Sunday, October 9, 2016

Interview: Paul Crilley

Paul Crilley’s Poison City is the fantastical love child of Supernatural and a Lauren Beukes novel. Part urban fantasy, part crime novel it is a pure twisted reading delight. I recently had the opportunity to do a Q & A with Paul about his career, his novel and a certain alcoholic dog... If you haven't read Poison City yet, you are definitely missing out!

KJ: Firstly, time for the big introduction. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?

Paul Crilley: I was born in Scotland and my family moved to South Africa in the eighties. My parents were a bit fickle though, and we moved back to Scotland two years later, only to head back to S.A. again, another two years later.

I started reading Hardy Boys books when I was nine, then moved on to Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. Reading those authors was like a slap in the face, as it opened up fantasy and science fiction to me. As well as humour. Pratchett and Adams were a huge influence on my style. I love weaving humour into stories.

Poison City is my first adult novel. Before this my books were all YA and MG. The Invisible Order is a Middle Grade series set in Victorian times about a hidden war fought on the streets of London between the races of Faerie and mankind. It may or not be set in the same universe as Poison City. And The Adventures of Tweed & Nightingale is a YA steampunk series about the young clone of Sherlock Holmes.

KJ: You’ve worked in various different types of media including writing for TV, computer games and comics. Having such an impressive repertoire, did you find that storytelling through these varied media allowed you to more easily bring the characters and world of Poison City to life?

PC: Definitely. But storytelling is storytelling, no matter the form. It boils down to writing something you want to read and that you hope entertains your readers. But I’ve always loved movies and screenwriting, especially writing dialogue. So I guess the screenwriting helped with the more cinematic style of Poison City, as well as the banter between the characters.

KJ: Dog definitely steals the show. I found him to be the perverted spiritual successor to Terry Pratchett’s Gaspode. How did the idea of an alcoholic dog as a spirit guide come about?

PC: I didn’t intend it that way, but can totally see the resemblance. As I said, I grew up reading Terry Pratchett, so it was inevitable that his work influenced my own writing style.

KJ: Poison City could very easily have been set in any part of the world. Why did you choose to set it in South Africa and Durban in particular?

PC: For one, I wanted to set it somewhere that hadn’t been used before, to try and make it a bit different. And secondly, I live close to Durban (In Hillcrest, actually, another town featured in the book), so thought it would be easier for research purposes.

KJ: The orisha and other supernatural creatures found in the novel are drawn from a huge variety of myths, superstitions and beliefs. Did you research the various mythological creatures before incorporating them into the novel?

PC: Definitely. I spent about 6 months planning and researching the book before starting to write. It’s the most research-intensive project I’ve ever worked on. But it’s all fun.

KJ: There is a very dark and unsettlingly twisted version of Christian mythology that sets the stage for the events in Poison City. Without giving anything away, did you set out to subvert that traditional belief system from the start or was it part of the natural progression of the story?

PC: I like to subvert familiar tropes where I can. I don’t always succeed, and when you fail you run the risk of it falling into cliche, but I did want to put my own spin on the Christian mythology. One of my many failings is that I sometimes tend to have a low opinion of the human race (and organised religion in general) and I think that did feed into the story. But it’s the story that I wanted to write, using my own beliefs and opinions. I think that’s really important. Always write the book that only you could write. Your own upbringing, your own particular experiences etc, will make the book you write different to anyone else, even if the subject matter is the same.

KJ: Magic (shinecraft) comes at a huge cost to its wielder. Akin to an addiction it changes them irrevocably, with often fatal consequences. This is something you seldom see in most fantasy novels. Why did you decide to have magical ability exact such a terrible price?

PC: Again, I just wanted to subvert the tropes of wizards having this amazing power and it being all cool and powerful. I like the fact that London’s tattoos want to eat him. I like the fact that every time you do magic you run the risk of turning yourself inside out. It gives an element of uncertainty to their power. And also it gives them limits. If these guys really had unlimited power they’d be ruling the world. But if you run the risk of your eyeballs melting every time you use magic, that tends to calm the ambitions of any possible megalomaniac dictators.

KJ: The sequel to Poison City is titled Neon City. Can you give us any hints on what awaits Tau and Dog on their next adventure? When can we expect to see it on our shelves?

PC: Neon City is still a tentative title. I’m not sure how much I can say about it, but the gang will be traveling to London to chase down the seven sins, and we’ll be meeting some of the mythological creatures from Britain’s early days as well as folk from Armitage and London’s past.

KJ: Lastly, a bit of fun. If you worked for the Delphic Division what would your spirit guide turn out to be and which type of shinecraft do you think you’d want to specialise in?

PC: I’d like the dog, to be honest. He’s fun and psycho, and if he has your back, he has your back. (Unless he’s drunk or watching his soapies.) As to my type of shine craft, that’s a difficult one. I think I’d like to check out the Fae magic systems a bit more, see what they have on the menu. Bet they’d have something interesting.

More about the author:
Paul Crilley is a Scotsman adrift in South Africa and has been writing professionally for the past 17 years. In that time he has worked on over thirteen television shows, one of which was nominated for an international Emmy award. He recently completed an X-Files novella and a Hardy Boys novel. Poison City is his debut adult novel.

Follow Paul Crilley on Twitter

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Achievement Unlocked: My First Book Blurb

While innocently googling books, as one does, I stumbled upon a stunning revelation - a blurb from my blog was actually published in an actual book. A book! And it's not just any book. No, it's in the re-issued editions of Peter F. Hamilton's novels. I'm sure my excited squeeing woke the neighbours!

It might be a clich├ęd blurb, but it is mine - "'Peter F. Hamilton is at the top of his game'  Worlds In Ink

I'm not sure if it's limited to the ebook editions of Peter F. Hamilton's novels but Google Book previews shows it as turning up in the re-issued editions of Fallen Dragon, The Temporal Void, The Dreaming Void and Judas Unchained.

Unfortunately I don't own any of these editions so I can't check if it's actually in there or not. If anyone has a copy of any of these I'd really appreciate it if they could confirm whether the blurb is included.

Edit: Thanks to Tiemen Zwaan I finally have confirmation that the blurb is included in Fallen Dragon. Commence the squeeing!

It's small triumphs like these that make the whole blogging thing worthwhile and lets you know you aren't just screaming into the void.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Review: Spellbreaker

Title: Spellbreaker
Author: Blake Charlton
Pages: 480
ISBN: 9780765317292
Series: Spellwright #3
Publisher: Tor
Published: 23 August 2016
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

Buy it from:
The Book Depository

Leandra Weal has a bad habit of getting herself in dangerous situations.

While hunting neodemons in her role as Warden of Ixos, Leandra obtains a prophetic spell that provides a glimpse one day into her future. She discovers that she is doomed to murder someone she loves, soon, but not who.

Leandra’s quest to unravel the mystery of the murder-she-will-commit becomes more urgent when her chronic disease flares up and the Ixonian Archipelago is plagued by natural disasters, demon worshiping cults, and fierce political infighting. Everywhere she turns, Leandra finds herself amid conflict.

As chaos spreads across Ixos, Leandra and her troubled family – her misspelling wizard father Nicodemus Weal and dragon-of-a-mother Francesca DeVega – must race to uncover the shocking truth about a prophesied demonic invasion, human language, and their own identities–if they don't kill each other first.

Words have power. Nowhere is it more important than in the world of Spellbreaker where the truly unique magic system revolves around language, prose and syntax and the fluidity of the magical language itself. Spellbreaker kicks off with one hell of an opening line that sets the stage for a narrative that just keeps growing in scope and intrigue:

"To test a spell that predicts the future, try to murder the man selling it; if you can, it can’t. That, at least, was Leandra’s rationale for poisoning the smuggler’s blackrice liqueur."

Set well after the events of Spellwright and Spellbound, the first two novels in the Spellwright trilogy, the story focuses around Nicodemus Weal, his wife Francesca and their daughter Leandra as they try to ward off the coming of The Disjuntion, a prophesied demonic war that would bring about the destruction of all human language. Their dysfunctional relationship provides a painfully intimate glimpse into their internal struggles as they each try to come to terms with their own unique nature and the consequences of the divergent, often conflicting paths they take to try to make the world they live in a better place. Paradoxically it is their love for each other that cause them the most pain.

"Every soul existed and acted within the eternal and pressing instant of now, and then—to make existence bearable—wrote a story to connect past, present, and future."

While Spellbreaker is the third novel in the Spellwright trilogy it also acts as a a good entry point for new readers. There are enough flashbacks and explanations of previous events to quickly clue in new readers although the backstory can be quite baffling at first. I'd definitely recommend starting with Spellwright if you are interest in getting a more comprehensive look at the truly stunning magic system.

As the story progresses the conflict escalates both in a political and personal sense and there are lots of surprising revelations along the way. The ending is touching and unexpected. Sometimes prophecy doesn't need to turn out the way we expect it to...

The most remarkable thing about the entire Spellwright trilogy is the fact that Blake Charlton not only overcame his struggle with dyslexia, but that he managed to use it as the cornerstone for creating an epic fantasy series filled with vibrant, complex characters living in a world shaped by the wonder and power of language. (And who doesn't love a good pun!)

The Verdict:
Spellbreaker is a compelling read with a unique magic system, captivating characters, impeccable worldbuilding and the ability to surprise you with its emotional impact and insight into the human condition. You can read this as a standalone novel, but I'd highly suggest you pick up the entire trilogy. It's magic!

The Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Thanks to Desirae from Tor for providing the review copy.

Other sites participating in the Spellbreaker Blog Tour:

Fantasy Book Critic
The Arched Doorway
Dark Faerie Tales

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