Tag Archives: fantasy

May Interview – Rebecca Gransden 

For May’s interview I caught up with Rebecca Gransden, author of the fantasmagorically delightful Anemogram. Rebecca has also kindly offered a paperback giveaway of Anemogram to one lucky reader of this interview. All you have to do is retweet this interview on your twitter account to be in with a chance to win. You can read my review of Anemogram here: https://lifehasafunnywayofsneakinguponyou.wordpress.com/2016/09/12/anemogram-review/

What was your background and how did you get into writing? 

I’m from the south coast of England and have what I guess would be classified as a traditional working class background. I received a few encouraging words at school and they confirmed my unsteady assertion that I could write a bit if I put my mind to it. I’ve concentrated mostly on short stories over the years, until I attempted to write my first longer piece in 2014. That resulted in my first, and only release so far, Anemogram. 
You sound a lot like me there! Except I’m yet to finish my novel never mind have it published! What are your ambitions for your writing? 
To always push myself forwards, to strive to improve in the areas I think I need to, and to challenge myself. If I don’t feel I’ve moved forward in some way or another I see no point in releasing anything, especially with regard to novels. My predominant impulse is to not shortchange myself or do a disservice to anyone who might pick up my writing. For this reason I will always take risks. To me, feeling comfortable is a sign that I need to move on, whatever the outcome.

Which writers inspire you? 

I have writers I admire, probably too many to mention here, but I’ll say Paul Auster, Chekov for his short stories, JG Ballard, and Lydia Millet is great stylistically. I’m mostly inspired by fellow indie authors whose work connects with me, such as Leo X. Robertson, Harry Whitewolf and Rupert Dreyfus. It’s important to me to have the immediacy of those currently creating as an energising force. And their stuff is great.

Anemogram has a very unusual premise and theme, where did the idea come from? 

I wish I knew! I had about two weeks to come up with some basic ideas in order to take part in National Novel Writing Month. I knew that I wanted a female protagonist, and to cover some specific themes, and then embarked on a pretty intense month. Anemogram is the result.
It sounds like you work well under pressure in that case! Are you working on anything new at the moment? 
I’m taking a break from writing as intensely this year, but I do plan to fit in a novella at some point. I have a short story collection that I’m in the process of finalising in order to release. Last year I completed the first draft of a science fiction themed novel, and I will return to that to edit, although I have no idea if and when I’ll release it.
You have quite a lot going on then! What do you use to do your writing? Pen+paper, computer, typewriter etc. 
All my writing is now carried out on a laptop, just for convenience. My first few short stories were handwritten and it was valuable to transfer them to the laptop making adjustments and improvements as I went. I am interested in attempting something handwritten again as there is a difference in the process that could be creatively beneficial.

It can’t be denied that handwriting makes your arm hurt a lot more than typing though 🙂 Would you ever consider writing in a different genre or is there a genre you wish you could write? 

I’ll try anything in any mixture or permutation. I want to incorporate different areas, to make things interesting and keep pushing myself. Always willing to fall flat on my face if it’s fun! I’ve found it difficult to categorise Anemogram. I worry about genre placement after writing, if at all. I have a whole bunch of horror stories that may be released at some point.

How often do you write? Do you set yourself a word target or just go with it when inspiration strikes? 

I like to set aside specific periods of time to immerse myself in what I’m writing. It doesn’t suit me to have multiple projects active at once, as all my energy needs to point one way. I have a generalised minimum daily word count when I’m in a writing phase, though life does get in the way of that sometimes of course, but if that happens I’m mindful to play catchup the next day in order to stay on a self-imposed schedule. When I’m not actively writing I’m either editing, reading, researching, beta-reading, promoting or doing something to ensure I stay engaged.

What sort of publishing route did you choose and why? 

I’m a supporter of self-publishing as my instincts are that as far as possible writers, and anyone who produces a creative commodity, should retain ownership of their work. This puts pressure on those who do self-publish to ensure that what we release is high quality, especially with regard to formatting and presentation. I love the spirit of independent publishing, on whatever scale, and most of the interesting reading I come across originates from that world.
Without a big publishing house behind you though, how do you market your books? What have been your marketing successes and failures? 
As I have only one release so far my experience of promotion is quite limited. For me, it is important that any promotion I do is an extension of how I make my way through the world, and gives an accurate impression of what I and my writing stands for. I’m aware of what I won’t do—such as pay for reviews—and prefer to look for fun ways for my writing to find those who may be interested in reading it.
If you could be the original author of any book what would it have been and why? 
A book that I returned to endlessly as a kid called Encyclopaedia of Legendary Creatures by Tom McGowan. This was full of definitions of supernatural and mythological beings from around the world and each creature was depicted in an accompanying illustration by Victor Ambrus. His drawings are very distinctive and chilling. I think it would’ve been a fascinating project to put together, and exciting for the author to collaborate with such an amazing illustrator.
I might have to check that out as I love myths, legends, etc. What are your views on good and bad reviews? How much do you think the success of books relies on reviews? 
Reviews are great to have as they do help give a general impression of what a book is about. There’s no denying that it is helpful for a potential reader to have reviews available in order to gain further information about a book before they decide if it is for them or not. My strategy has been one of seeking out readers and reviewers who may get something out of reading my book. I’ve tried to be quite focused and I’ve had a mostly positive experience, whether my book has been enjoyed or not. My concern is not so much to do with a positive or negative reaction, but if my book has been fairly represented or not. I think discerning readers who are familiar with review sites and with review culture look for indications of whether the book will appeal to them, and can filter out much of the noise. Reviews mean less as they are distrusted more but they are still important at this stage, and there’s no doubt positive reviews have an effect.
Thank you so much for taking part in the interview Rebecca and for agreeing kindly to do a giveaway as well! 
If you’d like to see more from Rebecca you can check out her website, Amazon account and social media pages here: 

Website: https://rebeccagransden.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/rlgransden

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Rebecca-Gransden-1046981001979898/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14235808.Rebecca_Gransden
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rebecca-Gransden/e/B014I5D5OU/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Review 

The Beautiful Ones is the first novel I have read by Silvia Moreno-Garcia but I’m really glad I decided to give it a try. 

Hauntingly beautiful this novel tells the story of unrequited love from the perspective of the lover and the loved. 

Set in what is presumably based on historical France (although the time period isn’t clear). Antonina (Nina) is a naive girl from the countryside taking part in her first grand season in the city of Loisail. Nina is staying with her favourite cousin and his wife who seems to inexplicably dislike her. Nina is used to dislike though, her telekinetic powers are why she couldn’t find a suitable husband at home and her less than perfect manners and lack of ability to be ladylike in public just seem to make things worse. 

But Nina’s attention and affection are captured by the enigmatic if slightly distracted Hector Auvray a telekinetic performer, as they become closer she is certain that a marriage proposal is imminent but there are other things at play that Nina knows nothing about. She has become a bit player in a game that goes back more than a decade. 

I found this book to be very engaging. It was an interesting take on a historical novel with the addition of the characters telekinetic powers. It sssms to be more of a play on the usual historical novel, while some things remain true to the times, others show a decided change. Valérie’s spite and malice make her an excellent villain against the naive and yet lovable Nina. This novel highlights the saying ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’. 

I really liked the characters of both Nina and Hector and I was rooting for them the whole way through, I won’t say if they had a happy ending though, as always I won’t give any spoilers! 

I’ll definitely look into reading more from this author in the future! 

Darien: Empire of Salt by CF Iggulden. Review 

CF Iggulden is better known for his historical writing under his real name Conn Iggulden. But this is a historical novel like no other. It blends history with fantasy, the real with the imagined and just a pinch of magic. 

The premise of the story is a city ruled by 12 powerful families with a weak king at their head. Many people out in the surrounding towns and villages, and even inside the city itself want a change. But only a few will act. 

Daw Threefold sees riches and destiny when he meets Nancy, more than just a fumble and a tumble, she has something about her which causes magic objects to fail. Daw has big plans for what they can do with this power but Nancy has plans of her own… revenge. 

Elias Post is an incredible hunter. Because he has a gift of his own. A gift he calls ‘reaching’ but it’s about to get him into trouble when General Justan of the immortal army gets wind of it and decides how he can use it. 

Then there’s Tellius who comes across a small boy who can mimick anything he sees perfectly. Tellius thinks to use him to his own advantage until they get into a scrape and the boy is revealed as not a boy at all but a Golem. 

Overall the novel was fairly fast paced. It changed direction quickly which was sometimes confusing as it switched to the different narratives of all the characters involved. I would have also liked to have seen more world building, other than the name of the city, the fact it has 12 families and that the people worship a goddess not much else was given on the world itself and where it is supposed to be set or even when. We also only meet characters from 3 of the 12 families and I’d have liked to have seen more about them. How did they get into power for example and why are they so important? Just their names would have been nice…

I think this book got off to a great start and I really enjoyed the first 50-65% of it. But as aforementioned it lacked too much in world building and also became very fighting strong. That’s not necessarily a criticism but I’m not that fussed on books with a lot of fighting for like 35% of the story. 

Overall, it was well written and plotted and I think fans of books about action and war with a little magic thrown in would really enjoy it. 

Caraval by Stephanie Garber. Review. 

Caraval is Stephanie Garber’s debut YA novel. Set in an alternative world, it focuses on the main characters Scarlett and Donatella, two sisters who are desperate to get out from their father’s tyrannical control. 

Scarlett is planning on getting to get married to a mysterious Count in order to free herself and her sister from their father’s control. But then all of a sudden their invited to the mysterious Caraval, a game/carnival which Scarlett has been trying to wrangle an invite too for years. But now with her wedding looming the timing isn’t great. 

Somehow though the two sisters end up there. That’s when everything starts going wrong. Donatella is kidnapped and made a part of the ‘game’ and Scarlett is sent on a dangerous chase to find her sister before the game’s nefarious organiser ‘Legend’ does something awful to her. 

I liked the concept of this novel a lot. Mysterious carnival game, evil intentions it seemed to have it all. But I didn’t really engage it with it as much as I expected to in all honesty. I liked it but it didn’t hold my attention enough. The characters were quite underdeveloped and I felt that it tried to hard to involve lots of different things all at once so that I was finding my concentration was drifting. 

The world isn’t fully developed either, we have no real idea of where it is, it’s clear it’s supposed to be an alternative world as the islands all have names the reader have never heard of and the dress of the characters are different to modern day and more like the 1800s, but beyond that we know nothing about it or the time it’s supposed to be set on. While I didn’t dislike the novel I felt that the lack of development on both characters & world really let it down. 

Moroda by L.L McNeil. Review 

Moroda is L.L McNeil’s debut novel in the epic fantasy genre. It focuses on the character of Moroda, a young girl who has lost her status as a Goldstone after her father dies. To top it off she just got arrested and then a dragon attacked their city. Her only option seems to be escape from the city with an eclectic bunch of people which includes; a sky pirate, a Varkain (scary snake man), two Itallans (shape shifters), an Arillian (guy who can fly and create storm weather) and a member of the Imperial Guard. That’s where the adventure begins. 

As they journey across their world, mayhem and magic abound as Moroda is taken out of her comfort zone and has to learn how to fight, fly an airship and try desperately to defend the ones she loves against the evil Aciel. 

Despite being quite a long book, Moroda is an easy read, the characters are easy to remember and the author creates a world much different to our own and yet one which the reader can get lost in. Even better the book is written well and more importantly, edited well making it a very enjoyable read. 

Moroda sometimes came across as a bit of a weakling but don’t worry if you’re getting that vibe because she wins her badass stripes in the end! 

I really enjoyed the history of the different races/species in this book as well. The ideas were new and well written and character creation was authentic and well imagined, more importantly it was original. I especially liked the Varkain and hope I get to read more about them and their history in upcoming novels in the saga. I also loved Amarah the Sky Pirate she is a super cool badass and it’s nice to see a woman in the position of pirate and hellraiser! 

I loved the background on the dragons as well and the idea of them being gods. Dragons have always fascinated me and it was a very interesting take on their nature and responsibilities to the world they inhabited. 

I can’t wait to read more in this saga and can recommend it to lovers of all fantasy series but particularly if you like books like Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher series.

Descent, Son of a Mermaid by Katie O’Sullivan. Review 

Descent by Katie O’Sullivan is the first YA book about mermaids I’ve actually read. I love all things fantasy but for some reason haven’t come across a mermaid related book before. But I’m pleased to say that I enjoyed this one! 

Shea McNamara is a normal boy who lives on a farm with his dad and deals with fancying girls, hating the spoilt rich kid and trying to get a pass to spend his birthday at a baseball game with his best friend John. Oh and trying to ignore the weird traits he has like being able to remember everything he ever reads, and eyes which adjust to the dark. 

But when his father is killed in a freak, flash tornado, Shea has to move to Cape Cod to live with his grandmother. Here he begins to unravel the mystery of his mother’s disappearance and enters a world he never believed could exist. 

The story is really engaging and quite a quick read, mainly because it’s quite short. I found the characters interesting, and the plot engaging if simple. The underwater world is well constructed and the ending perfectly set for another instalment! 

Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott. Review. 

Rotherweird is the debut novel by Andrew Caldecott. A hybrid of historical and science fiction, I was unsure what to expect. My experience of debut’s particularly in the SF or fantasy genre has until now been a mixed bag, leaning mostly towards the poorly written and poorly plotted. Rotherweird however is something else entirely, Andrew Caldecott weaves together a mystical tale of suspense and adventure, mixed in with the macabre and my favourite period in history; Tudor England. 

The opening lines see Mary Queen of Scots, desperate after the loss of a baby who may never have even been a baby at all. It appears at first that this story will focus mainly on this time period, but it is merely setting the scene. The reader is almost immediately whisked away to modern times and the mysterious town of Rotherweird. 

Standing alone amidst the rest of the UK, Rotherweird is a town where everyone is smart, particularly when it comes to science, nobody really leaves and it is rare that outsiders come in, other than to teach, trade or perform at one of Rotherweird’s many fairs. Enter four new players; The Actress set to play Lady Slickstone, the mysterious and sinister Sir Virgil Slickstone, their faux son and finally the new history teacher Mr Jonah Oblong. 

It becomes immediately obvious to the newcomers that things in Rotherweird Are more than just a little… weird (pun fully intended). For Mr Oblong especially, despite being the history teacher, he is neither allowed to know or to teach any of Rotherweird’s history, nor any general history before the Cusp of the 19th century. Because Rotherweird has a secret that it doesn’t want anyone to find out for fear that the bad things that happened which forced Elizabeth II to cast it adrift, might happen again. 

The characters in this book, are incredibly well written, from Orelia Roc, part owner of the antique shop Baubles and Relics to Hayman Salt the resident outsider and horticulturists. All of them have motives but the imminent threat of destruction brings them all together. 

Andrew Caldecott’s ability to create and shape worlds and the characters in them,  draws the reader into an intense narrative of plot and subtext that keeps you guessing until the very end. You don’t even know you have suspicions until the answer is revealed. 

Enchanting and beautifully written, I can only hope that there is going to be a Rotherweird II and SOON!