Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Author Interview: Chris Ward

Squeee moment right here! Tube Riders author Chris Ward is my interview today, and I am crazy excited. So let's do this!

One of the things I loved the most about Tube Riders was the world building. You created a spectacular Britain — Mega Britain— what was one of the best apocalyptic settings I’ve come across. Where did the idea for this Mega Britain come from?

I grew up in Cornwall, spent six years living in Bristol, and took frequent trips to London, so most of the basics were from personal experience. I had a background, which I then adapted for the needs of the story. Things like adjusting the size/shape of the Underground stations so that the Tube Riders wouldn’t get crushed by the tunnel walls. It’s a story after all. One thing I was very clear about was trying to give stuff “normal” names. I hate the way books give stupid names to stuff, which is why mine are very simple – things like clawboards, huntsmen, the Department of Civil Affairs, they’re all very easily understandable words. Mega Britain was the same. I wanted to give it a name that sounded kind of video-game cool, but still something recognizable, rather than Blah-blah-land, and the “Mega”, just popped into my head and stuck.

As for the general layout, I’m very interested in issues of segregation, which has been a massive theme through history in all walks of life. The most important thing is that pretty much in every case, the segregators did what they did because they thought it was the right thing to do, even if from the outside it was ridiculous. The Governor genuinely believes that putting fences around everything will actually make people work harder, and sticks by his ideal even as things start to unravel. And in any case, the idea of the walled city is an old one; it’s been around forever. My cities are just a lot bigger.

Were there any images you used as inspiration for this broken country? 

Not really. The London GUA I see in my head is just a wasted version of the real London, with this massive crooked wall around the outside (you get a close up of the wall in Revenge), while the Greater Forest Areas are just the countryside I stared at from the train on the many trips I’ve taken between Exeter, Bristol and London. With less roads, of course.

The fact that things were almost normal (emphasis on almost) in the more pastoral settings of England was fascinating.  Why were things so awful for urban London, esp in comparison to pastoral England?

It comes down to issues of population and control. It proved far easier for the Governor to keep people productive and happy in the less densely populated Greater Forest Areas than in the cities, where the population size created a growing unrest. I think early on the cities would have been policed a lot better with a lot more brutality, but as resources got stretched it began to break down. We enter the story at a point where the chaos has reached fever pitch. However, one of the things worth remembering is that the people aren’t united against the government but are mostly fighting each other. This ingrained distrust is something that scarily mirrors what I’ve read about the work camps in North Korea, where people are apparently taught from an early age to distrust everyone, including their own families. It makes uniting for a common cause very difficult.

Tube Riding is a form of surfing on the side of moving subway cars. Such a fantastic idea, and you created wonderful imagery around it, not to mention a fantastic group of teens/young adults who found camaraderie doing it. What inspired that idea?

I don’t remember now to be honest, but I wrote the original short story in 2002, although that ends with the Tube Riders disappearing into the unknown of the tunnel (it’s available in the Trilogy Boxed Set or my shorts collection, Ms Ito’s Bird & Other Stories). I’m pretty sure I was in a train station and was drinking a beer and wondered what it would be like to hang off the side of a moving train and then jump off at the end of the platform. It all built up from there. In early drafts I had some trouble differentiating the characters – for example Paul and Simon and Jess and Marta were really similar. I don’t like to use the same character twice. I call it Steve Syndrome, after the first character I had who was a featureless cardboard cutout. I do my best to avoid it now, cutting any characters who don’t have a decent role to play.

One of the main antagonists in this Tube Riders was unlike any that I have read. It wasn’t so clear cut/black and white with her. She was carrying out orders, but she was also questioning them, and her evolution as a character was really compelling (and continues to be in Exile). Was there anything in particular you were exploring with her character? Did you set out to write her this way, or did she evolve?

My characters are always various shades of grey (let me know what you think about Switch at the end of Exile, haha), which is one reason I’ve got a prequel on the backburner where the Governor is essentially the good guy (at the start, at least), and Dreggo is an example of that. She’s bad, then good, then bad, then good, to the point where she doesn’t really know what’s going on. As a writer I consider myself a puppet master, and with Dreggo (as with many of the other characters) I set out to see just what she could handle. I wanted to basically destroy her and then bring her back, but I was never quite sure how. For the whole series I pretty much only knew about four or five chapters ahead what would happen, so it wasn’t really plotted. I had an idea of where I wanted it to go, but it evolved as well as it went. I did feel that the eventual conclusion of Dreggo’s storyline was perfect though. I’m pretty proud of that.

While I loved all of the characters, Dreggo and Marta are my favorites. They were wonderfully drawn, strong women. Was it your intent to write two extraordinary female characters?

I didn’t really set out with any plans for how to portray either of them. They certainly weren’t damsels in distress (Jess was the closest to that, and she wasn’t really very close), but I didn’t want to make them asexual hardasses either. Tube Riders is supposed to go almost beyond fiction into alternative reality, and in reality you’re hardly likely to care which boy has the cutest smile when you’ve got some killing machine on your tail, but you still might get urges from time to time, which is the part I played up to. They’re also very influenced by real British women – who are in general pretty much zero-BS in my experience – than airy fairy comic book heroines. The closeness to realism is what has actually turned some readers off, but for me that’s the most important thing about the series. I wanted people to read it and think, “I’ve met a girl like that.”

What are you working on now? Any target release date for it?

Tons of stuff. Seriously, it’s insane how much I have queued. I have four novels done or almost done. One is a trunk novel comedy which may come out sometime when I’ve figured out how to stop it offending people, haha. Another is a love story that I knocked out in a little over a month earlier this year. That should be ready to go soon. The other two are the first two parts in a new series called Tales of Crow. Part One, They Came OutAfter Dark, was released on August 20th. The central character is this deformed madman who has insane skills with biotechnology. What began as a kind of horror/thriller with a dash of black humour is morphing into something quite different. I’m even considering tying it loosely in with the Tube Riders series, kind of like the origin story of a character who ended up doing something important in the Tube Riders world (I won’t say what). Because I’m an indie I can do what I want, but it’s the kind of thing that a publisher would hate. The tone of the books is very different, but I’ve always been one to push the boundaries. The second book is finished and will be out around October. I’ll probably drop one of the other two in between, but I don’t expect there to be much fuss about those. They’re more for me that for readers.

And of course there’s the prequel series, Rise of the Governor. I’m currently taking a “break” from it because I needed some time away from that world, but I’ll be back on it soon. Some books write themselves on the screen, others in my mind, and this one is definitely the latter. Once I’ve ironed out the details in my mind, I’ll get it down, but to be honest, after writing Exile and Revenge over the space of 18 months, I was pretty burned out.

What inspires you to write?

No idea. I just need to tell stories, and once I’ve started to tell one I need to get to the end as quickly as possible. It was never about money, although if I make some it’s nice. That’s one reason why I tend to genre hop – I’m not focused on what I should be doing to maximize my business potential, which is basically write the same book over and over again. To be honest, though, I don’t care.

What 5 books are on your bookshelf right now?

The five most recent books I’ve read/am currently reading are The Winter of Frankie Machine by Don Winslow, The Long Walk by Slavomir Rawicz, Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier, Cycling Home from Siberia by Rob Lilwall, and Slash: The Autobiography. None are anything like what I write about, and that’s the way I like it. I only read about a book per month, so I’m very picky about what I read, and I have zero patience for generic genre fiction, particularly anything aimed at young adults or where the relationship/love triangle is more important than the story. I read almost as much non-fiction as I do fiction, but I read as much to learn these days as I do for entertainment. In my teens I devoured all the fantasy, horror, and sci-fi I could get my hands on, but I just don’t have a lot of time these days, so I want to read stuff that I find really, really interesting. I do read a lot of samples though – the beauty of the Kindle – but probably only go on to buy about one in twenty.

What do you recommend to see/read/hear?

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It’s the only film I’ve watched in the last two months and it was awesome. As someone with a constant travel bug (I live in Japan, having lived in the UK, Spain, and Italy), it really made me want to get on the road. It also tells you a lot about how to live your life.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Clearing out the headspace

Chepachet, RI is a real place, and the farm that Nina owns in Hell’s Belle is based on a real one -- it belonged to my grandfather’s family.  

Although that farm was long gone, I spent many weekends in Chepachet as a kid. We’d visit the cemetery that holds the family remains or his oldest friend Henry (nothing like an old Yankee farmer). Then we’d get penny candy at Brown & Hopkins (America’s oldest country store in continuous operation). 

I love to take my daughter to Chepachet so she can see where part of the family is from and soak up that country air. Over the weekend, I had my first trip to Pulaski Park in about 30 years. Pulaski Park is a "day use" recreation facility (i.e. no camping) that is part of the larger (4000 acres) George Washington Management area. The park boasts are hiking trails, picnic areas and swimming in Peck Pond.

My kid and I had a terrific hike (and saw a beaver dam). Then we splashed around in the ice cold swimming hole. We had lunch at the Tavern on Main (i.e. Stage Coach Tavern, built in the early 1700s), and did a little antiquing. 

It was an awesome day. And I walked away with some ideas for book three, which I really need to get cracking on.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Lookit what I just bought

One of my favorite indie writers, Chris Ward, has a new series! He’s the genius behind the wonderful Tube Riders trilogy. Today he released They Came Out After Dark, book one in the series Tales of Crow

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

For Jun Matsumoto, a school trip to the remote study camp of British Heights is hardly his idea of a good time. Akane, the love of his life, hates him, and he’s rooming with Ogiwara, the school bully. 

Things get even worse when a dose of bad Christmas turkey makes most of the students sick, and suddenly Jun and a handful of others are left cut off from civilization as the snow closes in. Pretty soon the power has gone off, and a strange, birdlike creature begins terrorizing the guests. 

If Jun thought the school trip could get no worse, he’d be wrong. As the students group together with the other remaining guests, suddenly their understanding of danger turns on its head. 

There are creatures out in the woods, and they’re hungry for human flesh… 

If you like edge-of-your-seat paranormal adventures with some wonderfully drawn characters and terrific world building, I highly recommend Chris' books! 

I just snagged my Kindle copy for .99! Not sure how long this pricing will last, so grab it now.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Author Interview: Annie Nicholas

I am thrilled to host a tour stop for Annie Nicholas and her latest release Sinful Cravings, the second book in her Lake City Stories series. She shares favorite place to write, how an octipus inspired the series, and how she tackles sex scenes (gulp).

Tell me about Sinful Cravings, the second book in your Lake City Stories series.
This is the continuation of Pia and Valerio’s love story. It’s hard without giving spoilers for book one, Starved for Love. LoL  Let’s just say Pia has to put on her big girl pants and figure out a solution for a dangerous situation fast.

What inspired you to tell Pia’s story?
I wanted to write a story where sex wasn’t about the expression of love. Many of us have gone to bed with someone we didn’t love. Pia’s story, even though there’s lots of sex, is truly about forbidden love and far they will go for each other. 

What made you decide to dive into the worlds of incubi and succubi? What (if any) are the similarities between our world and theirs?
It all started with an octopus documentary, of all things. It was about a certain species where the male and female had a symbiotic relationship. This lead to my thinking about how it would be if we depended on our mates to survive how would that change our relationship? So I divided how incubi and succubi fed. The incubi depend on succubi energy to survive and succubi can feed off anyone BUT incubi. Then I created my characters and said, “Let the games begin.” 

Writing erotic romance is HARD! (In fact, sex scenes are super tough for me to write.) 
How do you handle writing them?
It is HARD! I try to stick to the emotional aspect of the act as much as possible. Since I’m writing about sex demons, there is lots of sex in this series. It only makes sense. LOL I try to keep it fresh and fun. My main characters are very uninhibited and sometimes I’m shocked by what comes out of their mouths.  

What was the most difficult part of writing the second book in the series? 
Finding a goal for my characters. In first books of series it’s all about discovery. Learning a new world and meeting their hero/heroine. This is the same couple so that discovery is not there. I had to focus on growth, which made the experience deeper and more fulfilling as the writer. 

Now that Sinful Cravings is released, what’s next for you?
Scent of Salvation, book 2 of Chronicles of Eorthe, is releasing in Nov. 4th. I’ll be working on more Angler books and I’m working on new series.

Do you have any writing rituals?
I have to plot my book first. I need to know where I’m going before I start. It’s kind of like having a map. So I start with the blurb then I write my synopsis before I even start the book.

Where is your favorite place to write?
I love writing at the coffee shop. Unfortunately, my local one closed for renovations this summer.  

What inspires you to write? 
Everything. (*See comment about octopi above. LOL)  It has to be an original idea though. I get bored easily so I can’t write cookie cutter stories. There are days I wish I could.

What 5 books are on your bookshelf right now?
I’m reading Hunted by Kevin Hearne at the moment and I have Shattered that’s next. Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, the last book is waiting for me. Molly Harper’s Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs is on my TBR pile with Ilona Andrews’ Magic Bites next to it.   

What do you recommend people see/read/hear?
Read: Lord of the Rings
See: Life of Pi
Listen: Queen’s Greatest Hits

Sinful Cravings is hosting a Rafflecopter giveaway  for a $50 gift card to Barnes & Noble. Snag it! 
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