REVIEW #sci-fi #fantasy #dystopian #heroicfiction
The fourth in Silistra Quartet does not disappoint. As ever the action starts immediately, with incredible creatures, fierce battles and searching of souls. Our heroes are, by this time, ‘more than men (and women), and less than gods’ but in a land of largely bronze age people, ruled by creatures of ‘Wehrkind’ gods they appear. And the locals aren’t impressed. In a quest for answers and revenge Sereth, Estri and Chayin must battle to free themselves from old rules, old beliefs, old prejudices and ghosts of their own pasts and emerge not only victorious but as rulers of this land. Ties of loyalty are truly tested, and the question of evolution, species selection and ranking is very much to the fore.
The Wehrdom creatures are fascinating – semi-telepathic creatures of all shapes and sizes, from eagle like creatures, to half man half beast, to those who just communicate with them. Led by a ‘dreaming’ king for a thousand years they wage war, they live, they die and they are manipulated in a kind of selective breeding or eugenic programme to remove the lesser (ie human) species and in ‘Wehr rage’ they are truly formidable.
As allies and enemies, these beings shape this story and this part of the world they inhabit. I found them worthy of pity (as pawns), frightening for their strangeness, enlightening for their intelligence and loyalty, and infinitely intriguing. They appealed to the mythic aspect I love so much in this author’s work.
Delcrit – the simple and lowly character we are introduced to early on – proves his worth and his destiny in a surprising twist.
The entire quartet brings forth questions on the wisdom of technology, the place in the world for the sexes, species, politics and laws. Biology is queen here, nature is queen, but the heroes must find their place among their own kind, and forge a future and protect their world from enemies many of which are of their own making.
The Silistra books are not simple, or easy to read but they are enthralling, exciting and thought-provoking. Silistra is dystopian – it is not Earth – but it COULD be. The characters are not us – but they COULD be.
As with all Morris’s work, the prose is very lyrical and very poetic. There is a beat to her work which pulls in the reader. No words are wasted, no scenes are out of place or unnecessary and thus it makes for a thrilling and evocative read.
There is treachery, love, bravery, intrigue, a lot of ‘fight or die’, complex characters and a supremely crafted world – everything one would expect in such a work.
Loose ends are firmly tied off, scores are settled and places allotted, and answers found.
Wind from the Abyss – Book 3 of the Silistra Quartet – Janet Morris
The third book of the Silistra series is, perhaps, the most passionate, the most evocative and the most enthralling. This is a book about power, amongst many other things. The power of biology, of technology and the problems it can bring, the power over another, and the power over oneself. Silistra is a supremely crafted world, apart from ours but terrifyingly familiar in many ways. It is, a could be – a might be, and the denizens thereupon are reflections of humanity.
Estri – our protagonist – is a shadow of what she was, and beholden to a man who is demigod, ruler and profit. He shapes his world and brooks no competition or threat. Estri, now little more than a slave, must find herself, and her past and future and use them to save herself and her world. Does she do it? You’ll have to read to find out. I’ll just say it’s a long and difficult journey, filled with sacrifice.
You’ll quickly be entranced by the world and its characters, and although it helps to have read the earlier books, even without that it’s a tumultuous journey. This is not for the faint of heart, nor those who want an ‘easy’ read. It’s cerebral, lyrical and evocative. You have been warned.
Welcome to Steph Bennion
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I was born and bred in the Black Country (to the uninitiated, that’s in the English Midlands, which with Birmingham was the industrial revolution’s ‘workshop of the world’). After spending too many years living in the big bad city that is London I moved last year to Hastings, a very nice town on the south coast.
Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc.
The books in my Hollow Moon series are tales of space-opera mystery and adventure for young adults and adults young-at-heart. To date I have published three novels plus a selection of short stories, all of which share the same fictional universe where humanity has learned to cross the cosmos and reach the nearby stars. City Of Deceit, the latest novel in the series, wraps up the story of the civil war on the moon of Yuanshi, Epsilon Eridani, a war that formed the backdrop to events in the first book Hollow Moon. This is my first science-fiction novel set mainly on Earth; the story takes place in London, which in the twenty-third century is ravaged by rising sea levels, social inequalities and terrible politics. It’s all fiction, honest.
Where do you find inspiration?
I tend to get bits of ideas from all over the place; some might spark a train of thought that develops into a story, others may end up as background detail to fill out whatever world I’m creating. I try to credit influences where appropriate; for example, the asteroid colony ship Dandridge Cole, the ‘hollow moon’ of the novels, is named after Dandridge M Cole, the aerospace engineer and futurist who developed the concept in books like Beyond Tomorrow. A fantastic resource is the TV Tropes website, which is great for getting a feel for the nuts and bolts of different genres. I think it’s important to understand the reasons why people like stories and what they expect to get from one. On a very basic level, I try to write books I would want to read myself.
Do you have a favourite character? If so why?
I had a lot of fun writing the character of Zotz Wak, the young boy and inventor who in Hollow Moon reveals his superhero persona in an attempt to express his secret crush on heroine Ravana O’Brien. Zotz sat somewhat on the sidelines in Paw-Prints Of The Gods, so in City Of Deceit I gave him a leading role fighting the injustices of dystopian London. He gets to be the hero, fight the bad guys and even finds a girlfriend.
Do you have a character you dislike? If so why?
Not a character as such, but I really don’t like the weavers, the multi-legged alien horrors that reappear in City Of Deceit. Like many I have an irrational fear of spiders, so making giant alien arachnids the number one monsters in the books seemed the obvious thing to do! On a more human note, I would have to choose Governor Jaggarneth, the slimy corporation bureaucrat who also returns in the latest book. He has no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
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?
I like to think properly about the science and technology in the books and its fun to extrapolate current thinking and imagine what this world and others might be like 250 years from now. For example, the holoverse in City Of Deceit, the corporate visual trickery behind which the real city hides, comes from current ideas on augmented reality. Then there’s things like working out which constellation Earth’s sun would appear in if viewed from a moon in Epsilon Eridani (Serpens, by the way). Research for City Of Deceit was different in that it features locations in London that many readers will know for real. I spent some time walking around central London, trying to imagine which buildings would survive the test of time and how the city might change. Victor Habbick, who created the book cover, captured this really well.
Is there a message conveyed within your writing? Do you feel this is important in a book?
Stories always carry messages; in a way, our stories define what it is to be human. The theme that emerged whilst I was writing City Of Deceit was that real change comes from within, whether it is by a virus nibbling away at cells or by human angst simmering within a city, corporation or colony. More broadly, my novels tend to revolve around working-class folk who find themselves battling the consequences of upheavals caused by those in power. The books are ultimately about friendships and how people come together in times of need.
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?
City Of Deceit is available as an ebook from most online retailers. A paperback edition will follow at some point. Hollow Moon and Paw-Prints Of The Gods are available as ebooks from all the usual websites and in paperback from Amazon. Audiobooks are a possibility sometime in the future.
Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited?
Yes, I edit my own work. One thing about spending years in a Civil Service policy team is that it taught me to be quite dispassionate about revising my own work. After I’ve finished the first draft of a novel, I put it to one side for a few months and immerse myself in something else, so that by the time I return to start the editing process it’s like looking at it with fresh eyes. I also have a friend who proof-reads the final manuscript, which helps. I think if an author approaches editing in the right way, you can successfully self-edit: Hollow Moon and Paw-Prints Of The Gods are both Awesome Indies approved books and passed the ‘professionally edited’ test.
Can you name your favourite traditionally-published author? And your favourite indie/self-published author?
This changes with the seasons. At the moment my favourite ‘traditional’ author is Alastair Reynolds and I’m currently reading his space opera epic Pushing Ice. My new favourite indie author is Emily Devenport; I’ve read two of her science-fiction novels to date – Belarus and Broken Time – which I thought had some really distinctive and original ideas. I’d also like to mention Anna Erishkigal, indie author of the very entertaining Sword of the Gods Saga, who does a sterling job looking after the Space Opera Fans group on Goodreads.
Do you have a favourite movie?
I’m going to say Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985), on the grounds that it’s wonderfully weird, features really great performances and tickles my sense of humour. It shares a lot of themes with George Orwell’s 1984 but is a far better film than the version of Orwell’s book released around the same time. As a civil servant I love the hilarious dystopian bureaucracy, in the same way that This Is Spinal Tap is the funniest thing ever to anyone who has been in a band…
Book links, website/blog and author links:
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/hollowmoonbooks
Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5438403.Steph_Bennion
Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Steph-Bennion/e/B009JRP6RC/
Tell Us About Yourself
Name (s) Estri Hadrath diet Estrazi
Age: Three hundred forty Silistran years old
Please tell us a little about yourself.
First, I must say that your language is difficult, not one intuitive to me. Nevertheless I shall try to answer you in your own tongue. Excuse my syntax, and I will tell you what I can.
Once I ruled the greatest house of pleasure in the civilized stars. When I reached my majority of three hundred years, I undertook a quest to find my father at the behest of my dead mother. So I left my position as Well-Keepress in my beloved Astria, and nothing has been the same for me since. All I thought I knew, I now question. So many truths proved false, so many assumptions groundless, so much love lost and found. I have greater powers now than I once did, but wisdom can triumph over power, and color all life anew.
I have been many things: aristocrat, outcast, picara, slave, ruler. I have served powers greater than my own, and baser than my soul could stand. I have had everything, lost everything, and gained knowledge by seeking love along the way. Doubtless I am wiser now than when I began my journey out of Astria, having learned that true wisdom comes only to a loving heart. But where love lies, there hatred takes root, and envy, and fear, and dangers undreamt. And yet, love is the key to every mystery: to life and death and creation itself. For without love, what are we, but a brief glimmer seen against eternal night? Where are we in this combustible universe? What arms hold us safe? What we learn, exploring, brings us home to ourselves, to our own loves, our own hearts. Creation plays no favorites, seeking only change. Love can surmount all, I once believed as a naive girl, and believe it yet.
Describe your appearance in 10 words or less. Copper -skinned, copper-haired, with a body to please the gods.
Do you have a moral code? If so what is it? Silistra’s moral code I still hold as mine: my world was wrecked and sundered by unbridled lusts for power. We who remain must rebuild not only our population, but our faith that whatever man destroys, nature can put to rights . . . given time.
Would you kill for those you love? I have done so, and killed that I myself survive.
Would you die for those you love? Would that I had the chance. To die for something is an honor. To die for nothing is a cruelty greater than any other.
What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses? Ha. You must not know my people, to ask such a thing. Some say my strengths are in my blood, that I was bred to this battle between the spirit and the flesh, between man and woman, between life ineffable and life everlasting, a battle long conceived before ever I was born. Some say my coming was devoutly to be wished, and others say I and those who love me are travesties, a flaw in the natural order. I myself say that life and love are their own justification, where passion rules.
Do you have any relationships you prize above others? Why?What entitles you to know my heart, my mind, my soul? Shall I feed you platitudes, disarming truisms and children’s tales? Of my beloveds, you need to know very little, perhaps only one thing: “We are all bound, the greatest no less than the meanest,” as my lover says. I prize the sky and earth and every creature upon it with a love fierce enough to defeat even the foolishness of man.
Do you like animals? Do you have any pets/animal companions? I have whatever walks or crawls or slithers or swims, slinks or flies free in our air. We are part of our world’s nature, sometimes its victims, but never its masters. I have friends among the honest killers of the wild, for all kill to eat and thrive and risk their own lives so their offspring will survive. Sometimes I ride on the backs of those who roam the plains or stalk their prey, or live cheek by jowl with them; sometimes not. But they are not mine any more or less than I am theirs.
Do you have a family? Tell us about them. You haven’t the time to hear my story. I’ve written some of it; look there to see my mother, my father, my lost child, my relations, deadly every one. My bloodline is old: to live so long, to prowl the universe and shower in star’s breath, my family well learned the wisdom of survival, when to destroy and when to succor.
Can you remember something from your childhood which influences your behaviour? How do you think it influences you? Where I live, some can survive for hundreds of years or more. When my mother bade me seek my father, she sent me on a trek more dangerous than my young and foolish self understood. Before then, I thought that men and women were put on the ground to reproduce, to conserve, not to destroy. To claim my heritage, I learned hard lessons — about the nature of life, and the degree to which we are all controlled by the wisdom of our sex. And thus did I blindly go forth to claim my inheritance, thinking all I had to do was ask and the universe would serve my pleasure. I learned otherwise, in the doing; that the world turns by a greater will than mine; that reality is the child of biology, that all things come into being by strife; battling against men, against women, and sometimes against the gods themselves.
I learned many lessons about what men will do to win, and what women will do, and why. I learned that men who punish men and women lust to rule all; that women who punish men and women lust after dominion, and how dangerous both can be.
From childhood’s days to these, I have strived to keep my wits well about me, and shape my own fate.
Please give us an interesting and unusual fact about yourself. In my three hundredth years, I was known as the most beautiful and exotic courtesan in the civilized stars. I commanded a great price.
Tell Us About Your World
Please give us a little information about the world in which you live. Silistra is a planet in the Bipedal Federate Group. Our main exports are our life-extending serums. Our men, in their romance with machines and technology, warred until our planet and its ecology were nearly destroyed and life on the surface became nearly impossible. One result of this war was that conception became very difficult, and those who could conceive a child had power. Then did our leaders develop the life-extending serum which gave us some hope of not becoming extinct. For thousands of years, a few survivors languished in underground shelters, while women took power away from the men that had nearly destroyed us all.
When the time came that Silistrans could live above the ground, we instituted the Well system, where fertile women could come to find a man who could impregnate her, and the nature of our culture, under the guidance of our spiritual leaders, became life-conserving, rather than life-destroying.
Does your world have religion or other spiritual beliefs? If so do you follow one of them? Please describe (briefly) how this affects your behaviour. On Silistra, some believe in gods, some are descended from gods, some meet with gods, face to face. Whether or not we believe in gods, the gods who made us take a hand in our fates. We are a culture that values those skills by which an individual mind can shape the future. Our dhareners, interpreters of the will of those gods who walk with mankind, guide our development by choosing our paths and making our laws.
Do you travel in the course of your adventures? If so where? I have been to places on Silistra that are thought mythical and mystical, where few outsiders have ever been; I have gone to the places where gods hold sway, and seen what few Silistrans have ever seen. I have traveled among the stars, and farther.
What form of politics is dominant in your world? (Democracy, Theocracy, Meritocracy, Monarchy, Kakistocracy etc.) On civilized Silistra, our government is controlled by our dhareners, our spiritual leaders, and by the Well-Keepresses, hereditary matriarchs, or by the cahndors, hereditary patriarchs. But our governments have no simple rule by the lowest common denominator as seen on other worlds, nor the rule by wealth, nor are we controlled by a theocracy as you will know the term. The composition of our high councils varies, depending on where one lives or travels. Like our government or not, it has kept us safe from the depredations of plutocracy and the tyranny of mercantilists and their machines. Some parts of Silistra are timocratic, some oligarchic, and some, such as the Wells, are controlled by a hereditary matriarchy or patriarchy.
Does your world have different races of people? If so do they get on with one another?We are few, and some are black, brown, copper-colored, red or white. On Silistra, what is in the heart, the mind, and the bloodline determines status, not the color of skin.
Name a couple of myths and legends particular to your culture/people. Silistran myths are predominantly memories, from before the fall of man. My favorite is the legend of Se’keroth, and if you read my writings, you will see why.
We also have a divination system, called Ors Yris-tera, that guides some of us and helps us forecast the Weathers of Life. But on Silistra, any legend that survives is a memory of truths from the past or a portent of the future. Or both.
What is the technology level for your world/place of residence? What item would you not be able to live without? Most of us live without technology, as you know it, by choice. The off-worlders who visit try to seduce us with their machines of ease and speed, but we have lived upon and below the surface of a world ravaged by technology for too long to be fooled. True strength lies in the one’s mind and heart. If we wish to do more than a person should, the old weapons and tools of our fallen past still exist in our ‘hides,’ where those who lust for those can still find them.
Book(s) in which this character appears plus links:
High Couch of Silsitra: https://www.amazon.com/High-Couch-Silistra-Quartet-Book-ebook/dp/B01B1M1JBY/
The Golden Sword…………. https://www.amazon.com/Golden-Sword-Silistra-Quartet-Book-ebook/dp/B01FCMA7LM/
The Silistra Quartet consists of four books in chronological order: High Couch of Silistra, The Golden Sword, Wind from the Abyss, and The Carnelian Throne. The first two books are now available in hardcover, trade paper, and e-book “Author’s Cut” editions from Perseid Press. The final two books will be available from Perseid in 2017.
The Bantam and Baen editions of the Silistra Quartet are out of print.
Author name: Janet Morris
Website/Blog/Author pages etc.
Janet Morris and Perseid Press invite you to read dangerously…
Warriors from the past, present, and future fight to save us all… The IX by Andrew P, Weston.
Available now for pre-order; Kindle ships 26 January. Luxury trade edition from Perseid Press available mid February. If you’re serious about dark and heroic fiction, you’ll want this book: http://www.amazon.com/IX-Andrew-P-Weston-ebook/dp/B00RM54QBA/
Like The IX on FaceBook at: https://www.facebook.com/TheIXbyAndrewPWeston
Come and meet the author today.
Welcome to Andrew Weston
Where are you from and where do you live now? Originally, I’m from Birmingham in the UK, although I now live on the idyllic Greek island of Kos in the Aegean Sea.
Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. I’m a science fiction and fantasy writer, although I also love the paranormal. My latest work, The IX, (Pronounced, ninth) is a monster Sci-Fi epic involving the past, present, and future, that blends Roman Legionnaires, U.S. Cavalry, and modern-day Special Forces into a smorgasbord of kick-ass action against killer aliens on the other side of the galaxy. Here’s a short blurb:
Roman legionnaires, far from home, lost in the mists of Caledonia.
A US cavalry company, engaged on a special mission, vital to the peace treaty proposed by Presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln.
A twenty-first century Special Forces unit, desperate to prevent a nuclear catastrophe.
From vastly different backgrounds, these soldiers are united when they are snatched away from Earth at the moment of their passing. Thinking they may have been granted a reprieve, imagine their horror when they discover they have been transported to a failing planet on the far side of the galaxy, where they are given a simple ultimatum. Fight or die. Against all odds, this group of misfits manages to turn the tide against a relentless foe, only to discover the true cost of victory might exact a price they are unwilling to pay.
How far would you be willing to go to stay alive?
The IX. Sometimes, death is only the beginning of the adventure.
***You’ll get to see it soon, courtesy of Perseid Press***
Where do you find inspiration? From everyday life and experience. Some ideas have come to me whilst at work, others in dreams. The inspiration for my latest book, the IX, came after a discussion with ex military colleagues at a reunion dinner a few years back. The conversation centred around what actually happened to the lost 9th Legion of Rome when they disappeared in the mists of Caladonia, circa 120 AD. Nobody knows for sure, and it seems incredible that over 5,000 men and their equipment could simply vanish in that way. I mean, it’s as if they were scooped off the face of the earth. The topic obviously stayed in the back of my mind, because some weeks later, I was watching an old sci-fi movie on TV –‘Millenium’. In that film, time-travellers from the future journey back to snatch people away from scenes of major disaster at the moment of their deaths. It got me thinking…
What if the 9th were snatched away? And…
The rest? Well, you can read about it J
Do you have a favourite character? If so why? In the IX? Yes, Captain James Houston of the 5th Cavalry Company. He’s a backstabbing swine who’d sell his own mother out to save his own skin. Characters like him allow you to play so much. There’s nothing better than getting your readers to hate someone, and then dangling them along with a carrot as the villain seems to get away with everything…Or do they?
Are your characters based on real people? Because of the complicated structure of the IX, some are, especially the Special Forces unit. I based most of the fictional team members on guys I worked with whilst in the military.
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? I had to do a massive amount of research for the IX. Remember, the inspiration was based on the 9th Legion of Rome. But, how were they structured? Who did what? How did they march, set up camp, and operate? What did they wear, and what weapons did they use. The Caledonian tribes of that time were vicious savages, and experts in jungle, warfare. However, where did they come from? How did they fight? How far would they travel to engage in combat, and what made them capable enough to defeat entire legions?
Many, many facets like this had to be considered, and that was before I’d even started work on U.S. Cavalry companies and the Native American tribes of the eighteenth century. (Thankfully, I had a friend to assist me with that – she’s of Cree descent, and proved to be a goldmine of information.) J
The easiest part related to the Special Forces unit. For that, I drew on firsthand military knowledge and experience.
Once that was done, I then had to make certain the futuristic/scientific tech referred to within the story had a basis in fact I called on my educational background in astronomy and physics for that. Even so, I still had to research the very latest developments, trends, and breakthroughs to ensure the ‘theoretical’ aspects had that ring of truth. Even though this is a science fiction novel, I wanted it to be believable. There’s no doubt in my mind that if you make things too farfetched and super-convenient, it turns readers off.
Despite the work involved, I really enjoy the research aspect, as it adds a depth of authority to your work that improves quality and reading enjoyment.
Is there a message conveyed within your writing? Do you feel this is important in a book? Usually? Yes, I like to convey a little message…dependent upon the subject matter. I think it makes it more personal, and helps the reader place themselves within the make-believe worlds I create.
With the IX, its:
‘be true to yourself, no matter what circumstance does to you’.
See how you can spot that, as you read through the story.
Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited? Yes, I do self edit, BUT, that’s before I send it into the publisher. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some ‘strong’ professional editors. Each of them has a different style and personality that rings through during the formal editing stage. So, I tend to stay as ‘neutral’ as I can when I complete my own edits…to make their life easier…and then adopt the House style during the closing stages.
In answer to the second part, YES, I do feel a book suffers without professional editing. I’m an incredibly focused, self-disciplined individual. But boy do I miss things. We all do. Word blindness is the bane of all writers. You need that extra set of eyes to cut and polish the rough diamond you’ve created, and turn it into a lustrous jewel of a masterpiece. (And even then, you have to keep checking…)
Do you think indie/self-published authors are viewed differently to traditionally published authors? Why do you think this might be? Yes I do, because that’s the way the publishing world is geared. Certain big-name ‘Houses’ dominate the industry, and basically, hold all the cards. And as some have no doubt seen, unless you manage to secure a contract with them, you’re not viewed as having ‘arrived’, no matter how skilled you are as a writer. That’s a shame. We’ve all seen the ocean of books filling the shelves out there. Even if you’ve written an absolute masterpiece, without the clout of a massive name behind you, it can sink into the depths and will never see the light of day.
Fortunately, there are a number of smaller, extremely competent publishers coming to the fore. Although they’re independent, they come from professional/recognized backgrounds, and draw quality writers to the fold. Times are changing, but slowly.
What experiences can a book provide that a movie or video game cannot? Imagination! It allows YOU to involve yourself in a make-believe world as you see fit, not the way some glitzy director from Hollywood wants you to. That being said, if any top quality sci-fi directors get to read this, and fancy a brand new project that’s bound to be a sure-fire hit, PLEASE, feel free to contact me on……… J
What three pieces of advice would you give to new writers? Don’t give up. Work hard to improve your craft. And don’t be afraid to take risks.
Most authors like to read, what have you recently finished reading? Did you enjoy it? The last book I read was “Poets in Hell”, from the “Heroes in Hell” shared world saga. A great set of stories delving into the many quirks of the Underworld. If you haven’t read it, I’d highly recommend the entire series.
Can you name your favourite traditionally published author? And your favourite indie/self-published author? Traditional, it’s a tie between – Raymond E. Feist &Julian May. Indie – Laura DeLuca.
Do you have a favourite movie? I think you have to go a long way to beat the sci-fi classic, Forbidden Planet. Well ahead of its time.
Can you give us a silly fact about yourself? I hunt shadows in the dark with a specially designed net.
Book links, website/blog and author links:
Amazon Author Page:
As a follow up to my earlier post regarding the challenges facing readers and authors with limited vision I am delighted to post another interview with a writer of low vision. Blindness is a complex problem with no one cause or solution, but about which there is often poor understanding. People with restricted sight often suffer discrimination including the false assumption that they cannot enjoy books, cannot write or be creative and must live “a disabled life” but as these interviews show, that does not have to be the case.
Hello and thanks for joining us. Please tell us a little about yourself.
Hello everyone! My name is Laurel A. Rockefeller. I am author of the medieval science fiction series, The Peers of Beinan.
I am an amateur medieval historian and amateur scientist originally
from Lincoln, Nebraska. In 1995 I received my bachelor of arts from
the University of Nebraska at Lincoln in writing (stage, film focus),
psychology (pre-counseling), and medieval history.
In 1985 while in the eighth grade, I was hit in the left temple by a
distracted driver, creating a truly traumatic brain injury that
shattered my skull in several places (I cannot sleep on my back
because of the way the bones in my skull healed together).
In that accident, I lost my mathematics ability along with nearly all
of my eye sight. Across 1986, my brain was able to heal somewhat, but
it left me with permanent tunnel vision, little to no reception from
the rods (receptors for black/white/grey) in my retina, and severe
distortions, particular with low frequency (red/orange) light.
As a natural singer-songwriter, the first thing I remember noticing
different about my sight was that I could no longer read music,
forcing me to play by touch and sound. But with complete amnesia, I
otherwise did not know I lost my sight; to know you have to remember
what it was before which I could not do.
Please tell us a little about your books and other writing.
I am the world-building author behind the medieval science fiction series, “The Peers of Beinan.” Peers of Beinan is really the convergence of my life-long passion for science and for history.
Planet Beinan is a rich and vibrant world with its own units of time
and distance, planetary details, bio-chemistry, ecology, cuisine,
religions, cultures, history, music, dancing, and heraldry.
For all of these science fiction elements, the books are equally
rooted in medieval history. Not only do I have a BA in history, I’ve
been a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (the world’s
largest medieval history organization) since my freshman year in
university. That gives the books a richness in detail that you rarely
Through all of these comes rich and compelling stories. Book one,
The Great Succession Crisis, tells the coming-of-age story of
Princess Anlei, the irreverent adolescent daughter of Queen Isabelle
and maternal granddaughter of High Priestess Wehe. Just like many
medieval European noble and royal women, Princess Anlei knows that her
fate is largely dictated by the constraints of her feudal world, a
world not quite ready to fully embrace female leadership. So Anlei
begins close-hearted; love is for commoners, NOT royalty!
It takes a sexist ruling by the Beinarian parliament (called The Great
Council) to force Anlei to grow as a person until she finally learns
to embrace her heritage and become the leader she was born to be.
Book two, The Ghosts of the Past, explores the consequences of
Anlei’s choices three generations later. Ghosts is a murder-mystery
spanning four generations.
Ghosts begins with the mysterious death of Lord Healer Devon of house
Ten-Ar in a terrorist bombing in a major city located close to
Beinan’s largest argun mines. Argun ore refines to argene (thorium
232) which powers everything on the planet thanks to Beinan’s advanced
nuclear power technology (science note: thorium 232 is used here on
Earth in our nuclear power plants as well).
But argene is toxic; exposure to it blinds Beinarians by destroying
two of the cones in their retinas. As you might guess, this “brown
eye syndrome” (named for its darkening effects on the iris) is rooted
in my sight loss.
As Ghosts progresses, music swells through the text, including the
song “I Shall Always Find You” which is about re-incarnation, and
“Here Lays My Father and My Lord,” which Princess Constance sings upon
finding her father slain with five crossbow quarrels.
The Peers of Beinan series is therefore this beautiful symphony of
stories and interweaving genres. There’s even a Beinarian version of
English country dancing.
Do you have any works in progress?
Yes! I am working on book three, Princess Anyu Returns which focuses (finally!) on Princess Anyu, the “Anlei’s Legacy” arc narrator, and her exile on D425E25 Tertius, then return to planet Beinan. I hope to release it by Christmas, 2014.
In what forms are your books available? I believe you have an interactive version of your books, what inspired you to try this unusual approach?
As a low vision person, I care about accessibility. So my books are in digital, paperback, QR Interactive paperback, and large print paperback formats.
That means I have seventeen titles/editions in the span of just under one year:
The Great Succession Crisis Revised Edition
digital, paperback, QR interactive, large print
The Great Succession Crisis Extended Edition
digital, paperback, QR interactive, large print
The Ghosts of the Past
digital, paperback, QR interactive, large print
The Great Succession Crisis Data Files
(companion book to just book one) in digital and paperback
Anlei’s Legacy: the Complete Data Files
(companion book to all three Anlei’s Legacy arc books) in digital and paperback.
The QR Interactive editions are brand new. They contain QR codes for
smart phones, each linked to enhanced content like glossary entries,
photos, and videos. Smart phone users therefore can use their phones
to access information from the data files (appendices) instead of
flipping to the back of the book for the same information. This also
means your smartphone accesses audio/video recordings of the music
contained in the books.
Digital users will find the books are hypertext linked to the same
multi-media content. Simply tap/click on the hyperlinks to be taken
to that interactive content without losing your place in the book.
When did you start to write? What made you choose this genre?
My “writing” began before I could read/write, actually. I grew up in an ultra-conservative, evangelical christian home where my father ruled our family with an iron fist and everyone else pretended not to notice, not even when there were obvious physical injuries.
I coped with all that by making up songs and singing, then throwing myself into my studies once I was old enough to go to school. With Hyde Observatory (one of the few astronomical observatories open to the public) less than a mile from my home, I caught the astronomy and science bug really early — which was unheard of for a girl growing up at the time. This melded with my natural gift for music and language and helped me when, in 1985 I lost most of my sight in the car accident I mentioned earlier.
One important consequence of that traumatic brain injury was
destruction of my non-spatial, non-musical math skills which
eliminated the possibility of a career in physics/astronomy. So my
focus had to re-shift to social science and the humanities which I
enjoy just as much.
As my brain gradually healed, I was able to explore English literature
in school which I really fell in love with. As a senior in high
school, I took a course called “grammar/vocabulary” in which Dr.
Patrick Hunter-Pirtle empowered and encouraged my writing by giving me
the language tools I still use today. His influence and lessons are
why I can use words like “vexed” (a favorite of Jane Austen) in my
After high school, I attended the University of Nebraska where I
majored in screen and stage writing through the university’s
integrated studies program, adding my second major of psychology and
third major of history later on. When I was 21, I planned on pursuing
more of a stage and film career. But that training is wonderful for a
fiction writer, even though the format on the page is different.
Script writing teaches you what is important to put on the page and
especially how to handle dialogue in a dynamic, clear, and concise
Yet for all of that, in my twenties, I remained essentially a poet;
all or nearly all of my publications from the 1990s are actually
In 2000, I moved to first New Jersey, then Brooklyn, New York and had
a near miss on 9/11; if not for remembering I had forgotten to call my
boss regarding my pre-work plans to run some errands in Manhattan, my
train into World Trade Center station would have arrived around 8:55
This was a time where I shifted from poetry to non-fiction thanks to a
very nice lady in charge of a New Jersey-based newsletter for history
hobbyists. In 2008, Bird Talk magazine published my work twice, none
of it paid, further increasing my journalistic pursuits. Yahoo
Voices, for which I still write, soon picked up this freelance
But it would take re-discovery of a favorite childhood science fiction
television program (via Netflix) to bring the novelist out in me in
late 2010 when I started up a fan site to that television show
(www.princeyubifan.com for those interested). Creating that massive
site stimulated my imagination. In March, 2011 I commenced a series
of dialogues with an engineer/amateur astronomer which became the
scientific foundation for planet Beinan (which went through a dozen
different names before publication of “The Great Succession Crisis in
From there, the characters took me where they wanted to go; both “The
Great Succession Crisis” and “Ghosts of the Pasts” are radically
different from what I imagined in those first few months of writing.
The genres all evolved organically. That is to say, I did not intend
to write a medieval science fiction coming of age story. Princess
Anlei decided that for us! Likewise, while Ghosts had a core outline
from the onset (as all middle chapters in trilogies must), the
overwhelming majority of what is there evolved on its own — including
the genres it belongs to.
Writing “Ghosts” forced me to tap into parts of my memory that are
very dark and difficult to deal with. Ghosts literally gave me
nightmares to write. But as I flip through the book I am happy with
the results, even though I’m still paying a certain personal price for
Your series is based on European medieval history and people, please tell us a little more about the research involved.
History has always been a part of my life. The men in my family are
major American Civil War and WWII enthusiasts (if that is the right
word), so I was always around history, especially American history.
When I was a child, the loosely bio-pic series “Black Sheep Squadron”
aired on NBC. While I enjoyed the show, my heart was drawn towards
Arthurian legends and other medieval stories — like Robin Hood and
Joan of Arc — then Shakespeare and medieval music.
That all grew with time over the years. In 1990, I joined the Society
for Creative Anachronism where I initially pursued my love of medieval
music. Majoring in mostly medieval history (European, Asian, Jewish)
added to the medieval history environment and knowledge that saturates
I do have to credit the SCA for teaching me a lot of the history and
medieval culture that infuses these books. The SCA also encourages
So by the time I was ready to begin work on The Peers of Beinan, I
already amassed a rich and tangible knowledge of medieval life.
From there it became simply researching specific details unfamiliar to
me — like fencing terminology or the parts of a crossbow.
Probably the most difficult, yet also most fun for me, was researching
the science for “Ghosts of the Past.” I spent several days
researching chemistry and bio-chemistry using different sites on the
elements for a single paragraph where Elendir takes readings with his
computer on the ruins of the healing center where his father worked
and died. Likewise, when I introduced Lord Engineer Kian, I had to
spend a fair amount of time learning how nuclear power works so I
could describe the star craft he designed.
What are the challenges you face as a visually limited author and how do
you overcome them?
Nothing will overcome the double/triple vision I experience,
especially when dealing with black/white text. But there are some
things I do to try to adapt.
Probably the first and most basic one is learning not to push my
sight. I don’t read many books because it hurts too badly inside my
eyes to try. Instead I rely on audio books or, more commonly, watch
television and film adaptations of whatever I’m interested in.
So I watch the BBC productions of, for example, Dr. David Starkey’s
books (Starkey is one of the foremost Tudor historians in the world —
and British, of course!) instead of trying to read them.
I also have a device that looks like a smart phone which is a special
kind of camera magnifier. That device lets me change text/backgrounds
to one of about six combinations. It’s not perfect and I cannot use
it for hours on end. But it can be very helpful.
I also use such tricks as a simple highlighter pen, a colored
transparency filter which I overlay something I need to read, and
using large print resources. On the computer, I zoom my text larger.
Constant shifts by google, facebook, etc. keep over-riding it, but I
do try to set my computer settings to display text in blue.
In MS word, I cannot set my text to display blue yet be black to
everyone else. So I have to just zoom as big as I can — and stop
working when my body tells me to.
Finally, I also help myself by hydrating my eyes with artificial tears
and by taking omega 3 supplements when I am unable to eat fish in a
given week. Believe it or not, these make a difference — not just on
my sight but for everyone. So if you feel pain in your eyes, start
What are your thoughts on the choice of e-readers and apps, or lack thereof, which cater for readers with limited sight? If you own an e-reader which do you use and why?
At this time, I don’t even try to use an e-reader. I won’t consider one until I have complete control over text and background color in addition to size. The current readers are black/white centric which is the worst combination for my sight. Add in the price of these devices, and they just don’t make sense for me.
What can other authors do to provide their books in a blind-friendly
Glad you asked this one: first and foremost, authors need to offer their books in large print. The number of titles in large print is tiny fraction of the total. People assume that every low vision person can just use the text size option in e-readers and therefore they don’t need to accommodate sight loss directly. That is completely wrong.
As, as a point of principle, I won’t patronize an author who doesn’t offer paperback and large print paperback. If you are not willing to offer your book in a format compatible with the adaptive strategies mentioned before, then I see no reason to patronize you!
Audio books is another area where we need to see improvements. That
said, I do not offer my books in audio format yet — mostly over
technical issues. I do not know how to produce such a book — but if
someone reading this has experience with audio book production, she or
he is absolutely welcome to contact me and teach me how to make this
When reading for pleasure what format of books do you use?
I rarely read for pleasure, I’m sorry to say. It is so taxing for me to read what I have to read for work that I just don’t have the strength physically to read for fun that much. Usually if I want to read for fun, I download an audio book from my library for the blind.
I think the last book I read completely for fun was “The Pluto Files”
by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson of Hayden Planetarium at the American
Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. I also listened to the BBC
radio version of “The Lord of the Rings.” That’s not exactly an
“audio book” but it is a brilliant rendering of the books. I just
wish I had access to more from the BBC; the best adaptions usually
come from them.
Do you think the choice of books for low vision readers is limited? Has the choice increased in recent years especially with the rise of e-readers and audio books?
Oh absolutely. Most low vision and blind folks use large print and audio editions. I estimate that fewer than 25% of all books are available in either of these. No clue about the actual numbers, but that is my perception, especially after interviewing authors for my own blog.
What would you suggest publishing companies (such as Amazon and Smashwords) do to increase their choice and marketing of such books/devices?
First, Amazon needs to list the large print options with the regular editions. Type in any of my book titles and you WON’T see there is a large print version available on Amazon, even though my books ARE in large print. Instead, you have to type in “large print” in your search inquiry on Amazon; mine are not even listed on my author page! The only way to get to them, believe it or not, is to use the direct link on my website!
This is obscene! It is as if Amazon does not want to sell large print
books, especially by indie authors. So if you are an indie author
with a large print version, BE SURE to link to your book on your home
On the digital level they need to offer the ability for everyone to
choose their reading color scheme. The more display options for
people, the better. And quite honestly, there needs to be the option
of button, not touch, navigation. I find touch anything really hard
to deal with — another reason I do not have a smart phone!
What other advice can you offer to readers and authors with restricted
Number one: listen to your body when it comes to how you feel. If something feels wrong, even just fatigue, DON’T PUSH IT! If you are not healthy, any remaining sight you have diminishes. That really goes for everyone. Your visual system is very complex and sometimes fragile, so be mindful and be a good steward to yourself.
Second, use the accessibility features built into windows. There are
more than you think there are — but don’t be limited to them either.
The most effective adaptive strategies I have are also the cheapest!
Third, I think we need to raise these issues with providers like
Amazon, google, etc. more. If I tell windows to display web text in
Georgia font size 16 in blue and websites over-ride that and display
Ariel 10 in black, then I’m hurting myself trying to use that content.
The problem is these companies don’t think about accessibility with
their designs. Our smart phone, touch screen world is rather hostile to
vision loss — even though every single person who lives past a
certain age WILL lose eyesight one way or another!
We have to work together, everyone, to put our foot down and demand
There is a certain economics to this: if we as consumers don’t insist
on accessibility, then why should providers offer it? We as a society
can do a lot more about it than I as an individual can alone.
It starts with being mindful.
If you are a low vision author or reader, realize that your challenges
are shared by many, even though the specifics of what you see
and why (if at all) are completely individual. Usually adaptive
strategies are shared across many people.
Finally, I think we can encourage more accessible content by
patronizing those authors and providers who make accessibility a
priority. If blind/low vision authors sell more books through
accessible options, you know others will follow in hopes of increasing
their sales too. So whether you are sighted, low vision, or blind,
you can make a difference here by your choices in books and devices.
Where to find Laurel’s books find links to the songs, the unique heraldry and other features and the rich history of the characters, plus author interviews etc.
The Great Succession Crisis http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008YKSKYQ
The Great Succession Crisis Extended http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B9IBFCY
Ghosts of the past. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BVBHNDO
For the data files please visit the book site.
The Great Succession Crisis https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/211181?ref=ALB123
The Great Succession Crisis Extended https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/311557?ref=ALB123
Ghosts of the Past https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/296320?ref=ALB123
The data files https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/224017?ref=ALB123
Princess Anlei’s Legacy Data Files https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/300546?ref=ALB123
The Great Succession Crisis Extended Edition https://www.createspace.com/4156679
The Great Succession Crisis Revised QR Edition https://www.createspace.com/4363043
The Great Succession Crisis Extended QR Edition https://www.createspace.com/4367566
The Great Succession Crisis Large Print https://www.createspace.com/3971580
The Great Succession Crisis Extended Large Print https://www.createspace.com/4163300
Ghosts of the Past https://www.createspace.com/4211143
Ghosts of the Past QR Edition http://www.amazon.com/Ghosts-Past-Interactive-Peers-Beinan/dp/1491085363
Ghosts of the Past Large Print http://www.amazon.com/Ghosts-Large-Edition-Beinan-Volume/dp/1482797372
There is currently a $5 off voucher for the QR interactive version of Ghosts of the Past – voucher code VKUBKEP9
https://www.createspace.com/4375671 Ghosts of the Past QR interactive.
Please do check the website for details of all the links as this is just a selection http://www.peersofbeinan.com/Where.html
- Corann and Elendir: contrasting heroes of The Great Succession Crisis and The Ghosts of the Past. (peersofbeinan.wordpress.com)
- Ghosts of the Past shows a sexier side to Beinarian society (peersofbeinan.wordpress.com)
- Reader Interview Number Seven – Laurel (libraryoferana.wordpress.com)
- Personal Heraldry for Princess Anlei (peersofbeinan.wordpress.com)
Welcome to A.L. Phillips
Please tell us a little about yourself. I’m a California native, and a life-long reader and storyteller. Currently, I’m a graduate student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln,
where I will begin a Ph.D. in marketing in the fall. More importantly,
from the perspective of everyone who will be reading this, I am the author
of The Quest of the Unaligned, a new YA fantasy that will be released from
BorderStone Press on April 29.
Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. The Quest of the Unaligned blends science fiction and fantasy into a unique, page-turning adventure. The story follows Alaric, a security chief from a technologically advanced city where hover-cars zip over anonymous crowds, contracts are king, and education is everything.
Alaric’s world is turned upside down, however, when he loses a bar bet with a crazy man from the neighboring country of Cadaeren. Suddenly, the security chief finds himself contractually obligated to undertake a
journey that his training hasn’t prepared him for: the Quest of the Unaligned. Accompanied by Laeshana, a Cadaerian native who has reasons of her own for helping him on his quest, Alaric is soon plunged into a
perilous adventure that will force him to confront a seemingly impossible truth and embrace his destiny, even as the fate of Cadaeren hangs in the balance.
Where can readers find your book? The Quest of the Unaligned will be available for purchase on amazon.com and select other retailers.
How long have you been writing and what, if anything, made you choose the genre in which you write? I have been writing fantasy and sci-fi stories since grade school, and before that, I would make up and retell fairy tales to my friends and family as often as they would listen. I have always loved creating new worlds and cultures, and exploring what would happen if the world were slightly (or incredibly) different in some way. For instance, in The Quest of the Unaligned, I explore what it would be like for a super-rational individual who believes in the power of education and training and science to be forced to survive in a world where magic is real, and where one’s life-course is determined by birth rather than by ability.
Who or what are your inspirations/influences? While I have enjoyed the works of literally hundreds of different authors, I would say that the fantasy authors who have inspired and influenced me the most are JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, JK Rowling, and David Eddings. Tolkien, through his masterful world creation and use of language; Lewis, through his communication of truths about humanity through a fictional setting; Rowling, through her humor, inventiveness, and YA appeal; and Eddings, for his characters, cultures, and epic quest plots.
Can you name a positive experience from your writing and a negative one? Positive: There are so many positive experiences about writing fiction, it’s hard to think of just one! Writing is certainly my favorite hobby. The first positive that comes to mind, though, is how delightful it is to go through a rough draft that I’ve written, finding the places that don’t quite work, replacing words, smoothing out dialogue or descriptions, or adding additional material, until the finished product is something that Ican look at and say, “Yeah! That’s what it’s supposed to be!”
Negative: Sitting in front of a blank computer screen, trying for the seventy-fifth (or hundred and seventy-fifth) time to find exactly the right turn of phrase for expressing the idea in my head. A few times, I have had to spend literally hours on a single sentence, before I found a way to make it sound right. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen too often.
With the rise of e-books do you still publish in print as well? Is this medium important and why? The print medium is definitely still important, and I certainly will always want to publish my work in print. While e-books are convenient, there’s nothing like turning physical pages in a book. They also feel good in your hands, you can skim through them or flip back and forth between sections, and you never have to turn them off on an airplane!
Do you listen to music or watch TV whilst you write? I know that a lot of people are able to listen to music or even watch TV while they write, but I get distracted far too easily to be able to do that. If I had my choice, I would have it completely silent when I write. Silence allows me to concentrate on the scene I’m writing, hear myself think, and find the best words for what I want to say.
Books are important, why is this the case? What can a book provide that say a video game cannot? There is so much to say about this topic, I can’t possibly do it justice! Reading books sharpens your mind, broadens your knowledge base, expands your creativity, improves your vocabulary, increases your understanding, and so much more. Novels in particular can transport a reader to a different country, a different time, or even a different world. Moreover, novels can give unique, detailed, deep insights into the mindset of a character who is either similar to or different from the reader – something which no other medium can do. Compared to video games, for
instance, which are purely visual (and possibly tactile), novels engage the reader’s imagination. In addition to watching action scenes play out in their minds (which, when written well, can rival the best video game sequences ever made), readers can also delight in the beauty of a turn of phrase or eloquent description, and can explore the unique mental processes that lead a character to act or to speak. By reading a novel, a person can feel like they get to know a character the way they know a friend or family member – something that is far more difficult to do in a non-literary medium.
Can you give us a silly fact about yourself? When I write, I tend to act out what’s happening as I type, to the extent that my friends can tell by my facial expressions who I’m writing about and (occasionally) what’s happening in the novel. Unfortunately, I tend to be completely unaware of what I’m doing until someone points it out to me. This has occasionally led to awkward moments and such comments as, “Are you okay, or are you writing?”
Goodreads profile: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7044960.A_L_Phillips
Please tell us a little about yourself. I’m somewhat odd, but because I’m a writer I’m allowed to say eccentric. I have some kind of mild agoraphobia/social phobia thing, which can be quite a drawback, but means I usually have plenty of time to write! Or do you want something more relevant to the writing…
I don’t remember when I started writing, but it was quite young. Probably around nine or ten. The first stories I wrote were, naturally, very short and very bad. There was a definite transition to slightly more properly written stories, but these early ones were still fairly nonsensical and are embarrassing to re-read now.
In 2001 I moved from England to Ireland. There was a blissful period where a school couldn’t be found for me (probably about three or four weeks, but it felt like months), but my computer was in storage and I didn’t really write much. Then came school, and thus depression, and I wrote nothing at all. Eventually I resigned to my doom and when we moved into a proper home (instead of staying with family) and I got my computer back, I started writing again.
The first thing I started writing was a thriller of some kind. I don’t know if I recognised it then, but it was the first ‘proper’ thing I’d written. It had a proper story, deeper characters, twists and some mystery. Then the file was somehow corrupted and I lost it. The most intelligent and well thought out development I’d ever written was completely gone, and to this day I have no clue what it was. Luckily, I’d been sending updates to my grandfather, and although I hadn’t sent anything for some time, I still have a good chunk of it that he printed out. Some day I’ll go back to it.
After allowing that loss to prevent any writing for a while, I eventually went back to something I’d started just before I left England. It was a story about humans leaving Earth to find a new home. Then I decided that was boring. So I deleted the whole thing and started again, and it eventually became Shadow of the Wraith.
Also, I have a wisdom tooth cutting into my cheek a bit, but I’m not sure that’s relevant.
Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. I mainly write science fiction. More specifically, science fantasy. Science fantasy is where the science part is really just a veneer. Where the impossible is made to look probable. It generally asks the reader to suspend disbelief a little more than hard sci fi. In much the same way you’d find it in yourself to not take issue with a tiny man taking a sentient ring that makes him invisible into the middle of a volcano before a giant floating eyeball sees it.
Mostly, I like to say to people that my writing is whatever I want it to be about, and it just happens to be set in space, in the future.
As for titles, I have two novels of my science fantasy series, NEXUS, published. They are ‘Shadow of the Wraith’ and ‘Temple of the Sixth’. Yes, I somehow seem to have made the unconscious decision to call all the books in the series something of the something. No, I don’t know why. It could become complicated.
I also published a steampunk short story, Kira.
Where can readers find your book? They are all available on Amazon (UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ross-Harrison/e/B007ZSUY06/ and US – http://www.amazon.com/Ross-Harrison/e/B007ZSUY06/) and Smashwords (https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/ShadowOfOsiris).
Shadow of the Wraith https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/210824?ref=ALB123
The e-books can be found in various other places, like Barnes & Noble, Sony’s bookstore, iTunes, and so on.
How long have you been writing and what, if anything, made you choose the genre in which you write? As I said, I think I must have started around nine or ten. Although I think I made up some very short things before that. I don’t think anything made me choose sci fi particularly. I just like the freedom and the possibilities.
Who or what are your inspirations/influences? I have no idea. I write like me, and I write my own stuff. I have no desire to write like anyone else, and I never think ‘I like that, I’ll use it’ when I read or watch something. But we’re all naturally influenced by everything around us.
Can you name a positive experience from your writing and a negative one? The first positive thing that comes to mind at the moment is when I got my first review for my first novel. It was very nerve-wracking waiting for the result. But then came a five-star rating and favourable review. Then the next was another five-star review, in which the reviewer actually referred to herself as a fan-girl (having never previously liked sci fi). More positive ones followed soon after, and it made me feel very good about my writing.
A stand-out negative experience would be when I paid a considerable amount of money for a science fiction author to read and assess my novel. It was quite a disaster. He wrote a pretty long assessment, but seemed to completely miss the fact that it was science fantasy, not hard sci fi like his own writing. He brought up literally one or two relevant and useful points, and the rest was completely non-relevant. So that was an unpleasant experience.
Of course, you’ve got to be aware of the line between someone ‘not getting’ your work and it just being plain bad, and they see that but you don’t. It’s a hard line to spot, but a writer has to keep their eye on it.
With the rise of e-books do you still publish in print as well? Is this medium important and why? Yes, both novels are available in paperback (and a special edition hardback in the case of Shadow of the Wraith). I can’t imagine having a novel in only digital form. I’ve bought a few e-books, but I’d much rather read a proper paper book, and so I’d never neglect a printed edition of my own.
I’m not sure I could really put my finger on why it’s an important medium, but I certainly dislike the idea of everything going digital. There’s a definite difference between holding an e-reader and holding a book, flicking through real pages. It would be a shame to lose that.
Do you listen to music or watch TV whilst you write? I used to listen to music while I was writing (mostly Queen), but I found it was influencing my writing too much. If it was a fast song or piece of music that I could envision playing during an action sequence in a film, or the end credits, I found myself writing my scene faster and in a more cinematic way. Which doesn’t really work. So these days, I don’t listen to anything. I certainly don’t watch TV – I’d just forget to write.
Books are important, why is this the case? What can a book provide that say a video game cannot? As someone who plays games, this isn’t an easy question. I suppose on a more technical, ‘boring’ level, there’s the fact that you always come across a new word when reading a book. Or a word you’ve heard used, but now you see it you’ll take the time to look it up.
Reading a book gives your imagination some exercise, too. You only have the words, so you have to let them paint a picture in your head. You have to take the description of a character, and decide just how to put that together into something you like the look of (or don’t, perhaps). Of course, the drawback of this is if the writer hasn’t described something particularly well or thoroughly, your mind is blank. Then it’s just words.
The kind of thing that most people think of when they think ‘video game’ is something like Call of Duty. That’s a title that even your grandparents are likely to have heard at some point. Those who know nothing about games seem to assume that they’re all like that one: shoot everything that moves for five or six hours.
What they don’t realise is that there are plenty (though not enough) of games that are completely story-driven, and extremely well written. I’ve played games that have had a story that equals any book I’ve read in terms of depth, intrigue, emotion, etc.
What these games have that books don’t is interaction. The ability to mould the character, and affect other characters, and the story itself. Of course there are those old role playing adventure books: ‘An arrow bites into the wall beside you. Go to page 16 if you want to chase them. Go to page 8 if you want to run screaming like a little girl. Oh dear, you have an arrow in your eye and are rather dead.’ I’m sure these still exist, but it’s not quite the same thing.
So it’s a difficult question. I wrote a blog post about how games need to move towards this kind of writing and storytelling in the next generation (Playstation 4, etc), but unless they do, then books will always hold the crown for meaningful, moving storytelling.
Can you give us a silly fact about yourself? If someone put me in a helicopter with the engine running, I can fly it. But I don’t know how to start it.
- Shadow of the Wraith – Ross Harrison (libraryoferana.wordpress.com)