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A blog about books and other things speculative

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Interview with Adrian J. Walker, author of The End of the World Running Club


Please welcome Adrian J. Walker to The Qwillery as part of the of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The End of the World Running Club is published on September 5th by Sourcebooks Landmark.



Interview with Adrian J. Walker, author of The End of the World Running Club




TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Adrian:  I started writing poetry when I was 8 years old and carried on through my teens. (Trust me when I say you do not want to read the results.) Then I discovered Douglas Adams, Stephen King, Tom Robbins, Glen Duncan, Zadie Smith…and realised that I wanted to write a novel. I had several false starts, including a month in my twenties holed up on a deserted beach in New Zealand, and it took me till my 30s before I completed my first book (From the Storm).



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Adrian:  I’ve tried both and I definitely prefer plotting. For my next book I’ve written scene cards, which I spread out on the kitchen table so I can see the story end to end.

That said, sometimes you have to go off the beaten track a little, which is why I ‘pants’ dialogue. If your characters are strong then their interaction can often lead you down unexpected and useful roads. The screenwriter John Logan tells a great story about how he wrote one of the pivotal scenes in Gladiator. Look it up!



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Adrian:  Resisting the urge to describe too much. The more a reader has to create the scene in her head, the more vivid it will be. The trick is to provide the right pointers; you’re really just showing her around her own imagination.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Adrian:  My fears inspire me, and every one of my books contains at least one scene which I’ve dreamed. I read a lot of non-fiction books too, so I generally write about what I’m obsessed with. Right now I’m reading ‘To Be A Machine’ by Mark O’Connell, which is about Transhumanism.



TQDescribe The End of the World Running Club in 140 characters or less.

Adrian:  Overwhelmed and underwhelming father runs 500 miles across a post-apocalyptic UK to reach his family before they’re evacuated for good!



TQTell us something about The End of the World Running Club that is not found in the book description.

Adrian:  I cried a bit when I wrote the ending. You’ll either love it or hate it.



TQWhat inspired you to write The End of the World Running Club? What appealed to you about writing a post-apocalyptic thriller?

Adrian:  I have wanted to write a book set in a post-apocalyptic world ever since reading Lucifer’s Hammer (Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven) as a teenager. What appeals to me about PA is the idea of emptiness, not just physically but socially. Removing all the constructs we’re used to in the 21st century allows you to explore characters in interesting ways.

It was running and fatherhood (both of which I had just found when I wrote the book) which inspired me to write Running Club. I wanted to superimpose the journey of somebody learning to run, and to be a parent, onto this empty world.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The End of the World Running Club?

Adrian:  Apart from my own experiences, (I’ve run a couple of marathons but never more than that) I interviewed a number of ultra-distance runners. They’re an extremely interesting bunch with lots to say on the subject, and the most interesting answers were about the psychological effects of running very long distances, which I explore in the book.



TQPlease tell us about the cover for The End of the World Running Club.

Adrian:  I spend way too much time thinking about covers! The US one is radically different to the UK version, which is almost pure typography. This in turn is even more different to my original cover (more cryptic), back when I self-published the book in 2014. The US cover depicts Ed walking (or running) into a doom-laden sky and a red horizon, with crows circling him. I love how the colours pop.



TQIn The End of the World Running Club who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Adrian:  The easiest character to write was Jacob, a cameo of a friend of mine named Tobias. But Ed was easy too, since he’s a caricature of what was my darker side at the time. Grimes was hard. She’s the group’s protector, but I didn’t want her to just be a stereotypical tough soldier. She has her own vulnerability and history too.



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in The End of the World Running Club?

Adrian:  I’m not sure I explore too many social issues, other than how I imagine various types of society would function after an apocalyptic event (Edinburgh’s underground warrens, a Manchester housing scheme, a stately home, a boating community on the south coast). The story is really about Ed’s own personal journey.



TQWhich question about The End of the World Running Club do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Adrian:  Why do you mention a particular song near the end of the book?

Because it’s my favourite song to run to by my favourite band in the world, and I wanted to give it as a gift in the last scene. The lead singer of the band died earlier this year, so it’s even more relevant to me now.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The End of the World Running Club.

Adrian:  Okey dokey.

‘Belief’s are strange. Things of certainty about things uncertain.’ (Ed)

‘We’re all born screaming, Ed. The moment we pop out our throats open and the same scream bursts out that always has done. We see all the lights and faces and the shadows and the strange sounds and we scream. Life screams and we scream back at it.’ (Harvey)

‘I feel like I’m running through a fart.’ (Bryce)

‘Do I believe in God? I still don’t know. Did I meet him in the canyon? Yes.
Absolutely yes.’ (Ed)



TQWhat's next?

Adrian:  My next book, THE LAST DOG ON EARTH, has just been published in the UK and (fingers crossed) it will make its appearance in the US before long. I’m currently completing my next book for Penguin Random House, after which I’m planning to write WORDS, the second book in my self-published EARTH INCORPORATED trilogy. I also have another title called THE OTHER LIVES coming out in a few months time. Lots of books!



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.





The End of the World Running Club
Sourcebooks Landmark, September 5, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 464 pages

Interview with Adrian J. Walker, author of The End of the World Running Club
#1 International Bestseller

"A fresh and frighteningly real take on what "the end" might be…quite an exciting and nerve-wracking 'run', with characters you believe in and feel for."—New York Times bestselling author Robert McCammon

Perfect for fans of The Martian, this powerful post-apocalyptic thriller pits reluctant father Edgar Hill in a race against time to get back to his wife and children. When the sky begins to fall and he finds himself alone, his best hope is to run – or risk losing what he loves forever.

When the world ends and you find yourself forsaken, every second counts.

No one knows this more than Edgar Hill. Stranded on the other side of the country from his wife and children, Ed must push himself across a devastated wasteland to get back to them. With the clock ticking and hundreds of miles between them, his best hope is to run — or risk losing what he loves forever.





About Adrian

Interview with Adrian J. Walker, author of The End of the World Running Club
Adrian J. Walker was born in the bush suburbs of Sydney, Australia, in the mid-’70s. After his father found a camper van in a ditch, he moved his family back to the UK, where Adrian was raised. Visit him at www.adrianjwalker.com.












Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @adrianwalker


Interview with H.P. Wood, author of Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet


Please welcome H.P. Wood to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet was published on June 7th by Sourcebooks Landmark.



Interview with H.P. Wood, author of Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet




TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

H.P. Wood:  Thank you! I’ve enjoyed writing for as long as I can remember. I use it as a way to think things over (friends who suffer through my lengthy emails can confirm). In college I had a job teaching writing to other students, but I didn’t think about being a writer. Then I became a book editor but I basically thought of writing as something other people did. It was only about 8-10 years ago that I said, hey wait a second….



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

HPW:  I try to have a few scenes or moments in mind that I want to get to—that I kind of write towards. But mainly I stand with pantsers (also panthers; thanks, autocorrect).

I have no beef with plotters. Writing is hard, do whatever works! But for me it’s like, yeah, let’s wander down that bramble-y path and see what happens. Is it efficient? Nope. But how will I know what’s possible if I hang back in the safety of the clearing?

Structure is important, but for me it comes later. Rewrites turn random wanderings into clearly marked hiking trails. The trick is, you can rewrite over and over until you find your way… but the reader will never know how long you spent lost. (In the case of Magruder's, years!!)



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

HPW:  There are times when a particular scene just needs to exist for plot reasons: X needs to occur so that Y and Z can follow. I know how that moment needs to function and what the characters shouldzzzzzzzzz….. see I just fell asleep thinking about it.

When I know too much about what I’m about to write, I lose interest in writing it. Basically I am a toddler who wants to throw ideas around the room but doesn’t care to clean up after.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

HPW:  Written influences? Oh gosh.… Mother Night. We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Blindness. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Song of Solomon. The World According to Garp. The Westing Game. “It!” (Sturgeon). Orestes 2.0. Metropolitan Life. Confederacy of Dunces. One Hundred Years of Solitude. “Incarnations of Burned Children.” American Gods. Endgame.

Other influences: Bertolt Brecht. Tina Fey. Joe Strummer. RuPaul. Hoppy IPAs. The corner of West 4th and West 10th, because it reminds me that life is fundamentally absurd.



TQDescribe Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet in 140 characters or less.

HPW:  When I read this question, the first thing I thought of was Amy Poehler inventing her own lyrics to “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” So I’m going with it.

Coney Island/Sideshow/Lost girl/Where’d mom go
Got plague/Oh no!/Freaks react w gusto
You will laugh/You will cry/Characters you like’ll die
[I am way too proud of this/I think I may make T-shirts]



TQTell us something about Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet that is not found in the book description.

HPW:  [whisper] The pretty white girl described on the jacket is not the most important character.



TQWhat inspired you to write Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet? What appealed to you about writing a novel set in turn-of-the-century Coney Island? What is a curiosity cabinet?

HPW:  I read an entry in a book called The People’s Almanac about a mother and daughter in Paris in 1900. The mother got sick and the hotel disappeared her, to hide the fact that she had the plague. But I kept thinking about the daughter. Where’d she go? What’d she do? The only way I’d get answers was to write them myself. I used to hang out at Coney a lot when I was in my 20s, so I relocated the story. Off I went into the aforementioned brambles to discover what happened next.

The curiosity cabinet (or wunderkamminer) is the grandmother of the museum. In 16th century Europe, curiosity cabinets held (in the words of one expert) “curious items from home and abroad.” Contents ranged from vast collections of rare treasures to a few shelves of weird crap. Magruder’s is a vast collection of weird crap.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet?

HPW:  There are tons of photos and even a little bit of film from Coney in the early 1900s, so that was super-helpful. But mainly it was reading reading reading and then more reading: about sideshows, plagues, quarantines, all kinds of fun stuff.

Most influential to me was material not just about the time but of the time. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser. A 1904 visitor’s guide to Coney. News coverage of bubonic plague in San Francisco. Etc. The reason Zeph is reading W.E.B. DuBois is because I was reading DuBois and I fell in love with him. (BTW, I’ve got a bibliography at hpwood.net if you’re interested.)



TQIn Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

HPW:  I’m having trouble answering “hardest” because I spent 5 years on this book so I feel like all the characters are my pals at this point. But certainly the character of Zeph took the most preparation—he’s the son of Tennessee sharecroppers who lost his legs in an accident and was sold to a sideshow… Of all the characters, his life is the most profoundly different from mine in the largest number of ways.

Easiest has got to be Archie the con man, because I could just write as many jokes as I wanted! Archie is my id: any mean, selfish, or just obnoxious thing I thought of, I gave to him to say.



TQWhy have you chosen to include social issues in Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet?

HPW:  Any time you are writing about sideshows you are, by definition, writing about difference. You’re writing about the Other. The politics are baked in, so the only question is, are you going to run away from that or towards it…. and I went in headfirst.



TQWhich question about Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

HPW:  In all candor, the question I most want to be asked is: “Will you allow Joss Whedon to turn Magruder’s into a movie/TV series/Broadway musical/virtual reality ride/mobile app/private show at his house???”

To which I will shyly answer, “Wellllllllll, okaaaaaaaayyyy.…”



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet.

HPW:  “The little folk stare balefully at the Brooklyn prince reduced to pleading in the street. They can’t help but enjoy saying no to someone who’s enjoyed such a glittering lifetime of yes.”



TQWhat's next?

HPW:  I just finished the draft of a kids’ book about different types of con artists called Fakers. In a certain way, it’s a nonfiction version of Magruder’s.

I’m also working on another novel. There are monsters. The monsters bust up a bunch of stuff. I’ll say this much: that reviewer who counseled me to “find a less dark subject to entertain readers” is going to be pretty f***ing disappointed.

[If you want to keep informed, maybe follow me on one of them social media thingamajigs…I’m @hilarywrites on the tweeter and HPWoodWriter on the FB.]



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

HPW:  It was a pleasure. You are my first-ever interview, so how do you like them apples? Thanks for everything you do for books!

TQ:  We absolutely like them apples!





Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet
Sourcebooks Landmark, June 7, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Interview with H.P. Wood, author of Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet
A hypnotic debut in turn-of-the-century Coney Island, where an abandoned girl collides with a disgruntled ménage of circus freaks.

Kitty Hayward and her mother are ready to experience the spectacles of Coney Island’s newest attraction, the Dreamland amusement park. But when Kitty’s mother vanishes from their hotel, she finds herself penniless, alone, and far from her native England. The last people she expects to help are the cast of characters at Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet, a museum of oddities. From con men to strongmen, from flea wranglers to lion tamers, Kitty’s new friends quickly adopt her and vow to help find the missing Mrs. Hayward. But even these unusual inhabitants may not be a match for the insidious sickness that begins to spread through Coney Island…or the panic that turns Dreamland into a nightmare.

With shades of Water For Elephants and The Museum of Extraordinary Things, Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet sweeps readers into a mesmerizing world where nothing is as it seems, and where “normal” is the exception to the rule.





About H.P. Wood

Interview with H.P. Wood, author of Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet
Photo by Nicole Friedler
H.P. Wood is the granddaughter of a mad inventor and a sideshow magician. Instead of making things disappear, she makes books of all shapes and sizes. She has written or edited works on an array of topics, including the history of the Internet, the future of human rights, and the total awesomeness of playing with sticks. She lives in Connecticut with a charming and patient husband, a daughter from whom she steals all her best ideas, and more cats than is strictly logical. You can find her at hpwood.net.





Website  ~  Twitter @hilarywrites

Facebook HPWoodWriter



2016 Debut Author Challenge - Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet by H.P. Wood


2016 Debut Author Challenge - Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet by H.P. Wood


The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2016 Debut Author Challenge.


H.P. Wood

Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet
Sourcebooks Landmark, June 7, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

2016 Debut Author Challenge - Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet by H.P. Wood
A hypnotic debut in turn-of-the-century Coney Island, where an abandoned girl collides with a disgruntled ménage of circus freaks.

Kitty Hayward and her mother are ready to experience the spectacles of Coney Island’s newest attraction, the Dreamland amusement park. But when Kitty’s mother vanishes from their hotel, she finds herself penniless, alone, and far from her native England. The last people she expects to help are the cast of characters at Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet, a museum of oddities. From con men to strongmen, from flea wranglers to lion tamers, Kitty’s new friends quickly adopt her and vow to help find the missing Mrs. Hayward. But even these unusual inhabitants may not be a match for the insidious sickness that begins to spread through Coney Island…or the panic that turns Dreamland into a nightmare.

With shades of Water For Elephants and The Museum of Extraordinary Things, Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet sweeps readers into a mesmerizing world where nothing is as it seems, and where “normal” is the exception to the rule.

Interview with Scott Wilbanks, author of The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster


Please welcome Scott Wilbanks to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster was published on August 4th by Sourcebooks Landmark.



Interview with Scott Wilbanks, author of The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster




TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Scott:  Thank you, but we’re so not digging into these questions until someone tells me how you came up with the name for the blogspot. I… love… it.

Assuming a response will find its way into my inbox shortly, I’ll admit that my writing career didn’t have conscious beginnings. It was all a bit of an accident, really. I’d just returned to my hotel room after the closing arguments in a trial that was three years in the making, one in which I’d had to bring a suit against a very large company.

I’d barely closed the door to my hotel room when I experienced an anxiety attack that was so severe I basically collapsed. When able, I crawled into the shower, and the strangest thing happened while the water poured over my head. An odd sentence popped into my head that had to do with an imaginary character I’d been toying with. It was still bouncing around in my head when I was heading to bed, so I simply wrote it down on a piece of loose-leaf paper.

Two days later, I stumbled over it while I was cleaning out my brief case back in San Francisco. It intrigued me. I wrote another sentence on a whim. Then another. A little over two months later, I’d written close to four-hundred-fifty pages.

Now, let me be clear. They were the worst words ever written. Full Stop. But they provided the seed from which I taught myself the basics in the craft of writing, and eventually—after several detours—evolved into The Lemoncholy Life Of Annie Aster in its final iteration.



TQAre you a plotter, pantser or hybrid?

Scott:  Well, I haven’t established much of a track record yet, but if Lemoncholy is any example, I’m not just a pantser, I’m a bona fide stream-of-consciousness(er).

That being said, I recently had to flip the script for my sophomore effort, because my agent was pressing not only for opening chapters, but also a plot synopsis. That meant I couldn’t simply follow my nose. I had to build the story line from start to finish before I dug into my chapters. And while I can say that it is a more efficient approach, I can also confidently say that I’m more of a free-for-all, throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks kind of guy at heart.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Scott:  Finding the courage to put the first word down on the page, I kid you not. I suspect it’s an OCD thing. By the time I’d whipped Lemoncholy into publishable shape, I had a basic grasp of how high to set the literary bar, and that’s a good thing. The problem lies in the fact that I don’t simply want to attain it, I want to leave it in the dust—from the word go. I set impossible standards for myself. So, starting is a wrench, sort of like getting a train moving. The wheels move slowly at first, but eventually gain a head of steam.



TQWho are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Scott:  Don’t laugh, but I’m falling in love with Jane Austen these days. Of the contemporary authors whose work I’ve been reading, Deborah Harkness, Erin Morgenstern, and David Mitchell’s works have lingered in my head long after I’ve closed the back cover. It’s JRR Tolkien, however, who turned me into a book-a-day nerd by the age of fourteen and who fuelled my outside-the-lines imagination. I would never have written a word if it weren’t for his trilogy.



TQDescribe The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster in 140 characters or less.

Scott:  OMG, this is going to suck really bad! Tweeting is my Achilles heel. LOL

In LEMONCHOLY, love and fate conspire to save two, awaken three, and unite a family of five misfits separated in the stream of time.

Or (for those who prefer less abstraction in their loglines)

LEMONCHOLY tells a story of two pen pals, separated in time, who must solve a homicide that is yet to happen, and yet somehow already did.



TQTell us something about The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster that is not found in the book description.

Scott:  All the hype has been on Annabelle Aster and Elsbeth Grundy’s time-twisting adventure, but there is a secondary story line woven throughout Lemoncholy that I’m quite fond of. It involves Annie’s best friend, Christian, a man burdened by a secret buried so deep within his subconscious that it leaves him with a debilitating stutter, and Edmond, a man whose struggle to master his own demon—drug addiction—brings the thing that is haunting Christian into the light of day.



TQWhat inspired you to write The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster? What appealed to you about writing an historical fantasy?

Scott:  A botched first date, I kid you not.

We were having coffee, and I thought everything was going swimmingly, that is, until he said, “I think we’re destined to be great friends.” The conversation took a cataclysmic decline at that point, and I drove home with my tail tucked between my legs. It was during that drive that I decided outcomes are only inevitable if you accept them as such, and immediately drummed up Annie and Elsbeth in my head. When I got home, I had Annie write a letter to El, asking for advice regarding her lovestruck friend—me—and fired it off to my failed date’s email address.

The next day, I received a call… from him… at work. Apparently, my email had done the rounds at his office and was a bit of a hit.

“Annie needs to write more,” he said.

“Sadly, she can’t,” I responded.

“Why not?”

“El has to write back,” I answered, as if nothing could be more obvious.

That snippy little retort got me an email in return (from Elsbeth), and a second date. It also got me a third, and led to a regular correspondence in which I acted as the director, and which, ultimately, cemented the personalities of my two leading ladies for LEMONCHOLY.

The historical fiction component, itself, was just a happy accident. I saw Annie as a contemporary San Franciscan with an old world (Victorian) sensibility. So, when I created Elsbeth to be her foil, I simply flipped the script and made her an old world Kansan with a contemporary sensibility, simply for the sake of irony.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster?

Scott:  It’s going to kill me to admit this, but I took a sort of ridiculous pride in doing no research whatsoever. When I was picked up by my agent, things changed. She said the manuscript needed more historical detail, and I quickly learned just how frighteningly comprehensive Google can be. In the end, I went for quirk. I wanted to fold in historical detail that wasn’t expected. For instance, I learned that certain women-of-standing used arsenic as a beauty product, to provide the “wan” look. How weird is that?



TQWho was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Scott:  I’d have to say that Elsbeth was the easiest for me to write, because she’s so unfiltered with her take-no-prisoners attitude. I could let it rip, splattering her cantankerousness all over the page. The only really tricky part censoring that potty mouth of hers while also making the end result blend believably with her expansive schoolmarm vocabulary.

The hardest? Christian—mainly because I used myself as his template. I raised some long-buried demons and rubbed myself raw to get that young man onto the page.



TQWhich question about The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Scott:  What did you wish to accomplish by writing The Lemoncholy Life Of Annie Aster?

I want readers to be as charmed by the words as they are by the story line. I want them to savor the sentences. If I can evoke the wonder of A.A. Milne’s Hundred Acre Woods in any way, or the magic of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, gifting someone with a smile as they read, then I feel I’ve accomplished something meaningful.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster.

Scott

Elsbeth Grundy was a loner, and an odd one at that, but company was headed her way whether she liked it or not.

It very nearly broke Annie’s heart to look at the photograph she’d found on microfiche at the library—Christian being lifted onto a gurney in the foreground, limp as a forgotten saint, his arm dangling over its side, and in the distance behind him, a spray of water arcing from a fireman’s hose onto the blaze that charred the light post about which his car was pulled like taffy.



TQWhat's next?

Scott:  When the book tour is over, and I’m back home in New Zealand, I’m looking forward to digging in on my sophomore effort, a manuscript about the misadventures of a young Southern man who is burdened with the world’s only documented case of chronic, incurable naiveté—the result of a curious subtype of ADD and a lightning strike at the age of four.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Scott:  I’m whooped! That was hard! LOL Seriously, though, it was fun, and I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to interview me.





The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster
Sourcebooks Landmark, August 4, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with Scott Wilbanks, author of The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster
Annabelle Aster doesn't bow to convention-not even that of space and time-which makes the 1890s Kansas wheat field that has appeared in her modern-day San Francisco garden easy to accept. Even more peculiar is Elsbeth, the truculent schoolmarm who sends Annie letters through the mysterious brass mailbox perched on the picket fence that now divides their two worlds.

Annie and Elsbeth's search for an explanation to the hiccup in the universe linking their homes leads to an unsettling discovery-and potential disaster for both of them. Together they must solve the mystery of what connects them before one of them is convicted of a murder that has yet to happen...and yet somehow already did.





About Scott

Interview with Scott Wilbanks, author of The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster
Scott Wilbanks graduated summa cum laude from The University of Oklahoma and went on to garner several national titles in the sport of gymnastics. Scott's husband, Mike, is a New Zealander by birth, and the two split their time between the two countries while Scott is at work on his next standalone novel.









Website  ~  Facebook

Twitter @scottbwilbanks  ~  Google+

Review: The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster by Scott Wilbanks


The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster
Author:  Scott Wilbanks
Publisher:  Sourcebooks Landmark, August 4, 2015
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages
List Price:  $14.99 (print)
ISBN:  9781492612469 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Review: The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster by Scott Wilbanks
Annabelle Aster doesn't bow to convention-not even that of space and time-which makes the 1890s Kansas wheat field that has appeared in her modern-day San Francisco garden easy to accept. Even more peculiar is Elsbeth, the truculent schoolmarm who sends Annie letters through the mysterious brass mailbox perched on the picket fence that now divides their two worlds.

Annie and Elsbeth's search for an explanation to the hiccup in the universe linking their homes leads to an unsettling discovery-and potential disaster for both of them. Together they must solve the mystery of what connects them before one of them is convicted of a murder that has yet to happen...and yet somehow already did.



Melanie's Thoughts

Annie Aster leads a rather solitary life in modern day San Francisco until the purchase of an antique door opens up a whole new world. Her new back door doesn't open up into her garden but rather, into a Kansas wheat field. Of course, it isn't just any Kansas wheat field. At the other end of the field, 200 years in the past, lives the cantankerous schoolmarm Elsbeth. The pair start to exchange letters and develop a friendship that transcends both time and space. When Annie sends Elsbeth to investigate the murder of a popular magician she doesn't realise the how this will change her life and give her the opportunity to discover who she is and where she comes from.

Annie shares her story with her best friend Christian. He has a profound stutter resulting from a terrible car accident. Both his injuries and his stutter has caused him to retreat from life around him and into his books. Fate enters his life in the form of the hunky gardener who befriends him. Little do this trio of characters realise what awaits them on the other side of the wheat field but it will irrevocably change all their lives forever.

I hate to sound so vague when writing a review but the plot does centre around a murder mystery and how this impacts Annie in her current timeline. The plot of The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster reminds me of a loosely knitted scarf. One tug of one thread will find it unravelling on the floor. If I give too much away here in this review then then you would be able to guess the all the 'surprises' as they are so interwoven into the plot. What I can share with you is my view of Wilbanks' writing style, world building and skills at characterization.

I started out really enjoying this book and I liked how the story flipped between modern day and the late 1800's rather seamlessly. Nothing beats a bit of time travel and how convenient for Annie that she doesn't have to put much effort into travelling back 200 years than to waltz out her back door. Whenever I read any books with time travel elements I always think to Star Trek. How many paradoxes did Annie create by writing to Elsbeth? By the end of the book I am sure the space time continuum would have been in tatters. Saying that however, I feel there were one too many coincidences and as the plot developed I was able to guess every one, especially those involving Annie's friend Christian.

Annie was terribly twee with her love of dressing in Victoriana, her perfectly preserved tea set and her quaint old fashioned ways. Wilbanks' pushes my imagination on how much I could believe about how much Annie was impacted by the past or should I say a past she didn't actually experience. Overall, I found the characters were a bit too clichéd.  Annie was beautiful and looked perfect in her late 1800's garb, Elsbeth the schoolmarm was plain and plain talking while Christian repressed his sexuality hence the stutter. I was really hoping that at least one of the characters would do the unexpected or be less stereotypical. I feel that the plot wouldn't have been so easy to guess had the characters not been written in such a traditional way.

Wilbanks does an admirable job of describing the environment in which all his characters live and I could easily picture Annie's lovely house and Elsbeth's wheat field. He also did well in tying all the different aspects of the plot together with a satisfactory conclusion to Annie's tale. While maybe the characterisation could have been improved this book was still overall quite readable and it must be remembered that this is Wilbanks' debut. I am sure that there will be great work to come from this author and I will look forward to reading it.

2015 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster by Scott Wilbanks


2015 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster by Scott Wilbanks


The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2015 Debut Author Challenge.


Scott Wilbanks

The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster
Sourcebooks Landmark, August 4, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages

2015 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster by Scott Wilbanks
Annabelle Aster doesn't bow to convention-not even that of space and time-which makes the 1890s Kansas wheat field that has appeared in her modern-day San Francisco garden easy to accept. Even more peculiar is Elsbeth, the truculent schoolmarm who sends Annie letters through the mysterious brass mailbox perched on the picket fence that now divides their two worlds.

Annie and Elsbeth's search for an explanation to the hiccup in the universe linking their homes leads to an unsettling discovery-and potential disaster for both of them. Together they must solve the mystery of what connects them before one of them is convicted of a murder that has yet to happen...and yet somehow already did.

Interview with Hilary Scharper, author of Perdita - January 28, 2015


Please welcome Hilary Scharper to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Perdita was published on January 20th by Sourcebooks Landmark.



Interview with Hilary Scharper, author of Perdita - January 28, 2015




TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Hilary:  For many years—and like many people it seems—I dreamed about becoming a writer, especially a writer of fiction. Then I hit the age of 40—big shock! I hadn’t (magically) become a writer! And more, I hadn’t really even started the novel I’d always wanted to write. So I went off and began to think about why I hadn’t written “my novel.” Of course I’d been doing other things (namely being a mother, a wife, becoming a university professor), but I tried very hard not to “beat myself up” with accusations of laziness, distraction, procrastination, etc. As result, I realized that there was a dynamic at work in my life—something I called the clearing-the-decks syndrome.

The clearing-the-decks syndrome came from the belief that I had to get everything else done, organized and set BEFORE I could start writing fiction. But the problem was I hardly ever had any moments in my life that resembled a clear deck. (And if I did have them, I usually used quiet moments for reading and enjoying a novel!)

I think that once I realized that a novel was going to have to come out of the “weather” of my life and not clear decks, I discovered a sense of direction and purpose...and just started writing.



TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Hilary:  I guess I am a bit of both.

I feel that a story is somewhere between my imagination and…something else. (In fact, in my Acknowledgements for Perdita I thank Georgian Bay as a co-author.) To be in that imaginative, co-creative space of the story, I need to be a bit of a “pantser.”

On the other hand, I’ve have to plan, craft and carefully think through things like plot and character development. Even when there are “loose ends” they must be parts of the story that are “skillfully” left open. This definitely requires a “plotter.”



TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Hilary:  Finding time to write!

I’ve since talked to other writers about this dynamic: of trying to establish creative time out of the bits and prices of our lives that are somehow seen as “leftovers,” i.e., as time we have after we’ve done everything else. The thing I discovered was to stop thinking about fiction writing in terms of “left-overs.” Once I took it as a serious and central part of my life, I began to find the time for it.



TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Hilary:  My reading interests are very wide, but I have a special place in my heart for late 19th century literary classics. At the moment I am exploring “the gothic” and going back into the mid to late 1700s to explore how nature was depicted in some of the earliest gothic novels (Castle of Otranto, The Romance of the Forest, Zofloya, etc.). It’s been fascinating and I’ve been struck by how many women writers turned to the gothic to both critique and confound the rigid social codes of their lives. The gothic genre still does this for us….



TQ:  Describe Perdita in 140 characters or less.

Hilary:  Marged Brice is 134 years old. She’s ready to go if it weren’t for a mysterious presence she calls Perdita. Garth Heller of the Longevity Project doesn’t believe Marged, but reading her diaries from the 1890s might just change his mind.



TQ:  Tell us something about Perdita that is not in the book description.

Hilary:  There were many sources of inspiration for Perdita: Greek mythology, Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, my own interest in aging and longevity, to name a few. One important source, however, was an old photograph. It was of the lighthouse where I was staying for a summer vacation, but taken over 100 years earlier.

Interview with Hilary Scharper, author of Perdita - January 28, 2015
Cabot Head Lighthouse, northern Ontario, Canada, c. 1900.



















From the very first, I found myself drawn to the young woman standing in the doorway looking out across the landscape and contemplating the remoteness of her location. Somehow I felt as if I could hear her thoughts. Yet it seemed to me that the wind was pulling at her skirts, inviting her to step out into the wild beauty of her “home.” As I wondered what the woman in the photograph did…step outside or go back inside?…the story of Perdita came to me.



TQ:  What inspired you to write Perdita? Perdita has been described as eco-gothic. What is eco-gothic?

Hilary:  The "Eco-Gothic" is a term that my husband came up with after reading a draft of my novel. At the time, he was being a little tongue-in-cheek, but as we both thought about it, we grew to like the term more and more. Soon I began to think about it quite seriously.

The “eco” in my work is distinctive in that it builds on the Gothic’s depiction of Nature as more than a backdrop for plot or character. Rather, Eco-Gothic Nature is a living, acting, creating, and unfolding “other.” It is a Nature that is alive, unpredictable, and certainly capable of influencing events.

More on the eco-gothic: http://perditanovel.com/the-eco-gothic-2/



TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Perdita?

Hilary:  I had to do research in many different areas for Perdita.

First and foremost were lighthouses and Great Lakes shipping, shipwrecks and nautical lore. Much of this was done at the Cabot Head lighthouse where I was staying as an assistant lighthouse-keeper with my husband and young son.

Perdita also has a long section that takes place in Toronto at the turn of the last century. I did quite a bit of research for this, particularly by looking at maps and archival images in order to get a better feel for what it would be like to not only live in, but also move around a 19th century city.

Lastly there was research on mythology and then longevity. The first took me deep into Homer, Hesiod and Greek philosophical lexicons, and the latter into scientific research on aging.



TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Hilary:  An interesting question! I’m not sure how to answer this. Marged Brice came very easily to me because she was the first character to arrive and defined the story. Garth Hellyer certainly had his moments of challenge because I wanted to keep him reserved and cautious in contrast to Marged.



TQ:  Which question about your novel do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Hilary:  What does Perdita mean?

Perdita is Latin for “the lost one.” In my novel, Perdita is a mythological figure—the lost child—and she also represents the possibility of “being found.”

I drew on both Greek mythology and Shakespeare to develop her character. In Shakespeare’s play, The Winter’s Tale, for example, Perdita is a child who is “lost” owing to the blind and cruel jealousy of her father. Yet she is also “found” through loving acts of rescue, forgiveness and ultimately self-realization. In order to lose and find “a Perdita,” then, one must first become aware of who or what is lost (including the possibility of being lost yourself).

Ultimately this is the problem for my character, Garth Hellyer. He is a jaded professor and a longevity researcher and he’s convinced that it’s the 134-year-old Marged Brice who is the “lost one.” Marged, however, has her own views and thinks that Garth is really the “lost one”—to himself and to the possibilities of love in his life. This is why Marged insists that Garth stick with the question he asks her at their first meeting: who is Perdita? It is also a central question for the reader.



TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Perdita.

Hilary:

“Yes. But I want to know—and you must tell me. What would your trees say about you?” she demanded. “Would your trees tell me to trust you?”

“Their words tested each other in a way that intrigued me: each man with his own hammer striking the other’s surface with skill and listening for the true ring of steel. At times they did it with seriousness and at others with humor, but I felt them drawing out that deep sound from one another…the sound of a good man.”



TQ:  What's next?

Hilary:  I have a second novel finished (titled “Immanence”) and I am also working on sequel to “Perdita” (tentatively titled “Lonely Island.”) In the second volume, Marged Brice journeys to a lighthouse on a remote island and is asked to assist in the care of an ill and bed-ridden light-keepers’s wife.

George, Andrew Reid, Tad, Allan and Dr. McTavish all reappear in the story, and there are some new characters in the form of (possibly) unsavory passengers rescued during a dramatic shipwreck….



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Hilary:  Many thanks to you—it was a pleasure to answer these engaging questions!





Perdita
Sourcebooks Landmark, January 20, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 448 pages

Interview with Hilary Scharper, author of Perdita - January 28, 2015
Marged Brice is 134 years old.
She’d be ready to go, if it wasn’t for Perdita . . .


The Georgian Bay lighthouse’s single eye keeps watch over storm and calm, and Marged grew up in its shadow, learning the language of the wind and the trees. There’s blustery beauty there, where sea and sky incite each other to mischief… or worse…

Garth Hellyer of the Longevity Project doesn’t believe Marged was a girl coming of age in the 1890s, but reading her diaries in the same wild and unpredictable location where she wrote them might be enough to cast doubt on his common sense.

Everyone knows about death.
It’s life that’s much more mysterious…





About Hilary

Interview with Hilary Scharper, author of Perdita - January 28, 2015
I am a Canadian author, living in Toronto. My husband and I have spent over a decade as assistant lighthouse-keepers and stewards at the Cabot Head Lighthouse and Bird Observatory, located on the northern Bruce Peninsula in Ontario, Canada. My major published works of fiction include a novel, Perdita (which draws on my experiences at Cabot Head), and a short story collection, Dream Dresses. I am also an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Toronto.



Website  ~  Twitter @HilaryScharper


2015 Debut Author Challenge Update: Perdita by Hilary Scharper


2015 Debut Author Challenge Update: Perdita by Hilary Scharper


The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2015 Debut Author Challenge.


Hilary Scharper

Perdita
Sourcebooks Landmark, January 20, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 448 pages

2015 Debut Author Challenge Update: Perdita by Hilary Scharper
Marged Brice is 134 years old.
She’d be ready to go, if it wasn’t for Perdita . . .


The Georgian Bay lighthouse’s single eye keeps watch over storm and calm, and Marged grew up in its shadow, learning the language of the wind and the trees. There’s blustery beauty there, where sea and sky incite each other to mischief… or worse…

Garth Hellyer of the Longevity Project doesn’t believe Marged was a girl coming of age in the 1890s, but reading her diaries in the same wild and unpredictable location where she wrote them might be enough to cast doubt on his common sense.

Everyone knows about death.
It’s life that’s much more mysterious…

Interview with Adrian J. Walker, author of The End of the World Running ClubInterview with H.P. Wood, author of Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet2016 Debut Author Challenge - Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet by H.P. WoodInterview with Scott Wilbanks, author of The Lemoncholy Life of Annie AsterReview: The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster by Scott Wilbanks2015 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster by Scott WilbanksInterview with Hilary Scharper, author of Perdita - January 28, 20152015 Debut Author Challenge Update: Perdita by Hilary ScharperSusanna Kearsley & Friends Tour - Giveaway - January 9, 2013

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