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Interview with Alex White, author of Every Mountain Made Low


Please welcome Alex White to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Every Mountain Made Low was published on October 25th by Solaris.



Interview with Alex White, author of Every Mountain Made Low




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

Alex :  Glad to be here!

I started out writing movies. I've been a film geek since I was a teenager, and my friends used to tease me because I was such a little film snob. They started saying, "If you can't do better, we don't want to hear it." So one semester, I had a help desk job and too much time on my hands, so naturally I decided to start banging away at a screenplay. It was a romantic comedy, and needless to say, it was terrible. No one needs to take tips from a high schooler about love and sex. After that, I got a little more serious and wrote a feature-length blockbuster action in 2003, then finally finished my first novel in 2006. I've been writing novels ever since, and I'm about to finish my eighth.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Alex :  I'm meticulous about planning my characters' motivations. Every speaking character in my stories has a decent biography with all of the forces acting upon them. I use Aeon Timeline to map their life stories and determine specific ages for each event, questioning how certain events at certain times would alter their personalities. From there, I tend to naturally divide my books into three acts. I thoroughly plot the first two acts, but leave the third act blank, save for a basic idea. I think a spectacular ending needs to be discovered, and is a function of the character interactions over plot.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Alex :  I always want to write outside of my comfort zone. Each new book needs to be substantially different than anything I've ever produced. If it comes easy to me, I'm not interested. Emotional investment is also key--even my lighthearted comedy starred a character who was deeply flawed, anxious and suicidal. I don't appreciate characters who always maintain the moral high ground, because I'm not sure that's possible in life. I care about the screw-ups, not the sexy, wisecracking swashbucklers.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Alex :  I had a great high school education that focused on mid-century American lit, like CATCHER IN THE RYE, THE GREAT GATSBY and A FAREWELL TO ARMS. From there, I went on to read a lot of Flannery O'Connor, and fell in love with her clear, concise prose. In 2008, I read AND THE HIPPOS WERE BOILED IN THEIR TANKS, and learned that even total assholes can be compelling main characters. In addition to the literary influences, I love big, silly action flicks and stylish cinema. I'm always trying to capture both the literary and the cinematic: big visual ideas filtered through the clearest possible lens.



TQDescribe Every Mountain Made Low in 140 characters or less.

Alex :  An autistic woman living in a late-stage capitalist hellhole is confronted with the ghost of her best friend; seeks revenge for her murder.



TQTell us something about Every Mountain Made Low that is not found in the book description.

Alex :  There are two southern American myths in the story, one explicitly present and one referenced. Tailypo, an Appalachian folk horror classic, is one of the characters who aids Loxley on her path of revenge. He owns a bar, The Hound's Tail, in the darkest depths of the city. The other mythological character is Kate Baggs, otherwise known as the Bell Witch, operating out of Nashville. I like to think that tons of American mythological creatures exist in this setting, from the wendigo to Sasquatch, all hiding just out of sight of the cities.



TQWhat inspired you to write Every Mountain Made Low? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy?

Alex :  My son has autism, and like any father, I wanted to research his condition and make his life easier. The more I learned about him, the more I discovered about myself, my anxieties and habitual behaviors. Like so many parents, I came to believe in the social model of disability--that our civilization creates disabilities through its failure to empathize and provide for people. Meanwhile, I became angrier and angrier with portrayals of autism in the media. I hated the savantism and blank character reduction so commonplace in television and books. I was sick of seeing them reduced to calculators. Autistic characters should be people, not plot devices.

Meanwhile, I had this idea for a book set in the mythical American South. It wasn't really taking shape. I knew I wanted to have a character based around the brown recluse, a highly-poisonous spider native to my area, but I didn't want it to be the "seductress spider" cliche that everyone runs with. I wanted to write a timid character who could be dangerous in unpredictable ways when cornered, but otherwise just wanted to live life alone. When that character became autistic, everything clicked into place, from the overarching narrative to the cutthroat setting.

I included fantastical elements because I can't help it. I love a big, sprawling setting with supernatural elements. To date, every book I've written has had ghosts or magic or ancient curses. It's just the way I do business.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for Every Mountain Made Low?

Alex :  I wouldn't ever tackle a book like this without a significant amount of life experience. I focused on reading biographies by autistic people like THE REASON I JUMP, IDO IN AUTISMLAND, CARLY'S VOICE and Temple Grandin's THINKING IN PICTURES. I wanted to hear from people who were actually autistic and weave their experiences into my own. Anything less would be an incredible disservice to a thriving and diverse community of great individuals.



TQIn Every Mountain Made Low who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Alex :  The easiest character to write is Duke Wallace, the theocrat at the center of the conspiracy. Duke is a hyper-conservative evangelical Christian, and we have quite a few of those around here. I grew up in the church, and I was surrounded by some of the abusive beliefs Duke brings to bear on those around him. He thinks he's doing the right thing, but he gets there by not respecting peoples individuality and wishes. He's patronizing and self-aggrandizing, and I find writing him cathartic.

My main character, Loxley, is the hardest to write. I care about her so much, and I want to be respectful of the people with whom she shares her daily struggles. She's a constant balancing act. She has a difficult existence, being surrounded by such an uncaring society, but she isn't there to be pitied. She has trouble perceiving our fragile social nuances, but she's whip-smart and highly capable. People take advantage of her flaws, but she's not a fool. And I can't simply make her an angel. She grew up as part of a racist society, and some of her mother's prejudice has rubbed off on her.



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Every Mountain Made Low?

Alex :  This isn't exactly a light read. The town where Loxley lives, the Hole, is an unchecked capitalist paradise. There's no such thing as antitrust, and a single large corporation, the Consortium, owns most of the land in the southeast. They own the roads, utilities and farms. They make most of the food and pharmaceuticals. They supply life itself, and the residents of the Hole are socially-stratified and poverty-stricken. The world is a manifestation of the wealth gap.

I set it in a near-dystopian city because I worry every day about what would happen to my son without me. I hope that people would step in and help him have a happy life, but the conservative politicians where I live defund every social program they can find. Special education often gets cut first, leading to disheartened teachers and disenfranchised students. I believe that, with the moralization of wealth, we create a destructive, uncaring society that actively harms those at the fringes. People with autism face the pervasive bigotry of neurotypical society, and I worked hard to include those constant micro-aggressions.

My story also contains a stream of "well-meaning" men who abuse their influence over others: policemen, employers, executives, landowners. Sometimes these men are subtle, sometimes not. In my town, you can't throw a rock without hitting patriarchal crap, so part of this book is me throwing rocks.



TQWhich question about Every Mountain Made Low do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Alex :  "The word 'autism' never appears in the novel. Why not?"

Thanks. Great question. :-D

Loxley lives in a world that doesn't care about her. There is no such thing as an autism diagnosis for her, since people either learn to survive, or they starve to death in the streets. America has a terrible set of mental health policies, and so it's no surprise that a large percentage of our homeless folks are walking around with un-diagnosed mental health issues. The Hole is America on its worst day.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Every Mountain Made Low.

Alex :

Jayla had her stand up, then helped her replace her smudged jacket. She slipped the mask over Loxley’s face, completing the stranger in the mirror. The violinist on the other side of the glass was beautiful and confident. Mysterious. Strong. A little wild. Her dull hair poked out around the mask at odd angles; she hadn’t tamed it after her bath.

Jayla seemed to notice the unkempt hair at the same time. She stroked it once. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

“I like my hair like this.”

“I could make it even better.”

Loxley shook her head, along with the violinist across from her. She thrilled to see this side of herself, and her voice came out easily and clearly. “No. This is perfect. This is the real me.”

----

“Over time, Vern taught me that some things were right, and some things were wrong. ‘Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.’ I was a flexible man, soft of character and will. I became a hard man, forged by the hand of God, and he made me inflexible."



TQWhat's next?

Alex :  Nothing I can share yet, but good things are always on the horizon!



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Alex :  Thanks for having me!





Every Mountain Made Low
Solaris, October 25, 2016
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 416 pages

Interview with Alex White, author of Every Mountain Made Low
Loxley Fiddleback can see the dead, but the problem is... the dead can see her.

Ghosts have always been cruel to Loxley Fiddleback - but none more than the spirit of her only friend, alive only hours earlier. Loxley isn’t equipped to solve a murder: she lives near the bottom of a cutthroat, strip-mined metropolis known as “The Hole,” suffers from crippling anxiety and can't cope with strangers. Worse still, she’s haunted.

She inherited her ability to see spirits from the women of her family, but the dead see her, too. Ghosts are drawn to her, and their lightest touch leaves her with painful wounds.

Loxley swears to take blood for blood and find her friend’s killer. In doing so, she uncovers a conspiracy that rises all the way to the top of The Hole. As her enemies grow wise to her existence, she becomes the quarry, hunted by a brutal enforcer named Hiram McClintock. In sore need of confederates, Loxley must descend into the strangest depths of the city in order to have the revenge she seeks and, ultimately, her own salvation.





About Alex

Interview with Alex White, author of Every Mountain Made Low
Alex White was born and raised in the American south. He takes photos, writes music and spends hours on YouTube watching other people blacksmith. He values challenging and subversive writing, but he'll settle for a good time.

In the shadow of rockets in Huntsville, Alabama, Alex lives and works as an experience designer with his wife, son, two dogs and a cat named Grim. He takes his whiskey neat and his espresso black.

Every Mountain Made Low is his debut novel.




Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @alexrwhite


2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Burning Isle by Will Panzo


2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Burning Isle by Will Panzo


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


Will Panzo

The Burning Isle
Ace, November 1, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 432 pages

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Burning Isle by Will Panzo
A powerful and gripping debut grimdark fantasy novel, set in a world of criminals, pirates, assassins, and magic…

“A man has only three reasons for being anywhere: to right a wrong, to earn a coin, or because he is lost.”

Cassius is not lost…

The mage Cassius has just arrived on the island of Scipio. Five miles of slum on the edge of fifty miles of jungle, Scipio is a lawless haven for criminals, pirates, and exiles. The city is split in two, each half ruled by a corrupt feudal lord. Both of them answer to a mysterious general who lives deep in the jungle with his army, but they still constantly battle for power. If a man knows how to turn their discord to his advantage, he might also turn a profit…

But trained on the Isle of Twelve, Cassius is no ordinary spellcaster, and his goal is not simply money. This is a treacherous island where the native gods are restless and anything can happen…

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Of the Abyss by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes


2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Of the Abyss by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes


The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2016 Debut Author Challenge for her adult fantasy debut!


Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

Of the Abyss
Mancer Trilogy 1
Harper Voyager Impulse, September 27, 2016
      eBook, 400 pages
Harper Voyage Impulse, November 1, 2016
     Mass Market Paperback, 469 pages

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Of the Abyss by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
After decades of strife, peace has finally been achieved in Kavet—but at a dark cost.  Sorcery is outlawed, and anyone convicted of consorting with the beings of the other realms—the Abyssi and the Numini—is put to death. The only people who can even discuss such topics legally are the scholars of the Order of the Napthol, who give counsel when questions regarding the supernatural planes arise.

Hansa Viridian, a captain in the elite guard unit tasked with protecting Kavet from sorcery, has always led a respectable life. But when he is implicated in a sorcerer’s crimes, the only way to avoid execution is to turn to the Abyss for help—specifically, to a half-Abyssi man he’s sworn he hates, but whose physical attraction he cannot deny. 

Hansa is only the first victim in a plot that eventually drags him, a sorcerer named Xaz, and a Sister of the Napthol named Cadmia into the depths of the Abyss, where their only hope of escape is to complete an infernal task that might cost them their lives.

Interview with Stephanie Gangi, author of The Next


Please welcome Stephanie Gangi to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Next is published on October 18th by St. Martin's Press and is an Indie Next Pick for November. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Stephanie a Happy Publication Day!



Interview with Stephanie Gangi, author of The Next




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

Stephanie:  Hi, TQ – thank you for having me. I’ve been writing all my life – in journals as a girl, in college, at every job I’ve had – somehow they were all writing or editing jobs. I got committed to my own writing – poetry and my novel, The Next, in my mid-fifties.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Stephanie:  I am definitely a plotter-pantser hybrid. I plan and plot but once I’m on solid ground, feeling secure in my journey, I release to the fates and let the book take me where it needs to go.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Stephanie:  The most challenging thing about writing is protecting the time to write. I have a full time job, friends and family, obligations and errands – you know, life. For me, writing requires that I sequester myself, go into a tunnel, leave the fun behind for a while. For a different kind of fun.



TQHow does being a poet affect your prose writing?

Stephanie:  I think being a poet makes me listen deeply to the rhythms of my sentences. I love lyrical writing, I love a good beat, I love repetition, I love to drive the story using all of it. I learned that from both reading and writing poetry. In fact, when I get stuck, I pick up a poetry book and read, to help me quiet down and listen for the rhythms.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Stephanie:  It sounds kind of corny, but (aside from everything in my past and present) I am consistently influenced by my daughters – the love we have for each other, their open-hearted world views, their kindness, the sisterhood they share, and now that they are adults, our friendship. Motherhood has been a constant source of learning for me – I’ve gotten so much from it at all stages. I’ve been told that comes through in my book.



TQDescribe The Next in 140 characters or less.

Stephanie:  A contemporary, literary ghost story of betrayal, revenge and lust after life.



TQTell us something about The Next that is not found in the book description.

Stephanie:  I love this question. I think – I hope – it’s rock and roll and sexy and funny. Despite the fact that Joanna, the protagonist, is a ghost.



TQWhat inspired you to write The Next?

Stephanie:  I got the idea for The Next walking down Broadway in my neighborhood on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I was nursing a broken heart, and it was a warm early fall afternoon, and it seemed like every shop and every car that passed was blaring Adele's "Rolling in the Deep". The popularity -- and anger -- of the song made me feel a little bit better. We've all been there. I wanted to capture that raw jealousy and rage that I was secretly feeling too, but could never express ... except through fiction!



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Next?

Stephanie:  Believe it or not, I did a fair amount of research about ghosts. I watched youtube videos, I read ghost stories, I read “scientific” articles and books about ghosts and hauntings and invisibility. I was pretty surprised by how much is out there about ghosts. I’m still not convinced.



TQIn The Next who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Stephanie:  The easiest character in the book to write was Laney. I felt very connected to her grief over the loss of her mother, and her confusion as to how to move forward with her own life without her mother’s day to day guidance and support and love. I tapped into my own grief over the death of my parents years ago.

The toughest characters were Jo and Ned. I wanted them to be complex, complicated, not necessarily always likeable, but human and relatable. I think I succeeded, judging from the reviews, but it wasn’t easy to reveal them as their worst selves on the page, but their best selves too.



TQWhich question about The Next do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Stephanie:  Why did you choose to make the protagonist a ghost? Seems like a risky decision, not exactly mass marketable!

I don’t believe in ghosts, but I believe we are all haunted by the past, especially as we get older, especially by what might have been, how we could have done better … and the past comes in strong in the dark, in the middle of the night. I also like the ghost metaphor for a woman of a certain age, made less visible, less sexual, less present in the world by society, because she’s getting older, or is sick, or is single. I think I may have been raging against that.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Next.

Stephanie:  I have one I truly love: “Bitches are made, not born.” I’ve been told the book is full of quotable lines – I’m not going to spoil it.



TQWhat's next?

Stephanie:  I’m working on enjoying the ride for The Next. My publisher, St. Martin’s Press, has been enormously supportive of the book, and I’m spending the next couple of months talking to readers and other writers through the internet, at live readings, through Skype for book clubs, etc, so that’s really fun. In early 2017, I’ll be leading writing workshops for breast cancer patients, and digging in on my new novel. I’ve also got a few personal essays on deck. Oh, and my day job!



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Stephanie:  Thank you!





The Next
St. Martin's Press, October 18, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with Stephanie Gangi, author of The Next
"Love and loss, revenge and redemption, this debut novel will stick with you for a long time." —Emily Giffin

"I love The Next...elegantly written, thoughtfully sharp, surprisingly touching." —Cathleen Schine

Is there a right way to die? If so, Joanna DeAngelis has it all wrong. She’s consumed by betrayal, spending her numbered days obsessing over Ned McGowan, her much younger ex, and watching him thrive in the spotlight with someone new, while she wastes away. She’s every woman scorned, fantasizing about revenge … except she’s out of time.

Joanna falls from her life, from the love of her daughters and devoted dog, into an otherworldly landscape, a bleak infinity she can’t escape until she rises up and returns and sets it right—makes Ned pay—so she can truly move on.

From the other side into right this minute, Jo embarks on a sexy, spiritual odyssey. As she travels beyond memory, beyond desire, she is transformed into a fierce female force of life, determined to know how to die, happily ever after.





About Stephanie

Interview with Stephanie Gangi, author of The Next
Stephanie Gangi lives, works and writes poetry, fiction and personal essay in New York City. The Next is her debut novel.






Website  ~  Twitter @gangi_land

Facebook  ~  Instagram


Interview with Barbara Barnett, author of The Apothecary's Curse


Please welcome Barbara Barnett to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Apothecary's Curse is published on October 11th by Pyr. Please join The Qwillery in wishing Barbara a Happy Publication Day!



Interview with Barbara Barnett, author of The Apothecary's Curse




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

Barbara:  Thank you! I started writing when I was about ten years old. My mom loved writing poems, so I sort took up the pen and started writing. Hers rhymed, mine never did.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Barbara:  I was absolutely a pantser until this novel. I would get an idea and just start writing, knowing more or less what I wanted to explore. With this novel, I outlined the entire book before I started writing. I plunked the outline for each chapter just below the chapter heading in the manuscript to guide me through each chapter. But as I wrote, the story (and characters) sort of took over, as they are wont to do. And the final book is quite different than where it began. But all through the writing process, I kept going back to that outline every time I got stuck, and whether or not I adhered to it, it always reminded me of where I was going, if not how I was going to get there!



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Barbara:  The discipline of doing it every day, no matter how blocked I am, no matter how tired I am. I’m not one of those writers who sets a 2,000 word goal for every day (although I did with Apothecary) unless I’m on deadline. So, yeah, discipline is the most challenging thing. After that, probably leaving favorite, but unnecessary, scenes on the cutting room floor (as it were). The old “Killing your darlings” adage. It’s painful, and I never completely delete them, preferring, instead to keep them for the future (and another book).



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Barbara:  My writing has always been fueled by a lifelong curiosity about the world. I look at the stars and wonder about them; I hear the call of a bird and I have to know what kind it is. I think (I hope) my characters reflect that in one way or another. In Apothecary, Gaelan Erceldoune, who is more than four centuries old is still in awe of the stars and planets. There’s a scene in which he picks up a rock on the beach. He doesn’t simply look at it; he wonders what’s inside. Is it a geode? What kind? That’s my own curiosity talking—I’d do exactly the same thing!



TQYou've worked as a microbiologist and have a degree in Biology/Chemistry. How did this influence (or not) The Apothecary's Curse?

Barbara:  My undergraduate education and work in Biology and Chemistry influenced me quite a bit in writing The Apothecary’s Curse. The scientific core of the story also relies on our modern understanding of genetics and medicine, but also on our human propensity to label as magic or miracle things we do not yet understand. Is it magic or is it science? That is the question. And it’s a question that comes up several times in the novel. Again, my grounding in the sciences helped me both read technical papers on the relevant medical and biological principles and translate them into a fantasy story.



TQDescribe The Apothecary's Curse in 140 characters or less.

Barbara:  Between magic and science, history and mythology lies The Apothecary’s Curse-a tale of free, unintended consequences, and, ultimately, love.



TQTell us something about The Apothecary's Curse that is not found in the book description.

Barbara:  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (the creator of Sherlock Holmes) plays a small but significant role in the story. And his fingerprints are everywhere!



TQWhat inspired you to write The Apothecary's Curse? What appeals to you about writing Fantasy (Urban and Historical)?

Barbara:  I’ve always been drawn to the ballads and legends of the British Isles, especially the supernatural ballads of fairy queens and elfin knights. The ballad of Thomas the Rhymer, who was, according to the legend, kidnapped by the Queen of Elfland and returned seven years later with the gift of prophecy and more, has always intrigued me. So I asked the question: “What if Thomas returned with something more than the gift of prophecy? What if he returned to Scotland with a mysterious, ancient book of healing? And what if that book, generations later was accidentally misused?” The answer to that question is the central story of The Apothecary’s Curse.

I love writing historical fantasy because it allows me to take real history (accurately told) and ask interesting “what ifs.” My favorite fantasy stories are always grounded in reality and history, science and the possible (no matter how improbable).



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Apothecary's Curse?

Barbara:  So much research!! To make the science work, I read extensively about the 2009 Nobel prize-winning work in genetics. I researched both Celtic and Greek mythology and a bit of astronomy to create some of the backstory for Gaelan. I also researched the history British medicine, especially as it relates to the practice of “gentlemen” physicians and apothecaries in Victorian England—especially to understand how Gaelan would be a qualified medical practitioner and to underpin the tension between Simon Bell and Gaelan in the Victorian sections of the novel. I researched the settings as well: from the Borders region of Scotland to Smithfield Market of 19th Century London to my own backyard of Chicago’s north shore. I also read a lot of history of the era surrounding Gaelan’s early life in late 16th Century Scotland under James VI. Oh! And lots and lots about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle way beyond his writing of the Holmes canon! That scratches the surface. In other words, a lot of research went into creating The Apothecary’s Curse and its world.



TQIn The Apothecary's Curse who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Barbara:  I think the easiest character for me was Gaelan. But he was also the hardest. Easy because I understood him—not because I am an immortal (!), but because he shares my curiosity about the world and everything in it. Also easy, because I gravitate toward melancholy, brooding heroes, so I adored writing the enigmatic, sometimes-misunderstood Gaelan Erceldoune. He (and Simon) were also difficult technically. They both exist both in the Victorian part of the story and the present-day story. I had to be constantly vigilant in the modern story about keeping their diction (especially in dialogue) 21st Century while keeping them in character.

So, that’s a bit of a cheat for an answer, so I’ll say that Anne Shawe was the hardest of my main characters to write. I wanted to avoid having her be too much “me”—a slightly naïve, enthusiastic, eager scientist. I also needed to make sure the incredible, but right-in-front-of-her-eyes nature of her situation didn’t make her come off as either too gullible or skeptical beyond belief (like Scully often was in The X-Files in the later years).



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in The Apothecary's Curse?

Barbara:  The Apothecary’s Curse definitely touches on social issues, especially the question of what happens when our knowledge and technology outstrip our wisdom to use it. I think that theme filter through all the characters both in the modern and Victorian stories. Each of the characters in The Apothecary’s Curse encounters dilemma in different ways during the course of the story. I think that that all good fiction should say something. Maybe the something is subtle and indirect; maybe it’s overt.



TQWhich question about The Apothecary's Curse do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Barbara:  Where did you come up with the names “Gaelan Erceldoune” and “Simon Bell” (the two protagonists)?

Both of their names were chosen with a lot of thought. Both of their names speak to their families’ histories and then some (especially Gaelan). I took the name Gaelan from the ancient Roman-Empire physician-philosopher Galen of Pergamon. He was one of antiquity’s most influential men of science, especially in anatomy, physiology, pathology, and pharmacology. Gaelan’s last name Erceldoune connects him with his ancestor Thomas the Rhymer, whose full name was Lord Thomas Learmont de Ercildoune. The place Ercildoune (or as I spell it Erceldoune) is now the town of Earlston in the Borders region of Scotland.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Apothecary's Curse.

Barbara
“He ignored the derision in Bell’s tone, sweeping past him as he brushed his shirtsleeve across the cover; a swirl of dust erupted between them. Then with a rag pulled from his trouser pocket, Gaelan burnished the cover with meticulous, minute strokes, revealing the engraved image of an intricate tree. Emerging from deep within the leather, its bare branches entwined and diverged into snakes, each consuming its own tail—an ouroboros. The snakes merged, transforming once again into an elaborate border of interconnected and twisted helices. Gaelan beheld the marvelous engraving, considering the complexity of its design.

The hawthorn: sigil of balance between life and death. A reminder that all medicines were a paradox, curative or poisonous and, as Gaelan well knew, too often producing unexpected consequences. And then there were the ouroboroses—they were alchemy’s symbol for the circularity of life: life from life, life from death, from death to living in an eternal chain. For what was the true nature of medicine’s practice? To lift the dying, to forestall death’s knock at the door, and recommence life. But Gaelan knew, more than most, that the ouroboros also signified life eternal . . . immortality, alchemy’s eternal quest.”


TQWhat's next?

Barbara:  Right now, I’m working on a second novel that takes us more deeply into Gaelan’s history. I also continue to contribute to Blogcritics Magazine, where I serve as executive editor and publisher.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.





The Apothecary's Curse
Pyr, October 11, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 340 pages

Interview with Barbara Barnett, author of The Apothecary's Curse
In Victorian London, the fates of physician Simon Bell and apothecary Gaelan Erceldoune entwine when Simon gives his wife an elixir created by Gaelan from an ancient manuscript. Meant to cure her cancer, it kills her. Suicidal, Simon swallows the remainder—only to find he cannot die. Five years later, hearing rumors of a Bedlam inmate with regenerative powers like his own, Simon is shocked to discover it’s Gaelan. The two men conceal their immortality, but the only hope of reversing their condition rests with Gaelan’s missing manuscript.

When modern-day pharmaceutical company Genomics unearths diaries describing the torture of Bedlam inmates, the company’s scientists suspect a link between Gaelan and an unnamed inmate. Gaelan and Genomics geneticist Anne Shawe are powerfully drawn to each other, and her family connection to his manuscript leads to a stunning revelation. Will it bring ruin or redemption?



Qwill's Thoughts

The Apothecary's Curse starts in Victorian London and introduces us to the main protagonists - Dr. Simon Bell and Gaelen Erceldoune.

In the novel Dr. Simon Bell is a member of the famous Bell family of doctors and brother to Dr. James Bell. (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle based some of Sherlock Holmes on the real Dr. James Bell.) Simon Bell is a well known doctor in his own right in the novel. He is deeply in love with his wife, Sophie, and would do anything to save her from the cancer that is killing her.

Gaelen Erceldoune is a well-known apothecary. He has set up his business in a poor section of London and does his best to help the people of his neighborhood. He has an immense collection of books on the healing arts and science. Gaelen also is in possession of a manuscript that has been passed down in his family. It contains many cures not available to the 'modern' medicine of the Victorian era. The manuscript's history is absolutely fascinating and becomes even more so in the latter sections of the novel.

Simon's and Gaelen's lives become inextricably linked when Gaelen, who has withdrawn from aiding doctors due to certain events in his life, agrees to help Simon and give him a cure for his wife. Things go wrong with the cure, though who is to blame is never 100% clear to either man, and Sophie dies. Simon becomes despondent and in a desperate attempt to end his own life and reunite with his wife takes the rest of the cure. He doesn't die... he is granted immortality. Gaelen loses his manuscript due to events beyond his control. He is wrongly accused of crimes and life becomes a hell for him.

The novel details the lives of the two men in both the Victorian and modern era. Simon has been keeping on eye on Gaelen over the years partially out of friendship and partially out of a desire to help Gaelen find his missing manuscript. Simon wants to die and only the manuscript holds the key to reversing his immortality. Events conspire against Gaelen and his miraculous abilities to heal become known. Enter both Anne Shawe, a geneticist, and an unethical pharmaceutical company that wants Gaelen for his unique physiology. Things come quickly to a head after Gaelen is exposed. The game is afoot!

The Apothecary's Curse is beautifully researched and there is a real sense of history and wonder throughout. Bell and Erceldoune are an odd couple linked in immortality and the things they have lost throughout the years. Both men are well-developed and their lives in both the modern and Victorian eras detailed. Barnett has created a captivating combination of Historical and Urban Fantasy, of science and the supernatural, and of loss and love in The Apothecary's Curse.





About Barbara

Interview with Barbara Barnett, author of The Apothecary's Curse
Barbara Barnett is publisher and executive editor of Blogcritics Magazineand the author of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D. Barbara has won several awards for her writing, spanning from technical writing achievement to her writing on spirituality and religion. Barbara has a degree from the University of Illinois in biology/chemistry and has worked as a microbiologist. She is the current president of the Midwest Writers Association.





Website  ~  Twitter @B_Barnett  ~  Facebook


2016 Debut Author Challenge Update: The Next by Stephanie Gangi


2016 Debut Author Challenge Update: The Next by Stephanie Gangi


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



Stephanie Gangi

The Next
St. Martin's Press, October 18, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update: The Next by Stephanie Gangi
"Love and loss, revenge and redemption, this debut novel will stick with you for a long time." —Emily Giffin

"I love The Next...elegantly written, thoughtfully sharp, surprisingly touching." —Cathleen Schine

Is there a right way to die? If so, Joanna DeAngelis has it all wrong. She’s consumed by betrayal, spending her numbered days obsessing over Ned McGowan, her much younger ex, and watching him thrive in the spotlight with someone new, while she wastes away. She’s every woman scorned, fantasizing about revenge … except she’s out of time.

Joanna falls from her life, from the love of her daughters and devoted dog, into an otherworldly landscape, a bleak infinity she can’t escape until she rises up and returns and sets it right—makes Ned pay—so she can truly move on.

From the other side into right this minute, Jo embarks on a sexy, spiritual odyssey. As she travels beyond memory, beyond desire, she is transformed into a fierce female force of life, determined to know how to die, happily ever after.

Interview with Colin Gigl and Review of The Ferryman Institute


Please welcome Colin Gigl to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Ferryman Institute is published on September 27th by Gallery Books.


Interview with Colin Gigl and Review of The Ferryman Institute



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

Colin:  Thank you, happy to be here. I started writing some time around age 3 or 4, I think — "mom" being the first, last, and only word in my debut, which was awarded an illustrious place on the family fridge. I began taking it more seriously in college after a professor made the mistake of saying she thought a piece I wrote was funny. You can blame her for this.

I started writing because I (usually) enjoy it, at least when I'm in the moment. Sometimes, when you're writing, the world sort of falls away, and when you snap back to it, you've got 100 words on the page you don't really remember writing that you can't believe are your words... That's a special feeling.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Colin:  Mostly pantser, sort of hybrid though. On the plotting side, I'll jot down key points or themes I want to try and hit, and I don't like to start writing the first draft until I've got at least most of the narrative shape in my head.

Other than that, though? Pure flinging spaghetti at walls.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Colin:  Getting the spaghetti to stick to the wall. Pasta just doesn't adhere well to smooth surfaces.

Honestly, there are a lot of challenges, but I think the biggest I face is doubt. I often have a nagging feeling that every word/sentence/paragraph I write has some alternate, perfect version, but I'm just not talented enough to see what that is. Dealing with that feeling can be tricky. I've just tried to accept this weird duality of not being easily satisfied with what I have on the page while also recognizing that not everything will be perfect and I can only do the best I can.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Colin:  Marketing comparisons aside, reading Christopher Moore growing up really changed the way I looked at writing. Here was a guy writing genuinely laugh-out-loud speculative fiction. Up to that point, I hadn't realized that authors were allowed to be funny. I know that's strange to say, but that's how it felt to me.

Also, THE MASTER AND MARGARITA left a big mark on me — I loved its magical realism. That really struck a chord with me. Mythology obviously influenced me, too. After that, the list gets pretty exhausting.



TQDescribe The Ferryman Institute in 140 characters or less.

Colin:  Two broken souls — one an immortal guide to the dead, one about to be dead — end up on an adventure together that just might save them both



TQTell us something about The Ferryman Institute that is not found in the book description.

Colin:  I think this story can be a bit sadder and/or more introspective than the description lets on. I certainly hope it earns a smile or two along the way, but it's not exactly light fare.

Also, there's kissing. So, uh, if that grosses you out, or something, you should be aware of that, I guess. Just saying.



TQWhat inspired you to write The Ferryman Institute? What appeals to you about writing contemporary fantasy?

Colin:  Someone very close to me was battling with severe depression, among other things. I woke up one morning with the distinct thought of _What if you wanted to kill yourself, but couldn't?_ I know that's not exactly the cheeriest thought the world has ever been privy to, but it was an interesting and almost reassuring idea at the time. The rest sort of snowballed from there.

The thing I enjoy about fantasy is that, as the author, you get to design the rules, so to speak. You want a character who can jump off cliffs all willy-nilly because he feels like it? Go for it. I believe fantasy carries these inherent elements of discovery and suspense, even when dealing with the mundane, because at any given moment, the story can tap into the unexpected. There is always the potential for surprise and wonderment around every corner in a good fantasy.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Ferryman Institute?

Colin:  I shudder to think what my Google search history looks like thanks to this book. Psychologists would probably have a field day with that: "Well, given his Googling on myths, suicide, the Lincoln Tunnel, and affect versus effect, we can only conclude he was an acolyte in an ancient cult going to perform a sacred blood ritual in the Lincoln Tunnel. Oh, and his grammar was horrifyingly atrocious."



TQIn The Ferryman Institute who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Colin:  Easiest: toss up between Alice and Cartwright. For whatever reason, their voices came naturally to me — it felt more like I was taking dictation than I was writing them.

Hardest: Javrouche. He ended up getting rewritten several times. His using of French honorifics was actually from one of the latest drafts, so he was evolving even to the very end.



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in The Ferryman Institute?

Colin:  I think having a fantastical lens to view a story through sometimes brings issues in the real world into sharper focus. The suicide angle was more of a personal desire to try and tell a story that was ultimately about hope -- that, even at the possible moment, when all seems lost, there's still a chance things can turn around.



TQWhich question about The Ferryman Institute do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Colin:  "What's the best way to give you several hundred million dollars as gratitude for bringing this book into the world?"

What a great question that would be to get, right?

On a more serious note: "What do you hope to accomplish with this book?"

Really, I just wanted to tell a good story. My writing has a ways to go, but if I could provide the means by which a reader loses him or herself for a while, I'd be thrilled. If it helps someone pick up a little bit of hope when they were in need of it, well, all the better.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Ferryman Institute.

Colin:  Oof... Really tough to pick a favorite, but here's one I enjoy: "Death was such an abstract concept right up until the point when it wasn’t anymore."



TQWhat's next?

Colin:  Hopefully another book, but I'm trying not to get too ahead of myself. I feel extraordinarily lucky to even have a chance to share this book with the world, so surviving this one is where my head's at.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Colin:  Thanks for the opportunity!





The Ferryman Institute
Gallery Books, September 27, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 432 pages

Interview with Colin Gigl and Review of The Ferryman Institute
In this stunning, fantastical debut novel from a bold new voice in the bestselling traditions of Christopher Moore and Jasper Fforde, a ferryman for the dead finds his existence unraveling after making either the best decision or the biggest mistake of his immortal life.

Ferryman Charlie Dawson saves dead people—somebody has to convince them to move on to the afterlife, after all. Having never failed a single assignment, he's acquired a reputation for success that’s as legendary as it is unwanted. It turns out that serving as a Ferryman is causing Charlie to slowly lose his mind. Deemed too valuable by the Ferryman Institute to be let go and too stubborn to just give up in his own right, Charlie’s pretty much abandoned all hope of escaping his grim existence. Or he had, anyway, until he saved Alice Spiegel. To be fair, Charlie never planned on stopping Alice from taking her own life—that sort of thing is strictly forbidden by the Institute—but he never planned on the President secretly giving him the choice to, either. Charlie’s not quite sure what to make of it, but Alice is alive, and it’s the first time he’s felt right in more than two hundred years.

When word of the incident reaches Inspector Javrouche, the Ferryman Institute's resident internal affairs liaison, Charlie finds he's in a world of trouble. But Charlie’s not about to lose the only living, breathing person he’s ever saved without a fight. He’s ready to protect her from Javrouche and save Alice from herself, and he’s willing to put the entire continued existence of mankind at risk to do it.

Written in the same vein as bestselling modern classics such as The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde and A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore, The Ferryman Institute is a thrilling supernatural adventure packed with wit and humor.



Qwill's Thoughts

The Ferryman Institute by Colin Gigl is the story of Charlie Dawson, Ferryman extraordinaire. He's been working as a Ferryman for over 200 years and he's exhausted. He's tired of ferrying. He's tired of saving the day when a death is difficult and the soul he's dealing with may be traumatized. He's spending more and more time away from the Ferryman Institute. Out of the blue he receives a special and secret assignment from the President of the Institute. He's sent to ferry Alice Spiegel after she commits suicide. But for the first time ever he's given the choice to save a person or not. Charlie saves Alice.

There are many rules that Ferryman have to obey including not revealing themselves to living humans. Charlie breaks this rule (along with others) and he is in a huge amount of trouble - being locked up for centuries trouble! Inspector Javrouche who is the internal affairs officer is after Charlie for this breach among others.

Charlie is a wonderful main character. He's conflicted about what he does. He's compassionate and caring. He's somewhat sarcastic and funny. However, his work has become senseless to him. He has good friends at the Institute. Individuals who are worried about him, but he bottles up everything he is feeling and continues to do his job. He's one of the best Ferryman that has ever existed and the Institute needs him. He's greatly admired, but that is not enough for him. He doesn't want to be a hero.

Alice has had a difficult life recently - she's going nowhere professionally, she's been heartbroken in more ways than one, and she sees no continued use for her existence. Meeting Charlie (and not killing herself) starts to bring her out of her sadness. She's got a spark of self-worth left. If Charlie can nurture that, Alice may have a chance. She's a terrific counterpoint to Charlie. She's strong and independent but needs to lean on Charlie to see that she has much to live for.

Inspector Javrouche is mean, spiteful and really, really dislikes Charlie. There are reasons for this which become apparent over the course of the novel. His behavior towards Charlie is the catalyst for a lot of what happens in the novel though Charlie's saving of Alice is the linchpin event.

There is a fabulous cast of supporting characters as well - Charlie's friends and co-workers. In particular his best friend and mentor, Cartwright, is just lovely.

The Ferryman Institute is steeped in Greco-Roman lore. The Institute's history is deeply interesting and there are quite a few surprises about the Institute's founding, how it works, and its bureaucracy. Gigl has created a well thought out and developed backdrop to the novel.

The Ferryman Institute is a terrific novel. It's full of action, tension, excitement, and fascinating characters. It's a really, really fun read with moments of both laughter and introspection. Charlie Dawson is a reluctant hero, but a hero nonetheless.





About Colin

Interview with Colin Gigl and Review of The Ferryman Institute
Photo by Carly Gigl
Colin Gigl is a graduate of Trinity College with degrees in creative writing and computer science (no, he’s not quite sure how that happened, either). He currently works at a start-up in New York and lives with his wife in New Jersey.









Website  ~  Twitter @cgigl  ~  Facebook



2016 DAC Cover Wars - September Winner


The winner of the September 2016 Debut Author Challenge Cover Wars is The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp from Orbit with 37% of all votes.



The Last Days of Jack Sparks
Orbit, September 13, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages

2016 DAC Cover Wars - September Winner
"Ingenious and funny . . . Magnificent." -- Alan Moore, creator of Watchmen and V for Vendetta

Jack Sparks died while writing this book.

It was no secret that journalist Jack Sparks had been researching the occult for his new book. No stranger to controversy, he'd already triggered a furious Twitter storm by mocking an exorcism he witnessed.

Then there was that video: forty seconds of chilling footage that Jack repeatedly claimed was not of his making, yet was posted from his own YouTube account.

Nobody knew what happened to Jack in the days that followed -- until now.




The Results

2016 DAC Cover Wars - September Winner




The September 2016 Debut Covers

2016 DAC Cover Wars - September Winner

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Apothecary's Curse by Barbara Barnett


2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Apothecary's Curse by Barbara Barnett


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



Barbara Barnett

The Apothecary's Curse
Pyr, October 11, 2016
Trade Paperback and eBook, 340 pages

2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Apothecary's Curse by Barbara Barnett
In Victorian London, the fates of physician Simon Bell and apothecary Gaelan Erceldoune entwine when Simon gives his wife an elixir created by Gaelan from an ancient manuscript. Meant to cure her cancer, it kills her. Suicidal, Simon swallows the remainder—only to find he cannot die. Five years later, hearing rumors of a Bedlam inmate with regenerative powers like his own, Simon is shocked to discover it’s Gaelan. The two men conceal their immortality, but the only hope of reversing their condition rests with Gaelan’s missing manuscript.

When modern-day pharmaceutical company Genomics unearths diaries describing the torture of Bedlam inmates, the company’s scientists suspect a link between Gaelan and an unnamed inmate. Gaelan and Genomics geneticist Anne Shawe are powerfully drawn to each other, and her family connection to his manuscript leads to a stunning revelation. Will it bring ruin or redemption?

Interview with Jason Arnopp and Review of The Last Days of Jack Sparks


Please welcome Jason Arnopp to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Last Days of Jack Sparks was published on September 13th by Orbit.



Interview with Jason Arnopp and Review of The Last Days of Jack Sparks




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

Jason:  Hello! Thanks very much for ushering me in. I started writing at around the age of five, having been inspired by Tom Baker-era Doctor Who and Enid Blyton stories like The Magic Faraway Tree. I created my own comic strips and short stories, all of which involved an explosion roughly every five seconds.



TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Jason:  I’m very much a hybrid, so you could call me a plotser. I establish a skeletal framework, which tends to work out the story’s big turning points, and I try to decide what the story’s really about (although this will often change). Then I dive on in and work it out as I go. This can cause me untold trouble, in the form of rewriting and wailing and gnashing of teeth, but I think it’s important to engage the subconscious mind and let the story grow the right way. I find it extraordinarily difficult to put myself entirely into character’s heads before I start writing them. It’s like the difference between viewing them from above, as if they’re chess pieces, and actually possessing them like some kind of demon.

When I do go off the story rails, incidentally, that’s when I tend to turn to hardcore plotting wisdom. I kind of treat story structure templates like they’re Saul Goodman from Breaking Bad – I only call them when I’m in trouble.



TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Jason:  It would honestly be quicker to tell you what I don’t find challenging. I pretty much find it all very challenging and sometimes just unpleasantly difficult. The more writing experience you gain, the harder it arguably seems to become, because you get a more accurate idea of what it actually takes if you want to really achieve things and break any kind of new ground. For me, the most challenging thing about writing is that each new project seems to require a whole new skillset. It’s not like you learn your trade and then it’s plain sailing, oh no. What a ludicrous way to try and earn a living.



TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing? How does having a background in journalism affect (or not) your fiction writing?

Jason:  I’m influenced by every genre thing I’ve ever enjoyed, and some I haven’t. Particularly things involving the supernatural, or what seems to involve the supernatural. So that would be everything from Doctor Who to The Evil Dead to Stephen King to Mark Z Danielewski’s House Of Leaves to Scooby Doo to John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing. Chuck Palahniuk is also one of my favourite authors: I love how he has his very own style, and takes such unflinching looks at the human condition.

To make the obvious joke, journalism certainly trained me in the art of making stuff up! But actually that’s not true, because I was always lucky to avoid the dark side of journalism that involves ruining lives or bugging people’s phones. Spending over a decade on a weekly rock magazine certainly prepared me for deadlines and possibly taught me how to work out what to write first in any given piece. And in the case of The Last Days Of Jack Sparks, of course, it helped me write a journalist character with some degree of authority.



TQDescribe The Last Days of Jack Sparks in 140 characters or less.

Jason:  It’s a scary and funny thriller about an arrogant celebrity journalist who sets out to debunk the supernatural and ends up dead. #JackSparks



TQTell us something about The Last Days of Jack Sparks that is not found in the book description.

Jason:  At one point, the book incorporates a scenario based on a real-life thing called The Philip Experiment. In 1972, a group of Toronto researchers invented their own fictional character then tried to summon him into some form of existence. The results remain ambiguous to this day, making the whole thing rather fascinating. I changed its name to The Harold Experiment in this book, for reasons which should become plain enough when you read it.



TQWhat inspired you to write The Last Days of Jack Sparks? What appealed to you about writing a psychological thriller?

Jason:  I do like to climb inside characters’ heads and have a natural curiosity about life’s big questions. So I suppose I combined both interests by writing about a guy who travels the world looking to disprove the existence of ghosts. It appealed to me to make Jack an unreliable narrator, because that can be a useful way to reveal character while keeping the reader guessing.



TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Last Days of Jack Sparks?

Jason:  Of the global locations featured in the book, Hong Kong was the one I hadn’t visited in a long time, so Google Street View really helped there. God bless Google Street View, it’s a real unsung hero for writers. One brief part of the book is told from the POV of a flight stewardess, so I interviewed my friend Phill Barron, who works in the air as well as being a prolific screenwriter. Perhaps the most research-intensive topic in the book, though, was combat magic. More about that in a minute…



TQIn The Last Days of Jack Sparks who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Jason:  I hate to say it, but Jack was the easiest character to write. I’m not sure what that says about me, but it’s true nonetheless. The thing is, authors regularly seesaw between egotism and self-loathing, so perhaps it’s healthy to let some of that ego run riot through a fictional character. A lot of people siphon out some of their worst traits out through writing and maybe I’m one of ‘em. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

So, the hardest character to write? That was Sherilyn Chastain. Since Sherilyn’s a combat magician, she had to know her stuff. Luckily, my friend Cat Vincent is a retired combat magician and could tell me lots of stuff. In fact, plenty of Cat’s sage words went straight into Sherilyn’s mouth, which made reading the book quite an odd experience for him!



TQWhy have you chosen to include social issues in The Last Days of Jack Sparks?

Jason:  I suppose what I chose to include were social media issues. I’d noticed quite a lot of certainty expressed on social media, perhaps as an unconscious response to what often feels like an increasingly chaotic world. There are lots of great things about social media (and about certain kinds of certainty, for that matter), but sometimes it’s hard to escape the nagging sense that Twitter’s a vast room full of people yelling through megaphones, then wondering why no-one’s listening. Often feels like we’re in broadcast mode more often than we’re in receive mode. So that darker side of social media was interesting to me and helped to illuminate Jack’s own character, particularly as his own ego starts to peel away and reveal more of him beneath. Thematically, the book ended up being an exploration of how ego, belief and certainty interact in the social media age.



TQWhich question about The Last Days of Jack Sparks do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Jason:  That’s a great question, I like it. Hmm, let’s see. The ideal question would be, “Would it be a big help if I reviewed the book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks or Indiebound?” And my answer to this would be, “Hell yes, thank you so much, it would be a bigger help than you know! Especially for a debut novel, positive reviews are gold dust. Or, actually, word of mouth, off or on social media, can be just as valuable. Some folk might imagine that publishers put books out there and people just automatically buy them, but it’s tough – there’s a whole glittering constellation of books out there, vying for readers’ attention. You can practically feel each copy of the book selling, one at a time. When people pop up on Twitter to kindly tell me they enjoyed Jack Sparks, I send them a link to a secret page on my site that tells them how exactly how awesome they are. Word of mouth is vital.”



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Last Days of Jack Sparks.

Jason:  My favourite line appears twice in the novel: “There’s no such thing as the Devil”. I also like “No one listens any more. Only when it’s far too late do our ears open wide”.



TQWhat's next?

Jason:  I recently delivered the second book in my two-book deal with Orbit Books. This one is standalone and has nothing to do with Jack Sparks, who is after all, as dead as a doornail. It occupies the same general kind of territory, though, being a supernatural thriller. When I write, I aim to create an edgy kind of sense that almost anything can happen, so hopefully that unpredictability comes across in both The Last Days Of Jack Sparks and the next novel. Surprising (and hopefully delighting) readers is so much fun.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Jason:  Thanks so much for having me. I had a totally qwiller time!





The Last Days of Jack Sparks
Orbit, September 13, 2016
Hardcover and eBook, 400 pages

Interview with Jason Arnopp and Review of The Last Days of Jack Sparks
"Ingenious and funny . . . Magnificent." -- Alan Moore, creator of Watchmen and V for Vendetta

Jack Sparks died while writing this book.

It was no secret that journalist Jack Sparks had been researching the occult for his new book. No stranger to controversy, he'd already triggered a furious Twitter storm by mocking an exorcism he witnessed.

Then there was that video: forty seconds of chilling footage that Jack repeatedly claimed was not of his making, yet was posted from his own YouTube account.

Nobody knew what happened to Jack in the days that followed -- until now.



Qwill's Thoughts

The Last Days of Jack Sparks is spooky and strange. I absolutely love it. The novel's main character, Jack Sparks, is the poster person for unreliable narrator. I don't trust his brother Alistair either. The story is primarily told from Jack's POV in the form of a book he was writing called "Jack Sparks on the Supernatural", which is being edited and published with the help of his brother Alistair who offers his own notes on the events in the book. There are additional POVs included from people who are interacting with Jack and present a different picture of him.

Jack has written 3 prior books - "Jack Sparks on a Pogo Stick", "Jack Sparks on Gangs" and "Jack Sparks on Drugs". He ended up in rehab after that last book.

Jack has already made up his mind that the supernatural is all baloney. The intent of his latest book is to basically rip apart anyone involved with the supernatural and debunk what they are doing. It doesn't go quite as Jack planned. Jack Sparks is dead but how he gets there is a wild ride.

I really disliked Jack for the most part. He's self-important, self-entitled and unpleasant though he's often funny. His motives for writing about the supernatural are suspect. He's not nice. He's rude. However, toward the end of the novel I really came to feel for him, which is not to say I liked him.

Arnopp has put together a wonderful supporting cast for Jack, including his roommate Bex, his brother Alistair, and many of the people he encounters on his global trek to interview those who work in the the supernatural fields - an exorcist from the Church in Italy, a group in the US trying to recreate an experiment from the 1970s during which they try to create a ghost, and Sherilyn Chastain (a combat magician) in Hong Kong.

The Last Days of Jack Sparks is tautly written and breathtakingly paced. Jack is both horrible and fantastic and the supporting cast of characters are well fleshed out.

Arnopp leads the reader deep into the chilling heart of the supernatural and Jack's psyche - neither of which are fun places to be. The Last Days of Jack Sparks is thrilling, astonishingly twisted and fabulous.





About Jason

Interview with Jason Arnopp and Review of The Last Days of Jack Sparks
Jason Arnopp is a British author and scriptwriter. His background is in journalism: he has worked on titles such as Heat, Q, The Word, Kerrang!, SFX and Doctor Who Magazine. He has written comedy for Radio 4 and official tie-in fiction for Doctor Who and Friday The 13th, but The Last Days of Jack Sparks is the first novel which is entirely Jason's own fault (though some may prefer to lay the blame on Jack...)






Website  ~  Twitter @JasonArnopp  ~  Facebook

The Jack Sparks Website


Interview with Alex White, author of Every Mountain Made Low2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Burning Isle by Will Panzo2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - Of the Abyss by Amelia Atwater-RhodesInterview with Stephanie Gangi, author of The NextInterview with Barbara Barnett, author of The Apothecary's Curse2016 Debut Author Challenge Update: The Next by Stephanie GangiInterview with Colin Gigl and Review of The Ferryman Institute2016 DAC Cover Wars - September Winner2016 Debut Author Challenge Update - The Apothecary's Curse by Barbara BarnettInterview with Jason Arnopp and Review of The Last Days of Jack Sparks

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