Author name: Phyllis Staton Campbell
Please tell us a little about yourself. What makes you a #Uniqueauthor (or artist)?
I was born blind in Amherst County Virginia, the youngest of two sisters and a brother. We moved to Staunton, Virginia, when I was seven, where my sister and I attended the Virginia School for the blind. Reading has been an important part of my life, since I can remember. I sold my first short piece in the sixties, and have been writing professionally ever since. I have published six books, both in the traditional market place and self-published. In addition, I did a true-crime book, under contract to the family of the victim. My latest book is “Where Sheep May Safely Graze” inspirational. I’m currently working on a sequel.
Please answer 12 of the questions/discussion points below.
What first prompted you to publish your work? Writing is, hard work, if enjoyable. I felt that that effort should be put into something to share with others, and perhaps bring some tangible reward to me.
As a disabled author how do you overcome the extra challenges involved with producing your work? I faced many challenges in the beginning. There were no computers, no braille aware devices, permitting ease in proofreading. The first piece I sold was written with the slate and stylus, meaning that the braille dots had to be punched individually by hand. I lacked the money for a proofreader, meaning that I had to work very hard, first doing the work in braille, and then painstakingly typing it to send out for consideration. Today, I feel I have few challenges after that.
What have you found the most challenging part of the process? Do you think the publishing world is disability-friendly? Like most things that can be answered with both “yes” and “no”. Some publishers are friendly, some not. The real challenge there, is knowing which. Some will claim interest and then say they’ve taken on their quota for the year. Have they? Others such as Barbara Brett of Brett, will go beyond the last mile for the disabled writer.
What piece of advice do you wish you’d had when you started your publishing journey? The public taste in books varies greatly. Study the market carefully before submitting to be sure that you’re meeting the needs of that publication.
If you could have dinner with any literary character who would you choose, and what would you eat. Harry Potter, and we’d have pumpkin pasties.
How much research do you do for your work? What’s the wildest subject you’ve looked at? I write three columns, so I do a lot of research. Years ago I wrote a piece on vampires, not the interesting ones in popular literature, but the real thing. Well, those who believed themselves to be real, and acted accordingly.
How influential is storytelling to our culture? It has been influential to all cultures, but I feel it is perhaps less today, because of TV.
What’s the best advice you’ve received about writing/publishing? Study your market and be persistent.
If you could be any fantasy/mythical or legendary person/creature what would you be and why? A sphinx I like cats!
Which authors have influenced you the most? For my current series, Jan Karon, and Janice Holt Giles. For my early stumbling efforts, Lucy Montgomery, Gene Straton Porter. In other words, they’re tied to what I’m doing, and where I am in my writing journey.
What is your writing space like? My writing space was once a dining room with a door to the kitchen, and French doors on either side of the chimney, leading to the living room. My house is quite old, and when I sit quietly, I can feel the echo of all of those who have lived and died here.
Tell us about your latest piece? “Where sheep May Safely Graze” is the story of Pastor Jim, who was blinded serving in Iraq, and his wife, Amy. It tells of his struggle to adjust to his blindness, her struggle to adjust to her new role as his wife, and their struggle against the prejudice of the wealthy church where they both serve. They are further challenged when they go to serve in a rural town.
What’s your next writing adventure? I’m working on “Goin’ Home, a sequel to “Where Sheep May Safely Graze.
Is this the age of the e-book? Are bricks and mortar bookshops in decline? Brick and Mortar shops are definitely on the decline, witnessed by how many large chains have closed.
Are indie/self-published authors viewed with scepticism or wariness by readers? Why is this? Some people will always be wary of self-published authors, but this has changed drastically. One reason is those self-styled writers, who pay little attention to proofing and editing, and who, in many cases, have no real story to begin with.
What is your greatest success? To this point, my greatest writing success has been “Friendships in the Dark” published in hard cover, paperback, large-print in the US, and translated into Chinese, as well as publication in the British Isles, all by a traditional publisher.
How important is writing/art to you? Writing is a large part of my life.
Welcome back to Laurie Boris: Thank you for having me back!
Where are you from and where do you live now? I grew up in a small town about a hundred miles north of New York City. After leaving home for college and then five years in Boston, I decided to return to the Hudson Valley, and now I live right between the river and the Catskill Mountains. It’s a lovely piece of the world.
Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. I write fiction in a mix of genres ranging from comedy to women’s fiction to literary to romance. Every time I start writing a new novel, my father asks me what it’s about. Sometimes I don’t know in the beginning. I might say “magic,” or “baseball,” or “art,” and he’ll just smile at me and say, “I know you. It’s really going to be about relationships.” So, I guess I do have a few common themes after all.
Do you have a favourite character? If so why?Charlie Trager for the win! He’s been my favorite ever since I met him in Don’t Tell Anyone. There, he’s a secondary character dancing around his attraction to a very unavailable man. Charlie is sharp, witty, loyal to his friends, with many lovable flaws and a fondness for basketball, good scotch, and lost causes. I’m crazy about him and hope we have a few more stories together.
Have you ever used a person you don’t/didn’t like as a character then killed them off?Ha! Oh, how I longed to. Reynaldo the Magnificent (the magician from A Sudden Gust of Gravity) was at first based on someone I met a long time ago. An evil part of me wanted to bring him in so I could kill him off. But then, as he developed and deepened and became his own person, I just couldn’t do it. That would have been me getting in the way of the story, and I don’t like doing that to my characters. Or my stories.
Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books? Do you enjoy this aspect of creating a novel and what are your favourite resources? It’s too easy for me to fall down the research rabbit hole when I find something interesting, and that leads me astray from the actual writing. So, I try not to do too much researching until I hit the second or third draft. Wikipedia and Google Earth are my main go-to sources. The book I’m currently writing depends a great deal on getting the details right, but I’m trying not to distract myself too much with research.
Sort these into order of importance: Great characters; great world-building; solid plot; technically perfect. Can you explain why you chose this order? (Yes I know they all are important…) Great characters are at the root of everything for me. I nurture them, talk to them, invite them to hang out with me and ply them with their favorite treats to get their secrets. The plot and the world-building all flows from what the characters tell me. Technically perfect (or as perfect as I can get it) comes last.
Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited? Even though I’m an editor, I revise and self-edit to the extent that I can (after I get input from my critique group and beta-readers) and then call in the professionals for the final look. It’s so hard to edit your own work. Some authors are blessed with that ability, but I’m not one of them.
Do you think indie/self-published authors are viewed differently to traditionally published authors? Why do you think this might be? It depends who is doing the viewing. I’m finding lately that readers care less about the distinction. A good story is a good story is a good story. Other authors and publishing professionals are the ones who seem to care about this more. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a few traditionally published authors, and for the most part, they were open-minded about self-publishing. Some were clearly not on board with what I was doing—one even said I was committing “literary suicide.” Who knows? One day they might be coming to me for advice on how to get started.
What are your opinions about authors commenting on reviews? How important are reviews? It makes me cringe a little when authors complain on public forums about a review or a reviewer. When I publish a book, I’ve made a choice to offer it up for public opinion, and I don’t get to intrude. But I do believe that reviews are important. They can help potential readers decide if a book is worth the investment of their time and money, because study after study points to “average reader” reviews being more trustworthy than paid reviews. And having a good number of reviews mean that I’m more likely to get good promotional opportunities, which can help me sell more books.
What are your reviews on authors reviewing other authors? Authors are usually voracious readers, so why are our opinions any less valid or desirable? I don’t buy the argument some try to make that authors shouldn’t post reviews of what they read, even if it’s in their own genres. As long as the review is based solely on the work and not on any other agenda.
Do you have a favourite movie? I’m a sucker for romantic comedies with sparky dialogue, ever since I saw The Philadelphia Story when I was a teenager. My all-time favorite at the moment is When Harry Met Sally. Brilliant writing, great casting, great comic timing.
Can you name your worst job? Do you think you learned anything from the position that you now use in your writing? I don’t think any experience is wasted, if you’re a writer. My career has mainly been in the creative departments of marketing, advertising, and publishing companies, and employees there don’t tend to stay in one place for too long. I’ve weathered the layoffs, buyouts, and occasional stints as a freelancer or temp worker. All these different opportunities have fed my writing in ways I never would have imagined. I covered a lot of zoning board meetings for the local newspaper, and I got to use that in a novel. I was a magician’s assistant, and I used that, too. I spent a few months working for a temp agency that hired roadies for rock bands. That was a lot of fun, and I haven’t found a place for that yet in my writing, but I’m sure I will at some point.
Can you give us a silly fact about yourself? Wendy Pini, co-creator of Elfquest, once sat in during a critique group session where I was reading a bit from my first novel, a story about a comic book writer. She offered me a job. Silly me, I turned her down, because I didn’t think I had enough experience. I often wonder why I did that.
Book links, website/blog and author links:
Mailing List: http://laurieboris.com/contact_laurie
Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/Laurie-Boris/e/B005I551QA
Smashwords Author Page: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/LaurieBoris
It’s been over a year since I’ve posted a reader interview so it’s great to be running one again.
*Welcome to Amanda Kent
Where are you from? United Kingdom
Please tell us a little about yourself.
Retired IT Programme/Project Manager. Labour Party activist and ward chair, currently campaigning to remain in the European Union. Member of local Amnesty International group. Fluent in French and German as well as English mother tongue. Married with two sons.
On average how many books do you read in a month? Approx 80–90-120 per year. Of these, I read a small amount of books in French and German each year, maybe 5% and hope to add Italian to this eventually. I don’t read translations of books that I can read in the original French or German.
A quarter to a third of the books I read will be re-reads, mostly genre fiction to unwind. A quarter to a third of the books will be by women. With a conscious effort, I managed to make it half and half last year, but it doesn’t really seem worth a conscious effort, because it was lowering the overall quality. More of the women authors I read seem to be crime or SF/fantasy than serious.
Where is your favourite place to read? Anywhere and everywhere. I almost always carry a book.
*What genres do you prefer and why? Do you have any genres you avoid?
I have no prefered genre though I’m finding that I read more non-fiction as I get older than I used to. As well as novels and non-fiction, I quite often read plays but only a little poetry, usually short poems.
I don’t like horror/ghost stories at all, or misery memoirs. I rarely read chick-lit/romance. I’m not usually much interested in travel books.
Why are books important to you and what does reading bring to your life?
Fiction, notably genre fiction, provides escape and relaxation. Non-fiction provides information and food for thought which may influence moral and political choices, as does quality fiction.
Do you have a favourite book or author? Why do you think you like this book/author so much?
No, I would spend hours trying to work out even a top 100.
What medium do you prefer – e-books, audiobooks or paper books? Would you care to expand on this?
I prefer physical books, paperback or hardback. If I re-read a paperback too often, I may need a hardback replacement because it fell apart. This happened to my childhood paperback of Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings – and the hardbacks of it which my sons have shared are now showing a pale skin pink under the leather of the binding.
Good covers, presentation, illustration do contribute to the pleasure of reading. I don’t like e-books, possibly because I was in IT: screen-reading is work not pleasure to me. I never really got into audiobooks – unless you’re travelling a lot by car or have a visual handicap, they just take too long compared with reading. Also most audiobooks are abridged and I want to read the real thing. That may, of course, change if I go blind in old age.
How do you usually find the books you read? For example: recommendations from friends, promotion on social networks, your local library, following authors you already know?
I read things I’ve earmarked from the Guardian’s Saturday Review of Books, friends recommendations and further works from authors I already know.
I buy books firsthand from Waterstones, Foyles, Daunts, second hand through Amazon marketplace(not from Amazon direct if I can possibly avoid it) or charity shops and I borrow books from friends and from the library, especially books where I have any doubts if I’m going to like them. Occasionally if I love a library book, I may later buy it to re-read.
When choosing a book what makes you stop and give it a second look? What makes you turn away?
Mostly I read books I’ve already identifed I want to read so what attracts my eye is a known author or title, very occasionally an intriguing cover and blurb.
Do you read reviews by others and if so do they influence your choice?
I rarely read on-line reviews but read some newspaper/magazine ones.
Do you “judge a book by its cover?”
Occasionally a cover will put me off reading a book, which sometimes I may return to a later edition of, but not very often and very occasionally a cover & blurb will attract me to a book I might have overlooked, but it’s definitely secondary .
What do you think is the most important aspect of a book for you? Plot, world-building, strong characters etc.? What turns you off?
Plot and the construction of the story is important in fiction/drama, except in poetry where form to a large extent takes over from plot. I hated Stephen Donaldson’s Lord Foul’s Bane because after a really interesting opening idea it went into chapter after chapter of he met some strange beings, did some unconnected stuff (repeat, repeat, repeat, stop) with no linking or development of character or apparent point to the tale. Fernando Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet I couldn’t read because of the absence of plot; there were beautiful passages but the lack of overall shape made it well nigh impossible to remember what you’d read 10 pages ago – it can only really be done as a kind of poetry and that’s hard.
Plausible characters and events are critical in fiction whether in a totally imaginary or a realistic tale. Style/narrative approach matter, at their best they reinforce the story e.g. Primo Levi: the Periodic Table or Jeannette Winterson: Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit; at their worst they give a gimmicky feel to the book.
The way some authors write can put me off, if their style is very ‘look how clever I am’ for example or outright pretentious – I’m not a big fan of Salman Rushdie or John Fowles because of this. Stylistic tics and bad proofreading can be an irritant – for example it is sadly obvious that Bloomsbury gave up proofreading JK Rowling after book 3 and the quality is affected even if the overall narrative is still strong.
In non-fiction, I like information to either to be a story eg biographies or to present a coherent argument on an issue or issues.
My favourite books tend to be ones that give you some food for thought on issues of ethics, politics or approach to live.
Does the behaviour of an author affect your choice to read one of their books?
Potentially yes. If the author is obnoxious in real life, it’s likely to come through in the books. And there are so many other books… If I hate the first book I read by an author, it takes a personal recommendation to get me to try another. I have an accumulated ‘To read list’ of about 500 titles so why waste energy on things I probably won’t enjoy!
It’s only rarely that I give up part way through a book, though, and that’s partly because I read quite fast. However, some books I couldn’t finish are supposed to be very good e.g. Don Quixote but I was so bored by the end of part 1 I just couldn’t manage any more.
What are your views on authors commenting on reviews on sites such as Goodreads?
I wish they would keep away and I absolutely hate it in when they promote their books, it almost guarantees that I won’t read them: if their books were any good they wouldn’t be doing it. I don’t buy from door-to-door salesmen for the same reason.
If you had to pick three favourite books to take to a desert island what would they be?
I doubt if I could really, but for example Mrs Gaskell: North and South; Victor Hugo: les Miserables and Erich Maria Remarque: A Time to Live and a Time to Die (sometimes mistranslated as a Time to Love because of the film).
Or on a different day, Hermanne Hesse: the Glass-Bead Game, Antonio Tabucchi: Pereira Maintains and Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
Do you think bricks and mortar bookshops are in decline?
They have been but seem to have stabilised at a lower level and physical books are not in decline, at least here in Britain.
Welcome to Dylan Callens.
Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. My novel is called Operation Cosmic Teapot. The title is derived from Bertrand Russell’s analogy of a teapot floating in space, which represents that the burden of proof lies on a person making a philosophic claim. In particular, he says that those believing in a god need to provide evidence.
I’d say that the novel is contemporary fiction with great deal of humour thrown into the mix.
Where do you find inspiration? Inspiration comes mostly through reading philosophy. When I read something that I think is really thought provoking my mind starts spinning stories. I start to wonder what would happen if…
Aside from that, I find inspiration in conversations with others throughout the day. I teach media studies and am always interested to hear what bizarre things might come out of my students’ mouths. Their idiosyncrasies allow me to explore unusual modes of thinking.
Do you have a favourite character? If so why? In Operation Cosmic Teapot, that is a difficult question to answer. I love God because he’s really quite down to Earth. He’s struggling to stay afloat, like so many people that I know. Myself included, in some ways.
Then there’s Nietzsche. He’s had such a hard life and I cannot help but feel sorry for him. I understand why he wants to seek revenge on God. Yet, his antics make me laugh.
Are your characters based on real people? Yes, in this novel they are. Half the characters are based on philosophers while the other half are based on gods. All of their histories are three-quarters true. The other quarter is poetic license.
Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books? Do you enjoy this aspect of creating a novel and what are your favourite resources? Oh goodness! There was so much research required for this book. I spent more time researching than writing, I think. There was a great deal to wrap my head around.
First, there was all of Nietzsche’s history to consider. There is quite a bit of debate about his life, such as whether or not he had syphilis, or how he ended up in a catatonic state. I always went with the stories that seemed the most humorous to me.
There was God’s history to deal with as well. Outside of the Bible, there are other writings about him, most notably the Ugaritic Scripts. For me, dealing with this history was a mess because there was so much writing done. What I essentially did was just find a narrative that suited my purpose. I’m sure that there will be a number of complaints about inaccuracies.
The list of research goes on and on from there, but I think that’s enough for now.
Is there a message conveyed within your writing? Do you feel this is important in a book? The central message in the book, I suppose, is that history is a fluid thing. It changes depending on perception. If we were to look at it in a post-modernist way, then certainly having people in charge of gods indicates that I am questioning authority. But as a post-modernist I wouldn’t dare tell readers what message they are supposed to get from Operation Cosmic Teapot.
Important? Important to me. I’m not sure that it will be important to anyone else. It’s unique, I’m sure of that. I’d like to think that others will feel it’s important. If not, I just hope that they are entertained.
Do you think indie/self-published authors are viewed differently to traditionally published authors? Why do you think this might be?Absolutely! I think that the general public regards self-publishing as a world meant for those that aren’t good enough for publication houses. My guess is that it’s hard for those that don’t write to understand why someone would want to go the indie route.
What are your opinions about authors commenting on reviews? How important are reviews? I wouldn’t dare comment on reviews of my own work. I fully believe that if someone hates my book, then they should slam it. I’ll shake my head about the review but I won’t give it a second thought, unless there was something in the review that could help me improve. Given the nature of my book, I fully expect that there will be those that hate it.
I think over time reviews are less important. As a new writer, I see them as critical because it’s one more way to get my name out. Even the bad ones have an upside, I suppose.
When buying a book do you read the reviews? Yes, but for entertainment purposes only. If a book grabs my attention, then I’m going to pick it up.
What three pieces of advice would you give to new writers? First, don’t stop working when the book is done. I’d say network over promoting, but it’s kind of the same thing, in a sense. I think it’s easy to get discouraged when one avenue shuts down. The internet provides so many possible networking opportunities that if you keep plugging away, something is bound to work.
Second, make sure your media looks as professional as you can make it. I find it hard to buy a book from someone if their website (for example) looks like it was done by a child. For me, if a person can’t take the time to figure out how to design a good website, then what is the inside of their book going to look like?
Third, continue revising your book after your first publication. If you find errors, or a reviewer points out some kind of important inconsistency, then it’s a good idea to fix up that error and publish a new edition. We’re lucky in an electronic world to have that opportunity.
Can you give us a silly fact about yourself? I am very good with a yo-yo. I have considered entering professional competitions.
Book links, website/blog and author links:
Welcome to Luke F. D. Marsden
Where are you from and where do you live now? I was born in Scotland, but grew up mostly in Bristol, in the South West of England. I now live and work in the old Roman Spa town of Bath in Somerset, site of the UK’s only thermal springs.
Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. I published my first novel – Wondering, the Way is Made – in November 2014. It is a story of friendship in a crumbling world. It takes place in Latin America in the very near future, against a backdrop of serious climate change and societal upheaval. A band of good friends are brought together by fate in Argentina, and they journey across the South American continent in a camper van looking for a quiet place to ride out the adverse events that are occurring globally.
I first got the idea for the book when I was in Kerala, India in the summer of 2011. There was a deadly heatwave at that time in the US and it was the summer of riots in the UK. From a distance I watched and, with a small step of the imagination, envisioned what it would be like if things degenerated to the point where it was no longer worth returning home.
I eventually came to write the book three years later, whilst in South America. The situations, background events and anecdotes in it almost all have precedent in very recent history, even though some of them may seem far-fetched. The locations are places that I visited along my own way through the continent. One of the aims of the novel is to make the reader aware that sometimes the far-fetched can be far closer to reality than they realise.
I am currently working on a second book, which will be a collection of allegorical short stories exploring themes around the conscious and subconscious mind.
Where do you find inspiration? I get inspired by travel. It’s a cliché, but the real world (or, should I say, the universe) is stranger and more exotic than fiction. You just have to go out and find stories and ideas – the whole universe is full of them. The beauty of fiction is that, as a writer, you can then adapt, adorn and embellish those stories and ideas without limits until you have captured whatever it is that you were seeking.
Do you have a favourite character? If so why? I am surprised that I find this question so hard to answer. I have become very attached to the characters from Wondering… They are all misfits, but my favourite, if I had to choose, would probably be Joe. The group of friends tolerate his philosophical musings and outspoken monologues, as they are humorous and keep them amused. He regards his high-sounding ideas as important contributions to the group, and in a way they are, but not in any tangible sense. I like this about all of the characters – they all bring something unique and invaluable to the group, and the collective somehow combines to add up to something greater than the sum of the individuals.
Are your characters based on real people? My characters are usually composites of people I know and have met, with a measure of artistic licence thrown in. I like to create them this way as it lends authenticity.
Is there a message conveyed within your writing? Do you feel this is important in a book? I like to read, and write, books that have a message – it is something that is important to me. I wrote Wondering, the Way is Made as an attempt to capture something of the essence of the frivolity and self-indulgence of our time, and found that peering into the near future was a good way of doing this. The heroes and heroines represent a generation in microcosm. They are nice people, sympathetic, but upon reflection perhaps not quite as sympathetic as they appear. They lament the demise of society and the planet, quite rightly, but there is nothing in their actions that absolves them from the very things they criticize others for. They are products of a ‘Me’ society, they are, at times, wasteful, irresponsible, largely unmoved by the poverty they see as they travel through Latin America, and overprivileged in some cases. However, the fact remains that they are also gentle, thoughtful, honest, very likeable and humorous, which makes it easy to overlook their flaws and shortcomings. The book carries the message that, collectively, humans can be quite selfish, even if individually they are nice people.
In what formats are your books available? (E-books, print, large print audio) Are you intending to expand these and if not, what is the reason? Wondering, the Way is Made is currently available in e-book format on Amazon, Smashwords, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Flipkart. I intend to launch it as a paperback later this year.
Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited? I hired a professional to copy edit my novel Wondering, the Way is Made. It was a sound move – the prose had a subtly, but significantly, more polished feel to it once the changes identified by the copy editor had been applied. As for content, I like to retain complete editorial control, which is part of the reason I chose to self-publish. However, several close friends did kindly proof-read the book before publication, and their feedback contributed to the overall shape of the work.
Do you read work by self-published authors? Yes. I have recently branched out from my erstwhile reading habits (mostly early 20th century books and philosophical novels) and I have been seeking out works by self-published authors, particularly writers who could be regarded as my immediate contemporaries. It’s rewarding to discover a great independent author for yourself, and enlightening to find out who else is out there writing right at this moment. A lot of superb talent exists outside of the mainstream publishing machine. I have recently read books by Harry Whitewolf and Leo X. Robertson, both of which I have enjoyed. The great advantage of the independent writer is that they are not beholden to any publishing house, editor, or anything, other than themselves, so they have the ability to write works for their artistic merit alone.
When buying a book do you read the reviews? I generally don’t read a book’s reviews before I read the book itself, although I’ll look at the average star rating as a sanity check. Most important, though, is the synopsis. If it grabs me, I’ll read the first few pages and a random excerpt from the middle. Then, if I’m still undecided, I might read a few reviews – a good, a moderate, and a bad review chosen at random. Book synopses of the kind that list a load of five star reviews in them send me running – it makes me suspect that the synopsis wouldn’t stand up on its own, or that an average book is hiding behind some good reviews. When I DO like to read the reviews is after I’ve finished the book. I’ll write my own review first, so as not to be influenced by any others, then compare it with the others after posting. Reviewing is an art form in itself, and I find this method helps to improve it.
What experiences can a book provide that a movie or video game cannot? I love movies, but I think are mentally quite passive compared to books. While they are great input into the imagination, the flow of information is mostly one-way, as so much is served up to the viewer as the finished article. It’s all over after two or three hours of concentration. The same goes for video games (although I can hear howls of disagreement from some quarters!). A book requires time, and engagement of the imagination and intellect. Reading is a two-way process, a dialogue between the words on the page and the mind of the reader. It is a significant personal investment to read a book – I think that’s why it’s difficult to sell them. You are not just asking a reader for a some of their money, you are also asking them for one or two weeks’ worth of their spare time. They have to be pretty certain that it will be time well spent. This is why, therefore, I think it is such an honour when somebody does take that step, and elects to read your book.
What three pieces of advice would you give to new writers?
- When someone picks up your book to read it, they are making a personal investment of their precious time in the words that *you* have written, over and above everything that everyone else has ever written. That is an incredible honour. Never forget this.
- Write the books that you want to write, not the books that you think others want you to write.
- Write a little less than you want to each day, so that you start with renewed inspiration the next. This is paraphrased from Ernest Hemingway, but I have found it to be good advice, so I am passing it on.
What are your best marketing/networking tips? What are your worst? Best guerrilla marketing tip – Leave your book business cards between the pages of books you think your readers will pick up in bookshops.
Worst marketing tip – Leave your book business card in pubs and coffee shops. I’ve found it to be ineffective. Perhaps I’ve yet to find the right places.
Best networking tip – Get on Goodreads. It’s a great community of book-lovers.
Worst networking tip – Treating real-world networking events as though they’re work rather than pleasure, and therefore avoiding them. I’m guilty of this.
Most authors like to read, what have you recently finished reading? Did you enjoy it? I recently finished reading Kabloona, by Gontran de Poncins. It’s a phenomenal account of life with the Inuit of King William Land in the Canadian High Arctic, a barren expanse of ten thousand square miles with a population of 25 people. That the Inuit succeed in the circumstances he describes is miraculous, and he writes well of the enormous pride they feel in their way of life, and the extreme care and attention to detail with which they must live in order to survive. When the physical surroundings are described they are hard to imagine, such is their other-worldliness: perpetual night, hunting seal by moonlight, haunting ice-scapes, weeks spent travelling by dog sled through vast emptiness, eating what is caught along the way, hastily erecting igloos in blizzards that it seems that nobody could survive… these are all part of normality. He is horrified at their customs at first, but their honesty, generosity and selfless acceptance of him eventually win him over and help him to rid himself of his initial egoism. This way of life is now vanished, so the stories that he recounts, as well as being astonishing, are the only way we’ll ever experience it.
In 2015 I am welcoming a number of guests to my blog, where they discuss all manner of topics. I am sure my regular followers have seen the Fantasy and Literary Heroes in Society posts, which will be a continuing feature but today I am pleased to welcome Jacquelynn Luben who talks about the challenges of writing in multiple genres, her work in a small publishing house, research and the challenges faced by many authors. Over to you Jacquelynn…
Crossing Categories in Writing
Over the years, I’ve written both fiction and non-fiction, short and long. That is to say, I’ve written two non-fiction books and two novels (and am in the process of writing the third) and I’ve also written many short stories and published quite a few articles.
In terms of success, one of my non-fiction books was commissioned and published by a mainstream publisher, while the other was self-published, and of course, my articles were published in print magazines.
My novels, on the other hand, are published by a small publishing house, in which I am a director, with two others – so quite a small concern – which makes it more difficult to achieve the same sort of success as with a mainstream publisher. However, on-line sales through Amazon have provided me with a very satisfactory income during the last three years, and this specifically applies to my fiction work.
I have never been a professional writer, and have never had to rely on writing for an income. So from this point of view, I am happy with the way my writing has progressed. It means I write what I feel like writing and when I feel like it, and am not normally boxed into a corner where I have to produce something to a deadline.
In the past, my non-fiction writing has been praised for its clarity, and perhaps I should have concentrated on that. However, the truth of the matter is that I do not really like researching a subject. My first non-fiction book (The Fruit of the Tree) was written from the heart, as it dealt with the death of my baby daughter through cot death. Having written articles on the subject, I wanted to put the event into context, and so described a period of five years of my married life, including the births of my other children. No research was needed. At the time when I wrote it, it was all there in my memory.
I have spoken to writers who say that they love the research more than the writing. This does not apply to me. The writing is the part which is enjoyable; I like using words – as any writer should – and I like editing what I have written, moving words, sentences and paragraphs around. (Computers have made that aspect of writing so much easier.) My articles therefore, have, on the whole, been based on my personal experience, the most recent having been published in a ‘nostalgia’ magazine, and have therefore not required much in the way of research.
It was as a result of writing my first book – which in the end, I published myself – that I was commissioned to write a self-help book on the subject of cot death, and for this I had to use my head and try to be somewhat more objective about the subject. I did, of course, have to research the topic, and I interviewed a number of people, taking notes and using, at that time, a tape recorder, before going to the computer to transcribe the interviews. I tried to make them wide ranging, including as my interviewees, bereaved parents, doctors and a midwife, a funeral director, and representatives of the charity which gave support to bereaved parents. The parents, too, were diverse and included, for example, those who had had more children and those who chose not to, and religious and non-religious people.
My motivation for writing fiction is really quite different, the common factors being my enjoyment of writing, and my interest in the structure of any piece of work. I am a sucker for stories. If I turn on the radio or TV, half way through a play, I will probably get hooked and want to know what happened. So constructing a story and living in the world of that story is a different kind of escapism. Fiction comes in for criticism from my engineer husband, because it’s ‘not true’, but I believe that there is sometimes more truth in fiction than in factual stuff. In my opinion, whenever fiction writers describe events, they are remembering something that occurred in their own lives, or that they have heard about. The truth is in the emotion that was experienced, even if the fictional characters do not exist. So a piece of fiction is a tapestry of true or half remembered events or events that could happen. Even in fantasy and science fiction, (which I generally don’t write) good writers usually represent their characters with normal human emotions.
I think that writers have to recognise today that it is very difficult to make a living from writing unless you produce a best-seller. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t opportunities to get work read and even paid for, particularly in the field of ebooks. My novel, Tainted Tree, is the piece of work that has provided me with an income recently and is the most read of my current work. Initially on the Amazon discussion pages, I promoted it a great deal, though this can bring Amazon’s wrath upon your head, so after a reprimand, I made sure that I was more cautious in this respect.
I made sure that I made good use of the categories on the book’s Kindle page, and was fortunate in that another writer who had created a ‘Listomania’ of genealogical novels, added it to his list. If you are the writer of ‘literary fiction’, your book may not be too specific, but as I don’t come into that category, and prefer plot based books, it is probably easier to categorise them. Having said that, I don’t believe that any book fits into one category. Tainted Tree is a genealogical romance with a bit of mystery and history in the package. My current novel in progress is a crime thriller, which also has a romantic thread.
My books have in common one thing. I have read and reread them over and over again and made changes to numerous drafts. Even if I break the rules, I regard grammar and spelling as of great importance, and, with the help of my fellow directors at our shared publishing house and other writers at my writing circle, I try, to the best of my ability, to sift out all errors. I also try my hardest to make sure that loose ends are tied up and that there are no errors of continuity. I am not a professional writer, but I try to be professional.
Hello, everyone! My name is Joe Bonadonna, and I dwell in the Windy City, the City of Big Shoulders . . . Chicago, IL, USA.
So far I’ve published three books: the heroic fantasy collection, Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser, published by iUniverse; the space opera, Three Against The Stars, published by Airship 27 Productions; and Waters of Darkness, a sword and sorcery pirate adventure, written in collaboration with David C. Smith, and published by Damnation Books. I have stories appearing in Heathen Oracle’s Azieran: Artifacts and Relics; GRIOTS 2: Sisters of the Spear, from author Milton C. Davis’ MVmedia; and Janet Morris’ Poets in Hell, from Perseid Press. I have also written a number of articles and book reviews for the online version of Black Gate Magazine.
My Amazon Author page:
How do YOU define fantasy/science fiction/heroism?
I’m old school, so I’ve always defined science fiction as inhabiting a post-industrialized world, with theoretical and practical advances in fields such as technology, genetics, and even psychology at its core. You know, the usual . . . spaceships, time travel, cloning, aliens, and such, and usually set in the future, although that alone is not always a qualifier.
As for fantasy, there are all kinds: all fiction, one can say, is fantasy; someone dreamed up the story, imagined the world in which the story takes place, even if it takes place in the real world of here and now. But we’re talking Heroic Fantasy here, so I’ll go with that. Heroic Fantasy to me is always set in a pre-industrialized society — no electricity, no planes, trains or automobiles — and that covers a lot of territory, from the prehistoric to the 16th or 17th century. When it comes to Heroic Fantasy, I’m pretty set in my ways. It has to follow certain rules and guidelines, and follow the Homeric tradition; I don’t go in for a lot of cross-breeding with other genres of fiction, such as paranormal romances, horror stories, vampires, werewolves and other supernatural genres — although elements of each often play roles in HF. I do not consider pulp fiction characters such as The Shadow, The Phantom, Green Hornet and such to be Heroic Fantasy: heroic fiction, to be sure, but those characters and that genre or style belong in another discussion for another day. When I discuss Heroic Fantasy, I discuss fiction that is not set in the real or modern world. You may disagree, but I’m just saying, is all.
Heroic Fantasy is very specific, in my opinion, and does not need to be world-spanning, world-in-jeopardy in plot, which I consider to be Epic Fantasy. For instance, Game of Thrones I view as Epic Fantasy because of its multi-cultural approach and world-spanning events, but since I have not found many truly unselfish heroes in the Homeric tradition, I don’t consider it Heroic Fantasy. Lord of the Rings crosses into both epic and heroic fields by nature of its world-building and memorable characters. The characters in Janet and Chris Morris’ stories and novels of The Sacred Band are firmly rooted in the Homeric tradition of Heroic Fantasy, with the added touch of drawing upon myth, legend and history.
Some other novels I consider Heroic Fantasy are Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword, E.R. Eddison’s The Worm Ouroboros, H.R. Haggard’s The Saga of Eric Brighteyes, Parke Godwin’s The Last Rainbow, T.C. Rypel’s The Deathwind Trilogy, and novels by such authors as Evangeline Walton, David Eddings, and Guy Gavriel Kay, to name a few. However, these are just my opinions, based on my personal preferences, and in no way are absolutes. At one time, 30 and 40 years ago, the genres of “fantasy” and sword and sorcery were much smaller, more confined, and far more easily tagged with labels. Now, take the Harry Potter novels, for instance . . . they are fantasy, to be sure — but are they Epic? Heroic? I would say they lean more toward Heroic Fantasy because of the selflessness of Harry, his willingness to sacrifice himself to save his friends and destroy Voldemort. He stands up to evil, faces odds greater than he may be able to thwart, and goes about it with no ulterior motives, such as wealth and power. He is very much an Everyman, in spite of his magical powers.
And this brings us to your next question: How do I define Heroism?
Heroes to me are those who will stand up for what they believe is right, without thinking of themselves or their personal gain; and they could be good guys fighting on the wrong side, simply warriors fighting for their country. They fight for the underdog, the lost cause — and as I once heard in a film whose title I cannot remember, “Lost causes are the only causes worth fighting for.” Heroism is about selflessness, doing right by others, fighting for a cause greater than oneself. True heroes are not concerned about wealth or power, their only concern is to help people, to defend those too weak to defend themselves. They strive to right an injustice, and fight for that in which they believe, with no selfish or personal motives other than to save the lives of family, friends and fellow countrymen: they fight for king and country. And what always struck me as truly heroic (and of course, fatalistic) are the actions of those who know they are fighting against overwhelming odds, who know they will die in the final battle.
As for my own work . . . I consider Mad Shadows: The Weird Tales of Dorgo the Dowser, to be Heroic Fantasy, due to the nature of Dorgo, my main character; there are elements of horror and the supernatural inherent in his adventures, which owe a great deal to Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and film noir. My space opera, Three Against The Stars, features four main characters I consider to be heroes in the Homeric tradition: Marines defending their planet. Waters of Darkness, my collaboration with David C. Smith, is pure, old-school pulp fiction sword and sorcery, with a large element of horror as the centerpiece of this pirate novel, which is set in 17th century Madagascar. My short stories and novellas published in various anthologies range from Sword and Soul fantasy, to Heroic Fantasy, to straight horror.
I do not put comic book superheroes in the Heroic Fantasy genre. They are part of something else. I am not putting them down, because they belong in a class all their own. The motives of the superheroes may be pure, noble and unselfish, but they are superheroes — not the ordinary, Everyman that constitutes most of Heroic Fantasy. Due to their very nature, the origins on their becoming endowed with superpowers, I would class them more as Heroic Science Fiction, or even Science-Fantasy, to use a very old-school term. Technology, chemistry, genetics, scientific experiments gone awry — these are more often than not what gave superheroes their superpowers, in the first place.
And now, for the sub-genre of Sword and Sorcery:
In my eyes, Sword and Sorcery is to Heroic Fantasy what film noir is to murder mysteries and crime/detective stories. In S & S, the main character is not always heroic, in the Homeric tradition: he/she can be a rogue — a thief, a mercenary, an assassin — whose motives are often (but not always) self-centered, based on greed, revenge, power. The beauty of S & S lies in the use of the anti-hero, as in the best of film noir. Conan was not always the pure hero: his goals were not always selfless, not always altruistic. He was a rogue, a killer, a survivalist, and yet, as subtly written by Robert E. Howard, he often rose above his baser instincts to become a true Hero. That is the magic of Howard’s original concept, of his vision. He created Conan to be all things, to fit whatever role the nature of the story called for. While I prefer the characters of King Kull and Solomon Kane, Conan was truly a character written “for all seasons.”
Another difference I see between Sword and Sorcery, and Heroic Fantasy, especially Epic Fantasy, is that the stories, by tradition, are more intimate, more confined. I’m talking old-school S & S here — much of Howard, Leiber, Jakes, de Camp, and Fox — in their stories, their worlds were not often at stake, although cities and kingdoms were usually in jeopardy. These are like the western genre in films and books: small-scale stories set against a larger canvas, but not always integral to that canvas. The American Civil War may be going full throttle, but someone could be seeking a lost Spanish treasure the Arizona or California territories that will have no bearing on the war or its outcome. The best S & S tales to me were always the novellas of Howard, and the short, 60- and 70-K word novels of other writers. In my opinion, it was Michael Moorcock who took the genre into new territory, setting his Elric, Corum, and Dorian Hawkmoon stories and novels against a wider canvas and adding the world-in-jeopardy theme. His sword and sorcery tales gradually grew into more thoughtful, thematic and expansive Heroic Fantasy. I won’t go into titles and authors here, but I will say that there are many novels, many multi-volume sagas published nowadays and promoted as Heroic Fantasy that I consider more in the sub-genre of Sword and Sorcery. And quite a lot of comic books and science-fiction novels are being considered by fans and authors alike to be Heroic Fantasy; but I would say they are more Heroic Fiction. Semantics? Perhaps. The tomato and potato thing? Maybe. But like everything related to all forms of art . . . it’s all a matter of personal opinion and taste.
How pervasive do you think fantasy/sci-fi is in our society today? Why do you think this is?
I left the fantasy and science fiction scenes back in the mid-80s because I wanted to explore other genres of fiction, such as some 19th century literature, horror and crime novels, British mysteries, WWII thrillers, and the great writers who were published in Black Mask magazine. I also wanted to and did write screenplays, as well as needing a long and healthy break from fantasy and sci-fi. I never really returned to reading science fiction because what I liked to read was no longer fashionable. But I did return to fantasy around 2000, and found a whole new ball game, a whole new set of rules, and a publishing industry at the start of a sea change, with indie/self and small press publications. Besides the overwhelming number of books being published, and the ever-increasing number of authors, both films and television were jumping on the fantasy and science fiction bandwagons, inundating the market where their own brand of original stories or those based upon published novels. Graphic novels such as Sin City and Watchmen hit the theater screens, while The Walking Dead took the small screen by storm. DC Comics, and to a much greater degree and success, Marvel Comics, changed the course of films based on comic books. With the success of Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Harry Potter, and The Chronicles of Narnia, fantasy is everywhere these days — films, and network and cable television. And science fiction in films, while somewhat lagging behind, is starting to make waves again with films like Interstellar. In short, the B- and C-grade films of the 1950s and 1960s became the A-list projects of today.
Are these genres seen in a more acceptable light than they used to be?
Short answer: yes, indeed so.
What makes a ‘hero’? Would you say this definition is different within literature to real life?
Not really. It all depends on the writer and the nature of the character and the story. In real life, as in fiction, there are all sorts of heroes. Take Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird, for instance: truly a heroic character because of his convictions and what he stands up for, fights for in his daily life. History and fiction, in both literature and films, are what have always inspired me. And more often than not, Heroes die fighting for what they believe in and stand for. The 300 Spartans, The Alamo, Spartacus, Wake Island, Bataan, Beau Geste, Masada, Bridge on the River Kwai, The Three Musketeers, A Tale of Two Cities, The Charge of the Light Brigade, Gunga Din . . . these are some of the historical events and fictional stories in books and cinema that have worked on my heart and soul. Most if not all the characters — both real and fictitious — die in these stories. That always affected me, especially since at the age of seven I was exposed to the death of 92 children in a grade school fire, and at the same time had already started becoming familiar with the above films, and then later, the novels and poems. So I have always connected with stories of this kind, no matter when or where they took place. And when people tell me that killing off main characters or the entire “cast” is the easy way out, I must disagree: history has shown us that this is quite often the case. And if the events in a story, the need to end the tale in the deaths of one or more characters demands it, then go for it. For instance: had Frodo fallen into the Crack of Doom with Gollum, had Harry Potter died in the final battle, the poignancy level for me would have been amped up by a factor of ten. Nothing hits me harder than the death of a beloved and memorable character: Sidney Carton, from Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, remains to this day my favorite of all heroic fictional characters. He was no warrior — he was a drunk who gave his life unselfishly for the woman he loved, to save her husband from the guillotine. A totally unselfish act. What is more heroic than that?
If you could pick a couple of characters from literature as ‘heroes’ who would it be and why?
You mean, pick them to write about? If that’s the case, I’d like to write Sidney Carton’s story before we meet him in A Tale of Two Cities. He is a tragic and heroic figure who really appeals to me. For Janet Morris’ Heroes in Hell shared-universe, I have written about Victor and Adam Frankenstein, Galatea, Lemuel Gulliver, and Quasimodo — not that they were all very heroic characters, but I can give them that heroic gravitas. I’ve also had the opportunity to write about real, historic figures, like Mary Shelley, Aristotle, and da Vinci, and will hopefully be exploring even more real-life characters in the near future.
If you’re a writer how do you portray heroism in your books?
By the plot, the mystery to be solved, the people in jeopardy who must be saved, and by the villains that must be overcome and defeated. What are the stakes involved? What does the hero stand to gain or lose? Does he undertake the case, the quest, the mission for money? For love? For justice? For revenge? Dorgo the Dowser would like to profit from some of the cases he takes on, he hopes to make a profit, but more often than not, he doesn’t. And most of the time, his cases involve helping a friend, seeking justice, or he just gets embroiled in something because basically, he’s a good guy who always strives to do what’s right. Except for the pirates in Waters of Darkness, who are mercenary by nature but are also the good guys, my heroes are unselfish, and they will risk their lives doing what they believe is the right thing to do, and expect nothing in return, save the personal satisfaction of doing good.
It has been argued fantasy is full of ‘tropes’ – what are your views on this?
To my mind, every genre has its tropes, and the job of the writer is to use these in new and different ways, to turn them inside-out, to turn them on their heads, or avoid them altogether. Dragons, elves, dwarves, vampires, werewolves, zombies, the king returning to claim his rightful crown, the evil sorcerer . . . all these and more have been used for decades. The trick is, if you’re going to use them, add a twist to their story, and put a new spin on these characters. Avoid the cliché and make them your own. In my stories of Dorgo the Dowser, I use mythical creatures, mostly from Greek mythology. What I try to do is give them each their own culture, society, and religion, with personalities that run the gamut of human qualities. One of the things I’ve done is to portray certain mythological creatures — I call them “Muthologians” — as characters in 1930s Warner Brothers’ gangster films.
Fantasy and science fiction used to be seen as very male-oriented, do you think this is still the case. Do you have any experience of this?
No, I see it changing. Quickly changing. When I was cutting my teeth on sci-fi and fantasy, most writers were male. I grew up with Catherine (C.L.) Moore, Leigh Brackett, Mary (Andre) Norton, Anne McCaffrey, and later Janet Morris, Marian Zimmer Bradley, Ursula K. Leguin, C.J. Cherryh, Tanith Lee, Evangeline Walton, and many others. Now I’ve met many female authors, such as you, Alex Butcher, as well as Diana Wicker, Catherine Stovall, Deborah Koren, Nancy Asire, Beth Patterson, and Valjeanne Jeffers. . . And let’s not forget Anne Rice, J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Myers, and Laurel K. Hamilton.
How important are ‘facts’ in fantasy/science fiction – does something need to be plausible to be believable?
If I wrote hard science fiction, I’d make sure to get my facts straight. In my space opera, in my sword and sorcery, heroic fantasy and horror stories, I strive to make elements and plot points as plausible as I can.
How has science fiction changed from the days of Mary Shelley and Jules Verne?
Of course. SF has changed simply by virtue of the advances in biology, psychology, medicine, technology, etc. In the days of Shelley, Welles and Verne, things like quantum physics and wormholes and strong-theory were unknown. We are pretty much living today in the science fiction they imagined.
What science fiction/fantasy has influenced you most? What would you say the most influential writers/film-makers?
Since I do not write real science fiction, I’ll forego that part, although my space opera was influenced by E.R. Burroughs, Leigh Brackett, Henry Kuttner, Edmund Hamilton, Alex Raymond, and Marian Zimmer Bradley. My first influences in fantasy and sword & sorcery were Greek mythology, Tolkien, Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock, and R.E. Howard’s Solomon Kane and King Kull; later I encountered Janet and Chris Morris, Tanith Lee, Guy Gavriel Kay, Charles Saunders, and Ted (T.C.) Rypel.
As far as film-makers go . . . I grew up on writers Curt Siodmak, Rod Serling, Joseph Stefano and his original The Outer Limits, and director Jack Arnold. My cinematic influences are mostly non-genre writers and directors: Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur, Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond, Howard Hawks, Raoul Walsh, William Wellman, Michael Curtiz, and John Ford.
Fairy-tales, anthropomorphic personifications, mythical beasts and cultural fantastical persons are all about us – such as Santa Claus, St George, dragons and fairies – how vital are these for our identity? Are we who we are because of the myths our cultures hold?
I say very important. Our myths and legends and folklore define us, shape us, and even influence us on so many levels. Religion does the same thing. You can learn a lot about a country and its people, about a nationality by studying their myths and religions, as well as their history, which may be the most important factor in learning about other cultures.
What are some in YOUR society/cultural identity, how are they perceived and why are they important? Why have they endured?
I come from a predominantly Sicilian-Irish, Catholic background. So right there we have the Roman versions of the original Greek myths, as well as the ancient Celtic lore and Gaelic legends. Throw in the Catholicism in which I was raised and taught for nine years, and that also sums up a lot of what I write. For instance, the main religion in Dorgo’s world is monotheistic; Judeo-Christian in tradition — but it’s not the only religion. I have a number of others that are polytheistic and pagan in origin. I use these to give depth to many of my characters: some live and breathe and act by their religious convictions. And not all “priests” are holy men, and not all rogues are irreligious. I strive to make my characters as real as possible, and as relatable to our own world as I can make them. What endures is because in all religions, in all cultures, there is a common thread, a common element of truth. And truth, in real life as well as in fiction, will always endure. When you write for and from the heart, it’s the most honest writing you can do.
Thank you for having me, Alex. It has been a pleasure.
This was the Goodreads Indie Club Book of the Month in June.
I really enjoyed this fantasy adventure. A lot of work has gone into producing a believable and detailed world, including a well thought out and complex monetary system, although you do need to use the glossary to truly appreciate it.
The characters also are complex and well rounded. Ticca is fascinating and it is refreshing to see a female hero who does not take any nonsense nor need a man to protect her. There is a lot to the Daggers, their society and codes and the rivalry with the more base Knives.
I loved Lebuin, he was extremely funny. Vain, over-confident and rather shallow he soon discovers the world beyond the mage-guild is dangerous and people keep trying kill him. He is obsessed with cleanliness and when forced to dress as a peasant his inner dialogue is great. The magic is described well enough, especially the artefacts although these seem to diminish a little later on. There is a little vagueness about his relationship with Magus Cune, ranging from hostility to hints that not all is not as it seems.
Duke is not what he first appears but he soon becomes the main focus of the latter part of the book. He is rude, arrogant, dangerous and amusing but he gets things done and he is very powerful. There are hints about his past, some of which are expanded.
The plot itself is more complex than it seems, there is a lot of politics happening and a lot of factions and I did find the it a little confusing keeping up with who was working with whom.
I did find myself wanting more from the ending as it was a cliff-hanger but many people like that. I will definitely check out the next installment.
Links to buy this book –