Lipflapping

Over the last few years I’ve conducted many interviews with writers, artists and editors     – They’re available here.

Since I’ve closed down my old blog (or rather have stopped posting to it) I’ll be doing new interviews here. Scroll down, the newest interviews are at the top.

September 2017

Interview with Alistair Cross

AC-HeadshotAlistair Cross’s debut novel, The Crimson Corset, a vampiric tale of terror and seduction, was an immediate bestseller earning praise from veteran vampire-lit author, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and New York Times bestseller, Jay Bonansinga, author of The Walking Dead series. In 2012, Alistair joined forces with international bestseller, Tamara Thorne, and as Thorne & Cross, they write – among other things – the successful Gothic series, The Ravencrest Saga. Their debut collaboration, The Cliffhouse Haunting, reached the bestseller’s list in its first week of release. They are currently at work on their next solo novels and a new collaborative project.

In 2014, Alistair and Tamara began the radio show, Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE!, which has featured such guests as Charlaine Harris of the Southern Vampire Mysteries and basis of the HBO series True Blood, Jeff Lindsay, author of the Dexter novels, Jay Bonansinga of The Walking Dead series, Laurell K. Hamilton of the Anita Blake novels, Peter Atkins, screenwriter of HELLRAISER 2, 3, and 4, worldwide bestseller V.C. Andrews, and New York Times best sellers Preston & Child, Christopher Rice, and Christopher Moore.
Visit Alistair at: http://www.alistaircross.com

I caught up with Alistair to talk about his new book Sleep, Savannah, Sleep:

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Tell us a bit about Sleep, Savannah, Sleep, whet our appetites

Sleep, Savannah, Sleep is about a recently widowed father named Jason Crandall who moves to a little town called Shadow Springs. As he and his young daughter, Amber, and rebellious teenage son, Brent, get settled in, Jason begins meeting the locals and quickly realizes that under its pastoral surface, Shadow Springs is brimming with scandal, secrets, and bad blood. When a beautiful socialite, Savannah Sturgess, goes missing, Jason’s childhood night terrors return and he begins having terrifying dreams that convince him the woman has been murdered. When her body turns up in the same place Jason predicted, he finds himself under suspicion and the only things that can prove his innocence are the otherworldly messages from the dead woman herself.

Where is the book set- how important is sense of place in the writing?

For me, setting is a character in itself, so it’s every bit as important as any other. I often use setting as a direct reflection of the human characters and their situations because I find that it creates a kind of artistic unity that makes the overall story feel more complete and coherent.

 

Did you do a lot of research, if so how did you go about it?

I always research before I begin a book. I need to know everything I can about the characters’ professions, peculiarities of the location, and everything I can about the plot. For instance, on Sleep, Savannah, Sleep, I did a lot of research on certain types of behavioral psychology and paranormal activity. I also spoke at length with a lawyer and a masseuse. Research is fascinating. I always dread it, but end up enjoying it.

Do you prefer long or short form? Why?

Long. I find short stories to be more difficult to write than long ones!

If you could be a character in a book who would you be and why?

I’ve always kind of wanted to be Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. There’s just something about the idea of brooding on the moors that really speaks to me.

What did you learn about writing when writing this book?

I learned that sometimes a plot can emerge full-blown in one night. The story woke me up and I ended up at my desk writing out all the scenes from beginning to end before the sun came up. It’s the only book I’ve ever written where I absolutely knew how the story would end before I wrote it.

Which bit of your writing are you most proud of?

The characters. They make or break the story for me, and in Sleep, Savannah, Sleep I think they really come to life.

Who, apart from you, in Paranormal Mystery should we be reading?

I highly recommend anything by Daphne Du Maurier.

Do you have a set writing process? What is it?

I work five to six days a week for eight to ten hours a day – sometimes more depending on deadlines, etc. I firmly believe in the importance of treating writing like a job rather than a hobby.

In one sentence what is your best piece of advice for new writers?

Sit down, write, re-write, read, write some more, repeat.

Thanks to Alistair for the interesting answers. I concur on Du Maurier, especially Rebecca which is an amazing book.

Book info:
★Amazon Buy Link: Sleep, Savannah, Sleep

Author Info:
★ Author’s contact info: contact@bamliterature.com
★ Author’s website: http://www.alistaircross.com/
★ Author’s social media links:
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/AlistairCross/e/B00N446AZS/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6517308.Alistair_Cross
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/crossalistair
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CrossAlistair
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/alistaircross/

 

 

September 2017

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Christine Ardron is 34 years old, living in Nottinghamshire, England.

 

She enjoys writing fantasy and scifi and very often mixes them together to create unique worlds, characters and storylines.

 

Christine has been writing for as long as she can remember, and though her true love is in fantasy, she delves into many facets of story-telling, including dark scifi, comedy and even the occasional horror.

 

Christine has also written scripts for amateur theatre companies, and has enjoyed acting and occasional directing.

 

When Christine doesn’t have her head in one of her many worlds, she can be found listening to her beloved power metal and offering many forms of tea to anyone who happens to pop in.

Christine dropped by to talk about her new book: Predgarians

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Tell us a bit about Predgarians, whet our appetites

 

The Predgarians series follows the paths of Karen Fireirro and Jay Morgan. They are thrown together in the beginning of Jackal’s Gambit and Karen spends most of her time after this trying to keep him safe from the Sarpiens, a cult which serve the giant reptiles called the sclithe.

 

Their chosen paths will see them come face to face with some of the worst the Sarpiens have to offer and eventually they will even have to confront the sclithe themselves.

 

Where is the book set- how important is sense of place in the writing?

 

It’s set on a world called Courin, and is part of the Asterion Empire. I consider the setting very important since the world, though sharing similarities to Earth is also very different. Courin has two suns, the large red Kaliij and the smaller, blue Hunoth. These differing astral bodies make the sky more lilac than blue and the dawn and sunsets are spectacular.

 

I’ve spent years creating the world of Courin and I fully intend to show it off to my readers.

 

Did you do a lot of research, if so how did you go about it?

 

I wouldn’t say a lot, I don’t think quite as much research needs to go into a fantasy world as say a historical fiction novel. I do research around certain specific subjects, such as weaponry and astronomy.

 

There are numerous other things as well. I tend to do on the spot research. During my writing if I realise I don’t know how something works or feel I need a bit more information, I will stop and look into it before I continue.

 

Do you prefer long or short form? Why?

 

I tend to write long. I’ve never been very good at short. On the rare occasion I’ve written short pieces I’m always left so dissatisfied – as if someone’s handed me a scalpel and forced me to disfigure my work.

 

If you could be a character in the book who would you be and why?

 

That’s an interesting question. I think I’d like to be a member of the West Sector Predgarians, perhaps White Dove or Fire Tiger. I wouldn’t want to be Karen, I really don’t think I’m strong enough to survive what she’s destined to go through – I wouldn’t mind being by her side to watch it all go down though.

 

What did you learn about writing when writing this book?

 

An awful lot actually. My editor has been so very helpful – even if it did mean essentially re-writing the entire book. What came out the fire was longer, more structured and just…better.

 

I’ve learnt how to really get inside my characters heads and somehow managed to keep the fast-paced nature of the story-telling as I do it, which I’m glad of.

 

Which bit of your writing are you most proud of?

 

I wouldn’t say I’m proud exactly, but I do love writing the scenes where Karen and Jackal interact. There’s a tension and chemistry between them that I don’t have to think about. It isn’t forced, their lines and actions just flow so naturally when they’re in the same room.

 

Who, apart from you, in scifi fantasy should we be reading?

 

Honestly, though my genre is scifi/fantasy or perhaps dark fantasy, I read very little in that genre. The Dark Towers by Stephen King springs to mind. I’m also a fan of the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and David Eddings work in the Belgariad and the Elenium.

 

Do you have a set writing process? What is it?

 

Yes. When I begin a new project I write up a book overview and then a chapter by chapter synopsis. That way, I always know what I’m writing the next time I come to the computer.

 

In one sentence what is your best piece of advice for new writers?

 

Write your dreams, only you have those dreams – and don’t edit until you’ve finished your first draft.

 

Many thanks to Christine. Now go check out her book!

August 2017

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Excited to have an interview with Brian Craddock 

Brian Craddock is a storyteller of several mediums: prose, comics, poetry, film and puppetry. His seven-issue Crimson: Riot Goth comics from the late 90s still garner attention, as do the three video reviews of Brisbane’s goth scene that he co-directed: Everyday Devils & Angels.

 

As a puppeteer he has travelled the Outback and Pakistan, and released a webseries called The Hobble & Snitch Show. As a special effects makeup artist he has worked on independent films and The Lion King stage musical in 2015.

 

Brian is previously published in Midian Unmade: Tales of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed (Tor Books) and The Refuge Collection (Oz Horror Con), Between the Tracks (Oz Horror Con), and The Body Horror Book (Oscillate Wildly Press).

I talked to Brian about his forthcoming book Eucalyptus Goth

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Tell us a bit about Eucalyptus Goth; whet our appetites.

 

The year is 1996 and John Howard is elected as Prime Minister, a mass shooting at Port Arthur shocks the nation, and Tim Shaw continues to give away free sets of steak knives on TV. We spend a year in the life of a band of friends: Dante, Twix, Alex and Pixie, as the story charts their triumphs and their pitfalls, wrestling with love, lust, death, unemployment, drugs, and friendship. Eucalyptus Goth sets to address a part of the Australian identity seldom mentioned in Australian literature: what was it like growing up Goth in the pre-digital age? Can you still be an Aussie if you’re lurking in dark-wave nightclubs and capping your teeth with fake fangs?

 

It’s a multi first-person narrative, which may initially confuse some readers, but it doesn’t take long to pick up the feel of the narrative. The reader is almost always (with the exception of a few chapters) inside someone’s head. It’s not always a comfortable place to be, either: some of these characters are unpleasant people at the best of times! Through them, though, we get an insight into the how the “other” gets by in life. A lot of these characters are amalgamations of people I knew in the 90s, so Eucalyptus Goth serves as a time-capsule to a side of Brisbane that many may never have experienced.

 

 

The book is set in Brisbane, in a particular ‘lost’ time – how important is sense of place in the writing?

 

The city itself is a character, albeit one that takes a backseat to the human counterparts. The twin themes of the book – subcultures and mental health – are both themes whose changes and developments can be tracked in any society, so in this respect the particular changes to both those themes here really place this story in 1996 Brisbane. While the Federal Government had a broad initiative towards treating and creating dialogues around mental health issues, the State Governments were still obliged to create their own solutions as well, with Queensland being no different. Their decisions are ear-marked within the pages of Eucalyptus Goth.

 

 

Did you do a lot of research, if so how did you go about it?

 

There was a lot of fact-finding, as it were, that was necessary to help maintain the time and place within the book. Whilst I relied on my own memory to create the framework of reference, it’s reasonable to expect that twenty years on I couldn’t recall the minutiae of life from 1996. I couldn’t even recall if DVD’s had arrived in Australia at that time! So, there was a lot of time spent exploring the past and nailing down how we lived, trying to separate the facts from a muddy memory. Pouring over microfilm of old newspapers proved invaluable, as did forums online where people shared photos of Brisbane past.

 

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Twix (left) & Dante (right) from the book

The book explores mental health issues – how do you think our attitudes have changed to mental illness in the last few years – how do they need to change?

 

It’s been illuminating having to focus on this aspect within the book, because attitudes towards many sectors of mental health in 1996 are quite different than to today’s attitudes. For example, 1996 was the year we began referring to it as “mental health” rather than “mental illness”. In recent years there has been an incredible expansion in people’s acceptance of mental health issues, and I think the impact of social media has played a hand in that. A lot of celebrity voices and advertising campaigns have also helped to secure awareness, and the way in which we approach treatments has helped immensely, too, I believe. There still needs to be a push with the way we first-respond to a crisis that concerns someone with a mental health issue, particularly when it comes to law enforcement.

 

 

I first came across your writing in the Refuge Collection – do you prefer long or short form? Why?

 

There’s a discipline that comes with being restricted to a word count. An interesting experiment for a writer is to take their finished story and challenge themselves to reduce the word count by 10%. As difficult as it is, it hones the brain into realising which details matter to a story. It trims the fat, so to speak. Eucalyptus Goth is indulgent in its length, and for good reason, but I’ll always love the discipline of a shorter story.

 

 

If you could be a character in the book who would you be and why?

 

A lot of the characters in Eucalyptus Goth are broken people. They might not act like it, or give that impression at first, but nearly all the major players are not programmed to function at their level best. Some are even deliberately trying not to, it would seem. One of the characters, Nel, says of another: “You’re attracted to damaged people.”

 

That said, none of the characters wish to be where they are in life, even if they’re making no effort to thwart their trajectories. Of them all, however, perhaps I’d prefer to be most like Dante Halloran, who is possibly the central character only in so far as he has the most page-time. His political leanings are most in line with mine, and he’s probably the character who has the most control on his circumstances, despite appearances.

 

 

What did you learn about writing when writing this book?

 

Writing Eucalyptus Goth actually taught me a lot about Brisbane’s history. It’s recent history; my heydays in the 90s; even throughout the decades back to the 1950s. I saw a city much different from today, one that is remembered fondly by those who grew up in it, even if it did have its shortcomings. As much as possible I tried to make the story a visual experience, in a way, without it being self-aware of the changes it was undergoing even in 1996. That was difficult, to retrospectively write a story in a past era without dwelling on the things that were normal for then but are now either gone or much changed. I was constantly aware that had I written the book differently – perhaps had it play out as a reflection by a character in the here and now – I could have easily dwelt on those differences in time. For example, whilst the internet was around then, pretty much no-one (at least no-one I knew) had it in their homes in 1996, and it was difficult to imagine that it would ever be as such. So the disparages between that era and our present proved quite difficult to get around, and I was constantly triple checking little facts to make sure I didn’t spoil that.

 

 

Which bit of your writing are you most proud of?

 

The fact that I managed to finish it! Ha! It was honestly a monumental effort to complete. There were some months where it felt as if it would never end. But all in all, I feel most proud of the character Alex. She was difficult to write, being the character with the most amount of good in her but also the one who loses the most amount of hope. I didn’t want her to grate on the nerves with how she is unable to cope with the onset of an undiagnosed mental illness. And, too, because Alex is  female. It was important to me that female readers recognise her; that she doesn’t sound like a character written by a male. I researched hard for that character, and spoke to a lot of people about how they think she might sound. The feedback I’ve received regarding that character has been positive so far.

 

 

You’ve written comics and scripts – does that give you any insights when writing prose?

 

Comics are fast-paced. There’s no time to muck around. You need to know your story and be prepared to tell it fast. The other thing with comics is that being a visual medium, it means a lot of things can be left unsaid, and simply shown. My old film lecturer told me that if we watch a film with our eyes closed and can tell what’s happening throughout the whole thing, then we’ve just heard a radio play set to pictures. Each medium can teach us how our story should be told. I like to try and bring that lesson across to writing prose, if I’m able to. With a film script, it’s the bare bones again. Tell the action; show the dialogue; get on with it. When I write my short fiction, I like to approach it as if I’m writing a film script. It shows me what belongs, and what distracts. A novel takes its start from that, and then expands into an altogether different beast. But I like to think that the lessons learnt from the one help to define the process for the other.

Thanks to Brian for the interesting answers – if this hasn’t whetted your appetite enough please do visit the book trailer link and Facebook Page

February 2017

Today on the blog I’ve prevailed upon KT McQueen into answering a few BRSBKBLOG questions:

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For anyone that hasn’t read them can you tell us a bit about your books

The first one, Whispers on the Hill, was about a hotel where the owners murdered and re-purposed the guests, partially inspired by H.H. Holmes. The second, Skin Side Out, was about genetic experiments on humans to turn them into the perfect weapon, only the ideal candidate -genetically speaking- wasn’t the one they would have chosen. And the third, The Soul Game, is a self-help fiction about demons harvesting souls using the method most appealing to humans.

Tell us a bit more about the last book you wrote

The Soul Game took me three years to write and gave me the most horrific nightmares I’ve ever experienced. The idea was to produce a book that the reader could take part in whilst telling a story that discouraged them from doing so. It’s also a messy love story between a demon and a human.

What did you learn about writing whilst writing The Soul Game?

That sometimes you have to chuck whole chunks away, particularly if you’re being too nice to the main character. I found that I was letting him win too often and that for the story to really work I would have to make life difficult for him, force him to make choices he didn’t want to make. In doing that I also lost, or reduced the story of, a number of interesting characters. It was originally 180,000 words so a lot of the players stories got removed – however, they might turn up in other books at a later date.

Do you have a set writing process, if so what is it?

When I’m writing, and focused, I sit at the computer for hours on end bashing out words as fast as I can. I’ll quite often use music to get me into a particular mood or zone for a scene. For Whispers on the Hill it was a lot of New Orleans music. Skin Side Out was more 90’s Rock. And The Soul Game has been everything from the Hannibal soundtrack to The Kongos. I don’t often work past 8 pm if I can help it and I rarely begin before 10 am.

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Do you write a lot of short stories?

I don’t write many, there are probably a few stranded forever on my computer and you could argue that the players stories within The Soul Game are short stories, despite being part of a much larger story.

Do you prefer the long or short form? How do you feel about Flash Fiction?

Occasionally I like a Flash Fiction challenge but I’d rather write a longer story.

Which character in your books do you most identify with and why?

Interesting question. I guess every character has some projected part of me in them but I wouldn’t say I particularly identify with any of them. Although, perhaps, the main character from Skin Side Out, where he has all these new skills and no idea what to do with them or even if they’re really any use at all.

Which bit of your writing are you most proud of?

I love Skin Side Out, it’s a vampire story and yet it’s not. It mixes the supernatural with things we suspect are possible and dumps people completely unprepared for the situation right in the middle of it. I like doing that, taking a character who is living a completely normal life, or even their ideal life, and dumping them into chaos. Making them scrabble to get to grips with their new situation and find ways to not only deal with it but come out on top.

Tell us a bit about how you got published? Did you go via a slush pile? Get an agent before a publisher?

I started out self publishing with no real idea what I was doing. Learnt as I went and hopefully got a bit better at it too. Then Kensington Gore approached me to ask if he could use one of my photos for a book cover (which he never did). When he discovered I was a writer we got to talking and contracts were signed.

In one sentence what is your best piece of advice for new writers?

Learn about the story arc, it’s how you get into the readers brain.

Bio: K.T. McQueen is from the North East of England. She writes dark horror and fantasy and loves blood, guts, and gore.

Links:

@AuthorKTMcQueen

http://katetrinity.co

The Soul Game

Skin Side Out

January 2017

Coming soon from Solaris )UK: 9781781084168 | 9 March 2017 |£10.99) is a rather fantastic looking collection of short stories:

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A fascinating collection of new and classic tales of the fearsome Djinn, from bestselling, award-winning and breakthrough international writers.

Imagine a world filled with fierce, fiery beings, hiding in our shadows, in our dreams, under our skins. Eavesdropping and exploring; savaging our bodies, saving our souls. They are monsters, saviours, victims, childhood friends. Some have called them genies: these are the Djinn.

And they are everywhere. On street corners, behind the wheel of a taxi, in the chorus, between the pages of books. Every language has a word for them. Every culture knows their traditions. Every religion, every history has them hiding in their dark places.

There is no part of the world that does not know them.

They are the Djinn. They are among us.

With stories by writers including Neil Gaiman, the incredible Nnedi Okorofor, James Smythe, Clare North and many more…

I was lucky enough to catch up with editors Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin and ask them a few questions

Tell us a little about the book, the idea behind it and who’s in it?

Mahvesh: I grew up with jinn stories, as did people all over the world. It made no sense to me as to why there wasn’t a collection of stories about them, so we made one.

Jared: We’re really proud of the result – it is an immense collection of talented voices, tackling a very interesting theme in a lot of different ways. There are coming of age stories, pulpy adventure stories, wild magic stories, introspective horror stories and, perhaps most of all, stories about understanding – and sharing the world with – these fascinating, otherly beings.

How was the experience of working together on this book, did it present any new challenges?

Time zone management can be complicated. We spend a lot of time communicating through Google docs.

This is a showcase of global storytelling – How did you go about choosing the contributors and/or stories?

We just reached out to writers whose work we admired, and those we thought would have something interesting to say about the theme. We were very lucky to find so many of them willing and able to participate.

This isn’t the original title of this collection – why did it change?

‘Djinnthology’ was always a working title; although one that always made us smile.

We still refer to it as that informally sometimes, but the actual title is that of a beautiful Arabic poem we’ve been luckily enough to include in the book. Hermes’ poem isn’t just a beautiful piece of work, it is also the perfect expression of the book as a whole. We were very lucky.

Why do you think the Djinn have contemporary relevance?

Why does any ‘other’ have contemporary relevance? When has the idea of an ‘other’ that is like us, but not like us, living alongside us, not been relevant?

As you can tell, we’re really passionate about this – and we think the stories have a lot to say on this very question.

Were there any stories or authors you wished you could get for the book but couldn’t?

Always. We could’ve made this book twice the size.

Always for anthologies there are many choices to make, and one key one is story order – how did you tackle it?

What a great question. Choosing the story order is actually really good fun. You have to prepare for two different readers: there are those that will read the book like a novel, and those that will read it in bits and pieces. For both, you need some sort of current that carries them from one story to the next. In the case of The Djinn Falls in Love, it was surprisingly easy. We had a clear vision of how it should feel from start to finish, and the stories all snapped into place.

What do you think makes a good short story?

Brevity.

What are you working on currently?

We’re plotting our next collaborations now, but we need to be secretive about it. (Sorry!)

And finally the classic Bristol Book Blog question – In one sentence what is you best piece of advice for new writers?

Read a lot, then be who you are.


Mahvesh Murad is a critic, editor and rogue voice for hire from Karachi, Pakistan. She is the editor of the Apex Book of World SF 4, the co-editor of Speculative Fiction 2016 and host & producer of the weekly Tor.com interview podcast Midnight in Karachi. She regularly writes for Tor.com, Pornokitsch.com and Pakistan’s largest English daily Dawn’s literary supplement Books & Authors.

Jared Shurin has edited over a dozen anthologies on topics ranging from mummies to Dickens. He’s been a finalist for the Shirley Jackson and Hugo Awards, and twice won the British Fantasy Award for Non-Fiction. He’s also the editor of Pornokitsch, the award-winning pop culture site which is (sadly) not nearly as naughty as it sounds.