J.B. Reynolds

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Author Interview: C.D. Gallant-King

C.D. Gallant-KingI’m really excited about this month’s interview with proud Canadian and horror and comic fantasy author, C.D. Gallant-King

C.D. wrote his first story when he was five years old.  He had to make his baby-sitter look up how to spell “extra-terrestrial” in the dictionary. He now writes stories about un-heroic people doing generally hilarious things in horrifying worlds.

He’s a loving husband and proud father of two wonderful little kids.  He was born and raised in Newfoundland and currently resides in Ottawa, Ontario. There was also a ten-year period in between where he tried to make a go of a career in Theatre in Toronto, but that didn’t work out so well.

C.D. has written eight novels you haven’t read, because they’re still locked in The Closet. The Closet is both a figurative and literal location – it is the space in his head where the stories are kept, but it’s also an actual closet under the stairs in his basement where the stories are also kept. It’s very meta.

He has published two novels you can read, Ten Thousand Days in 2015 and Hell Comes to Hogtown in 2016. He has an ongoing series of dark comic fantasy stories called Werebear vs. Landopus, which is available on Kindle Unlimited. His work will also appear in Mystery and Horror’s upcoming humour/speculative fiction anthology, Strangely Funny IV.

Books by C.D. Gallant King

Welcome, C.D. Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for me and my readers this month.

No problem.

Let’s leap right in, then. I read Hell Comes to Hogtown earlier this year, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve been meaning to write a proper review for it and post it to my blog, but haven’t got there yet. It’s a strange, genre-bending mixture of action and horror and fantasy and comedy, but it works, and it’s a lot of fun. What are you currently working on? Is it in a similar vein?

I just released a new (rather long) short story on Amazon called Revenge of the Lycanterrancephalopod, which is the next part in my “Werebear Landopus” series. While it shares a similar dark, crude humour to Hogtown, this one is set firmly in a medieval fantasy setting.

My current work in progress is another comic fantasy, but this one is pretty firmly “PG-rated.” It uses a lot of the tropes of the genre but it also touches on some modern contemporary issues. It’s sort of like His Dark Materials meets Discworld, with a touch of Garfield or Get Fuzzy (the comic strips) thrown in. Yes, there are talking pets in it. It’s very different to find comedy and jokes without resorting to profanity, bodily functions and other obscenities. Not impossible, just different. It’s as if you’re painting with a new palette of colours.

That sounds really interesting. I love the name for your short story.

You’ve chosen to self-publish the works you’ve written so far. What motivated you to become an indie author?

Impatience and self-respect. I don’t want to spend a year querying authors and agents for what will probably amount to nothing. I tried it in my youth when I had time to mess around with it and it’s frustrating and demoralizing. Now, with a full-time job and a wife and kids and a million other responsibilities, I don’t have time to grovel and beg trying to get someone’s approval as a writer. I’m not looking for their validation. If I feel that I’m improving at writing, and people enjoy my book, that’s all I’m looking for right now. Getting an agent or a publishing contract is no guarantee of fame or money anyway (today more than ever). I can publish a book myself and get the same non-guarantee.

Yeah, I totally agree, and I really enjoy the freedom and control that comes with indie-publishing. But it’s certainly not all milk and honey. What was the hardest thing about writing Hell Comes to Hogtown?

I just couldn’t get the ending right. I knew the main characters had to confront the bad guy and I knew roughly what position they were in when it was over, but that was it. I didn’t know who lived or died, what the ending beat should be and how it actually tied together. I wrote it several times and it just didn’t feel right.

Finally, my Alpha Reader (my wife) read it and said “You’re being stupid. X should happen.” Suddenly, bam! Everything fell into place. It wasn’t what I expected, but I had accidentally planted the seeds through the whole book. The hook was already there, the final beat finally made sense, and everything came together almost as if I had planned it.

Did I mention my wife is a lot smarter than me?

For such a genre-bending novel, coming up with a cover must have been hard. I like the cover you’ve got for Hogtown—I think it works well. Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?

Personally, I don’t particularly care what a cover looks like. I’ve spent more time studying copyright pages than I have studying covers. It’s not to be dismissive – I recognize that there is great art out there and that some people really do enjoy them, but I really am of the opinion that you can’t (and shouldn’t) judge a book by its cover.

When I look for a book it’s always because I’m looking for something specific—I’ve heard about it or I like the author or I’m looking for a particular topic. I have never, ever scanned a bookshelf (digital or real-world) just hoping something pops out at me. It’s just not the way my brain works. This creates some dissonance with me though, because apparently, some people do shop like this, so you have to be aware that your cover is aesthetically pleasing (or at least not downright ugly). This is especially difficult because, like any art, there are a wide variety of opinions on what makes a good cover. Sure, certain things like having clear, readable fonts and scalability to thumbnail-size are fairly universal, but beyond that, you will get lots of different opinions on what makes a good cover. The trick is just finding something that’s right for you and your book.

To make sure I had an original, eye-popping cover for Hell Comes to Hogtown, I got an original image from Jason Salvatori Photography. He does some great work you can check out at facebook.com/SalvatoriPhotography

That’s interesting. I don’t shop by covers either, although I may have borrowed the odd book from the library based on an eye-catching cover.  Having said that, I’ve seen a few books on Amazon that I WOULDN’T buy purely because of how UGLY the covers are.  It’s important to have a good one.

Next question—do you read much and if so, who are your favourite authors?

I don’t read as much as I would like simply because my free time has to be split between reading and writing, but I do as much as I can. I recognize that a writer needs to be as well versed in as many styles as possible to help develop their craft.

Kurt Vonnegut is probably overall my favourite writer. Mother Night is my favourite book: it was a perfect blend of comedy and blackness, hitting all the right notes for me at the age I read it. The lost love, the denouncement of war, the questions of morality, all undercut by Vonnegut’s infamous dark sense of humour. I read it again recently and it still blows me away with how effortlessly Vonnegut stirs up so much emotion. Not to mention how terrifying it is in light of what’s going on in the world today. It’s not hilarious, laugh-out-loud funny, but it’s got a certain satirical levity that is totally incongruous with the dark and painful subject matter, and it works perfectly. I wish I could write a book like this.

Terry Pratchett is a close second. I wish I could turn a phrase like he could. In some ways he’s a lot like Vonnegut, tackling important topics with humour, though his stories lean so hard on the fantastic and silly that sometimes it’s easy to miss the lesson. That doesn’t make it any less important, though. Plus, with his perfect British sense of humour, his books are always guaranteed to bring a smile and a chuckle.

Some other favourites include Cormac McCarthy—no one does dark and bleak better than McCarthy; Douglas Adams—if you don’t like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy we can’t be friends; Christopher Moore—Lamb is one of the single greatest books ever written. If I could go back in time and write one book, it would be this one. I hate Moore for getting to it first. How can you not love a book where Jesus Christ travels to China, invents martial arts and calls it “Ju-do: The Way of the Jew?”

That’s really interesting—we both have similar tastes as far as our reading preferences go. I love both Vonnegut and Pratchett. Vonnegut is the short story master, and I always try to follow his advice when writing short stories. Pratchett is the king of comic fantasy. I’ve read a number of the City Watch series this year and they’re brilliant. Fiercely intelligent but so funny that you almost don’t realise you’re getting such a sharp insight into the world and how it works. I’ve got an idea for a fantasy crime novel that I want to write in the next year or two, and it owes a debt to Terry Pratchett.

Now, back to the questions, and sticking to favourites—what’s your favourite movie and why?

Depends on the day of the week you ask, but I’ll take the safe route and say Star Wars. The original one, aka A New Hope. The Empire Strikes Back is probably a better movie overall, but nothing can match the sincere earnestness, joy and fun of the original. It’s a wonderful mix of fantasy and sci-fi, a classic hero’s journey that completely revolutionized filmmaking. Even if you take away all the sequels and world-building and games and toys (which are also all great), the movie itself is still such an entertaining journey that I can watch again and again. And now that I’m discovering it again with my kids, it makes it all the more special to see it again for the first time through their eyes.

A second, more intellectual choice would be Seven Samurai, but it’s for many of the same reasons as I love Star Wars (not to mention that George Lucas borrowed a lot of his themes and ideas from Kurosawa’s movies).

Ha! I love both those films too! Well, thanks again for your time, C.D. It’s been great to chat with you. All the best with your future writing.

To find out more about C.D. check out cdgallantking.ca, or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or Goodreads.

Author Interview: Amir Lane

Amir Lane

This month’s author interview is with supernatural and urban fantasy writer, Amir Lane (pronounced Ah-meer). Amir is from Sudbury, Ontario, and the author of the Morrighan House Witches series. The series opens with Shadow Maker and follows physics major Dieter Lindemann as he’s dragged down against his will into necromancy and blood magic.

An engineer by trade, Amir spends most of their writing time in a small home office, at a back table at their favourite Middle Eastern restaurant, or in front of the TV watching every cop procedural or cooking competition on Netflix. They live in a world where magic is an everyday occurrence, and they strive to bring that world to paper.

When not trying to figure out what kind of day job an incubus would have or what a Necromancer would go to school for, Amir enjoys visiting the nearest Dairy Queen, getting killed in video games, absorbing the contents of comic books, and freaking out over how fluffy the neighbour’s dog is.

Welcome, Amir. Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for me and my readers this month.

It’s my pleasure.

To begin with, can you tell us a little about what you’re currently working on? Is it Book 2 of your Morrighan House Witches Series?

You bet it is. The cool thing about it is that it actually follows Dieter’s sister, Lindy, who is this world class Seer who doubles as a police dispatcher. When this serial killer starts taking out some of the local witches, she gets dragged into the investigation. I get to do a lot of really cool stuff with visions and different types of divination in it. There’s also a jaguar in it, and a door gets kicked in. I’m planning on having it done for a late August/ early September release. I’m also working on a prequel for a multi-author box set coming out in October that’ll answer a lot of the behind-the-scenes questions that didn’t really have a place in Shadow Maker.

Wow! Sounds like you have a lot going on. I’m intrigued by the idea of mixing crime and fantasy. Now, my next question isn’t directly related to your writing, so the segue is going to be a little clunky, but nevermind.  You can tell a lot about a person by their favourites, and I’m curious about the comic books and other pop culture influences you mention in your bio, so tell me, what is your favourite movie?

Easy. Under the Red Hood. It’s this animated movie about Jason Todd, Batman’s second Robin. He’s murdered by the Joker but comes back to life courtesy of Ra’s Al Ghul. (In the comics, I’m pretty sure Superboy Prime punches a hole in reality, but anyway…) Jason becomes the Red Hood, this anti-hero who is trying to run Gotham’s underground and control it from the inside. Batman is trying to stop him but he has no idea that the Red Hood is Jason. Everyone thinks Jason is still dead. And it’s just this beautiful, heartbreaking movie where Batman is forced to confront what happens when villains like Joker are allowed to go free.

Jason Todd is voiced by Jensen Ackles from Supernatural. He does this amazing angry, almost-crying voice that really just ties the whole thing together. It’s an amazing movie. I absolutely recommend it, especially if you like a more human Batman that some versions we could mention don’t really show that much.

Sounds interesting — I’ll have to check it out. Now, staying on the topic of favourites; what is your favourite quote?

This is awful but the first one that comes to mind is, “You put me in the microwave?” This is from an episode of Duck Dodgers, a cartoon about Daffy Duck as a space captain in the 24th and a half Century, where Mars is stealing Earth’s music so they need to cryogenically unfreeze Dave Mustaine of Megadeth and Metallica but they’re in a hurry so they put him in the microwave. I love it because Dave Mustaine voiced himself so it’s actually Dave Mustaine saying, “You put me in the microwave?”

“You put me in the microwave?” – Dave Mustaine, Megadeth

Trust me, it’s hilarious.

 

Megadeth and Daffy Duck — what a combo! Based on your answers to my last two questions, it seems as though your younger self continues to be an important influence on the world of your present self. What advice would you give to your younger self?

There are two things I would tell myself. The first is a little personal but, “This has nothing to do with you. You did nothing wrong. Don’t let it eat you.”

The second would be, “Stop eating so much junk food! I can’t wear my favourite jeans anymore. Eat a vegetable.”

And continuing with the theme of advice, do you have any for aspiring writers?

You’re always going to be aspiring until you actually sit down and do it. Even if all you have is five minutes a day, use those five minutes. Not everyone can be a writer but if it’s something you really want, then you have to find a way to make it work. And if you’re already writing, drop the ‘aspiring’. ‘Aspiring’ goes the impression it’s just something you want to do. If you write, you’re a writer. An amateur writer, maybe, if you haven’t been paid for it. But still a writer.

That’s good advice. I agree. Now, to my last question for today. Do you think being a writer is a gift or a curse?

It’s neither. Being a writer is a choice that I made. I wasn’t attacked by a writer on a full moon or anything. I sat down one day and I said, ‘This is a thing that I want to do.’ Granted, there is a curse that comes with it, and that curse is everyone you know going, ‘Can I be a character?’ But it evens out with the gift of killing off people you hate. Sure, you can be a character, but you’re going to be Murder Victim 3. How do you feel about being stabbed in the face?

Ha, ha! That’s the perfect response. Thanks again for your time today, Amir. All the best with your writing.

To find out more about Amir, check out amirlane.com or connect with them at their Facebook group or on their Facebook page.

If you enjoyed this interview or have any questions, please let me know in the comments.

Author Interview: Vince Rockston

Vince RockstonThis interview is the first in a series of author interviews I’ll be posting over the coming months. So without further ado, I’d like to introduce historical fiction author, Vince Rockston.

Vince grew up in the protected environment of the island of Jersey (Channel Islands, GB), and then studied physics at Imperial College in London. Later, he had the chance to participate in a research group at the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, which allowed him to use leading-edge technology and the most powerful computers of the time.

His priorities changed when he met a sweet, Finnish au pair and they decided to get married and start a family. Now retired, Vince lives in a beautiful Swiss village with his wife. They share a house with their son, his Brazilian wife, and their Chihuahua.

In his spare time, Vince loves to go hiking in the mountains and exploring the woods and pastures surrounding the village on the e-bike he was given when he retired. He plays online Chess, Sudoku or Words with Friends and is heavily involved with supporting Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

Welcome, Vince. Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for me and my readers this month.

I’m glad to share a few personal insights.

Okay, then. Let’s dive right in. Firstly, can you tell us a little about the book you’re currently working on? What’s it about?

Aquila, set on the Isle of Elba in the 6th century, is the story of the life-changing encounter between the troubled Pagan lad Silvanus and the Christian hermit Cerbonius. Over several years, Silvanus has to deal with the temptations of wealth, a flirtatious girl, being robbed, falling in love, and facing the wrath of a bitter father, while all the time living in fear of Aquila the Avenger, the local manifestation of the god Jupiter. A dark secret plagues his conscience until near the end of the book.

Isle of Elba

Isle of Elba

That sounds fascinating. Where is the Isle of Elba, exactly? My history isn’t great, but isn’t that the island Napoleon got exiled to?

Elba is one of a group of small Italian islands between the mainland and the currently French island of Corsica. Yes, Napoleon was exiled there and, although he only spent 10 months on the island before escaping and again attempting to conquer the world, he left many marks of his stay on Elba.

What drew you to Elba?

Having grown up in Jersey, I’ve always loved the sea and small islands fascinate me. My wife and I were attracted by the possibility of travelling by bus from home for a week-long guided hiking tour. The group proved congenial, the guide excellent and we discovered a very beautiful island with a rich history.

How often do you write, and do you have a special time during the day to write?

Work, family, and other activities mean that I’ve never had a special routine for writing, though I write mainly in the evenings.

Do you proofread/edit your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?

I’m a perfectionist and have always been rather strong as regards grammar and spelling, so first I do the editing myself. Then I have critique partners and professional editors work on it. Scribophile is a valuable online community that can help with this process. At the moment my book is going through a beta-reader cycle, so there will probably be more changes coming. I must say I get very annoyed when I read poorly edited indie-published books. After much revision and editing, I have submitted my manuscript to several agents and publishers. One has shown interest so far, which is very exciting for me. In the meantime, I’ve been working on some ancillary short articles to be published on my blog.

Do you think that a book’s cover plays an important part in the buying process?

I’m sure it does, although I find it difficult to assess which covers are more effective than others. I have put together some suggestions for my book, Aquila, and am now processing several proposals for a cover design. I have no idea about typography, although my son assures me it is of paramount importance, so I trust the designer to do what’s right.

What do you think of “trailers” for books, and do you have any plans to create one for Aquila?

A video trailer, if it’s well done, certainly appeals, especially to the younger, visually-oriented generation. I have a specialist in the family and have experimented a bit with making videos myself, but it’s very difficult to make a quality trailer that is exciting, not too long, and teases the viewer enough that he/she wants to buy the book. At this stage, I have no plans to make one for Aquila.

Those are all my writing and book related questions done, but I’m curious to know more about what you are doing to support Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Can you tell us a little about that?

There’s been a massive influx of refugees from Afghanistan, the war-torn Middle East and many African countries into Europe in the last few years. Each one has a tragic tale to tell of what forced them to leave their home and of their horrendous experiences en route. Many find their way to Switzerland, where they are given temporary accommodation in disused military barracks or underground air-raid shelters – not very attractive! The lucky ones who aren’t sent back to the first European country they passed through – usually Greece or Italy – are distributed among the towns and villages. Not everyone is happy with this approach, but I have been given the task of caring for the two Syrian and one Iraqi family in my village, which means visiting them at least once a week to bring them their allowance and helping them with administrative matters, doctor’s visits, school issues, German courses, etc. Over the months I have become quite attached to them.

What does the future look like for these three families? Are they able to settle in Switzerland? If not, what will happen to them?

At the moment, their permits only grant them a temporary right to stay. But, unless the situation changes dramatically for the better in their home countries in the next few years, and bearing in mind that the children are becoming integrated into the Swiss education system and culture, there’s a good chance that they will receive resident status later. This was the case many years ago for a Macedonian and an Afghan family I looked after; they have settled well and the kids have grown up and found work.

Thanks for that, Vince. All the best with your work with the refugee families and for getting Aquila published. Now, where can people find you online?

I blog as Greyowl (bilingual) and Aquila is developing on my blog at www.aquilaelba.info. AquilaElba is also on Facebook.

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