the readers into her own little world, where myth and fantasy blast into the modern day world. We just had to chat to her about it and how she found her way to fiction although we were warned to watch out for the hips (she's a belly dancer) as well as to make sure we had a good supply of Bruichladdich as like any good storyteller, their throats get very dry and need liquid refreshment. Thus armed we sally forthed into unknown territory, where gnomes, vamps and selkies dwell...


FT: Writing is said to be something that people are afflicted with rather than gifted and that it's something you have to do rather than want. What is you opinion of this statement and how true is it to you?

NP: Hm, that’s interesting, and I’ve never heard that before. I don’t really have an opinion of the afflicted/gifted . . . I feel neither, really. But I definitely agree with the do versus want idea. You can want to be a writer till the cows come home, but the fact is that being a writer is a lot of work. And a lot of the work is boring, fiddly, and repetitive. It’s not just getting an idea and creating. It’s getting an idea, creating, then going over and over that idea, and that idea’s grammar, and that idea’s word choice, and . . . it never ends. It’s repetitive work and an almost obsessive attention to detail that makes a writer.


FT: When did you realise that you wanted to be a writer?

NP: I always had vague notions I wanted to be a writer, but never pursued it. And I’d entirely given up on the idea for the years right before I wrote the book. I was doing my Ph.D. in Edinburgh, being an academic, and totally engaged with that. Then I had all this time on my hands, after I sat my viva and before I started my job. During that time I read a very different type of UF book that made me think “Ya know, I could do this kind of voice.” So I sat down and wrote Tempest Rising. It’s been a short, intense trip for me, but in other ways my whole life consisted of all the things other writers do, self-consciously, to become writers. I read all the time. And I wrote, all the time, as an academic. I guess it just all came together for me, finally, when I was ready.


FT: It’s often said that if you can write a short story you can write anything. How true do you think this is and what have you written that either proves or disproves your POV?

NP: I’ve never written a short story, and the idea terrifies me. I would definitely agree with that statement, in theory. I teach an intro to fiction to class that is almost entirely short stories, and they are so small and they have to have so much weight. They’re so heavily loaded. That said, I talked to a short-story writer, who said the exact opposite - that she’s terrified of the idea of writing a novel. So maybe it’s one of those things where we are intimidated by what we don’t do.


FT: How would you "sell" your book in 20 words or less?

NP: Tempest Rising is comic hor-mance, with a side of sass. It’s about the girl next door who turn out to be half seal. I’ll clean your house if you read it. Wait . . . I totally won’t. But I will refrain from eviscerating you in fiction.


FT: Who is a must have on your bookshelf and who's latest release will find you on the bookshops doorstep waiting for it to open?

NP: On my Fun bookshelf is Charlaine Harris, Charles de Lint, Mercedes Lackey, Katie MacAlister, all of my fellow writers down at the League of Reluctant Adults and lots of others. On my Serious bookshelf is Philip Roth, Don Delillo, Martin Amis, Kingsley Amis, D.H. Lawrence, William Faulkner . . . tons of others. I’ve lived my whole life with a book attached to my face. Nowadays, the only thing that’s changed is that sometimes it’s a book I’m writing. As for what I’m looking forward to, I’ve got Charlaine Harris’s, Katie MacAlister’s, and Gail Carriger’s new books all on pre-order at the Amazon. And there are tons of others that are on the list.


FT: When you sit down and write do you know how the story will end or do you just let the pen take you? ie do you develop character profiles and outlines for your novels before writing them or do you let your idea's develop as you write

NP: I’m a total plotter. I have my whole series plotted. My characters are plotted, and I do a short development piece (or a “where are they now” piece) before I sit down and start a new book. Then I outline the books. I plot everything. I’d plot you if you sat still long enough.


FT: What do you do to relax and what have you read recently?

NP: I never relax. Really. No, I do, sometimes. I relax by listening to a Podcast (usually This American Life from NPR), watching a crappy 14-year-old-boy film (I’ve seen Transformer’s like fifteen times and I CRY, every time), and by reading. But I only “relax” for about an hour or two a day. I have a very busy teaching schedule at my university, and I have three books on the go: I’m writing the third, editing the second, and now I’m doing publicity for the first. Anyway, I’m swamped. I’m tired. I need a vacation. So I can work more. ;-)


FT: What's your guiltiest pleasure that few know about?

NP: Hmmmm . . . I’m one of those people who publicly riffs on all of my flaws and faults and guilty pleasures immediately, so no one can have power over me by knowing them. I’m like Cyrano de Bergerac: I’ll make fun of myself or admit to something sordid, thus making such things harmless by incorporating them into my daily schtick. There may be a few things kept in reserve that are so dark and seedy even I don’t admit to them. But those aren’t going on the internet.


FT: Lots of writers tend to have pets (mainly cats.) What do you have and what are their key traits (and do they appear in your novel in certain character attributes?)

NP: I have nothing except commitment issues. Seriously. I don’t even have a houseplant. Houseplants expect too much of me. I hate owning a couch because it’s too big to put in a suitcase. I’ve traveled and lived abroad for a very long time, and I’m used to being portable. I’m uncomfortable with my new existence as “settled” here in Shreveport. Even the teeny tiny roots I’ve put down here make me nervous if I think about them. So no, no pets.


FT: Which character within the book is the most fun to write and why?

NP: My first two books each have one super fun scene that is mostly for kicks. I mean, they serve a purpose in that I’ve set a big bunch of exposition into the scenes, but I could have done them without the setting and the character housed in that setting. The first book has a succubus, who becomes an important character in her own right. The second has a hairdresser. They were pure fun and sooooo great to write. But I really, really love all my characters and I have this weird hippie notion that they exist outside of my noodle. So sitting down to write is more like sitting down with friends for a chat than it is a self-consciously creative process. In fact, sometimes when I have to make an editorial decision (I’ll start writing a scene and realize I should have taken it a different way for it to be stronger), I’ll feel a sense of surprise that I have that much control over my characters. I remember I’m actually their author, not their biographer, and that realization always has an edge of surprise.


FT: How similar to your principle protagonist(s) are you?

NP: She shares my sense of humor, although she’s less aggressively social than I am. In a fit of complete self-indulgence, I gave her an English degree so I could make lit jokes. But other than that we’re nothing alike. Jane is strong, and gentle, and much nicer than I. I am a coward. I would cry if someone told me there was a killer after me. While I cried I’d curl up in a corner and wait for death. Jane is more of what I would like to be, than who I think I am. I am well aware that she’s a much better person than I am. Oh, except we do both love ourselves a tuna melt.


FT: What hobbies do you have and how do they influence your work?

NP: My incessant reading is obviously my biggest influence, as a hobby. I think that’s really it. I don’t really have hobbies, unless you count drinking and talking shite. I’m really good at those two things. They are directly related.


FT: Where do you get your ideas from?

NP: Coming up with my ideas has been very organic. They’ve each started with what I would call my kernel question: What kind of protagonist am I writing about? So for this series, I started with the “idea” of Jane True. She had to be utterly normal, except for something that made her absolutely abnormal, in a supernatural way. I’ve read mythology, fairy tales, and fables all of my life, and some had more resonance for me than others. One such resonant myth was that of the selkie. I’ve always loved these myths, partially because of the pathos of being torn between two worlds. Selkie mothers with human husbands are torn between their human lives and family, and their lives in the sea and their sea husbands. I’ve always been ambitious, driven, and unwilling to compromise, so I have no doubt it’s all very Freudian. Anyway, the selkie myth has always been in the back of my mind, and it made perfect sense to ground Jane in that myth. What if she was the daughter of one of these selkie women and had no idea?

She could be absolutely normal, and yet have this secret heritage that could be revealed with a bang. The new series I’m developing are also based on these kernel-characters. There’s a protagonist who is the polar opposite type of character, in many ways, than Jane. That series is ready to start. On the very back burner, is a character whose kernel is to be entirely human. She gave me difficulty. But now I’ve got her essence and I’m ready to pin her down on paper.


FT: Do you ever encounter writers block and if so how do you overcome it?

NP: So far, I don’t sweat writer’s block. I’ve been writing for so long, for academia, and I’ve learned that you have good days, and bad days, and just to write through it. Take a day or even a week off, if you absolutely have to, but normally the trick is to muscle through it. Sometimes the product of such muscling ends up being good and I use it. Sometimes it’s really crappy stuff and I erase it the next day, but it got me out of my rut. I talk about my writing like it’s a hippie dippy mystical process, and writing my first book kind of felt like that. But I also recognize that I’ve learned really good writing practice from all of my professors, mentors, and supervisors. For a year, I lived with Saul Bellow and his wonderful wife, Janis, who is a good friend of mine. He got up every day and sat at his desk and wrote. And that’s what you have to do. Just sit there and write, no matter what you feel like. It’s not about inspiration, so much, as work.


FT: Certain authors are renowned for writing at what many would call uncivilised times? When do you do write and how do the others in your household feel about it?

NP: I have no household, so there’s no one to offend. And I also have no one to please. I don’t have to pack lunches or whatever. So I write in a very orderly, structured way. I write first thing in the morning, always. I work until I feel done, then I take a walk or run errands. Sometimes I can come back and work more, but other times I’m sapped so I just read or whatever. I learned this practice, again, from Saul. I would go to the gym after breakfast when I lived with them, and he told me, “Always work first, before anything else. Write when your mind is fresh. Everything else can be done with half a brain, but not your writing.”


FT: Sometimes pieces of music seem to madly influence certain scenes within novels, do you have a soundtrack for your tale or is it a case of writing in silence with perhaps the odd musical break in-between scenes?

NP: Oftentimes I do write in silence. I need to be able to talk to myself and hear myself talking, to hear the words. That said, there’s always something I’m listening to at the time that gets bound up in my writing. I usually go for a long walk or to the gym around midday, and that’s when I listen to my iPod. Whatever is on there is usually what I think of as the soundtrack to my book. Both of my books have very clear soundtracks for me, especially the first. For this third book, in which Jane is really growing into her own, I’m listening to a lot of Lily Allen. I hear Jane’s own transition in the change I hear between Lily Allen’s first album and her second, which is much darker, much more mature.


FT: What misconceptions, if any, did you have about the writing and publishing field when you were first getting started?

NP: I had no conceptions, whatsoever, as this whole process came to fruition for me so quickly. One of the things I was surprised at, however, was just how subjective everything is, when it comes to finding an agent and an editor. In academia, your ability to publish is based, I think, on your CV, your scholarly potential, on what the journal editors think is novel, etc. But everyone responded to my fiction queries with, “I like it, but I don’t love it,” until, finally, someone said, “I do love it.” So the publishing world appears to think with their gut first, and then other considerations come into play. Whereas I think in academia, publishing is more brain, first, and guts are lower on the totem pole.


FT: If music be the food of love, what do you think writing is and explain your answer?

NP: Writing, to me, is like the Stairmaster of the soul. Books strengthen, work out, even change your “essential” beliefs and values. My reading absolutely changed who and what I am. I wouldn’t be this Nicole Peeler, had I not read what and how I did when I was a child. I feel so sorry for my students who were never introduced to reading at a young age; were never opened up to fiction. Reading has given me so much, in terms of personal development, empathy, experience, sensitivity, passion . . . I could continue. I think more, I feel more, and I not only question more but also appreciate more, because I read.


FT: What can you tell us about the next novel?

NP: Tracking the Tempest is so much fun. It’s set just four months after Tempest Rising, and it’s about reality setting in for Jane, in terms of her new life as a creature from fantasy. It’s set in Boston, where I did my undergraduate degree, so there’s lots of my fave places throughout the book. Jane and Ryu are still feeling each other out (and up), but they’re also being harried by a lunatic halfing named Conleth, who teaches Jane that there’s nothing “halved” in halflings. Finally, there’s a lecherous Lebanese hairdresser involved who promises, ominously, “First I cut you wet. And then I cut you dry.”


FT: What are the last five internet sites that you've visited?

NP: Falcata times, natch. To be honest, after a brief stint my freshman year of college, when I was addicted to the internet, I haven’t really done anything besides order books and read the newspaper on my computer. But now, because of the books, I Facebook, and I Twitter. And I’ve got my website, http://www.nicolepeeler.com, and I also blog at the League of Reluctant Adults. But other than that, I still don’t spend too much time on the net. I try to keep up with friend’s websites, but I fall behind. The two full-time jobs thing is killing me, I tell you.


FT: Did you ever take any writing classes or specific instruction to learn the craft of writing a novel?

NP: Yes and no. For shits and giggles, I did take a creative writing elective in high school, and one in college, but other than that, no. That said, my whole life as an academic has been dedicated to reading and writing. Talking with all of my friends who have self-consciously embarked on “becoming a writer,” and have done all the courses, and workshops, etc., I’ve realized that a Ph.D. is actually perfect “writerly” training. I learned to organize/structure a large project, I learned to get over myself and approach writing as work rather than inspiration, I learned how to approach style as something that is learned and honed rather than merely created, I learned to edit, and, most importantly, I learned to divorce myself from my work in order to see it as a project to be finished rather than a magnum opus to be nurtured indefinitely.


FT: How did you get past the initial barriers of criticism and rejection?

NP: I got over that barrier years ago. As an academic, my life has consisted of criticism and rejection. I’m telling you, academia is perfect, if slightly roundabout, training for the publishing world.


FT: What are the best and worst aspects of writing for a living, in your opinion?

NP: I don’t write for a living, and at this stage of the game, I can’t see how I could live off my writing. I live off my teaching salary and the money I’m making on the books I call my “girlie shit allowance.” But I honestly don’t know how people do live off their writing. There’s no insurance, no retirement, and the money is paid out in weird chunks. I think the only way you could live off it is if you either lived like a hermit or had a partner to bring home the bacon on an everyday basis.


FT: Did you get a crush on your male protag or hero? if so, what do you find hot about him?

NP: I haven’t gotten a crush on any of the male love interests I’m developing. I think it’s because they’re already claimed by my protagonists, and I’m nothing if not loyal to my girls. Sisterhood Unite! And, again, they’re perfect for my female protagonists, but I’m not them. So what Jane would define as her perfect man is very different from what I would want. Not that I know what I want, anyway. But the answer is that while I used things that I do find attractive to build the male protagonists, they’re built for my heroines.


FT: Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what would be the playlist for TEMPEST RISING?

NP: There’s definitely a soundtrack for Tempest Rising, and that will be a feature of my “real” website when it’s up. It’s pretty obvious, actually, as there are a lot of mentions of songs playing in the background of certain scenes. And it all kicks off with R.E.M.’s Nightswimming, natch.


FT: Are any of your protag’s experiences drawn from real-life experiences of your own?

NP: None of Jane’s “serious” experiences are mine. I am not part seal, nor did my mother abandon my father and me, etc. But tons of the little things are from my life. Like there’s a scene in the beginning of the sequel where Jane figures out that the “Prada” purse of her nemesis is a knock-off. The joke at the heart of that scene is from my real life. My friend had a knock off that I admired, and she was like, “Yeah, I bought this from a street corner in Hong Kong,” and showed me how I could tell. I’ve been blessed with knowing some of the coolest, smartest, funniest people ever, and they’ve given me joke fodder for about the next thousand years.


FT: What’s your favorite thing to do (besides write)?

NP: Travel, travel, and travel. I’m a city traveller, however. No Peruvian jungles or what not for me. I can’t wait to go back to Istanbul, and I loved Reykjavik. Italy warms the cockles of my heart, especially Amalfi. I lived in Granada for a while, and going there is always like going home. Obviously I miss the UK very much as well. I was last in London in January, and can’t wait to go back.


FT: If you could have chosen any other career instead of being an author, what would you have been?

NP: Writing is my second career, I’m really a professor. Both are my dream jobs, so I’ve been incredibly blessed.


FT: Do you share your first draft with anyone? What kind of input or support do you get from other people when you write?

NP: I’ve got two beta readers, both of whom went to University of Edinburgh with me. They’re Dr. James Clawson and Christie Ko. My former High School English teacher, Mrs. Judy Bunch, also read TR and walloped my grammar for me. Recently, I’ve become critique partners with Diana Rowland, who wrote the fabulous book Mark of the Demon. She’s been awesome and she’s fierce. She reminds me of my supervisor at Uni. My manuscripts are also all read by my wonderful Agent, Rebecca Strauss of McIntosh and Otis and my friend here in Shreveport, Dr. Mary Lois White. She teaches stats and is very pedantic. She also had never read UF until I’d given her the Charlaine Harris books, which she loved. So she’s a perfect reader in that she calls me out on the sci-fi/fantasy short hand I use that would throw a reader like her, someone unfamiliar with the genre, who is exactly the kind of writer I want to reach.


FT: Do you have a set routine when you are in writing mode? Music you listen to, a favourite tea/coffee/adult beverage, a special mug you use? Tell us your superstitions

NP: Again, I don’t have any superstitions. I write everywhere, anywhere. I wrote TR in Edinburgh, Istanbul, the Lake District, and about fifteen airports. If you give me a place to sit where I can plug my computer if I need to, I’ll write. Again, I think it comes from being an academic. I see this is work, not indulging my muse.


FT: WHERE do you write? Do you hide in a dark closet(like the offices in Bronson Hall) or do you have a sacred place? If so, tell us what that place is like?

NP: I never, ever work in my office at Bronson Hall, here on campus. It IS a dark closet. I spend as little time there as possible. I usually work in cafes, wherever I’m at. In Shreveport, I like to work in a Starbucks on Line Ave that has comfy couches and stuff. In Illinois, when I’m visiting my parents, I work at Caribou Coffee on Randall Road. Most of TR was written either in my flat in Leith or down the street at the Bean Scene on Commercial Quay. The only other weird thing I do is I don’t have a desk chair, I sit on a huge pilates ball. If you’ve ever seen me vlog, it’s why I’m bouncing just a little. A lot of people can’t get over the ball, but I’m telling you, they’re fabulous. Although I do occasionally get excited and roll off of it. I’m not the most graceful of people at the best of times.


FT: How important is it having an eye catching cover for your book?

NP: I think having an eye-catching cover is very important at first, when you haven’t earned a reputation, yet. Eventually, I think it becomes less important. I adore my cover, and it’s been quite controversial. It was criticized very harshly by a particular blogger, garnering it a lot of attention. It doesn’t look, at all, like a typical UF cover, but my book isn’t typical UF. If we dressed Jane up in leather and daggers, she’d laugh at me. Then poke me in the eye. She’s not a warrior woman; she’s part seal. She swims, naked, and not in any kind of saucy mini dress. She doesn’t have any tattoos. She rarely, if ever, looks suggestively over her shoulder at the camera. Jane is Jane, and the cover reflects her, and the tone of my book, beautifully. I think that once more people have read it, they’ll get it, and understand why I was so happy with Orbit’s choice. It’s like they read my mind getting the amazing Sharon Tancredi to do Jane’s art.


FT: When do you write (first thing in the morning? late at night? whenever you are really pissed? etc.) and why then?

NP: I write first thing in the morning, for about four-six hours. I write then because my brain is fresh and there are fewer distractions. When I’m teaching, however, I write whenever I can. My schedule at LSUS takes up a lot of my time, allowing me very little time to write during the school year.


FT: Can you give some advice to other ambitious and brilliant young novelists out there looking for help on the process of getting their ideas written/published?

NP: First of all, it’s not enough to have an idea, unfortunately. Writing, as I’ve discovered, isn’t about the ideas. It’s about getting those ideas on paper. That’s the difficult part of the process. So if you only have an idea, then my advice is to work on the craft of writing, the practice of writing, before anything else.

If you do have a manuscript, I’d get a few people you trust to read it. You don’t want people you know will like it; you want people who WILL criticize it. If you’ve already taken your manuscript through such a process, then you’ve got different options. I went the old fashioned, agent route. I queried agents till I found one who would take me on. That said, I had no idea what I was doing when I started. I was sitting in Leith with NO guidance. So I googled, “how to publish my manuscript.” There are TONS of resources on line. Do your research! Everything I needed to know I found by Googling.


FT: Talk about your thesis situation and how you overcame all those obstacles and then realized you didn’t always HAVE to write high-brow lit-ra-ture (read with British accent). In other words, talk about how you found the joy of writing fantasy.

NP: Writing fantasy is a joy. It really is. And I think I was meant to do it, now that I’m here. Fantasy is what really gripped me when I was a child and a young adult and I took a lot more from it than just dragons and sword battles. I think I learned a lot about my values, and my idea of heroism, and bravery, and friendship from these books. I also learned a lot about tolerance. A constant sub-theme in most fantasy (I can’t speak for sci-fi, because I didn’t read it often, but I’m sure it’s probably similar) is that difference is good. I was raised by super progressive parents, so it’s not surprising that I’m so liberal, but those values were definitely reinforced by my reading fantasy.

As an adult, I study cultural and gender studies, alongside all of my “serious” literature. The irony is that it’s our popular literature that has the biggest impact on a population and a culture. Furthermore, the themes that dominate “real” literature all trickle down into popular culture. The only difference is that people actually read popular literature, so in many ways its more radical and has more influence than literary fiction.

That said, the real reason I don’t write literary fiction is that I can’t and won’t. When I tried to write literary fiction it was terrible. And I mean terrible. I think part of the problem is that I don’t like revealing myself, or publicly probing my personal human condition for the world to see. So I write about half-humans who bonk vampires and learn magic powers from gnomes. And I find it very satisfying to do so.


Finally we'd like to point people to Nicole's website where she currently has a competition on the go called "Hunt the Selike." For more details go here.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Tempest Rising (Jane True 1) - Nicole Peeler


BOOK BLURB:

In the tiny village of Rockabill, Maine, Jane True—26-year-old bookstore clerk and secret night swimmer—has no idea that her absent mother’s legacy is entry into a world populated by the origins of human myths and legends. It is a world where nothing can be taken for granted: vampires are not quite what we think; dogs sometimes surprise us; and whatever you do, never—ever—rub the genie’s lamp. For Jane, everything kicks off when she comes across a murder victim during her nightly clandestine swim in the freezing winter ocean. This grisly discovery leads to the revelation of why she has such freakish abilities in the water: her mother was a Selkie and Jane is only half human. With this knowledge, Jane soon finds herself mingling with supernatural creatures alternately terrifying, beautiful, and deadly—all adjectives that quite handily describe her new friend Ryu. When Ryu is sent to Rockabill to investigate the murder, he and Jane fall hard for each other even as they plummet into a world of intrigue threatening to engulf both supernatural and human societies. For someone is killing half-humans like Jane. The question is, are the murders the work of one rogue individual or part of a greater plot to purge the world of Halflings?


REVIEW:

Every time a new author lands it’s a pretty intense experience, you read the jacket text, you scrutinize the cover and then you prepare for that opening paragraph hoping that it will throw something out that just grabs you and drags you into the world beyond to enchant you for a few hours.

What Nicole does is present a world of supernatural’s that not only appeal to the reader but explain how they hide from modern society as well as rule themselves. It’s a Private Investagator type novel but one that as the character learns more about her heritage as well as the unseen world beyond that of normal ken draws a rich tapestry over the veil that really will keep you glued to the last page. Jane is pretty intense and a character that will instantly become a friend to many a reader, yep her bums big, she likes food and above all she admits to her failings. She’s not a combat nut, she has to persevere as well as survive in an alien world through wits alone along with a love interest.

It’s quirky, it’s well written and above all each of the characters adds a new layer or texture to the tale demonstrating that its extremely well planned. I’ll eagerly await future instalments of this series as well secretly hoping for bigger roles for some of the characters within as each lures you in with an interesting back story that you’ll just want to hear more of. Good stuff Nicole.

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: The Gathering Storm - Peter Smalley

BOOK BLURB:

Spring 1791. Though deeply disturbed by a terrible incident during his previous commission, James Hayter is nevertheless on the verge of taking command of HMS Sloop Eglantine as Master and Commander when personal tragedy shatters his life. The twin blows convince Hayter that he is not fit to command and he must turn his back on the sea forever. Even the intervention of his friend and former captain, William Rennie cannot not dissuade him from derelicting his duty. Though repenting in the end of his decision, Hayter's career in the Navy appears to be over until the intervention of an agent, Mr Brough Mappin, working for Hayter's old nemesis, the British Secret Service Fund. Mappin's plan offers Hayter a chance to revive his career on a special mission, with the promise of reinstatement in the Royal Naval List if he is successful. But it is also the single most dangerous mission of his life. He must sail for France with Rennie in HMS Expedient and there rescue some persons of interest from the grasp of the French Revolutionary forces searching for them. What no one mentions is that the rescue will bring to bear on Expedient and her crew, a force so fierce and mighty that, if it can, it will wipe all trace of the incident, Hayter and the ship from the memory of everyone involved in the forthcoming struggle.


REVIEW:

To be honest I’m not the biggest fan of a lot of the more modern Historical Fictions so when this tale landed I put it off for a while until I felt that I had very little choice other than to get on with it. That said however, I did get through it pretty quick and whilst I didn’t think it was the best example of the Sea-Faring Fiction that’s out there (you’ll have a tough job getting past O’Brian) it was acceptable and did do what the book promised. The characters were individuals and whilst each sought out their own goals it did feel that at times they were hard pressed to have reason’s for doing some of the things that they did. It is a reasonable book, it was readable but its not one that makes you sit up and pay attention and, if you’ll pardon the pun, is a title that will slip through the waves, to sit calmly on the shelves waiting to grab a passerby.

Wednesday 21 October 2009

INTERVIEW: Alexandra Sokoloff

As a known face in the world of theatre as well as Hollywood, Alexandra made a living out of writing novel adaptations alongside suspence and horror scripts for many of the film studio's.

Now with her debut novel set to hit the UK (one that has so far picked up a Bram Stoker Award Nomination alongside an Anthony Award for Best First Novel) we thought it was high time (and tide) that we had a little chat with her about The Harrowing and where the inspiration came from for this Ghost Story alongside trying to discover how to deal with plumbers block, why writing is an obsession and how writing is a drug of choice...



Falcata Times: Writing is said to be something that people are afflicted with rather than gifted and that it's something you have to do rather than want. What is your opinion of this statement and how true is it to you?

Alexandra Sokoloff: Most authors I know agree with that statement. Writers are driven to do it beyond all sense; it’s that obsession that carries you through all the hoops you have to get through to get a book onto the page and published. I myself am one of those writers who prefers having written to the actual writing, but once I have an idea and characters I feel an overwhelming compulsion even a duty - to make those people and that story world REAL. No one is going to do that but me, so I do it. It’s more than a little crazy.


FT: When did you realise that you wanted to be a writer?

AS: I had been writing for a while as part of my theater background but the moment I realized it was going to be writing, period, was when I saw my first one act play produced. When the characters I had created walked out on stage, living and breathing people, I was hooked. It was like I imagine heroin must be.


FT: It is often said that if you can write a short story you can write anything. How true do you think this is and what have you written that either proves or disproves this POV?

AS: I’m so far from an expert! I’ve only written one short story and now a novella. I was terrified to write the short I had only ever dealt with long form. But I was asked to contribute a piece to Tors THE DARKER MASK anthology, and I loved the idea of noir superheroes, and one day I was driving and The Edge of Seventeen came on the radio and suddenly a whole story was in my head. I was able to write it very quickly, and loved it, and the story went on to win the ITW Thriller award for Best Short Fiction. But honestly, if I’m going to go to that dark place that writing is, I feel I might as well bring back a whole novel as a short.


FT: If someone were to enter a bookshop, how would you persuade them to try your novel over someone else's and how would you define it?

AS: I don’t try to sell people on my books unless they’re really interested in the genre and looking for dark suspense or a good scare. And if they are, I tell them The Harrowing is a ghost story or maybe not! set on an isolated college campus, that crosses mystery and the supernatural, and I give the pitch that you ask about in the next question. Depending on the sex of the reader I might mention that the book has given grown men nightmares.


FT: How would you "sell" your book in 20 words or less?

AS: Five students left alone on their isolated campus confront a malevolent presence that may or may not be real.


FT: Who is a must have on your bookshelf and whose latest release will find you on the bookshops doorstep waiting for it to open?

AS: Good God, the whole house is a bookshelf. Impossible question. But besides the classics Poe, DuMaurier, the Brontes, Shirley Jackson, Anne Rice, Madeleine L’Engle, Tom Stoppard, Shakespeare, I will line up the first day to buy anything of Michael Connelly, John Connolly, Mo Hayder, Nicci French, Dan Simmons, Stephen King of course, Sarah Langan, Elizabeth George, Tess Gerritsen. And more.


FT: When you sit down and write do you know how the story will end or do you just let the pen take you? ie Do you develop character profiles and outlines for your novels before writing them or do you let your idea's develop as you write?

AS: I write extensive rough outlines 70 or 80 pages. I do index cards, I do visual collages, I do tons of prep work, and yes, I always have an ending in mind. But there are always multitudes of surprises along the way, and things change in the process of actually writing.


FT: What do you do to relax and what have you read recently?

AS: Writing is so UN physical that I like to balance it with very physical activity dance especially, hiking, yoga, road trips.

Recently I’ve read Michael Connelly’s Scarecrow, Anita Shreve’s Testimony, and A Twisted Ladder, a great debut novel by Rhodi Hawk.


FT: What is your guiltiest pleasure that few know about?

AS: At first I read that question as: What is your guiltiest pleasure that YOU know about?? Which got me thinking about guilty pleasures I might be totally unaware of. I guess my guiltiest pleasure I’m aware of is flirting at writing conferences, but I doubt many people who have met me are unaware of that!


FT: Lots of writers tend to have pets. What do you have and what are their key traits (and do they appear in your novel in certain character attributes?)

AS: I have two cats, both female, and they of course dominate my life. One is a delicate princess diva with issues, and the other is a fearless little bruiser. I suppose you could say that Lisa’s flirtatiousness and need to be the center of attention and overall feline quality is partly based on one of my cats.


FT: Which character within your latest book was the most fun to write and why?

AS: Lisa was the most fun exactly because of that need she has to be the center of attention. She would walk into a room on the page – and have to take it over, and then the other characters would compete to take the spotlight from her, and that made for a very lively dynamic between all of them. She’s an agitator.


FT: How similar to your principle protagonist are you?

AS: I feel like I split my own personality into two opposing characters, Robin and Lisa. I can be an obsessive, introspective Goth girl, but put me in a room full of people and I’m an extroverted party girl. So that was fun, to create two totally different entities from that polarity, and then watch them begin to trust each other and become real friends.


FT: What hobbies do you have and how do they influence your work?

AS: Dance is my principle hobby jazz, ballet, swing, salsa anything, really - and there is no question that the rhythm and discipline and emotion of dance influences my writing. And I guess the other huge hobby is travel, and of course that’s golden for a writer because your greatest pleasure is also providing research for current and future projects.


FT: Where do you get your ideas from?

AS: Everywhere! Very often from dreams, from songs, from people you see on the street, from interesting articles. Ideas are everywhere and they’re random, but the ones that turn into stories are like being hit by lightning impossible to ignore.


FT: Do you ever encounter writers block and if so how do you overcome it?

AS: I don’t believe in it. Do plumbers get plumber’s block?? Please. Writing is a job. You have to sit down to write every day, no matter how you feel, no matter how much you resist it. And from there you either have a good writing day or a bad writing day you never know. But if you write every day you will have more good writing days than bad writing days, and eventually you will finish, which is the only thing that matters.


FT: Certain authors are renowned for writing at what many would call uncivilised times. When do you write and how do the others in your household feel about it?

AS: I generally work a full business day: 8-4 or 9-5. Of course a lot of that is doing the business side of writing, too, the promotion. But I do sit up in bed in the middle of the night and grab a notebook to jot down ideas or dreams, while my bemused significant other mumbles, you’re writing in the DARK?


FT: Sometimes pieces of music seem to influence certain scenes within novels, do you have a soundtrack for your tale or is it a case of writing in silence with perhaps the odd musical break in-between scenes?

AS: I usually write in silence because music makes me want to dance, but there are some projects which just require a soundtrack, in which case I make CDs of key songs to play while I’m working.


FT: What misconceptions, if any, did you have about the writing and publishing field when you were first getting started?

AS: I didn’t realize how much authors are expected to be constantly in the public eye, and how much readers want to interact with authors. When you work as a screenwriter no one wants to talk to you! But authors need to be out meeting readers and booksellers and press it’s a very social, on-stage profession. Which is actually a good balance to the lonely neuroticism of writing itself.


FT: If music be the food of love, what do you think writing is and please explain your answer?

AS: I think Stephen King was right on when he said that writing is telepathy as an author your job is to put your exact thoughts into a reader’s head. It’s a very intimate thing, honestly.


FT: What can you tell us about the next novel?

AS: The next novel to come out in the UK is The Price, a supernatural thriller set in an immense, labyrinthine Boston hospital where someone who may or may not be the devil is walking around after hours making deals with the patients and their families. Because if there is a devil, and what he wants is souls, there’s no easier pickings than a children’s hospital ward, right? Parents would do literally anything. And what exactly does anything mean, and is it a good thing?


FT: What are the last five internet sites that you've visited?

AS: Muderati.com, the group mystery blog that I contribute to. My own website, Screenwriting Tricks for Authors. Wikipedia, constantly. And a lot of Satanic sites, as research for my fourth thriller, Book of Shadows. If the government is monitoring my internet use, I’m doomed!


FT: Did you ever take any writing classes or specific instructions to learn the craft? If so please let us know which ones.

AS: When I first moved to Hollywood to become a screenwriter, I took all the courses from the screenwriting gurus in town: John Truby, Robert McKee, Frank Daniel, Linda Seger. All of it was incredibly useful. John Truby’s classes and book, The Anatomy of Story, is the best book I know on writing, and Frank Daniel’s USC film school courses, which I snuck into, were masterful. I think screen story structure and film writing techniques are invaluable for authors, as I blog about extensively on my website, http://thedarksalon.blogspot.com


FT: How did you get past the initial barriers of criticism and rejection?

AS: Well, I’d been in theater for years before I ever wrote my first script or book. Auditioning is a constant process of rejection I developed that thick skin very early on. You just can’t take it personally. And I lost the inner critic early on as well, when I worked as a story analyst for several Hollywood production companies, and I would have to write incredibly quickly to earn any money at these coverage reports I was doing. Anything you can do to turn off that internal critic is vital. Coffee helps a lot!


FT: In your opinion, what are the best and worst aspects of writing for a living?

AS: The best part is bringing those worlds and characters to life, so that other people can experience them. That’s the biggest rush to me, and the thing that drives me to do it that the people and worlds in my head will not really exist unless I put them on paper. I also really love the community of authors it’s a gypsy life, but we’re all family on the road. It’s a huge pleasure and gift. The worst aspect is the constant promotion. You feel like you never have enough time to write everything you want to write.

HORROR REVIEW: The Harrowing - Alexandra Sokoloff

BOOK BLURB:

Baird College's Mendenhall echoes with the footsteps of students heading home for Thanksgiving break and Robin Stone, who won't be going home, swears she can feel the creepy, hundred-year-old residence hall breathe a sigh of relief for its long-awaited solitude. As a massive storm approaches, four other lonely students reveal themselves to Robin: Patrick, a handsome jock; Lisa, a manipulative tease; Cain, a brooding musician; and Martin, a scholarly eccentric. Each has forsaken a long weekend at home for their own secret reasons. The five unlikely companions establish a tentative rapport, but they soon become aware of another presence disturbing the building's ominous silence. Are they the victims of an elaborate prank, or is the energy evidence of something genuine - something intent on using them for its own terrifying ends?


REVIEW:

A tale of five college students that are left behind at Thanksgiving due to interpersonal family issues who find each other and start to play with a Ouija board that is located by one of the female protagonists. Events then spiral out of control and no one is sure whether it’s a hoax or the genuine article which leads to intense paranoia to the victim as well as the others.

What really sold this tale to me however was the concept. It really was creepy. However, at one point it suddenly changed going more from an Adult novel to a Young Adult story as the tale dived into the principle character’s sexual activity which I felt was unnecessary to the overall arc and appeared that the tale had changed authors partway through with different concepts that were never fully realised.

That said, the twist was fairly basic and had been utilised by a great many others so unfortunately was a little too predictable with the ending being a real let down after such a careful build up. But what was the saving grace of the tale was the author’s descriptiveness in her reanimation sequence which was intense and was similar to a scene in Random’s Birthing House.

Overall if you find it either discounted or on a carboot give it a go as you’ll get a bit of fun out of it however I wouldn’t pay the full cover price. A great shame as the premise had such potential.