Monday, September 29, 2014

Interview: Nicholas Kaufmann

I am always looking for male authors in the UF genre as I find they have a unique point of view for this genre. When I had to read Nicholoas Kaufmann's novel Dying is My Business I knew I wanted to have an author feature with him. He has so many interesting and cool ideas. Please Welcome to Blood Rose Books:

Nicholas Kaufamann

If there was one author you could co-write a novel with (they can be alive or dead) who would you choose and why? 
Wow, you're starting off with a really hard one! There are so many favorite authors I would love to work with that it's almost impossible to choose just one. I suppose I would have to choose my favorite author of all, Peter Straub, but I say that with no small amount of hesitation. He's such an exquisite writer, a maestro, and I feel like I'm nowhere near his level of prose. So if we worked together, I'd probably be worried the whole time about bringing the quality level down. Still, I think the process of co-writing with him would be incredible, and I have no doubt I would learn so, so much from him.  

Is there a book, author, story or person that inspired you to become a writer?  
I've been writing stories since before I knew how to write. Back then, I would just draw my stories instead. So it's hard for me to tell if there was any one thing or person that inspired me to become a writer. I loved the monster movies I saw on TV, especially the old Universal horror films, Godzilla movies, and Sinbad movies. The creatures always got my imagination fired up. So if there's a root to my telling stories, it's probably those movies. I became a voracious reader as I got older. I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy in high school and college. As much as I loved horror, I didn't read a lot of it outside of Ray Bradbury's darker work, like Something Wicked This Way Comes and The October Country. Then one day I discovered Clive Barker's Books of Blood series, and I realized what I'd been missing all my life. Barker showed me what good horror fiction could do. It set me on the path of reading and writing more horror, and that's what led me to where I am today. While Dying Is My Business and its sequel, Die and Stay Dead, are labeled urban fantasies, there's a strong current of horror that runs through them. I suspect there will be some horror elements in pretty much everything I write. It's hard for me to turn it off. 

The Urban Fantasy / Paranormal genres appear to be the genre that everyone is writing in these days (even authors that are well established in other genres), what do you think draws authors to these genres? Why did you decided to release your debut in this genres? How do you believe your novels stand out from the rest of the crowd? 
Dying Is My Business isn't really my debut, though it is my first truly commercial, widely published novel. I've had story collections and novellas published by small presses, and a full-length commercial novel published widely but not under my name (Hunt at World's End, which was published originally under the house name Gabriel Hunt, but has since been re-released by another publisher with my name on it.) 
I don't know why other authors are drawn to urban fantasy, but I know why I am. As I mentioned earlier, I grew up reading a lot of science fiction and fantasy. One thing I could never really get into about the fantasies I read was their setting. I just didn't care about these imaginary kingdoms with odd names. The characters had weird names, too, spelled with so many random apostrophes and hyphens that I had no idea how to pronounce them. It got to the point where if I picked up a fantasy novel and it had a map in the front of its fictional lands and a glossary in the back of all their special words, I would put it down again. It just turned me off. In fact, I poke a little fun at those kinds of fantasies in the early chapters of Dying Is My Business, where Trent is trying to read an archetypal fantasy novel complete with maps, glossaries, and unpronounceable names. But then, later, I started seeing more fantasy novels that were as filled with magic and monsters as any other but took place in recognizable settings. Cities, mostly, and as a city dweller myself that spoke to me. I'll admit I also liked that the characters didn't have unpronounceable names and that no maps were necessary. 

I think another thing that drew me to urban fantasy is that it's the most horror-like of the fantasy spectrum. Horror is often about the intrusion of the supernatural into our everyday, recognizable life, and urban fantasy does much the same. That mix of regular life with something beyond the everyday, whether that something is full of wonder or terror, really speaks to me. 

What do you think would be the hardest or most challenging genre to write a novel in and why? 
I think it's challenging to write a novel in any genre! I know the better writers out there make it look easy, but I can assure you it's not. There's a lot of effort and frustration involved, just like with any job. And just like with any job, it helps a lot if you love doing it. 

Trent has a very interesting ability of not being able to die, is there some sort of metaphor in there of you never wanting to die or how did you come up with the concept for his power? 
Everyone is scared of dying. Mostly because we're worried it'll hurt, and because we don't know what happens afterward. Do we survive as spirits or some kind of conscious energy? Do we simply cease to be? Both answers are actually quite comforting—if we live on as spirits there's nothing to worry about, and if we cease to be we won't worry about anything anyway—but it's the not knowing that really scares us. There's also a sadness to dying. We're sad at the thought of leaving our loved ones, and we're sad when they leave us. 

But people read horror and fantasy to experience things they don't in their everyday lives. Horror in particular is a safe way of exploring death and its ramifications. It allows us to practice grieving without having to lose a loved one, and it shows us death without putting us in actual danger. I'd lost some people in the recent past, including my father, and I think subconsciously I wanted to explore death a bit in Dying Is My Business. And what better way than to have a protagonist who dies frequently and can come back to report on it? 

Trent is very much the anti-hero, he is a thief, and he only takes on tasks that benefit him and his quest for his past. What do you think is the appeal of writing your protagonist as an anti-hero? 
Everyone loves a badass, including me. I love characters who you think are bad but show their goodness when their backs are against the wall. For me, it probably all stems from Han Solo, who has become the archetypal badass, rogue character for so many people of my generation. (And that's why it was so important that he shot first. There's a world of character difference between someone who shoots Greedo in cold blood and someone who shoots out of self-defense.) For the generation that followed mine, their Han Solo would probably be Severus Snape, who seems at least somewhat evil throughout the Harry Potter novels but is then revealed to be a hero at the end. It's an archetype that people will always respond to, because that kind of character can get away with doing things we only wish we could do sometimes, but then at the end they show that they're not so bad at all—which effectively lets them off the hook for all the bad things they did. It's a kind of wish fulfillment, I suppose. 
I also think personal quests are important for a satisfying narrative, and Trent struck me as desperate enough to do anything, even perform questionable work for a crime boss, to get the answers he needs. And that leads to some great drama. Besides, it's always a more satisfying narrative to watch a character climb a ladder than to already be at the top of it. 

Other than Trent’s mission to find his past, the main theme of the book is the battle between good and evil (with always that gray area in there), and there seems to be some folklore and tales woven in there as well, especially with the Gargoyles (I loved the gargoyle aspect). Are any of the elements within the book based upon folklore that you have researched? Are there any folklore that pique your interest that you could meld into Trent’s world? 
It's funny you should say that, because the gargoyles were actually less iconic to me than the Black Knight. The image of the Black Knight riding his armored horse down a crowded New York City street while cars swerve all around him was one of the first images that came to me when I set out to write the novel. There's always been a part of me that's drawn to monsters, as I mentioned, and gargoyles are definitely cool monsters, but I think there's a part of me that has always been fascinated by knights, too, especially the whole King Arthur story. It might stem from having seen the movie Excalibur at a young age (really too young for such a violent and sexually explicit film; it disturbed me for weeks afterward). 

In terms of folklore, I'm fascinated by the ideas of zombies (the old kind, where the dead are basically used for slave labor, not the new kind where they eat you) and necromancers and anything that can take control of your body away from you. So it's no surprise, I guess, that the main villain of the series is Reve Azrael, a necromancer who can raise an army of the dead by forcing her will into corpses in order to control them. Of course, since Trent can't die, she's especially fascinated by him. While good vs. evil is one of the themes, the series is almost more about life (Trent) vs. death (Reve Azrael) instead. 

You have stated that your book is Urban Fantasy Noir, do you have any interest in writing and developing a Noir film? When you read Dying is my Business does it play out like a Noir Film in you head? 
I'm not really interested in making a noir film, though I love them. If I were to get into filmmaking, I think I'd definitely do horror movies. They would certainly have an element of noir to them in the characters and especially in the use of shadow and light when composing a scene. Dying Is My Business did not play out like a noir film in my head, either, though the influences were obviously there. It played out much more like an adventure film, James Bond with monsters. Obviously, there's a world of difference between James Bond and Trent, but I love the action set pieces of the Bond films so much that I used the same approach to the action in the novel. 

Do you have any information on upcoming works or events that you are able to share? 
I mentioned the sequel earlier, Die and Stay Dead. It's coming out from St. Martin's Today, September 30, 2014. I'm very excited about it. I'll be doing a few events for it in New York City and maybe even in the surrounding area. Keep an eye on my blog for announcements: I'm working on the third Trent book right now. If the first two books do well enough, you should see book three, which is tentatively titled Only the Dead Sleep, out in 2015. I've also got some other novels percolating in the back of my mind. At some point, I'd love to write a graphic novel as well. 

What is one book (other than one of your own) that you think should be a must read for everyone? 
There are so many! So many! I've rewritten my answer ten times already! But since I mentioned it before and because it was such a huge influence on me, I'd say Clive Barker's Books of Blood. (It was originally a series of story collections, but it has since been bundled into a single volume, so it counts!) I learned so much about language and plotting and thinking outside the box of standard-issue genre tropes from those books. Barker is such an amazing writer, and his imagination always goes places that feel fresh and new. Everyone should read him, whether it's Books of Blood or one of his many superlative novels. But it helps to have a strong stomach. He doesn't shy away from gore and body horror and all that yucky stuff that I secretly love. 

I just want to say thank you once again for Nicholas for taking the time to answer my questions. I know I cannot wait to get my hands on Die and Stay Dead. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Interview & Giveaway: Barry Lyga

There was a point when I would not read YA books because I thought they would only be suitable for YA. It is writers like Barry Lyga and his novel I Hunt Killers who are changing my perspective of this genre. I Hunt Kills is easily one of my favorite reads from this past year. Please Welcome to Blood Rose Books:

Barry Lyga

If there was one author you could co-write a novel with (they can be alive or dead) who would you choose and why?
Collaboration is an interesting question. I avoided it for a long time, but now Ive collaborated with Peter Facinelli and Rob DeFranco on the upcoming After the Red Rain and I learned a lot about the process. I think Id love to write something with my pal Libba Bray. Shes not just fun and endlessly inventive, but shes also such a better writer than I am that I think I would learn a lot.

From novels to graphic novels to comics and even a short film, is there another type of media that you would like to try? Do you find that each media type has its own challenges and advantages?
Id like to try a comic book series for a change, something long-form and extended, where I can lay out plot lines far in advance. Im also interested in web comics and in trying to develop a TV series. And, yeah, each medium has its own quirks, its own ups and downs. My natural inclination, I think, is toward novels, so its always an adjustment to move into another medium and
try to adapt and re-think things.

Many adults have started reading novels that are classified with the YA designation. Why do you think YA novel are now appealing to adults? Do you think that this may change some of the overall content of the YA genre? Do you write with a youth or an adult reader in mind?
I think the easiest explanation for adults reading YA is probably the best one: Theres a lot of really good YA being written and it doesnt lard on the pretension that a lot of adult fiction does. (Note that I said a lot of adult fiction, not all or even most!) I cant say for sure if that will change the content in YA I know that in my case, I dont really think about the age of the audience all that much when Im writing. I like to say that I dont write books for young adults, I write books about young adults. The age of the reader doesnt matter to me.
What do you think would be the hardest or most challenging genre to write a novel in and why?
Mysteries are tough, Ive discovered. Really tough. The details have to be perfect and youll never know until the book is published if you were too transparent or too opaque. But the truth is, every genre has its challenges. Sci-fi requires a ridiculous level of research. Fantasy requires rigid adherence to world-building. Romance has its own requirements in terms of the nature of the hero and heroine. Anything you sustain for 300 or more page is going to be difficult.

In your series featuring Fanboy and Goth Girl you touch on issues that I think that all teenagers face at one time in their lives (bullies, being an outcast, losing friends, sex ect), did you use some of your own high school experiences to create their experiences? What do you want YA readers to get out of this series?
Yeah, a lot of what happened in those books is based on my own high school life. I like to say that first book in particular is more autobiographical than I should admit in public. But your second question comes perilously close to What is the moral of the story? And I dont believe in salting my stories with messages or morals that the reader needs to get. There may be such things embedded in the narrative, but as long as someone reads the story and experiences some emotional change along with the characters, I feel like my job is done and theyve gotten out of the story all that they need.

I Hunt Killers, is a dark themed novel what appeals to you about the dark and disturbing aspects of human nature?
Im absolutely fascinated with people who are messed up. I have a real soft spot for bad people. Not evil people, necessarily, just bad people, people who dont fit in, people who havent figured out how to adapt to the world and the society around them. Such people often live on the fringes and the fringes are where dark things happen. I think we can learn a lot by trying to understand such people. Im not saying we should agree with them or condone their actions, but if we understand them, maybe we can help them or at the very least come to prevent people from falling into the grasp of that darkness in the future. The first step to eliminating darkness is turning on a light; understanding is a light.

Jazz is a very interesting, intense and conflicted character, minus the fact all of the changes that happens when one is a teenager, he is also trying to combat against himself at times because of his serial killer upbringing, what went in to the creation of his character?
I conjured Jazz the same way I conjure all of my characters: I put in place his backstory (raised by a serial killer to take up the family trade, dad now in jail, loner) and thought to myself, Okay, I am now this kid. What is my life like? What do I think and feel and fear? Its really a matter of acting, in a way, of submerging myself my instincts, my ego and really becoming the character. At that point, its easy to write him because in a way, I am him, and Im just reporting on the world the way I see it.

One of the aspects of I Hunt Killers that I really enjoyed was your portrayal of the struggle that Jazz has to go through mentally as he constantly hears his fathers voice in his head teaching him tricks of his trade, how did you get into the mindset of a serial killer? What type of research did you do for this character? Was there one serial killer that inspired you more than others?
I spent about three months doing research before I wrote the book. I spent a lot of time reading serial killer histories, trying to absorb that kind of madness. There was no one serial killer that inspired me more than any other I didnt want Billy to be a thinly disguised version of, say, Ted Bundy or Dennis Rader. I wanted him to stand on his own. So I did all of that research to try to figure out how serial killers thought in general, not specifically, and then I tried to synthesize something new, something that felt like the next step on the continuum of serial killers. I wanted Billy to feel both familiar and unfamiliar at once, so that you wouldnt just be afraid I wanted you to feel uneasy. Constantly uneasy and maybe not even sure why.
Do you have any information on upcoming works or events that you are able to share?
Sure! Like I mentioned before, Ive written a book with Peter Facinelli and Rob DeFrano titled After the Red Rain. Its very, very different from I Hunt Killers and it comes out in August 2015!

What is one book (other than one of your own) that you think everyone should read?
Read STAY WITH ME by Paul Griffin. A beautiful, haunting, horrifying, uplifting read. Everyone should read it. Everyone.

I would like to thank Barry once again for being part of my Blogoversary and I highly reccomend his novel I Hunt Killers. Barry has very nicely supplied a giveaway (US) to go along with his interview so fill out the rafflecopter information below.   :)
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Monday, September 22, 2014

Interview & Giveaway: Taylor Stevens

Taylor Stevens is one of my author finds from this past year with her novels The Informationist and The Innocent I could not believe that I had not heard of her before this. Her novels have everything in them for those of you who love the Thriller genre, I think Stevens' books should be a must read. Please welcome to Blood Rose Books:

Taylor Stevens

If there was one author you could co-write a novel with (they can be alive or dead) who would you choose and why?
Oooh, that’s a really hard question. I think maybe Jack London. He was a prolific writer, king of adventure stories, and a master of his craft at a level I can only dream of aspiring to. But more than that, I would like to think that since he and I both wrote our way out of rough-and-tumble, uneducated, impoverished beginnings that maybe we’d have more in common than merely a co-authored novel.
To say you did not have a normal childhood is an understatement, what you have been able to achieve is amazing. Can you describe what it was like when you found out that your first novel, The Informationist was going to be published? And then so well received by readers and other authors?
Mostly I experienced a profound sense of incredulous disbelief. The way it works in publishing is that when a publisher wants a book, the editor will deliver a deal memo to the agent and this deal memo will outline the basic details of the offer. If the author accepts the terms, the agent will confirm with the editor and once that is done, that’s sort of a handshake that seals the deal until the actual contract is signed—and that can take months to finalize. The disbelief was so great that during that period of waiting for the contract to get sorted out, I was terrified every day that the publisher would have a change of heart and say they’d made a mistake. Once the contract was signed and the book entered the production stream and then went on to publication, the disbelief just kept coming—it was like walking in a dream. Of course, to really understand why it was all so overwhelming you have to realize how completely broke and hopeless I was right up to that moment of getting the news that a publisher wanted my work. The difference, one day to the next, was so stark and jarring that it created a lot of mental dissonance.
Due to the nomadic lifestyles and the time spent on the streets during your childhood, do you think this has given you a greater insight in the creation of your main character Munroe or did Munroe take on a life of her own as soon as you put her paper?
I’d like to take credit and say that I was smart enough, or that the difficult life I’d been born into had created some profound depth that gave me an ability to figure it all out in advance, but honestly, Munroe happened a lot by accident. When I started writing, I had no idea what I was doing—had never taken a writing course and had hardly read but maybe 30 novels at that point in my life, nearly all of them suspense or thrillers. I had no plot, no characters, not even a storyline; I simply wanted to use fiction to bring to life the paranoia and corruption of Equatorial Guinea (a speck on the map off the west coast of Africa, where I’d lived for a little over two years) for readers who’d probably never visit. But in order to showcase that difficult political, physical, and cultural environment, I needed people who could handle the terrain in a way that made sense, and so it was drawing upon the harsh realities of that real life environment that brought the fictional character of Vanessa Michael Munroe to life. Readers responded to her with such enthusiasm that the first book has since turned into a series.
Especially in your second book, The Innocent, you explore the Cult world which is the environment you grew up in. Was it difficult for you to revisit this time of your life or did you find that putting it to paper was a healing process?
The Innocent was probably the easiest of the books I’ve written—mostly because, for all intents and purposes, I’m an expert on the subject and there wasn’t much research needed for what has otherwise been a very difficult, research-intensive series. But also, I’d made peace with the past long, long before writing the story. Had things been otherwise, I don’t think it would have been possible to stand back and dissect the issues dispassionately; the writing experience would have become far too personal, bringing with it an overwhelming sense of pain and injustice, and that would have just mucked everything up. Instead what we have now is, in a sense, me taking the reader’s hand and saying “Come, let me show you what it was like from the perspective of children, like me, who had no choice.”
What do you think would be the hardest or most challenging genre to write a novel in and why?
Oooh, that’s another tough one. I think I’d have to say all of them. Every genre has its own difficulties and hurdles, and every author will see those difficulties and hurdles in a different way. Erotica and Romance, for example, which are some of the best-selling genres, are often treated as the ugly stepchildren of the genre family, and the authors who write those books find it difficult to get respect as writers—as if they’re not even writers at all—as if anyone could do what they do. Personally, I don’t think I could. Writing good stories is so much harder than it looks no matter what the genre and I have a lot of admiration for those who pull off any book successfully.
What do you think are essential elements that need to be present in a Thriller novel?
To me, it’s that the reader has to feel engaged with the characters—even if they don’t like the character, they still have to feel the character. Without this, then no matter how much action or suspense takes place, the book will ultimately be boring. This sounds simple enough but with thrillers it’s actually quite difficult because the genre expectations call for lots of plot and action, and there are typically limits to how many words an author can use to tell the story. In a thriller, if it comes down to a choice between cutting action sequences or character development, the character development is usually the first to go. Genre authors who are able to successfully blend these elements are incredibly talented, yet they make it look easy.
Munroe is one of the most interesting protagonists that I have ever read. What do you think sets Munroe apart from other female protagonist out there within the Thriller genre? Do you find that most people respond positively to her as she is a dangerous and at times ruthless character?
Interestingly enough, it wasn’t until after the first book had been published and readers began responding to the character that I had any idea there was something unique about her. I was so sorely under-read when I started writing—not just in the thriller genre, but fiction in general—that I didn’t have much of a grasp of what else existed. And I’m still very under-read which makes it difficult, even now, to know what sets Munroe apart from other protagonists—male or female. I didn’t intentionally set out to create a unique character. At the time, I didn’t even know I was supposed to do that, I simply wrote someone who made sense to me, as a woman who’d spent a few years living and working in rough developing countries. As to reader response, I’ve found that there’s either a lot of love or a lot of hate—not much in between—depending on whether someone gets Munroe or not. Either way I see that as a good thing, because it means the character is alive enough and real enough to engage emotions.
Your Munroe series has some very dark theme to it what do you think is the appeal for the reader is to go to the dark side of humanity? What do you have to do to take your writing to the dark place?
If we were to remove the dark themes we’d have no thrillers which means that, by the nature of the genre, all thrillers—whether they’re filled with serial killers, psychopaths, missing people, or terrorists—are dark in some way. There are probably as many different reasons for the appeal of these types of stories as there are readers, but I suspect that ultimately it’s because they allow the reader to experience the adrenaline of danger from a very safe distance. For me as a storyteller, taking the writing to that dark place is mostly a matter of finding a way to describe through fiction what already exists.
Do you have any information on upcoming works or events that you are able to share?
The most recent book in the series, THE CATCH, was released in July 2014, and in that story Munroe’s desire to lay low is thwarted by a lying boss, an aging hijacked ship, illegal weapons, and a captain that everyone seems to want. Coming in June 2015 is THE MASK, set in Japan, where Munroe is pitted against forces just as smart and strong as she is—which is about as much as I can say at the moment.
Do you interact with your readers, and if so, what’s the best way for readers to get in contact with you?
Interacting with fans and readers is my desert to the vegetables and hard work of writing, so I definitely do respond to those who contact me. I’m on Facebook most days but I don’t post much. The best of everything comes through email from the cool kids who find me at , which is a mailing list that I treat like hanging out with friends. I email fairly frequently—like blogging to an inbox—all about the writing process, everything I know about the publishing industry, and personal experiences that have gotten me to where I am. These inevitably result in daily email exchanges, lots of laughs, and friendships as my readers get to know me as a person and I get to know them, too. I’m not able to answer every single email I receive, but I do read each and every one, and I respond as often as I can.
What is one book (other than one of your own) that you think everyone should read?
Probably not a very popular or fun opinion, but right now I have a bee in my bonnet over The Divide, by Matt Taibii, a hefty tome of non-fiction about the wealth gap in the US criminal justice system. As the jacket promo states, “Poverty goes up. Crime goes down. The prison population doubles. Fraud by the rich wipes out 40 percent of the world’s wealth. The rich get massively richer. No one goes to jail.” With nearly 1 out of 30 US adults in prison or jail, or on probation or parole, this is such a pertinent topic that everyone who lives in this country should read it even though it’s a frustrating and infuriating read.

Taylor Stevens is becoming my go to author for suspense thrills mystery and action, her books really do cover all of that, plus I love her main character, so her books will probably always be in the must read column for me. Taylor has very nicely supplied a giveaway (US) to go along with her interview, so fill out rafflecopter information below to enter :)

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