Interview: Sarah Dalton, Author of Blemished

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DaltonBlemishedWelcome everyone to The Book of Apex Blog Tour! Today, I have Sarah Dalton here, author of the Blemished series, giving us an interview. She was kind enough to swing by again, having been here last week with her guest post: Cruelty Is Needed.

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

Well, I like to think that humans are a lot less superstitious than they used to be when we hunted dragons and unicorns! I’m not sure we’ll ever be that suspicious again, what with the internet and Wikipedia and everything. Maybe after the apocalypse.

But that doesn’t mean fantasy literature doesn’t have an effect on human cultures. Reading rich fantasy worlds can enrich our imaginations and influence a generation as they grow into adults. Fantasy worlds inspire art, and costume, and language. We only need to look at the success of ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’, and the wonderful TV adaptation, ‘Game of Thrones’ to see how it is inspiring artists, writers and enthusiasts. DeviantArt is full of wonderful fan art just for starters.

Given the opportunity, what fantastical beast of fiction would you like to encounter in the wild? Which would you avoid at all costs?

I like a good old-fashioned vampire. There’s definitely an allure about the prospect of an eternal life living in the shadows. Plus it would be fascinating to sit and talk to someone who had lived for a thousand years, to discover their opinions on war, or what life was really like.

Dragons I would avoid at all costs. I’ve played enough Skyrim to know you don’t mess with a dragon.

DaltonMyDaylightMonstersWith the modern popularity to ebooks, a book is no longer limited to a specific genre shelf. It is now quite easy to label place an ebook in multiple genres (i.e. YA, Fantasy, Horror). How do you see this affecting readers? Have you been inadvertently lured outside your reading comfort zone?

Yes! I have been lured outside my comfort zone. I’m a genre-hopping reader anyway, but I’ve recently ventured into reading New Adult. I’ve not read any romance for a long time, but there are some real gems in New Adult, and it’s a genre that may have not emerged if it wasn’t for ebooks.

I think we’ll see more niche markets and unusual books, especially in length. Publishers tend to have a preferred word count, but self-published books can be any length at all. I’ve published three novellas so far, books that probably wouldn’t have found an audience without epublishing. We will also see more book bundles and anthologies hitting the scene. I’ve worked with other self-published authors to put together anthologies and multi-author bundles. It’s a lot of fun and a great way to find new readers.

From your own writings, are there any characters you would like to cosplay?

Oh wow, that’s a tough question! Most of my characters are teens, so it would be a pretty unrealistic cosplay. The MC for my upcoming YA fantasy has a white stag to ride. That would be particularly awesome.

DaltonWhiteHartIs there a book to move/TV adaptation that you found excellent? Is there a PC game to book adaptation that worked for you?

I love Game of Thrones. Who doesn’t? For some reason I couldn’t get into the books, despite them being well-written and engaging, but the TV show is probably my favorite show airing right now. The costumes, the acting… it’s all fantastic, and I think the characters are brought to life beautifully.

What does your Writer’s Den look like? Neat and tidy or creative mess? can you write anywhere or do you need to be holed up in your author cave?

Creative mess! The messier it is, the more I’m struggling with a plot bunny. I get steadily more and more untidy as I delve into the writing process. Every now and then I have to have a complete tidy to clear my head and focus.

I prefer to write in my office, but I can work in other places. It’s better in silence, so working in cafes, as lovely as it looks in films, isn’t usually very practical. Also I stare into space when I’m writing, which freaks people out in public.

DaltonFracturedFinally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

I’m working with an amazing bunch of authors to put out a YA dystopian bundle of six books. I’m really excited about that.

I’m also working on two new series, one a YA high fantasy called White Hart about a young girl born with the craft, a magical power which binds her with nature, the other called Mary Hades, which is a YA paranormal horror. I’m in the early stages of this one. It’s a follow up to my gothic novella My Daylight Monsters, about a girl who can see ghostly beings that help her solve mysteries.

Places to Stalk Sarah

Facebook

Goodreads

Website

Blemished Website

Twitter

Want to see more of blog tour? There’s reviews, interviews, guest posts, even more giveaways. Well, don’t hesitate to jump over to Little Red Reviewer (the maniac who organized this delightful blog tour) to see what all is going down this month.

Of course, you can always check out Apex Magazine for more SFF goodness.

Interview: Garrett Calcaterra, Ahimsa Kerp, & Craig Comer

CalcaterraKerpComerRoadsToBaldairnMotte2Everyone, please welcome the authors of The Roads to Baldairn Motte, Garrett, Ahimsa, and Craig. Today we chat about influential books and movies in the realm of fiction, tattoos versus cosplay, fictional beasties, and the challenges of self-promotion. Enjoy!

1) Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?

Craig: Absolutely. Today, you still see elements of fantasy fiction adorned on fashion items and throughout pop culture. Walking Dead and Game of Thrones shirts, mugs, and stickers are everywhere, and more so, you hear lines from these worlds quoted on news shows and by sports commentators.

Ahi: In some ways, probably more so than ever. I think Star Wars broke through the glass nerd ceiling and now fantasy is more popular than ever. However, it’s often a bit empty. Sci-fi can push for social betterment, but fantasy often seems to wallow in meaningless entertainment. They’re not mutually exclusive, and I’d love to see more ambitious fantasy.

Garrett: I think all genres tend to wallow in meaningless entertainment, even sci-fi and literary fiction. And you know, that’s fine sometimes. I see nothing wrong with literature functioning as escapism—life can get rough, and what better way to put aside your problems for a few hours than in a fun book?

But I’d argue that there is still ambitious fantasy out there. It may not shape history anymore, but it works in subtle ways. I think Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series is so popular because it’s rooted in complex, believable characters. It functions in the same way good literary fiction does: we, as readers, learn something about the human condition from these characters.

Fantasy can also be a medium for exploring alternative philosophies and social viewpoints. I’m currently reading The Mists of Avalon for the first time, for example (I know, not exactly new, and yes, shame on me for not reading it a long time ago!), and it does an amazing job of making the reader question our patriarchal culture, not to mention our modern disconnect with nature and the magic in the world around us. That’s perhaps the biggest impact fantasy has, reminding us about magic. I just finished Bruce McAllister’s Dream Baby and it’s this amazing, sort of paranormal fantasy set during the Vietnam War, based on the premise that being in heightened combat situations awakens a dormant, magical ability in certain humans. That’s what good fantasy is all about. It makes us question our reality. Is there something more to modern human existence than working like a dog just so you can buy the newest iPhone or 60” flatscreen TV?

CalcaterraDreamwielder2) What fictional world would you like to visit for the holidays? Is there a fictional holiday that you would like to take part in?

Craig: I’m not sure any of the worlds I love so much are great for visiting. They are scary and dangerous places! But maybe Philip Pullmans London from, His Dark Materials. It’d be a trip to walk around and see everyone’s daemon running around!

Ahi: My answer is boring because I just want to go to Middle-earth. Hang out with the Dunedain, visit Rivendell, cruise up to the Misty Mountains… yup, that’s the dream.

Garrett: Yeah, my first choice would be Middle-earth too. The Shire probably has some pretty good holiday fixings going on. Hmm…where else? My girlfriend and I adore animals—to the point we like our pets more than most humans—so once we get married it would be pretty fun to take her to Narnia and visit the talking animals in the court of Cair Paravel.

3) Reality in my fiction: how important is it? Lengthy travel, cussing, and bathroom breaks happen in real life. How do you address these mundane occurrences in your writings?

Craig: I think the level of reality has to match the tone and themes of the work. Something like A Game of Thrones needs to be gritty and real because the reader is so closely imbedded in the character’s perspective, and those details describe the world Martin is creating. Something like Neil Gaiman’s Stardust is more whimsical. Too many details there would weigh down the prose. But for each, the important thing is consistency.

Ahi: I love books where people swear and poop. But it has to be for a reason. Usually those mundane realities are cut because they don’t advance the story, and we don’t really need to know how many times per minute your protagonist blinks.

Garrett: Yup, I’ve got little to add beyond that. If I’m writing a dark, gritty tale, I use those realistic elements the same way I use setting description to create a believable backdrop and establish the tone.

ComerAbandonedTowers4) Given the opportunity, what fantastical beast of fiction would you like to encounter in the wild? Which would you avoid at all costs?

Craig: I would love to have a Heinzelmännchen come stay at my house and do all the care taking! I would avoid any type of giant arachnid. Small little guys hanging on webs are fine; huge Shelob sized ones, not so much.

Ahi: I have quite an affinity for Yetis. And I would really like the platycore from Munchkin as a pet. Who would I avoid? Most fantastical creatures probably! But China Mieville‘s slake moths especially creep me out.

Garrett: I would love to encounter a dragon from Pern and have an Impression. How awesome would it be to fly on the back of a dragon and communicate telepathically? As for creatures to avoid, I’d have to say the Great Old Ones. I feel like I’m a pretty easygoing guy and could get along with most nefarious creatures, but the inhuman evilness of Cthulhu is too much, and the thought of losing my mind terrifies me.

KerpOriginsCollidingCausalities5) More and more we see fiction being multimedia – a book, a TV show, a PC game, a graphic novel. How do you see the publishing industry evolving to handle this trend? Any plans to take your works in the multimedia realm?

Ahi: I have no prediction as to how it’s going to evolve, but I am excited to see how it all goes down. I am definitely excited to continue to learn different kinds of storytelling as they continue to grow.

Craig: We’re already seeing interactive ebooks and tie-in novels for PC games. I think that will continue, and at some point a synergy (or at least an attempt at one) with social media—perhaps a choose-your-own-adventure with thousands of readers creating the story together?

CalcaterraKerpGoodBrewHardToFindGarrett: It’s an exciting and unpredictable time. For the biggest authors in the publishing world, yeah, you’re gonna continue to see their fictional worlds turned into multimedia franchises like we’re seeing with LOTR, A Game of Thrones, The Chronicles of Narnia, and American Gods. For those of us authors who aren’t best-sellers, technology will function to enhance the way we interact with readers. The new e-book edition of The Roads to Baldairn Motte has an enhanced character index with hyperlinks, for example, which is helpful for a sprawling mosaic novel. Earlier this year, Ahimsa and I were able to re-release A Good Brew is Hard to Find, a choose-your-own-adventure style humorous fantasy. Its first incarnation was on a website with clunky html a decade ago, and now it’s a slick, easy to read e-book. I too am excited to get to write in these different mediums, and am always open to new opportunities. Ultimately though, novels are my favorite and I hope novels are able to retain their market share in our attention deficit world where books have to compete for attention against other media.

ComerDragonmountAnthology6) What nonfiction works have you found useful in building fictional worlds, cultures, and plots?

Ahi: It depends on the project, but I quite enjoy the role of researcher. I read 5-10 books per novel, and my booksmarks folders on Chrome have 30-40 links each. We live in the best time ever for research, as the wealth of human history and progress is all available on the same machine you type your story on.

Craig: There’s a book, What Would Your Character Do?, that I find useful for fleshing out character ideas. It puts them in different scenarios and asks a litany of reaction and motivation type questions. World building, for me, is the best part of the creative process, and I use everything from old childhood tales to military encyclopedias. The internet has made it easier than ever to find information, and not just with who, what, and where.  There are dialect translators, guides for creating armor, guides on botany and Victorian costume—everything is out there.

Garrett: I don’t read many non-fiction books and feel pretty inadequate in my knowledge of history compared to Ahi and Craig, but I do take my research seriously. I mostly rely on reference materials when writing fantasy. I did a ton of research to make sure I had my nautical terminology correct when writing The Roads to Baldairn Motte, for example, and that came in handy for Dreamwielder too. Beyond that, the non-fiction I read tends to be newspaper and magazine articles on technology and climate change. In fact, I posted an annotated bibliography on climate change and science fiction on my blog, if anyone wants to check it out. (link: http://garrettcalcaterra.blogspot.com/2013/06/an-annotated-bibliography-for-science.html )

ComerBardsAndSages7) With the modern popularity of ebooks, a book is no longer limited to a specific genre shelf. It is now quite easy to label an ebook in multiple genres (i.e. YA, Fantasy, Horror). How do you see this affecting readers? Have you been inadvertently lured outside your reading comfort zone?

Ahi: I mean, genre is just a marketing tool. I’d like to see it removed entirely to be honest. Genre is rather a limiting, didactic way of looking at something much broader and nearly infinite in scope. As to ebooks, they haven’t lured me out of my comfort zone, as I read from a wide range already.

Craig: I agree with Ahimsa. It’s a double-edged sword, though, because you still need readers to find your book, and that can’t be on author name recognition or friend recommendation alone. Online lists have become a prevalent source for finding new books or songs or whatever, but even those are necessarily broken down by some sort of meta-label, whether it be genre or some other categorization.

Garrett: Yeah, I agree. In theory, better online categorization, meta tags, cloud servers and whatnot makes it easier for readers to find a broader range of books, but in reality it’s just become part of our norm, and readers still gravitate toward their individual interests. Back when I was in junior high and grade school, if I wanted a new fantasy novel (and I did, pretty much every week) I either went to the public library or the one bookstore in town that had a big section of fantasy novels. Now people only have to tap an icon on their Kindle or Nook to accomplish the same thing, but they still have their specific interests. Though the mediums have changed, we’re approaching our author branding and marketing toward a target audience with the same general philosophy that authors were using back in the 80s. Having said that, I could be totally wrong, and maybe that’s why my book sales aren’t tearing up the charts!

CalcaterraPiratesAndSwashbucklers 8) From your own writings, are there any characters you would like to cosplay?

Ahi: Ha! Good question. I’m afraid I would feel like a total wanker if I dressed up as my own character when there are thousands of great characters already out there.

Craig: None myself, but the heroine of my next novel, The Fey Matter, is modeled in part after my fiancé. So in some sense, she’s cosplaying all the time.

Garrett: I’m not really into cosplay, but I wouldn’t protest if my girlfriend wanted to dress up like Lyrie from Baldairn Motte, and I’d be happy to be Terryll Pace, her pirate lover. “Arr! Come to me, you lusty wench!”

Oh, and Ahimsa and I both have literature-inspired tattoos. I have a Frank Frazetta cover from a Bradbury book tattooed on my shoulder and Ahi has tattoos of all kinds of cool shit: Cthulhu, Odin, an airship from China Mieville’s The Scar, I think. Tattoos are sort of like cosplay, but way tougher and cooler.

9) Is there a book to movie/TV adaptation that you found excellent? Is there a PC game to book adaptation that worked for you?

Ahi: I still think Trainspotting is the gold standard of adaptation. How anyone could turn that book into a movie is beyond me, but it was sheer genius. I haven’t read any PC game adaptations but working in licensed worlds takes skills all their own (maybe a bit like our own shared world actually) and my hat’s off to those who tell those stories.

Craig: Wonder Boys is one of my favorite movies, so that pops to mind. And the BBC’s Sherlock is very well done.

Garrett: I think Fight Club is one of the few movies that is better than the book, and I’m a big fan of the book and Palahniuk. I suppose I could say the same for American Psycho, in that the movie captures the essence of the book and makes it a tighter, more cohesive story. As far as fantasy goes, I think the first Narnia movie was very well done. Can’t say that I’ve read any books adapted from games or other media. My nerdiness is pretty well confined to original SF/F/H, and then real life scientific research (I have a BS degree in chemistry and bio, if you can believe it).

ComerBardicTalesSageAdvice10) In this age of publishing, self-promotion is really necessary for the author. What do you enjoy most about advertising yourself and your works? What do you find most challenging?

Craig: Throughout the whole writing process, I love the anticipation that someone out there will get as excited as I am about a character or plot point or setting. The rest of self-promotion is awkward and a bit embarrassing—kind of like swimming in a public pool amidst a cloud of warm water, while trying to get everyone else from swimming away from you.

Ahi: The only good part of self-promotion, for me, is the chance to meet like-minded people.  I really appreciate that aspect, but the rest of the horn-tooting is not something I’m at all fond of.

Garrett: Ditto for me. I don’t think any proper writers like self-promoting their work. If we did, we’d probably be salesmen rather than authors. But like Ahimsa said, being involved within the SF/F/H community is an entirely different matter. Doing this interview, for instance, is quite fun. I’ve also written articles and interviews for Black Gate, SF Signal and my own blog, The Machine Stops, and that’s awesome because I genuinely like to interview people and write non-fiction. So for me, the best sort of self-promotion comes in the form of being visible and active within the community in that capacity. That’s where you’ll see the best, most honest side of me. On Twitter or FB posts where I’m plugging my books, not so much.

 ComerPulpEmpire11) Finally, what upcoming events and works would you like to share with the readers?

Garrett: Well, the big event for us, of course, is the release of the new edition of our mosaic novel The Roads to Baldairn Motte. The book is out in e-book format from Reputation Books as of the new year (January 1, 2014), and if it does well enough we’ll maybe see a print edition later in the year. In the meantime, the three of us are all cranking away on our own individual novels. I’m working on a high-action sequel to Dreamwielder, and then also my more serious near-future cli-fi novel. Craig is doing revisions on The Fey Matter, and Ahi is working on his Indo-fantasy. We try to attend conventions and conferences when we can, but I don’t think anything is on the books now apart from our virtual book tour online. So thank for having us and helping kick things off!

Craig: I wanted to thank a Ben Thornton for letting us use his artwork for our new cover! It’s awesome and got all three of us charged up to put together this revised edition of the book. Thanks also to you, Susan, for having us over for this chat at Dab of Darkness!

Ahi: Nothing else of mine to share, but I’d like to thank all who read this for their interest and time. Keep reading—everything. You’re awesome!

Thank you gentlemen for sharing so much and joining us here at Dab of Darkness!

Places to Stalk Garrett, Craig, and Ahimsa

Garrett Calcaterra Website

Craig Comer Website

Goodreads – Garrett

Goodreads – Ahimsa

Goodreads – Craig

Twitter – Ahimsa

Twitter – Garrett

Facebook – Craig

Facebook – Garrett

The Roads to Baldairn Motte

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

Smudge does not snuggle books, even really good ones.

Smudge does not snuggle books, even really good ones.

Why I Read It: Because I like riding on the tail of wagons. Oh, and this dude in line for Sanderson signatures at Bubonicon highly recommended the series.

Where I Got It: The library.

Who I Recommend This To:
Epic fantasy freaks who love their characters grey and their plots twisted about each other.

Narrator: Roy Dotrice

Publisher: Books on Tape (2004)

Length:
28 CDs

Series: Book 1 Song of Ice and Fire

This is a very complex book. I suggest you check out this wikipedia article if you want a comprehensive summary of the book. I will simply tell you every little thing I loved about this book. First off, the characters are complicated; while there are some few that are more evil or more good than the rest, by and large they are all grey, each having a gentler side and a ruthless side. At first, the Starks of Winterfell seem driven by honor and therefore, will hold the bulk of the good deeds for the book, while the various competing families of the capital city King’s Landing appear to hold the lot of plotting, scheming, nefarious deeds. But the plots quickly become much more interesting, especially as the ‘heroes’ are forced into hard choices and the supposed villains show hints of decency (such as Tyrion Lannister)

Add to that a removed, but related, plot line occurring across the seas on the grassy plains of the wandering tribes of the Dothraki. The last remaining Targaryens live in exile among these horse nomads, dreaming of the day they will reclaim their throne. Daenerys became one of my favorite characters because she grows so much throughout this book. While I know her end goal could put my other favorite characters in jeopardy, I couldn’t help but root for her.

Much closer to home, the Wall north of Winterfell is manned by the Night’s Watch and they keep eyes on the forest and the possibility of The Others, a race thought to be mythological by most. Jon Snow, the bastard son of Ned Stark, joins this Watch along with his direwolf. I am really looking forward to see what George Martin does with Jon, the Night Watch, and the walled-out forest in the next book.

I loved Arya right away, the younger daughter of Ned Stark. She’s strong-willed and much more interested in being self-sufficient than her very lady-like Sansa. I found Sansa young and vapid, until the last bit of the book, where she is forced to grow up quicker than she wanted to. Tyrion Lannister is a dwarf and the younger son of the Lord Tywin, a hard man who has little use for his ‘deformed’ son. Tyrion had some of the best lines throughout the book and I always looked forward to the sections told in his voice.

The narration was excellent. The cast of characters in this book alone is HUGE and Roy Dotrice did an incredible job of making each one of them distinct and recognizable. He varied the accents and ages of each, as appropriate. If I have any criticism, it is that his feminine voices just aren’t really feminine. Distinct, but more like soft-spoken males. Still, I loved his narration and plan to continue the series with him, as I can’t imagine Tyrion’s voice any other way.

And no, I haven’t watched HBO’s series yet, and have been very diligent about avoiding any such spoilers.

readandreviewbuttonWhat I Liked: Direwolves; dragons; spies; traitors; death; the well thought out intricate plots; complex characters; Tyrion Lannister; plenty of sex; Martin world building includes these full-fledged varying cultures.

What I Disliked: The narrated voices for the ladies could benefit from a bit more femininity; alas, there are no maps with an audiobook.

This review is part of the Read&Review Hop hosted by On Starships and Dragonwings. Make sure to stop by there to see more great reviews.