I had the honor of reading an advance reader’s copy of Addleton Heights by author George Wright Padgett. In addition to that honor, I got to interview him for the release celebration!
Who did the cover art? How did you find them?
God bless the internet. I discovered a fantastic Italian artist by the name of Michele Giorgi (http://michelegiorgiillustrator.com). I have a commercial graphic art degree and have done my covers in the past, but Addleton Heights was different. This novel is solidly situated in the steampunk genre, so I wanted a classic romantic image with all the flourishes. While I do plenty of layout and design, I’m no illustrator; it’s an entirely different discipline, so I sought out someone with those skills.
I came across Michele’s art on the internet when I was a third of the way through the first draft and fell in love with his style. He hadn’t had any book cover commissions at that point, but I took a chance and contacted him in the hopes that he’d try something different. I emailed him with highlighted samples of his work which struck the tone I was looking for.
Many of the Steampunk images I’d come across to that point were often dark and grimy. I love those murky atmospheres, but wanted to go a completely different direction in an effort to make the book stand out. The end result is an image of bright sunshiny day in January with the snow gently falling to the ground. It’s wonderful contrast to many scenes contained within.
Is there any possibility of a graphic novel using the same illustrator in our future?
That would be amazing! I’d love to see that happen someday. Michele, if you’re reading this, I’m 100% up for it.
How much research was involved with writing a Steampunk novel set in the turn of the century (1901)?
Believe or not, I found myself doing as much research on this novel as I did for the space clone mining novel Spindown (www.georgewpadgett.com/spindown)
I tend to get caught into these perfectionist cycles where I compulsively need to know everything about the subject before putting anything on the page. The idea being that the more that I can understand the world that the characters exist in, the easier it is for me to immerse the reader into the scene. The end result is great because I get to transport the audience into the center of wherever I’m taking them; the downside is it’s a slower process. For instance, because I tend to go overboard, I now know all about the migratory birds of the Nantucket/Martha’s Vineyard area though there’s only two or three mentions of birds in the entire novel.
I’m not complaining; I love learning so the research was fun. A huge component steampunk stories is their connection to history/alternate history, so I spent time studying about the area’s whaling oil industry losing out to Pennsylvania coal as a source of energy, the use of immigrants for the transcontinental railroad, Queen Victoria’s death later in the month the story takes place, the Boxer Revolution in China, etc. Weapons play an important part of the story, so I spent time with weapons expert Drew Heyen to make sure everything was authentic. Hopefully there’s enough history in the book to satisfy the cravings of those that are looking for it, but not too much as to bog down the story for those that have come to it looking for a mystery-action experience.
How was writing Addleton Heights different than writing your other books?
First of all, it’s the first full-length work that I’ve written entirely in first person narration, meaning we only see what our detective hero, Kip sees and thinks. He tells us everything we need to know. He has this delicious deadpan sense of humor mixed with a bitter melancholy. Life has been hard on him and he’s developed all of these colloquial sayings that he spouts out when describing things. These ‘Kipisms’ (as I came to call them) were a blast to write.
Also, I wanted to be true to the genre while offering something enjoyable to those uninitiated to steampunk stories. While the steampunk genre doesn’t officially have any set rules, there are elements that help to frame the story. As the story developed, I sent chapter sections to a group of beta readers for feedback. Doing it while the novel was written, allowed for me to tweak it as I went to ensure everything was ‘firing on all cylinders’. As a bonus, one of beta readers, a fellow writer, Christian Roule was well versed in the genre. More than once, he’d respond to what I’d submitted to him by saying, ‘It needs to be steampunk-ier here’. He and others helped me balance the story and not overwhelm it until it became a gadgets manual.
I love that you cross genres and have not pidgeon-holed yourself as a storyteller. When did you first meet the world of Steampunk? Did you find the genre or did the genre find you? (Did you read something Steampunk that inspired Addleton or did Addleton birth itself in your brilliant brain that resulted in needing the Steampunk label post development?)
Years ago I was signing books at a science fiction convention with some other authors. We were sitting across from a friendly booth of steampunk ‘makers’. They were selling all of these fantastic clothes and enhancement components (cogs, gears, and whatnot). I asked fellow author, Leo King (www.foreverwhere.com) who was next to me ‘What this steampunk thing was all about?’ He proceeded to educate me in the ways of alternate Victorian history. It was such a fresh concept to me, and I’ve been a fan ever since.
As for the story of Addleton Heights? The concept that serves as the core mystery (finding the Jason character) was an idea that I when I was seventeen. I’ve carried the idea around with me all of that time until it found a home in this novel.
You write every sub-genre of the science fiction realm… are there dragons in our future? (I, for one, would love to see what you came up with involving dragons…)
Dragons, huh? Currently I’m hard at work on a kind of time travel hide and seek adventure called Drift Pattern, but I do have a rough draft for a story which involves dragons and people using them for transportation. The working title of this fantasy-ish tale is ‘Kern’. Maybe we’ll see that in a few years.
As a woman, I adore reading Janae. She’s bold and fierce, but not without flaws. She is not flat, but dynamic. She’s not all wonderful, nor is she a ninny. Tell me about her and your experience writing her.
I’m fortunate to have a number of strong women whom I admire in my life. I wanted to pay homage to these ladies by avoiding writing some messed up ‘damsel in distress’ trope.
Enter: Janae Nelson. She is a force of nature! She’s my favorite character that I’ve ever written. I spent a lot of time to achieve a balance within her of being strong without forfeiting her femininity. I was careful to make sure that no man ever rescues her in the story; that she would save herself. I attempted to turn the stereotype on its head by having the damsel do some saving of her own when the male lead gets tied to the metaphorical train tracks.
If Addleton Heights were to become a major motion picture tomorrow, who would your ideal cast be?
Oh this is a tricky one… When I write I do ‘cast’ the characters with actors from movie roles and people that I know (I even print out photos for reference as I’m writing about them).
The problem with sharing this type of thing with a reader is that it’s unlikely that we visualize the same exact ‘players’. If I envision a grisly Kurt Russell for an old sea captain character, but you imagine an unshaven Dustin Hoffman for the same part, then I reveal who I’ve chosen in the role, does it reduce or nullify your experience? As with painting, what’s on the canvas is a conversation between the artist and the person witnessing it. The viewer’s interpretation is neither ‘right’ nor ‘wrong’, but in the same vein, the creator of the art shouldn’t have exclusive say once the paint has dried. In that same spirit, I humbly must decline to answer here and leave that to the reader’s imagination.
You’re typically a one book storyteller, completing a story in its entirety at the first go. But I’m dying for more Addleton Heights – is there a continuing series in our futures?
Detective stories are typically based on a single event; if it’s a who-done-it the question is who the murderer is and possibly the ‘why’ of the mystery. One thing that’s nice about these types of novels is that once the case is solved there can be another one right behind it. So we may see Kipsey again someday.
How can readers order posters and prints of the book cover and map to go with their copies of the book?
Warmest thanks for your interest and support of Addleton Heights.
Title: Nymphos of Rocky Flats
Author: Mario Acevdeo
Genre: Urban Fantasy/ Mystery
Meet Felix Gomez, Iraqi-vet Vampire P.I. who has been called to Denver to investigate an outbreak of Nymphomania. It sounds silly because it is. But it’s equally adventurous and well written. It’s a slightly older title, but the series is still fresh with a current addition that came out in April (Rescue from Planet Pleasure).
At Dragon Con people would walk up to the WordFire Press booth and ask, “Do they come with pictures?” To which Acevedo would, without skipping a beat, reply, “No, only scratch and sniff.”
I laughed every time. It just didn’t stop being funny to me.
I think that’s how Felix Gomez will be as I continue to read the series. I’ve never been so amused as while reading Nymphos of Rocky Flats. It has all the excitement of the X-Files with the plot development silliness of Eureka. Just as I had settled into the pace of the book and thought, “Ok, I’m ready for all this to wrap itself up,” he’d toss something else at me and I’d giggle, “Maybe not…”
I enjoyed having a vampire story-line with a more realistic life story being dropped into an absurd universe (Iraqi War Vet meets Vampirism, Werevolvishness, and Aliens) – as opposed to the typical unrealistic life stories being dropped into a more familiar world (Two-hundred year old man falls in love with high school teen in the mundane school cafeteria; I’ll take aliens over high school again).
What I didn’t expect were the author’s deep thoughts on life to make subtle waves in some of his writing. Hints at politics and undertones on what might be Acevedo’s worldview were made but never formulated completely. Having met the man, I know he is intelligent, well-read, and has a lot of wisdom regarding the world. As much as I enjoy his humorous banter, in both real life and his books, I’m interested to hear or read what his deep thoughts on life are.
Aside from deep thoughts, this book is all guy all the time but one girls can enjoy too. It sells in mass market paperback form at the bookstore to middle-aged men like hotcakes all the time, but I plan to start pushing it toward more ladies. The trade paperbacks have a longer shelf life, but honestly, I think it’s just because of where they are located. I’m already mentally planning a place to feature them for Halloween as I type.
A previous reviewer referred to the Felix Gomez series as Dude-lit. “When Girls Go Wild… Call in the Undead” the tagline of the book says. If this doesn’t place it in that fabulous sub-genre of Dude-lit, I don’t know what would. The fact that the book is the first vampire novel ever to be declassified by the U.S. government is another tell-tale sign.
Ironically, scantily clad women in hooker boots is not sub-genre specific, merely a hint that it’s urban fiction as it’s something that women expect to see on their chick-lit as well. It is a consumer behavior impulse I will never quite understand – like how magazines for men and women alike feature half naked women on the fronts… And despite the book being classic dude-lit, I’m a chick and I loved it. Then again, as a character in Rocky Flats points out: “Earth women are surprisingly complicated…”
Side Note on Content & Ratings: I was pleasantly pleased that with all the hinting and perverted jokes, the book isn’t actually raunchy. The movie version would probably still be rated R for nudity, but there’s a reason the books are not classified as erotica, and for that I was grateful. If it had been, I’m not sure I could look the author in the eye again – and I really like him, he’s fun. There’s more porn in the Outlander series than in Rocky Flats.
Title: Deadly Dunes
Author: E. Michael Helms
Length: 220 pages
E. Michael Helms has done it again. He’s written a fun, spunky mystery involving Mac McClellan, and I find myself crushing on him much like the overly spirited cop, Dakota. Mac is the token ex-marine turned P.I., equal parts gentleman and appropriate amounts of perve. Cunning, but not too lucky.
I like that in this installment, Helms works in the fact that private investigators don’t have the luxury of only working one case at a time if they want to get paid. Mac has to take time away from the big case everyone is grumbling about to an unseemly one that will cut him a check. As per the norm with Mac McClellan books, it was easy to get into, a breeze to read, and satisfying to finish.
My only lament was due to my over excitement at the possibility of more archaeological tidbits. I love archaeology and was anticipating Mac going a little more Indiana Jones in this book than usual due to the nature of the big case. This is to no fault of Helms, who included what was appropriate for the story and the characters, merely a personal disappointment.
As usual, I look forward to the next Mac McClellan book. He’s a personal favorite of mine and made a great addition to my summer mystery binge reading.
Be sure to follow E. Michael Helms on twitter: https://twitter.com/EMichaelHelms
Title: CATastrophic Connections
Author: Joyce Ann Brown
Genre: Cozy Mystery
First of all, I was given this book in exchange for an honest review. Second, however, I chose it out of a long list of options from a ton of authors because 1. I’m a sucker for cozy mysteries 2. I’m a sucker for cozy mysteries that feature pets 3. I’m a sucker.
In this case, I’m totally ok with being a sucker. I’ll admit there’s a tad more “psycho cat” than I enjoy – but I’m not a big cat lover and the few cat mysteries I’ve read involved the cat being a swanky background character, not a constant topic of discussion. Die hard cat lovers, though, would probably love this book. (I’m a dog person. *Gasp*) I imagine that Lilian Jackson Braun fans will be the best fit for this series, but I haven’t actually read her books yet. (I tend to lean toward the Cleo Coyles of the genre.)
The mystery is fun an upbeat, which fits the bill for a cozy; and a lot of the action is driven by dialogue.
What won me over, in the end, were the quotes at the beginning of every chapter. I’m a sucker for that as well and love jotting down references for me to find and read later. Better than that, I love already knowing the reference and nodding my head along with the witticisms and wisdom of Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allen Poe, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the rest of them.
Brown has an easy breezy writing style, appropriate for a summertime cozy. I’d recommend this series for a road trip or plane ride, something to dive into to pass the time that won’t take too much energy or focus to read while things are going on around you. If your attention strays just the slightest bit, you have a friendly nudge back into the story: “Must I remind you? We are essentially in the middle of a detective mystery.” I tend to enjoy a little meta-fiction every now and then. Also, there are many short chapters, rather than fewer long ones, which I find makes for better vacation reading because it’s easy to find appropriate stopping points at a moment’s notice.
I already downloaded the second book in the series to my kindle and look forward to spending some time with Joyce Ann Brown’s characters again.
The curse of cozies is that they completely suck you into worlds of absolute silliness, and mid-read, you’re totally ok with that. Why? Because, inevitably, there’s coffee, fuzzy pets, books and knitting, and a few dead bodies that require you to summon your inner Nancy Drew for.
My latest cozy mystery read was Victoria Abbott’s The Christie Curse, the first in a book collector series – that I now, of course, have to collect. It can share shelf space with my Laura Childs and Cleo Coyles, with my Alice Kimberly series, and D.R. Meredith books… as they all tilt ther hats to their parents: Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie – who have inadvertently become the founders of the genre though they weren’t known for knitting or cooking themes.
The Christie Curse has proven itself to be one of the better books of the genre, especially if you count the other book themed cozies I have already read. Homicide in Hardcover by Carlisle is another bibliophile cozy mystery, and I enjoyed it, but the story didn’t hold a candle to Abbott’s book. Researching Agatha Christie, chasing top secret book industry scoops, browsing personal library collections filled with first editions… The Christie Curse is simply full of all my favorite things, including the Irish uncles who aren’t exactly on the up and up. Add some bipolar cats and an adorable pug – of course I thought this was a great book. Abbott didn’t pull any punches either, there’s a fabulous Italian lady who constantly shouts “Eat! Eat!” at our protagonist, and recipes in the back so that we, too, may partake in the deliciousness.
Currently, I’m reading CATastrophic Connections by Joyce Ann Brown and look forward to having an official review posted for you soon.
What cozies have you read lately?
As a reader I felt the Christian themes were awkward. Having attended a Baptist University where, though I am a fellow Christian, people were constantly using breathy voices and calling on the Lord and praying over me and my sins in a manner that often made me uncomfortable. Some were sincere friends and followers of Christ, many were frauds participating in group think and social customs of the Bible Belt. Therefore, I have to say that personal experience greatly affects my ability to enjoy Christian fiction. Ironically, since my own cozy fiction – The Bookshop Hotel – has a churchy reference or two (maybe, if you look for it really hard). A testament to the fact that although it’s a completely fabricated story with no roots in any people I know personally, world views have a tendency to seep through an author’s writing.
As someone who has grown up with Bethany Macmanus in my sphere of family friends, I know that these dialogues, prayers, and sentiments were sincerely written. Something that rings false to me in the dialogue, I am quite certain was meant whole heartedly and rang true for the author when she wrote it. She is one of the kindest, loving, and God-fearing women I have had the pleasure to know in my life. I’ve never seen her without a smile and a sweet disposition.
Many with life experiences concerning physical ailments and reliance on God to get them through those ailments will find this romantic suspense novel something they can identify with and find comfort in. I, on the other hand, had a hard time relating to Wren in any way as she struggled with romantic desires for two love interests, discomfort with whether things and people she encountered were destructive to her spirit, and dealing with creepy stalkers and dead ferrets.
Characters telling each other that they needed each other, and deeming that a verbalization of love, also didn’t sit well with me. Again, I can chalk this up to personal experience tainting my ability to digest certain plot points – which is not an issue with the writing at all. Need and love are such drastically different things in my world, with need often times being the exact opposite of a loving sentiment. In my own writing, I’ve used need as a red flag to characters not being in the right place at the right time for each other, as opposed to the DTR that gets them together.
I think if you’re an avid romantic suspense or Christian fiction reader, this book will be right up your alley. I definitely read a lot of books with romantic elements and enjoy a mystery every few titles I read, but romantic suspense has never been my favorite – and Christian fiction is a genre I tend to avoid, aside from Jan Karon, whose books (crossed with, hopefully, some Kate Morton) are closer to what I strive for in my own existing series. I also have a tendency to prefer exploring religious themes in fiction within in the sci-fi genre – like Philip K. Dick, C.S. Lewis, and Mary Doria Russell titles.
These, of course, are all personal preferences and have no bearing on the merit of Macmanus’s work. I can think of many people I would recommend her books to, and I will continue to purchase her titles and support her as a friend and fellow indie author. But, as an honest book reviewer, I have to say that I wasn’t smitten with Nerve or its characters.
The editing was done well. Not that I’m known for being a grammarian by any stretch of the imagination, but I noticed no flaws in grammar or any hiccups that would distract me from the story – something I highly appreciate after a poor editing job done on my own book from the first indie publisher who picked me up (fabulously re-done and re-released by Grey Gecko Press just this month), as well as other indie titles I’ve reviewed as a blogger. It’s nice to see things so well done the first time out the gate, so there is definitely a kudos to professionalism regarding this title.
I think it is important to mention that though I consider Bethany a family friend, this title was *not* given to me in exchange for an honest review. I purchased the title, read it, and am choosing to share my honest review with my public. Some might wonder why I would share such an on the fence review regarding a friends’ work – I do it with purpose! I think people scanning reviews might come across less than stellar star ratings for this novel (very few! I only see one on Amazon as of the writing of this post) and I’d like to offer some insight to the author and the public. I strongly feel like this is *not* because there is any problem with the story or the characters, but with the perception of the readers who leave those reviews and how they might feel about people in the real world who speak this way. It’s amazing how life experience can manipulate your views on a story, even in the most light hearted of genre fiction.
Title: Deadly Ruse
Author: E. Michael Helms
Publisher: Seventh Street Books
Genre: Mystery/ Suspense
Length: 237 pages
Retired marine, private eye, sexy girls, whiskey, drugs, diamonds, casinos, the good ol’ South… what more could you ask for in a genre crime novel?
I enjoyed my second adventure with Mac McClennan. Despite the self-depricating B-movie references to its own plot points, closing a Mac McClennan book always leaves me wanting more Mac.
Of course, Mac has women fawning over him and his older gentleman charm. His girlfriend can take care of herself, but still finds it in herself to swoon into a faint in the opening chapters. Our heroes tote guns, our villains are scum. It’s all around good, fast-paced fun set in the sun, with just the right amount of danger.
I look forward to Mac’s next adventure, since he’s on the verge of being an official P.I. now…
I’m a long time Chris Rogers fan. I met her a few years ago booking signing for Half Price Books books and I’ve enjoyed reading her work, featuring her on my blog, and hanging out in bookstores with her ever since. The following is an interview regarding her latest work, Emissary, which I read and reviewed toward the end of 2014.
1. Emissary is drastically different from your previous work in the Dixie Flannigan series, but I understand you started writing it first. What was it like finally getting such a long term project completed?
The idea came to me just after I published the third Dixie Flannigan book, Chill Factor. I do a lot of driving, and this is often when I get the ideas I turn into stories. On a long trip to Wyoming I was sort of cursing the sun beaming through my windshield no matter how I tried to block it, then reasoning that rain would be even worse, when I flashed on the idea of having no sun at all. What if our sun went supernova? We’d fry, right?
But our scientists would surely see it coming long before the actual event, so what would we do? Build spaceships and try to escape? But to where? And how could we possibly build enough ships for the world’s population?
After pondering that idea for a few miles, I flipped it. What if the supernova occurred to an inhabited planet in another solar system? They’re more advanced that we are, so they build ships and look for a planet that will take them in. One emissary is sent to Earth, where he becomes embroiled in our political and criminal problems. Naturally, I’d want the emissary to connect closely with an interesting individual, and I chose a cop.
I liked it, but when I pitched it to my agent, he said, “Can you do it without the alien?” So I continued writing the next Dixie Flannigan book. But the story stayed with me, and though I wrote others over the years, I kept coming back to this one. So yes, I love this story and it’s wonderful to have it finally launched so readers can enjoy it, too.
2. Emissary is so much bigger than the Dixie stories. Dixie is sort of self contained, the impact is on her own life, the lives of the criminals, and the safety within her community; whereas Emissary involved a full cast of lives, cultures, and worlds. Was this a more difficult writing task? Or was it nice to stretch your wingspan a bit?
Not easy, I’ll admit, but a book I fell in love with as a child was Red Planet by Robert A. Heinlein, which is about a boy who attends school on Mars and takes his pet, Willis the Bouncer. So science fiction has been as dear to me as mysteries. When I envisioned Emissary Ruell, I knew he would be young (as most front-line soldiers are young) and inexperienced (since no Szhen had been in this situation before), and the whole “stranger in a strange land” feeling came to me. When I’m writing, I become the characters in my book, the good ones and the bad, so I envisioned how I would attempt to communicate the plight of my people, and also envisioned the difficulties I would encounter. Ruell would start with the “most powerful person in the free world,” which brings in American President Addison Hale. As with any novel, he can’t succeed on the first try, so he expands his efforts globally, which means the book also expands, because extraterrestrial emigration would be a global concern. Then, to rein in the story, I introduced Ruell to Officer Kirk Longshadow, who has his own problems, and they eventually create the “close community” feeling you mentioned, even as they pursue solving an international crime involving the president.
Tackling a story that exists on a broader canvas than my previous books challenged me on many levels. Considering the result, it was well worth the effort.
3. You did your own cover art, which I love by the way. Was this painting done specifically for Emissary or did it merge as one project later?
I was poised to self-publish Emissary when I met Jeffrey Hastings, who was launching his Houston publishing company, Chart House Press. The book was finished except for the cover. The painting I chose was actually one of my early works, but the sleeping woman with blue skin resonated for me with Ruell’s girlfriend, Jianna, who appears in the book only in Ruell’s memory.
It seemed like a great starting place, yet I really didn’t know how to prevent it appearing as purely science fiction, when it’s more of political thriller with science fiction overtones. Once I decided to link my efforts with Chart House Press, I inherited a team who turned the painting into the final cover art, with an excellent result. Sometimes we get too close to a project, and fresh eyes can save the day.
4. I would love to see Emissary put to film. (Despite what it may seem, I’m a huge science fiction nerd and one of my own long term projects is a time and space opera.) If that were to happen, who would be in your ideal cast? What director would you desire? Do you have a favorite film score composer? Would you want a lot of involvement or a little?
For Longshadow, I’d definitely choose David Giuntoli, who plays Nick Burkhardt on the TV series, Grimm. David doesn’t have the appearance of a “typical cop”, which fits Officer Longshadow, who often wonders why he ever thought he was cop material. David does have the toughness of a copy when he needs it, which Longshadow also has. Ruell would be harder to cast, but Neil Patrick Harris in his younger years as Doogie Howser, MD, would’ve been great. President Addison Hale is the third major character in the nuclear family of Emissary, and my choice would probably be Tea Leoni, who is terrific as Secretary of State on Madam Secretary.
And while I realize this is the expected answer to the choice of a director, it has to be Steven Spielberg. It’s not only that he’s an incredible director who makes excellent blockbuster movies but that his attitude about extraterrestrials is similar to mine. In most science fiction films, the aliens are bad guys who come here and make war, or we make war with them in space. I recently watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind again. No war, and I was as moved by it as when I first saw it in 1977. Yes, I know that dates me, but facts are facts.
As for musical score, I’d have to leave that to the experts, and being intricately involved in the film production would be terrific—but not likely. Hollywood likes to keep writers at a distance.
5. Now that you’ve emerged into the science fiction world, after being a long time mystery genre writer, are you here to stay? (I look forward to reading more projects like this one.)
My early writing attempts were neither mystery nor sf. Back then, I didn’t believe I could plot the exciting and intricate stories I loved to read. So I started with children’s books, mistakenly thinking they’d be easy since I had four children. I was wrong. Then I tried the romance genre because I’d had a few romances in my life, whereas I’d never killed anyone and wasn’t a science nerd. Romance wasn’t easy, either and my stories kept being rejected for having “too much mystery.”
A diehard sf reader might say the same of Emissary, that it has “too much mystery,” but it’s a combination I enjoy, and it works for me. So yes, I plan to continue in this venue. For readers, Emissary opens the door to a world where humans interact with extraterrestrials, the way J.R.R. Tolkien created Middle-earth, Isaac Asimov created a world where robots with positronic brains dwell alongside humans, and J. K. Rowling created Hogwarts. Without giving
away the story, I can say that I planned Emissary as a trilogy, and the ending of this first book is the beginning of an exciting new future for the humans who dwell in that story world.
At present, I’m also working on a paranormal mystery about a 300-year-old pirate who runs his many times-refurbished ship today as a Caribbean cruise ship. Passengers attracted to a Molly Dore cruise always include at least one person with a dark paranormal problem that Captain Cord McKinsey helps resolve, despite the fact that he can’t cure his own curse of immortality. I started this story in 2011 and put it aside to work on Emissary. Now it’s scheduled for release in May 2015.
6. If you could interview any existing science fiction author and pick their brain, who would it be? Did that author and their work influence Emissary in any way?
Sadly, I don’t read current sf, but my favorite sf author of all time is Harlan Ellison. He writes the sort of speculative fiction I enjoy. My first introduction to Ellison’s work was his short story, “A Boy and His Dog,” which first published in 1969 and was adapted into a film in 1975 by L.Q. Jones. I’m a feminist, and the story’s hero, 15-year-old Vic Blood, is a knuckle-dragging brute, but I still enjoyed the story. Many fans will know Ellison for his work on the original Star Trek series, his numerous Hugo- or Nebula Award-winning stories, his often caustic personality, which he demonstrated as Guest of Honor at the first AggieCon in 1969, or from his being the first author to win a copyright dispute against a major television network. In picking Ellison’s brilliant brain, I would come away with scars, but I’d still love to sit down with him for an hour or so.
As to whether Ellison’s work influenced Emissary, how can I judge? I’ve read literally thousands of stories and seen hundreds of movies, and all that material is muddled together somewhere in my consciousness. But no, I didn’t base Emissary on any author’s work. That’s not to say I don’t steal from the best when I fall in love with an idea or a great line. What author doesn’t?
7. What’s the main thought you would want readers to walk away from Emissary thinking?
This is the question I tell my students to consider early on in the process of writing a book, yet it’s a hard one to answer without sounding a bit full of myself. I suppose it’s this: people are complicated and wonderful and shouldn’t be pigeon-holed into any sort of group analysis. Each of us has value and heart but we also have a dark side that rises at times, and no one is without flaws, so stop throwing stones at strangers who are “different” and look for the wonder that each person can bring. On the other hand, remain watchful for the horrors that rise in certain malcontents, because they really are out there and can be devastating.
8. Do you plan to take Emissary to any sci-fi conventions in the future? (Say, Comicpalooza in May?)
I’m signed up for AggieCon 46, which happens March 27-29 2015 in College Station, Tx. Never having attended a science fiction convention, I’m a little scared.
9. What would you say to a graphic novelization of Emissary?
I grew up reading EC Comics, such as Vault of Horror and Tales From the Crypt, which I loved, so for me graphic novels are still comic books. I know there’s a difference. I have a copy of The Illustrated Harlan Ellison, which features several of his stories and was produced by Byron Preiss in 1978. It’s great. Some truly talented illustrators were selected for this graphic compilation, but I believe some of the stories converted well to graphic presentation while others didn’t. In that light, I don’t see Emissary as a graphic novel. But that’s just me.
10. Has the publication of Emissary opened any new doors for you as an author that were previously closed in the mystery genre?
Not yet. I’m not even sure which doors I’d knock on, but I’m open to whatever happens. Meanwhile, writing and painting continue to make me happy, and that’s what really counts.
On the other hand, Emissary is already available in print, e-book, and audio—which took much longer when I was associated with a major publisher. For me, that’s an important door, because it makes this big-format story that’s so dear to me available to more readers.
“It’s one of the uncanniest things I know to watch a real book on its career – it follows you and follows you and drives you into a corner and makes you read it. […] Words can’t describe the cunning of some books. You’ll think you’ve shaken them off your trail, and then one day some innocent-looking customer will pop in and begin to talk, and you’ll now he’s an unconscious agent of book-destiny.” – pg. 121, The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley
Title: The Haunted Bookshop
Author: Christopher Morley
Length: 265 pages
I am constantly haunted by books. As a reviewer your TBR pile grows and grows, but there are books that you want to read that no one is asking you to that sit and lurk until finally they demand that you pick them up.
I purchased The Haunted Bookshop years ago; it was the same time I bought Parnassus on Wheels. Nearly two years after finally reading my first encounter with Morley, I’ve finally been hunted down and captured by his wonderful sequel.
“There’s only one way to lay the ghost of a book, and that is to read it.”
Now that I’ve revisited Roger and Helen Mifflin, however, I just want more. I want to know what happens after this glorious book fetish mystery. After Parnassus on Wheels, it was exciting to see Mr. and Mrs. Mifflin after they settled down. But now I want to know: how does all the inadvertent advertising change the face of Mr. Mifflin’s business. I want to hang out with these fine people until we experience their inevitable deaths. Favorite characters deserve that much, for their fans to sob at their memorials.
Mostly, I adore Mr. Mifflin’s constant book recommendations. As long as people love books there will be books about bookstores, I am convinced, because the truly bookish seek out recommendations from their favorite characters, always. That was the romance, for me, in writing The Bookshop Hotel. I hope in time that fans will see more similarities in my work to Christopher Morley than to Debbie Macomber (of whom my writing has been compared) and the like. Ultimately, however, I’m happy with however I am categorized as long as people are enjoying them.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I picked them both up at various times, years ago when I first got hung up on cozy mysteries. It wasn’t until I was moving that I put reading all my paperbacks on my TBR priority list so I can purge them. Only prime keepers are going to the new house once it is built. While unpacking paperbacks in my temporary abode I discovered this little coincidence and my very silly self immediately thought in rhyme. Naturally, I had to read them right away. (Or as right away as one can when one reads books for part of my living.)
I shall preface by saying: both were appropriately cute. Meredith, however, has a writing style that puts her a cut above the rest in the genre and I can’t wait to read more of her series.
I read through her book in nearly one sitting. Despite it being the third in the series, I didn’t feel like I had missed a beat, though I felt like I should surely go back and read the others as soon as possible.
The Cat in the Stacks series is fun, but I’ll probably just happen across them as I happen across them, rather than purposefully seek them out. Although, I did appreciate that I had indeed selected the first of that series. It is always nice to begin at, well, the beginning.
Both books were set in the south, which naturally made them fun for me. Meredith’s is actually set in Texas, however, and James’ is set in Mississippi with only a few references to Houston. I absolutely adored Meredith’s Ryan character and found him incredibly endearing, where James won me over by introducing me to a breed of cat I’d never heard of – a Maine Coon.
I will always choose books that lend themselves to wanting to read more books. Books on books are my favorites. Novels set in literary settings, a close second. Libraries, bookstores, reading groups, these are the places that keep my heart at rest – even if we have to kill someone off to maintain a plot line and a reason for being there in the first place. So whether it is sooner or later, I’ll return to both of these writers eventually.
End note: I like this Miranda James cover better…