18 September 2015

Interview with Joyce Chng

Today we’re joined by another fabulous Fox Spirit Books author –  Joyce Chng…

Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to write.

I am Joyce Chng and I was born (and now live) in Singapore. I write science fiction and fantasy, YA and things in between.

How long have you been writing and how did you get started?  And what authors have influenced you?

Professionally and semi-professionally, I have been writing since 2006-2007. Had my first short story published in Crossed Genres’s Alternate History issue (2009?). But I first started creating worlds since I was a child – mostly fan fiction (and I didn’t even know that I was writing fan fiction. That was before the Internet came about!). I wrote a Pern fan fiction novella in my late teens!

Authors? Frank Herbert, Anne McCaffrey, Andre Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley, to name a few. (The list just kept on expanding).

Fox Spirit has just re-released your Jan Xu urban fantasy series – what can new readers expect to find in the trilogy?

Well, expect to find Chinese werewolves in Singapore, strong family/clan bonds and a MC who is a mother to three kids. Not only that you will get to read about the (usual) politics amongst the supernatural/non-human groups – and oh yes, there is sibling rivalry and the things you get in return when you were an ex-teen vigilante…

Just read the series!

Your space opera, Star Fang, is also due to be re-released soon from Fox Spirit – please tell us what it’s about.     

Oh yes, Starfang. It is a space opera with werewolves! Werewolf clans dominate space travel and war in the far flung future. Lesbian MC who is captain of the ship Starfang and daughter of powerful clan leaders. Expect to see war, intrigue, metaphorical carpets being pulled under the MC’s feet etc. How do you feel when you are sent to kill your rival?

With werewolves appearing in both your urban fantasy and space opera work, what’s the appeal of the werewolf for you?  And are there any other themes or story elements you find yourself returning to in your fiction?

I have loved the idea of lycanthropy since I was a kid.  Werewolves appeal to me because they literally straddle between human and wolf – a liminal (and limbo) state where the werewolf is neither or.  Transformation, transmutation – these are underlying themes and motifs that constantly fascinate. In my stories, the wolves are never the evil monsters portrayed in horror movies.

Besides these themes, I often look at the motif of flight. My YA MCs are often young women who want to break free of societal bonds, sometimes literally (they fly or they change into phoenixes).
Oh yes, I also talk a fair bit about food. Food to me is the glue that binds a family, society and the universe together. Then again, the Chinese are often food-mad. :-)

You’re currently releasing chapters of Ming Zhu and the Pearl That Shines on Wattpad, and have previously released other works in this way – what’s the appeal of Wattpad as a platform?  And do you have plans to release any future stories on it?

Wattpad is a free platform where readers can read for free. Authors can post instalments on Wattpad for that instant gratification fix, because readers can commend and vote on your story. Some stories, as you can see, garner large audiences. But you are also up against hundred more stories like yours.

So it’s a battle for eye-balls.

I do have plans to release future stories, but that’s the future.

What drew you to using Patreon and have you found it a useful tool?

I was – and still am – battling with chronic health issues and crowdfunding appeals to me as an alternative route to funding/pay for expensive medical fees.
 It is useful to an extent, because 1) I am doing what I like – posting stories and pictures and 2) I have my readers and supporters. But like Wattpad, it helps a lot if you have a big fan base.

You’ve also edited The SEA is Ours anthology with Jaymee Goh – what was the underlying idea behind it and what kind of stories can we find in it?  

Basically steampunk stories that do not center around white steampunk experiences. And you can find stories that reimagine the histories, peoples, and myths of Southeast Asia through a steampunk lens—or perhaps, stories that reimagine the fantastic technology and potential histories of steampunk through a Southeast Asian lens. These are tales of Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, and Vietnam, written by writers all over the world.
And we wanted stories that were written by people of Southeast Asian descent or live in Southeast Asia. :-)

Has being an editor changed how you approach your own writing?  And do you have any plans to edit any future anthologies?

I think I have become more particular and direct. Definitely more focused and attentive when it comes to perennial issues like grammar (!) and info-dumping. I hasten to add that it’s all a matter of preferences too. Again, it is my POV.

No plans yet to edit any future anthologies…

Room 101 time: what one genre cliché would you get rid of?

The strong warrior woman.

Don’t gasp at me. Women do not need to be warriors or wield a weapon to be strong. Even I write about warrior women, I also write about women and girls who do not fit in the “warrior woman” stereotype. Do you need a sword to be strong?

What are you up to next?

My picturebook, Dragon Dancer, under Lantana Publishing, is out soon on the 12th of October.  Some stuff still in the works – but I can’t wait to share them with you all!

Thank you for joining us Joyce Chng!

Born in Singapore but a global citizen, Joyce Chng writes mainly science fiction and YA. She likes steampunk and tales of transformation/transfiguration. Her fiction has appeared in Crossed Genres, The Apex Book of World SF II, We See A Different Frontier, Cranky Ladies of History, and Accessing The Future. Her YA science fiction trilogy is published by Singapore publisher, Math Paper Press. She can be found at A Wolf’s Tale (awolfstale.wordpress.com);

15 September 2015

Interview with Paul Kane

Today we’re joined by Paul Kane – author of the recently published Monsters collection (Alchemy Press), the novella Flaming Arrow (Abaddon Books), and the upcoming Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell (Solaris Books)
 Tell us a little about yourself and what you like to write.

My name’s Paul Kane and incredible as it might seem, especially to me, I’ve been writing professionally now for almost twenty years. In fact, SST publications are bringing out a ‘Best of’ collection next year to mark the event called Shadow Casting, which will feature stories that have won awards, been in ‘best of’ anthologies and made into film/TV. I’ve written everything from genre journalism, which is where I cut my teeth, to Comedy, Crime and Science Fiction – technically, my best known books are SF as they’re post-apocalyptic reworkings of the Robin Hood mythos. But at heart I’m a horror writer, I guess. In terms of the formats I like to write in, as well as shorts and novelettes, novellas and novels, I absolutely love scriptwriting – TV and movies, but also more recently graphic novels. I wrote a 100 page one of those over the summer and had a blast.

What was the first horror story you read and what kind of impact did it make on you?

I don’t know if you could call it horror, and it was read to me at an early age before I started reading it over and over myself, but the story was Enid Blyton’s ‘The House in the Fog’. It’s a weird little tale where this boy gets lost in – surprise, surprise – some fog and wanders into this mysterious house where strange things happen. I remember him growing a furry tail at one point, which I suppose was my first exposure at a tender age to Body Horror. I just couldn’t get enough of that story, and kept pestering my granddad to read it to me again and again. I’d say that was largely responsible for putting me on this path towards writing imaginative stories myself.

Which authors have influenced you?

Oh, all kinds – way too many to list here. I went through a period growing up of reading everything SF, Fantasy, Crime and Horror related – which I call my ‘real’ education. I absolutely adore the Dune books by Frank Herbert, Ray Bradbury’s writing and Arthur C. Clarke. Colin Dexter was my go-to guy for crime growing up – the Morse mysteries were superb. And of course people like Tolkien for fantasy… In terms of horror, the authors who had the most impact on me during this period were James Herbert, Stephen King, Anne Rice, Ramsey Campbell, Shirley Jackson, Richard Matheson, Graham Masterton – the usual suspects in other words. Then later, people like Neil Gaiman, Christopher Fowler, Poppy Z. Brite, Simon Clark, Michael Marshall Smith – I could go on all day.

But the author who has influenced more than any other and continues to do so is Clive Barker. Anyone who knows me and my work will understand the importance of him and his fiction, his plays, his films and artwork. Clive’s Books of Blood came along at just the right time for me, and were a revelation – if you’ll pardon the expression. They blew me away! Their range and scope, and just the beauty of the writing. Then I read ‘The Hellbound Heart’ and saw Hellraiser, and the die was pretty much cast. I’m very lucky in that over the years Clive has become a friend and I’ve worked with and for him on a number of projects – just last year I had the pleasure of adapting ‘In the Hills, The Cities’ into a motion comic script – and not many people get to say that about the people they read and loved during their formative years.

Monsters from Alchemy Press is your 10th print collection and contains stories that cover a career of almost twenty years of publishing.  What is it about the short fiction form that appeals to you?

I started off writing shorts when I first seriously started to think about sending out fiction to markets, because I think it was that old chestnut of not having enough confidence in a longer piece. The novels I had tried to write when I was about fifteen, sixteen were absolutely terrible; I still have some of them and they’re a source of constant amusement. So I suppose I was taking baby steps with the shorts, using them to find my feet and my voice, which I eventually did. It’s funny, because they’re a completely different beast to novels, and yet a lot of writers use them as a stepping stone to longer fiction…

But anyway, they’ll always have a special place in my heart because they’re what got me the attention initially, and I do still love to write them, especially in-between novels or novellas. I think one author once said – it might even have been Stephen King – it’s like the difference between a kiss and a full blown relationship, and that’s true for a reader and a writer. Shorts also allow you to experiment a little more without worrying too much if it doesn’t work out; you haven’t wasted too much of your time if they don’t. They also let you explore lots of different aspects of life in various ways, using an assortment of techniques, which you might not be able to do in a novel because you’re trying to keep this whole juggernaut going and on track.

Which of your short fiction are you most proud of?

That’s a tough one, because it’s like asking you to choose between your children. I suppose I’ll go with the ones that other people liked the most: the award-winning ‘A Chaos Demon is for Life’; ‘Rag and Bone’ which appeared in The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror; ‘The Weeping Woman’, which was turned into a short film… All three are in Monsters coincidentally, and the limited edition hardback comes with a free DVD of that movie, directed by award-winner Mark Steensland, starring Fright Night’s Stephen Geoffreys and with music from legendary Fulci-collaborator Fabio Frizzi.

And are there shorts by other writers that have stuck with you?

Definitely, but again too many to list. However, I will mention ones like: Chris Fowler’s ‘Hated’ from the collection Flesh Wounds, about a man who is on the receiving end of a hate curse; Simon Clark’s ‘The Burning Doorway’ in which a crematory attendant sees figures get up and create a door to paradise inside a furnace; Robert Shearman’s ‘Mortal Coil’ where everyone is told when and how they will die; Ray Bradbury’s ‘The Homecoming’ about monsters at Halloween, which influenced my recent short ‘Michael the Monster’ from A Darke Phantastique; Neil Gaiman’s retelling of The Three Billy Goats Gruff ‘Troll Bridge’; a bit of cheat as it was in the anthology we edited, Hellbound Hearts, but Sarah Pinborough’s ‘The Confessor’s Tale’; and then of course a Clive one – and I’ll go with ‘Human Remains’ here, as that’s always stayed with me since I first read it. The perfect meditation on what it means to be human and how we should be grateful to be alive in the first place. As I say, there are tons of others, but we’d be here all year.

You’ve also recently published Flaming Arrow, the fourth contribution to your Arrowhead series in Abaddon’s Afterblight world – what was it like returning to the series and what can we expect from this new instalment?

That came about after the omnibus edition of the three Arrowhead novels – Hooded Man – sold out of its first print run incredibly quickly. It coincided with me thinking about what might have happened to the characters I wrote about a few years down the line, and so when new Abaddon editor David Thomas Moore dropped me a line and said did I want to pen a new novella in that universe, I already had a story half-forming in my mind and jumped at the chance. It was actually a little like slipping on a pair of comfortable slippers again, because I’d already written close to a third of a million words about these people and their lives. Anyone who’s seen Hooded Man knows it’s a doorstopper of a book!

Picking up the tale several years after Arrowland gave me the chance to examine things like the generation gap in a way I hadn’t before, with Robert now an older more grizzled Hood, thinking about handing over control of his Rangers to his adopted son, Mark. But, of course, things don’t go anywhere near according to plan and we see chaos erupting at home in Britain. At the same time, Robert is on a tour of Ranger stations abroad and finds himself facing a new kind of foe; genetically engineered monsters this time, which allowed me to do a tighter, siege-like story, in contrast to all the huge battles I’d tackled before. All in all I had a whale of a time writing it, and from the reviews so far people seem to be having just as much fun reading it.

Clive Barker calls you the resident expert on Hellraiser and Peter Atkins goes further and calls you the world’s leading expert on this iconic series – how did you discover Hellraiser and what’s the appeal of it for you?

As mentioned, I came across Clive’s fiction first, reading ‘The Hellbound Heart’ in the anthology Dark Visions, edited by George R.R. Martin. Then I remember seeing this video in local stores which had a picture of a guy with all these nails banged into his head on the cover, stupidly not connecting the two until I started to read the blurb. I wasn’t old enough to see Hellraiser at the cinema and couldn’t even buy the video myself – I think I borrowed it from a friend’s brother initially – but I recall being desperate to see it! When I did, it scared the crap out of me, naturally, but at the same time I could see that something else was going on. The story was layered, the effects were excellent – I mean just look at Bob Keen’s Frank; it’s amazing and still holds up today – and you had this new way of summoning demons through a kind of Pandora’s Box.

The Cenobites themselves were a particular highlight for me, they were just so unique. Nobody had ever done them as these ‘magnificent superbutchers’ – as Clive describes them – before. In the past they’d been all horns and scales, or demon babies. Basically, it just had the whole package and I fell in love with the film and the mythology instantly. It’s also one of those mythos that can just expand and expand, as the sequels and comics and our anthology have shown. There’s a reason it’s still as popular as ever almost thirty years after the original.

You’ve also edited anthologies – do you find the experience has sharpened or changed your approach to writing?   

Editing anthologies, like teaching creative writing classes – which I used to do up until a few years ago – definitely help with your own writing. They help you to spot mistakes and on the flip side see how good stories are constructed. You have a distance there with other people’s stories that you don’t have with your own, so it kind of trains you to do that when it comes to editing your own stuff. You end up approaching it objectively, especially if you put it to one side for a little while before coming back to it. Both help to sharpen your own writing, forcing you to look harder at stories, to spot what’s good and what’s bad – but also to help with your own judgement about such things.  I’ve loved editing anthologies, from the very first in the small press to mass market ones later on such as The Mammoth Book of Body Horror and Beyond Rue Morgue. It’s a real treat for me and a change of pace from working on my own material, which keeps everything fresh.

Do you have a dream anthology you’d like to do but haven’t yet?

I do, and funnily enough I got very close to doing it last year. There were lots of phone calls backwards and forwards to the US, but in the end it didn’t happen. I never say never, though, so I don’t want to mention what it is in case it ever comes around again. For a little while back there, though, things were incredibly exciting.

And how have you found the process of co-editing with Marie?

Oh, I thoroughly enjoy it. Marie and I have very similar tastes in fiction, as in everything else. I can’t think of anything better than working with your best friend, apart from – of course – being married to her, so I count myself incredibly lucky in every respect there. I’ve edited anthologies on my own, but do prefer to have another set of eyes on the case, whether it’s Marie or someone else, as you can go a bit wordblind. Plus which, other people bring different things to the table. Charles Prepolec, for instance, was perfect for a project like Beyond Rue Morgue and I knew this because he’d edited my story ‘The Greatest Mystery’ for his Holmes anthology Gaslight Arcanum. Having said all that, I’ve just put an anthology to bed that I worked on by myself, but that’s a rather unusual case… and I can’t say too much about it at this time.

Room 101 time: what one genre cliché would you get rid of?

Blimey, I’m probably the wrong person to ask that as I love all the clichés, good and bad. Vampires that turn into bats, werewolves howling at the moon, cobweb-filled castles, mad scientists, shambling zombies. I’m a sucker for all of that stuff. Maybe cats jumping out at people who are going down dark corridors – that’s probably had its day. I’d like to see a badger jump out at someone or something, that would make it a bit different.

And finally, what are you up to next?

It’s been one of the busiest times I can remember actually. You catch me as I’ve just finished writing the first draft of a mass market novel (the only just announced Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell for Solaris . So it’s been writing that and the graphic novel over the summer, as well as going to various conventions, like Edge-Lit and Derby Literary Festival.

I was a guest at three events, the BSFA/BFS SSF Social with Jacey Bedford in June, HorrorCon in July and Liverpool HorrorFest in August. I had a great time at all three. I also attended the launch of the Leviathan documentary at the Cinema Museum in London, as I have a 30 minute featurette on the DVD talking about the Hellraiser sequels. I’ve been doing quite a bit of PR work to promote Flaming Arrow and Monsters, as well, including interviews like this one, blog posts, podcasts, TV appearances…

Other releases out or due out include: the latest Dalton Quayle from Pendragon, The Bric-a-brac Man, which contains two new comedy horror novellas; Hellraisers, which is an interview book from Avalard featuring brand new chats with all the major players in the franchise; the sequel to RED, Blood RED – also from SST – which contains both the original novella, the brand new short novel and a host of extras, such as an extract from the award-winning screenplay based on RED, character sketches and so on… that comes with a Dave McKean cover and an introduction by Alison Littlewood; the graphic novel of Lunar – which is also being turned into a feature film by The 7th Dimension director Brad Watson, based on my script; plus a new collection called Disexistence which gathers together a lot of my new shorts from the last few years, introduced by Nancy Holder… There’s more, but that’ll do for now!

As for upcoming appearances, I’ll be at FantasyCon in October doing stuff and plugging stuff, and one of the guest speakers in November on a course in Derby called ‘The World of Writing and Publishing’, where I’ll be talking about how to make your living as a writer.

Thank you for joining us Paul!

Paul Kane is the award-winning, bestselling author and editor of over fifty books – including the Arrowhead trilogy (gathered together in the sellout Hooded Man omnibus, revolving around a post-apocalyptic version of Robin Hood), The Butterfly Man and Other Stories, Hellbound Hearts and The Mammoth Book of Body Horror. His non-fiction books include The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy and Voices in the Dark, and his genre journalism has appeared in the likes of SFX, Rue Morgue and DeathRay. He has been a Guest at Alt.Fiction five times, was a Guest at the first SFX Weekender, at Thought Bubble in 2011, Derbyshire Literary Festival and Off the Shelf in 2012, Monster Mash and Event Horizon in 2013, Edge-Lit in 2014, plus HorrorCon and HorrorFest in 2015, as well as being a panellist at FantasyCon and the World Fantasy Convention. His work has been optioned and adapted for the big and small screen, including for US network television, plus his latest novels are Lunar (set to be turned into a feature film) and the Y.A. story The Rainbow Man (as P.B. Kane), with the sequel to REDBlood RED – forthcoming from SST Publications. He lives in Derbyshire, UK, with his wife Marie O’Regan, his family and a black cat called Mina. Find out more at his site http://www.shadow-writer.co.uk which has featured Guest Writers such as Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Charlaine Harris, Dean Koontz and Guillermo del Toro.

You can buy Monsters from Amazon here and Flaming Arrow from Amazon here or direct from Rebellion here.

11 September 2015

Interview with Alec McQuay

Today we welcome the author of the kick-ass Emily Nation (Fox Spirit Books) to answer a few questions – Alec McQuay, take it away….

Who is Alec McQuay and what do you write?

Hi! Alec is a… Wait, I’m not famous enough to get away with 3rd person. I’m a genre fiction writer from West Cornwall and I like to write across different genres. Fun for me, a nightmare for those who have to allocate it a place on Amazon / a bookshelf. At the moment my work is centred around the western and steam / cyber-punk world of Emily Nation.

How long have you been writing and how did you get started?

I’ve been writing odd bits of fan-fiction since I was about ten but I’ve been putting in serious time on it for probably the last six years or so, since I became a dad. I ended up writing my first novella because I was awake at all hours and needed something to occupy my time and when that got picked up by Fox Spirit, I just kept at it.

Which authors have been an influence to you?

I’m a big fan of Terry Pratchett most of all – he was a phenomenal writer, world builder and character creator and also a wonderful human being. I had the privilege of meeting him at a book signing and he was so warm and friendly, in spite of my awkwardness. I also love Brian Jacques and his Redwall series, along with Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin (Tank girl creators) Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta etc) and Gerry Duggan, who was head writer on the most recent Marvel Now! Deadpool series. I love their humour and the darkness of their writing.

Let’s talk Emily Nation – what’s it all about and what led you to writing about post-apocalyptic assassins?

The book is about the titular character making a complete balls-up of a job and having to deal with the consequences. She was young, over confident and armed to the teeth and instead of nipping a problem in the bud, she created a power vacuum that lead to the destruction of the things she cared most about. Long afterwards she is sought out to return to the scene of her mistake and help deal with the chaos she helped to create.

I’m drawn to assassins because they’re quite frightening. They can be anything from an exceptional fighter who can outdo much larger, stronger opponents toe-to-toe, right up to a killer in the distance who you never even know are there. If you upset the wrong person, a woman with a rifle could be taking aim at you right now, from a rooftop a mile away. Nothing you could do to stop them and you’d never even be able to raise the alarm. Much scarier to me than a monster under the bed. The setting I love because you can do anything with it – you can take anywhere you like and warp it in the wake of a natural, man-made or even magical disaster. There’s just so much potential!

Who is your favourite character from Emily Nation and why?  And how about your least favourite character?  What makes them less appealing to you?

Naturally I love Emily, but Jemima is my favourite. She is absolutely lethal and you get the sense that she has been through a hell of a lot that she doesn’t talk about, but she doesn’t let it define her. She’s violent, she swears (a lot) and while she has a sexualised aspect, she has complete agency over how she presents herself. If you’re daft enough to ogle her and she breaks your nose for it, that would be your fault.

My least favourite character is Mr King. Everyone has to have some depth to them and a motivation for what they do, but beneath his hard exterior he’s just a callous, nasty little shit of a man. I’ve known quite a few people who go out of their way just to be unpleasant and he’s pretty much a patch-work quilt made from thirty years-worth of gits.

You also went post-apocalyptic in your novella Spares – what’s the appeal of the post-apocalyptic scenario and how does it influence the story in Spares?

I’ve grown up either surrounded by stories in those settings (Mad Max etc) or surrounded by people going on about this, that or the other being poised to bugger the world up beyond repair. Climate change, war with any one of so many other cultures, aliens, meteors, the Sun spontaneously turning into a huge ball of peanuts and sending us all into anaphylactic shock. If it’s not the environment then we’re all eating too much / little protein, too much / little carbs, everything is going to give you cancer, we’re going to create robots and those robots are going to call us names and beat us up… It just never ended. Mind you… ask a Native American or an Australian Aboriginal person about what it would be like to live in a post-apocalyptic setting and they might just laugh and tell you to take a look around.

The love of the post-apoc setting spun out of all that really, and Spares in particular with our obsession for living longer rather than better. The more time we have to do a thing, the less urgently we approach it. That’s natural to a degree so that we don’t exist in a constant state of panic, but if something happened and suddenly we’d never die, but everything still wore out? How would we cope? How would immortality change us? I had fun with it but one day I want to come back to that setting and give it a lot more time and a lot more thought. Some people barely have enough humanity to last them a lifetime. What the hell would they do with eternity?

What are your recommendations for other post-apocalyptic adventures?

In terms of movies, the four Mad Max movies to date with a particular love for Fury Road. Richard Matheson’s I am Legend is a wonderful book (albeit a sub-par movie) if you’re a fan of zombie-apocalypse settings and games wise, give Borderlands a go. It’s part post-apoc, part western, funny as hell and a really great ride. One of the downloadable content packs is called Island of Doctor Ned and is a zombie-outbreak type area that is at least seventeen different kinds of fun. Ticks multiple boxes.

Room 101 time: what one genre cliché would you get rid of?

I’d be in deep trouble if I said post-apoc, right…?

One of my major gripes in genre fiction, movies, television and allsorts is the idea that violence is absolutely fine so long as no-one is swearing. I’ve played games where people are killed by having giant chainsaws rammed through their torsos, they’re held aloft and the chainsaw’s motor is revved hard until blood spills out everywhere and the victim is dead, but no-one said anything naughty. I’ve seen shows where people have bamboo rammed under their fingernails and their response sounded like AAAAAAAAAHHHHHH. I’ve seen movies where people are torn apart by horses tied to each of their limbs and they didn’t curse once. I’m not saying everything adult in nature has to be saturated with bad language but if you feel that the depiction of horrific violence is less offensive or “adult” than seeing a human being tortured, killed or eviscerated, well then I think you should jump into Room 101 along with the cliché.

If you could kill off any character from any other book, who would you choose and how would they die?

I want two but they’re from the same book(s)! I would take Vernon Dursley and Delores Umbridge (of Harry Potter infamy), have them grabbed by the lapels by a swarm of disgruntled Hogwarts owls, hoisted to about 20,000 feet and dropped into an industrial wood chipper. I have an absolutely pathological hatred of cruel people and bullies who abuse what little power they have to just be foul to other people. Reading those two made me very cross.

What are you up to next?

Currently I’ve got a lot on my plate – I’m writing Emily Nation 2, working my way through a novella series with a group of writers producing a superhero series by the name of Outliers, I have some short fiction in the works for Fox Spirit and I’m training for my first powerlifting competition in November. Never enough hours in the day, but I love it.

Thank you for joining us Alec!

Alec McQuay is a horror, fantasy and science fiction writer hailing from Cornwall in the south-west of England; an area renowned for natural outstanding beauty and the worst internet connections in the country. Capable of going off at odd tangents, bizarre flights of fantasy and generally being incapable of taking things like bio-writing seriously, Alec spends most of his time scribbling notes and ideas on his phone and talking the ears off his wife and friends about whatever mad-cap scheme he intends to write next.  You can find him at his website https://alecmcquay.wordpress.com or on twitter as @VampiricChicken

Emily Nation is published by Fox Spirit Books and is available from Amazon.

08 September 2015

Interview with Jan Edwards

Jan Edwards is a woman of many talents – writer, editor, publisher, bookseller, Reiki master, tarot reader, quilter, motorbike chick, Britain’s first female master locksmith, gardener, cook, potter and sculptor…

So, first let’s talk about Jan the writer. When did you first start writing and what genres draw you.
It always sounds like such a cliché to say I have always written, for as long as I can remember, but I suspect this is quite true with the majority of writers. I amused the family no end by talking in the third person for a week or more when I was around seven years old, because I wanted to see what I would sound like as a book and at secondary school I filled many school notebooks with fiction (mostly during lesson times). I wrote primarily for myself for years and only really started thinking about writing for publication in my late thirties when the family and business needed less of my time.

What draws me? I have always been fascinated by folklore, myths and legends, especially those that give rise to local customs, so fantasy was a natural path. A great deal of my short fiction has been dark fantasy, urban fantasy and horror and many of those stories have been drawn directly from those sources. Sussex Tales, my mainstream novel, also has a lean toward those local customs with the added bonus of country wine recipes and rural herb lore.  Currently I am writing a crime novel set in WW2 which is more historical than mythical –though I still find myself caught up in the same levels of research. As you can see there is no one genre that draws me; except for a recurring love of those old legends.

Which authors have inspired you in these genres?
This is the kind of question I always hate answering mainly because my influences and inspirations are so wide. Jane Austen and Daphne Du Maurier have always been huge influences, as have Arthur Conan Doyle, Joan Aitken, Michael Moorcock, Robert Holdstock and so many more. Ask me tomorrow and I will find a half dozen others.

When it comes to more recent authors it is even harder to choose because we all read so many new titles by so many people that to name one or two above the rest would be unfair to the dozens of other equally spiffing writers. I could list all of the recent and forthcoming Alchemy Press authors such as Pete Atkins, Jessica Amanda Salmonson, Bryn Fortey, Mike Chinn, Anne Nichols, Adrian Cole, Pauline Dungate, James Brogden, Paul Kane, Marion Pitman, David Sutton,  John Grant et al – or the Penkhull Press writers; Misha Herwin, Jem Shaw and Malcolm Havard – but that would be unfair to all of the other writers that not yet published by either press!

Recently read books that I’ve enjoyed most especially (who are not Alchemy Press writers – all of whom are fab!) have been by (in no special order) Jo Walton, Joanne Harris, Jim Butcher, Lou Morgan and Paul Finch. There are others of course but these are the ones that have stuck with me, which is always a good sign.

Have you ever been tempted to retell Pride and Prejudice with a genre slant? ;-)
It has crossed my mind, though it has been done so many times already that I am not sure it would be a project people would want to see. A regency urban fantasy might be quite fun to do if I got my act together. Elizabeth Bennett is one of the greatest characters in literature. She could be parachuted into almost any setting and still work. I suspect she has been paid homage (and occasionally pastiched) by many, many, writers – albeit under different names.

You’ve just had your supernatural fiction collection Leinster Gardens and Other Subtleties published with The Alchemy Press. Tell us a little more about that.
Leinster Gardens and Other Subtleties  (to paraphrase) is exactly what it says on the cover. A collection of supernatural fiction (in paper and kindle formats). All but one of the stories included have been previously published, and some of the stories had a limited audience on first publication it seemed like a good idea to give them a second airing. The single original story in there is not strictly speaking new as it was accepted for Twisted Tongue magazine which folded before my story was published. They are all supernatural in origin, either traditional ghost stories or tales that revolve around a spirit of a kind. I am not a writer of visceral horror, but rather (I hope) the sort that raises an uneasy sensation in the back of the neck when you are walking home in the dark!

You’ve got another collection – Fables and Fabulations – coming out soon. When, with whom and is there a particular theme to it?
Fables and Fabulations is coming out very soon as a ‘Penkhull Slim’ volume with the Penkhull Press. Again these are all previously published stories gathered together in a single volume, but unlike Leinster Gardens and Other Subtleties there is no particular theme beyond fantasy in its broadest sense. Fables and Fabulations opens with the vampire tale ‘A Taste of Culture, (first published in the Mammoth Book of Dracula and ends with ‘Winter Eve’, (from Ethereal Tales #9) which is an urban fantasy on Halloween and the water horses of legend galloping across Pontypridd common.  There is also are SF and horror tales in the mix so hopefully something for everyone.

Next, Jan the editor. You’ve edited multiple publications for the BFS, and co-edited for both The Alchemy Press and Fox Spirit Books. What’s the appeal of this side of publishing for you?
I do love the process of putting an anthology together. Sifting through the submissions and coming across those gems of short fiction is hard work but infinitely rewarding. The downside is in having to reject some really good stuff, either because it doesn’t fit or there is a similar story that you like just that little bit better. It is also a great way to network with other writers!

Do you have a dream anthology project you’d like to do or authors you’d like to work with in the future?
There are so many projects that would be fun to do. Something with a pagan theme perhaps – ‘Quarters and Cross Quarters’ (a working title) or maybe as an retired locksmith something like ‘Picking Over Locks’. That said I prefer not to have my themes too narrowly set. By the time you have read the sixth story about one-legged zombie hunters or Unicorns at Halloween even the best of fiction can lack originality.

Who would I like to work with? Hmm. Well the Alchemy Press books of Urban Mythic 1 &2 and Alchemy Press book of Ancient Wonders as well as the Fox Spirit book of Wicked Women all have some stellar line-ups. Top notch established writers and talented new arrivals. And of course with Alchemy Press I have worked with some fabulous writers already mentioned. So who left? I would love to get stories from Charles de Lint or Jim Butcher, Joanne Harris or Sarah Pinborough. But there are dozens, maybe hundreds of writers I could name and would hate to make a list and forget to include folks I admire but who slipped my mind just for a moment.

Do you have any recommendations for short fiction or anthologies by others?
Other than Alchemy Press authors you mean? See above. There are a zillion great writers out there I could name! The Terror Tales series of anthologies from Gray Friar Press are always worth reading. Sadly the Mammoth imprint is being phased out – I was thrilled to get a story accepted for one of their last titles Mammoth book of The Adventures of Moriarty. PS publishing put out some cracking anthologies. As a writer I enjoy an anthology that has variety. As an editor, though I use my e-reader as everyone else does, I still feel that books should be a thing of beauty, and I place a lot of value on production values. Layouts should please the eye and typos be few and far between. Most of all, with both hats on, they should entertain. I suspect only the editors like every story in a given anthology, but the good thing about them for a reader is that if there is one story in a volume that doesn’t grab you there is a good chance the next one will.

What are you up to next?
I have Fables and Fabulations coming soon, there are short stories due out in three anthologies in The Mammoth Book of the Adventures of Moriarty: The Secret Life of Sherlock Holmes’s Nemesis, Tales From The Lake: vol 2 and Terror Tales of the Ocean, and one other yet to be announced. I have a main stream novel due out with Penkhull Press in the spring and a crime novel and urban fantasy series in edit.

On ‘fun stuff’,  you can catch me in a panel at Fantasycon 2015 in Nottingham, where Alchemy Press will be selling books and launching Music in the Bone, a collection by Marion Pitman.   We shall also be at Novacon in Nottingham selling books, I shall be on  panel about editing and  we will be launching Anne Nicholls’s collection Music From the Fifth Planet; and then there is Sledgelit In Derby where we are selling books and hopefully soft launching the collection The Complete Weird Epistles of Penelope Pettiweather, Ghost Collector  by US writer Jessica Amanda Salmonson .

On other stuff Alchemy Press have multiple short listings in the British Fantasy Awards. Best Anthology: The Alchemy Press Book of Urban Mythic 2, edited by Jan Edwards and Jenny Barber;  Best Collection: Nick Nightmare Investigates, by Adrian Cole (co-published with Airgedlámh Publications);  Best Non-Fiction: Touchstones: Essays on the Fantastic, by John Howard and Best Independent Press: The Alchemy Press itself. (we won this award last year.
Fox Spirit are also in the running for multiple in the BFA shortlists with:  Best Anthology  with Tales of Eve; Best Fantasy Novel Breed by K.T. Davies; Best Short Story with ‘Change of Heart by Gaie Sebold which appears in our Wicked Women anthology (edited by Jenny Barber and Jan Edwards ) and finally for Best Independent Press

Penkhull Press and Renegade Writers have a story café at the Gladstone Museum in Stoke for Halloween.

I have no doubt other things will be slotted into the calendar before the new year. You can always catch up with what I am doing on my blog site.

Jan Edwards, thank you very much for joining us!