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Interview with Steven John and Giveaway - March 27, 2012

Please welcome Steven John to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Three A.M. is published today. A Happy Book Publication Day to Steven. Read Steven's Guest Blog here and my 4 Qwill review of  Three A.M. here.


TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Steven:  In my writing, I suppose a quirk would be suddenly dropping things into the prose, often before I’m fully conscious of my intent to do so. There is something of a constant internal battle going on while I write, the line of battle shifting between the words that move the plot forward with the words that express a view or conviction I hold or make a point I find interesting – finding instances when I can sneak things in that elevate the work without being obvious is a great pleasure, but I often find myself shaking my head and deleting lines with a rueful smile.

Another way to answer that question would be that I often affect accents or speech patterns and even physical mannerisms of the character whose dialogue or thoughts I am writing. I’ll even stand up and walk around the room working through the words. Luckily I work alone, because it’s gotta look reeeeaaaal strange.

TQ:  Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?

Steven:  Softball answer: Henry Miller – his lurid prose and searing honesty taught me what writing can be (if you are not a coward, that is. Working on it.)

Still pretty softball answer: Hemmingway. I mean… it’s Hemmingway. Sure it made me feel cool to hold up his books during my high school years, but every time I return I am still impressed.

Hardball… or… baseball answer? Not baseball. I don’t know, anyway, third person, also a softball answer, it’s easier this way: Vonnegut. You can read his books so quickly and they’re so strange but pleasurable. It’s like eating soup. Great soup, sure. But it’s still soup, still very easy to eat.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Steven:  Um… a pantser is.... What’s a pantser? And plotter like Guy Fawkes or like someone who plans out their book’s plot…?

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

Keeping my ass in the chair, if I may use the word chair. I am constantly finding distractions throughout the first two thirds of every novel (or other project) I write. By the end I start to cruise and then it is often hard for me to get out of the writing chair, but man, mowing the grass or going to the grocery store sure is appealing while I’m still in those first tens of thousands of words.

TQ:   Describe Three A.M. in 140 characters or less.

Steven:  A lonely man, a lonely place: a city enshrouded by mist. And mystery. He gets pulled into it all, the why and what. And it pulls him down.

TQ:  What inspired you to write Three A.M.?

Steven:  I wish I knew/remembered. I had a vision of the setting and an idea for a character. It was supposed to be a short story. Then I thought of a longer story and pretty soon it was clear it would need to be a book.

TQ: What sort of research did you do for Three A.M.?

Steven:  Cursory, at best. One of the greatest delights of writing about a world different than our everyday home is that you can fill it with things beyond the normal reference points people use; you don’t have to cleave to reality. That said, there are elements of the book that did require some study. I know a bit more about hydroelectric dams now, for example.

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

Steven:  Tom Heller, one of the most prominent secondary characters. He was easy to write because he was based directly off of a real person (or two). The hardest character to write was probably John Watley, because I had to struggle to keep him from seeming like an archetype. It would have been much easier to just throw in a cackling laugh and place a Persian cat on his lap, but that would have been awful, awful writing.

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in Three A.M.?

Steven:  It is a any number of scenes in which the protagonist reveals what his world is like – those times when he stumbles (and rambles) through the misty streets, when through his often hazy mind and garbled convictions we see how he and everyone around him is living.

TQ:  What's next?

Steven:  My second novel is finished and in the hands of the Powers that Be. I am working on the third and it is going well: I love the characters and am intrigued to see how twisted and wound about the story will end up, but I am still definitely in that “Keep your ass in the seat, Steve!” phase. And lots of other wacky projects I always have simmering on the back burners.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Steven:  That’s not a question, but you’re quite welcome and thank you.


About Three A.M.


Three A.M.
Tor Books, March 27, 2012
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

Interview with Steven John and Giveaway - March 27, 2012
Fifteen years of sunless gray.

Fifteen years of mist. So thick the streets fade off into nothing. So thick the past is hazy at best. The line between right and wrong has long been blurred, especially for Thomas Vale.

Long gone are the days when new beginnings seemed possible—when he was a new recruit, off to a new start fresh in the army. He had hoped to never look back. Not like there was much to see, anyway.

First came the sickness, followed by the orders: herd the healthy into the city, shoot the infected. The gates closed and the bridges came down… followed by the mist.

Fifteen miserable years of the darkest nights and angry, awful gray days.

Thomas Vale can hardly fathom why he keeps waking up in the morning. For a few more days spent stumbling along? Another night drinking alone? Another hour keeping the shadows at bay….

But when Rebecca Ayers walks into his life, the answers come fast. Too fast.


About Steven

Interview with Steven John and Giveaway - March 27, 2012


Steven John and his wife, an elementary school teacher, live in Los Angeles by way of Washington D.C. and New York, respectively. He splits his time between many things, most of which involve words. Three A.M. is his first novel.


Steven's Links

Website
Twitter
Three A.M. on Facebook












The Giveaway

THE RULES

What:  One commenter will win a hardcover copy of Three A.M.

How:  Leave a comment answering the following question:

What are some of your favorite dystopian or noir novels? 

Please remember - if you don't answer the question your entry will not be counted.

You may receive additional entries by:

1)   Being a Follower of The Qwillery.

2)   Mentioning the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter. Even if you mention the giveaway on both, you will get only one additional entry. You get only one additional entry even if you mention the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter multiple times.

3)   Mentioning the giveaway on your on blog or website. It must be your own blog or website; not a website that belongs to someone else or a site where giveaways, contests, etc. are posted.

There are a total of 4 entries you may receive: Comment (1 entry), Follower (+1 entry), Facebook and/or Twitter (+ 1 entry), and personal blog/website mention (+1 entry). This is subject to change again in the future for future giveaways.

Please leave links for Facebook, Twitter, or blog/website mentions. You MUST leave a way to contact you.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Tuesday,  April 3, 2012. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*

Release Day Review - Three A.M. - 4 Qwills

Three A.M.
Author:  Steven John
Format: Hardcover, 304 pages
Publisher: TOR (March 27, 2012)
Price: $24.99
Language: English
Genre:  Noir/Thriller/Dystopian
ISBN978-0-7653-3116-8
Review Copy: ARC from the publisher


Release Day Review - Three A.M. - 4 Qwills
Fifteen years of sunless gray.

Fifteen years of mist. So thick the streets fade off into nothing. So thick the past is hazy at best. The line between right and wrong has long been blurred, especially for Thomas Vale.

Long gone are the days when new beginnings seemed possible—when he was a new recruit, off to a new start fresh in the army. He had hoped to never look back. Not like there was much to see, anyway.

First came the sickness, followed by the orders: herd the healthy into the city, shoot the infected. The gates closed and the bridges came down… followed by the mist.

Fifteen miserable years of the darkest nights and angry, awful gray days.

Thomas Vale can hardly fathom why he keeps waking up in the morning. For a few more days spent stumbling along? Another night drinking alone? Another hour keeping the shadows at bay….

But when Rebecca Ayers walks into his life, the answers come fast. Too fast.

tumbling along? Another night drinking alone? Another hour keeping the shadows at bay….

But when Rebecca Ayers walks into his life, the answers come fast. Too fast.


My thoughts:

Three A.M. starts out in gritty noir fashion as Thomas Vale sets eyes on a beautiful blond, Rebecca, at the bar he frequents. Vale is a Private Investigator and Rebecca wants to hire him. What Vale doesn't know is that he's already caught up in something beyond a simple case for one of his clients.

Mr. John creates an incredibly dark and murky world of shadows and mist, a city without sunlight, which is reflected in Tom Vale. He's as hopeless as the city in which he lives. Vale is an intriguing character. He's morally ambiguous, down and out. He drinks a lot. Takes more pills than he should to sleep. He's a man with no illusions about anything, including himself. Over the course of the novel, things change for Vale as he learns more about what is really going on in his sunless city. Vale is the most well-developed character in Three A.M. At times during the story I actively disliked him. Despite this, I cared about Vale and what was happening to him.

While Three A.M. starts out feeling like noir, it does not hold that for the entire novel. Once certain events happen the entire tone of the novel changes. It became more of a thriller for me than anything else. While the pacing of the novel is quite good, I enjoyed the change of tone and the resulting quicker pace.

Three A.M. is a gripping mix of noir and thriller set in a near-future dystopia. It is at times deeply moving, at times very raw, and at times pure adrenalin rush.

I give Three A.M. 4 Qwills.

 Release Day Review - Three A.M. - 4 Qwills

2012 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - March 2012

It's time for the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars for March 2012!

As part of this year's Debut Author Challenge I thought it would be fun to choose a favorite cover from each month's debut novels. At the end of the year the 12 monthly winners will be pitted against each other to choose the 2012 Debut Novel Cover of the Year. Please note that a debut novel cover is eligible in the month that the novel is released in the US.

January 2012  Winner - Control Point (Shadow Ops 1) by Myke Cole. Cover Art by Mike Komarck.

February 2012 Winner - Dead Harvest (The Collector 1) by Chris F. Holm. Cover Art by Amazing 15.


For March you have 9 covers to choose from.





























Guest Blog by Steven John - A Story You Already Know

Please welcome Steven John to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs. Three A.M., Steven's debut, will be published on March 27, 2012.


     With such obvious exceptions as adaptations, reinterpretations, or parables, one does not set out to tell a story that already has been told. This, of course, is especially true if the story has been told innumerable times, innumerable ways and over many years; if it is “one we all know,” so to speak. Or so this is what I would have said—indeed what I thought—up until a few short years ago. And notwithstanding this now disproved personal conviction, it is exactly what I inadvertently did while writing my first novel: I wrote a story you already know. I wrote a book I myself have read dozens of times. But it’s not my fault, dammit. It’s not like I had any choice. Allow me a short digression, and then I’ll make my point as concisely as possible, with perhaps a few ramblings and odd sidebars thrown in for no respectable reason.

     As I’ve said, I did not set out to write a book telling a familiar tale. In fact, I didn’t set out to write a book at all. Oh, mind you I’d long wanted to—long made furtive starts and passing plans—but this thing that turned into the novel Three A.M.? That was just a short story. It was not until a few days after I started typing it out that I realized that at already 20,000 words and counting it was growing into a rather long short story. Soon after that I realized “Well… hey… looks like we got ourselves a novel here.” That was exciting. It really was. And a lot of other things that came after that were, too. But I’ll keep this step back brief and leave it there for now, the broad strokes of the novel’s “origin story” laying down sufficient color for me to return to my assertions above.

     The fact is, I’ve come to realize, that there are only a few stories people really give a good goddamn about. Let me redefine that confining frame a bit: there are only a few themes people care about, and try as an author (or wandering minstrel or dancing shaman or anyone else with a story or two to tell) might to think up something truly new, he or she will fail. At least fail in finding the new theme, if not in telling a fine story. Beyond love and hate, victory or defeat, loss or gain or revelation and a few other sweeping terms (dozens, I’m sure, if we mine deep enough, but finite still!) what have we? We have but ways to tell of these constant themes; stories are little more than polishing a re-imagining of that which we have long sought to glean.

     From the minutiae made epic by careful observation—take, for example, John Muir detailing every move of a Douglas squirrel in his seminal book The Mountains of California, a squirrel which he manages to make captivating!—to the epics which have lived with humanity for thousands of years—I’ll invoke The Odyssey as it’s low-hanging fruit—we read of struggle and perseverance leading to victory. From Aesop to Shakespeare we read of characters veritably choking on their own bitterness (think the “grapeless” Fox and Iago). And lovers, star-crossed or clear-eyed and everything in between, number too many in humanity’s collective literary canon for me to bother plucking an example, but I doubt you’ll be long in remembering various examples with common threads of yearning, lust, loss, etc.

     And then, in my first novel, my wholly original piece of creativity, dreamed up solely in my head and written out by these same two hands now typing away, we find… well, let’s see:


     • The Hero, in this case one who tries to “Refuse the Call” (indeed, almost the anti-hero)

     • The Siren, who draws him in

     • The Guide, who gives the hero wisdom and direction; moral validation

     • Villain(s)… of course

     • And finally: The Hero as Redeemer… Out of the Void… Departure… etc.


     And on it goes. On I went. But, like I said, it’s not my fault: I didn’t know that every story told or yet to come is but one more crack at peeling back the wraps that bind the universal themes; the unending struggle to both reflect on and live life in the same instant. After all, isn’t that the only reason we need stories? To make sense of that which we cannot objectively view while passing through it? Humor, drama, satire, etc.—these are all but lenses to focus the mind. We search for myriad lenses and hapless folks like me seek to provide a new one now and then, but always it is merely a new lens, never a new thing focalized, really. (Implicit within these assertions is the idea that diversion, such as by comedy, is not at all without merit and is in fact at times necessary.)

     It took the reading of countless books over the years to prepare me to write one (or two or three), but it took reading the work of just one man to both humble and embolden me all at once and ready me to approach each character, each twist and turn—every page, to boil it down—with a sense of excitement tempered by the knowledge that what lies beneath the story, what lurks between each word of dialogue, what frames the story and what motivates one to undertake its creation, is as vital as the visible flesh spread out atop. In a word: “Why.”

     Very likely many of you are nodding now even before I write that man’s name: Joseph Campbell. If you are familiar with his fantastic and edifying oeuvre, you will know well how liberally I have used his own terms, or at least his language. I do not feel I am doing him any disservice in conscripting his work thus, for he spent his life not seeking to create new, original material, exactly (the many books, speeches and articles he produced duly noted) but rather Campbell sought—and succeeded admirably—in showing us just how universal our stories are; how from all corners of the world and down through the generations we have produced similar tales trying to tackle the selfsame themes.

     Oh there were others, of course, who did much to inspire my young mind. Others on whose shoulders I shall forever stand (or perhaps over whose shoulders I will ever be trying to catch a glimpse of whatever it was they saw that let them write the things I read). Henry Miller freed my teenage mind. Faulkner stirred my mid-twenty something soul. Rand frustrated the hell out of me—god, I wanted to slap her—but showed me what great writing can do, even if you disagree so often with what the words are saying. But as wonderful as all these writers were, ultimately they are just playing the same game, albeit playing with exquisite finesse. It was Joseph Campbell who made it clear to me that we’re all doing the same: all playing the same game, all telling the same stories, all seeking the same answers, be we writers or bankers or biologists, et al. There are plural answers to be sought, yes, but they are far from infinite. Perhaps that’s why the “same story” can remain so vital despite the fact that we keep hearing it told in different ways.


Credit for selected terms and a few ideas and a lot of inspiration due to:

Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces Novato, CA: New World Library 2008. (Originally published by Pantheon Books 1949.)

And with a nod to my man in the mountains:

Muir, John. The Mountains of California Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press 1977 ed.



About Three A.M.

Three A.M.
Tor Books, March 27, 2012
Hardcover and eBook, 304 pages

Guest Blog by Steven John -  A Story You Already Know
Fifteen years of sunless gray.

Fifteen years of mist. So thick the streets fade off into nothing. So thick the past is hazy at best. The line between right and wrong has long been blurred, especially for Thomas Vale.

Long gone are the days when new beginnings seemed possible—when he was a new recruit, off to a new start fresh in the army. He had hoped to never look back. Not like there was much to see, anyway.

First came the sickness, followed by the orders: herd the healthy into the city, shoot the infected. The gates closed and the bridges came down… followed by the mist.

Fifteen miserable years of the darkest nights and angry, awful gray days.

Thomas Vale can hardly fathom why he keeps waking up in the morning. For a few more days spent stumbling along? Another night drinking alone? Another hour keeping the shadows at bay….

But when Rebecca Ayers walks into his life, the answers come fast. Too fast.
Pre-order


About Steven

Guest Blog by Steven John -  A Story You Already Know


Steven John and his wife, an elementary school teacher, live in Los Angeles by way of Washington D.C. and New York, respectively. He splits his time between many things, most of which involve words. Three A.M. is his first novel.


Steven's Links

Website
Twitter
Three A.M. on Facebook
Interview with Steven John and Giveaway - March 27, 2012Release Day Review - Three A.M. - 4 Qwills2012 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars - March 2012Guest Blog by Steven John -  A Story You Already Know

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