Interview With Author – Sean Gibson

Interview with an author

 Hello All!

I have to admit – this is one of my most precious interviews! Sean Gibson, the author of The Camelot Shadow is probably the funniest and most interesting writer I have met. If you haven’t had a chance to pick this book yet – please do! You can see my review here. He has also written The Chronicle of Heloise & Grimple and The Strange Task Before Me: Being an Excerpt from the Journal of William J. Upton (Camelot Shadow #0.5).

 

When did you realize that you wanted to become a writer?

Just last Tuesday—it was all very sudden. I’m kidding, of course. I realized I wanted to be a writer when I discovered Bob Salvatore’s Dark Elf Trilogy 25 years ago (I’m dating myself with that revelation, I suppose, though at least if I’m dating myself, I know I won’t get turned down…well, I probably won’t get turned down; I do have SOME standards, though, so it’s entirely possible I might reject me).

I’d always been an avid reader, but that was the first time I was consciously aware of books shaping my worldview and inspiring me to think about my approach to life in a different way. I thought it would be pretty fantastic if I could someday do for a reader what Salvatore did for me (and what numerous other writers have done since): entertain, inspire, and provoke thought.

 

Where do you get your ideas from?

Ritually sacrificing stuffed bunnies and ripe mangoes to the goddess Buhlschitt in exchange for inspiration. Isn’t that how everyone gets ideas?

What are you currently working on?

I’m just finishing the first draft of a book tentatively titled THE PART ABOUT THE DRAGON WAS (MOSTLY) TRUE (though I suspect the title will change). It’s a prequel of sorts to THE CHRONICLE OF HELOISE & GRIMPLE, albeit written as a cohesive narrative as opposed to a serialized adventure as its predecessor was. It’s a fantasy homage/parody that’s part Hobbit, part Behind the Music with the joke cadence of a Tina Fey show.

 

Where did you get your idea for The Camelot Shadow?

The scene that opens Chapter 1—an older man, sitting in a well-worn leather chair in a magnificent library late at night, a book in his lap and a glass of Scotch by his side—popped into my head unbidden one night when I was trying to fall asleep. I was in college at the time and far more concerned with midterms and naked quad streaking than writing books, so I didn’t do anything about it immediately. Every so often, though, I would think about that scene. The details were so clear in my head—I could practically smell the chair leather and feel the vellum pages within the books. Eventually, I started asking myself who the man was, why he was so melancholy, how he’d amassed all those wonderful books, and why it seemed as though this quiet moment was just the calm before the storm. As I answered those questions, I realized I had a story I had to tell.

It’s funny—when I finished writing the book, I was convinced that was it. I’d told those characters’ tale and it was onto the next thing. But, after a while, I started thinking about them again—what happened after the story ended, and even what had come before. I missed hanging out in that world and writing in that ornate Victorianish style. What can I say? I like my prose like I like my Little Mermaid villains—over the top and incredibly purple.

So, having released a prequel short (THE STRANGE TASK BEFORE ME: BEING AN EXCERPT FROM THE JOURNAL OF WILLIAM J. UPTON), I’ve begun plotting a couple of sequels. It’s safe to say that we haven’t seen the last of these characters—well, except for those who met rather final fates in THE CAMELOT SHADOW. 

What does your writing process look like?

 Mostly it involves trying not to get carsick while typing in the backseat of a stranger’s car, as I chronicle here: 

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

  I like to slip in an occasional joke or phrase that only a couple of close friends will catch. A few characters in THE CAMELOT SHADOW are named for close friends, too. And sometimes I’ll work in a Ghostbusters quote, which sharp-eyed GB obsessives will catch. Oh, and if you take the first letter of every sentence in THE CAMELOT SHADOW, you will discover a riddle that, if you can solve it, will lead you to an ancient pirate treasure worth eleventy-billion dollars.

What is your favorite book of all times?

Let me complicate a very straightforward question by saying that I’m ruling ineligible for my response any book that’s part of a series. “That seems unduly draconian, Big Nose,” you might opine, and you would certainly be justified in holding that opinion, both about my exclusion of series books and the proportions of my proboscis. That said, the reason for that exclusion is that I find it impossible to judge a book in a series solely on its own merit; it is inextricably bound up with and linked to the events that happen in the other books in the series, events that inform your response to the book upon first read and shade your memory and perception of it after you’ve read subsequent volumes. For example, I would probably say that GOBLET OF FIRE is my favorite Harry Potter book, but perhaps my love for that book is, at least in part, a result of the buildup to it in the preceding three books and knowing the impact that Voldemort’s return at the story’s end will have on future tales.

(Should I have marked that as a spoiler? I feel like that one’s pretty fair game at this point. Voldemort always comes back, people.)

With that in mind, then, I’ll limit the pool of potential candidates to stand-alone books, and while it’s still an exceedingly difficult choice, if forced to select a single tome, I would say Bram Stoker’s DRACULA.

I first encountered DRACULA as a precocious second grader. While I wouldn’t recommend that most 8-year-olds read a book that’s likely to give them nightmares, if not force them into years of therapy (or, at least, force them to look up every other word), I was hooked from the get-go by a book whose style and plot resonated from page one. For whatever reason, the ornate language, shiver-inducing slow-burn buildup, and terrifying prospect of one of fiction’s most fascinating villains appealed to me so much that, 10 years later, I would make Victorian lit the primary focus of my collegiate career as an English literature major (though, to be fair, the subsequently read works of Dickens and Conan Doyle played a significant role in that decision).

Sure, the book is laden with Victorian melodrama and weird psychosexual shenanigans, but I love that stuff (well, the Victorian melodrama, at least). I’d be hard pressed to think of another single book that pulled me so fully and completely into its world and left me breathless at its conclusion.

 

What is your favorite fictional character and why?

That’s a little bit like asking which is my favorite piece of macaroni in a bowl of macaroni and cheese—I have whole mouthfuls of favorite fictional characters (which is a weird thing to say, maybe). If I was forced to answer the question lest I be denied mac and cheese in perpetuity, I would say Drizzt Do’Urden from R.A. Salvatore’s Dark Elf books. Dark elves are typically evil, sadistic, and very unlikely to bake cookies for new neighbors. Drizzt, however, has a good heart, and he fights his way to the surface world in an effort to live a life that’s true to his values. What I love most about Drizzt isn’t that he’s noble, brave, and very good at killing orcs (though I do enjoy all of those things)—it’s that he’s always asking questions about the world around him and is unflinching in examining his own actions and beliefs in the service of becoming a better person. I aspire to have Drizzt’s courage and commitment to self-improvement and facing the uncomfortable truths we all have to confront within ourselves from time to time.

Sean, thank you very much for deciding to do this interview with me. It was really an honor and I greatly appreciate it!

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The Song Of Achilles – Madeline Miller [BOOK REVIEW]

Book Review

★★★

The Song Of Achilles became a part of my TBR list right after I finished reading Circe. I loved Circe and it is one of my favorite books of 2018. I also enjoyed The Song of Achilles, but not nearly as much.

For the ones out there who love greek mythology, this is a book that covers Achilles’s life told from Patroclus’s point of view. It is more or less accurate, and covers a lot of details from the early lives of these two princes. This is a story about one great friendship that turns into something more, a lot of challenges, a lot of doubts, and a lot of choices to be made during a time of war.

The story is very fast paced, and I was skipping through the pages as fast as Achilles was killing Trojan warriors. From their childhood, to their growing up, to their adventures and the war, this book will never keep you calm, because every chapter something unexpected happens. Well, sometimes not too much, as I know the story, but even still, I was surprised a lot.

Book Cover

A thing that bothered me a lot throughout the whole book was the inaccuracy at some points, and hiding information.

Now, we all know that Achilles was immortal. And we all know the story that his mother Thetis, a goddess of water dipped his body into the water in the river Styx. However, she was holding him by the heel, so his heel was the only place where he was vulnerable. This will be the reason of his death, when Apollo would direct Paris’s spear into Achilles’ heel.

Now – if this is such a common fact, and everybody who heard about Achilles knows it – why wouldn’t the author include it in the book. It wasn’t mentioned once.. Not once… I found this really upsetting.

Moving forward to the characters, we have Patroclus presented as the weaker one, the coward, the person that is mocked by everyone, not loved even by his parents and unworthy. ( Another point that bothered me is that this is not entirely true – according to Homer, Patroclus was apparently wiser than Achilles)

On the other hand, we have the opposite – a wise, brave, strong and handsome man, loved by everyone, immortal and a son of a goddess. We have a perfect example for a leader.

While fate connect these two to meet from their very early years, they also build a love relationship which they try to hide it at first. This relationship will cause them hatred from Thetis (Achilles’ mom) and will prompt them to make choices that might not be necessarily good ones. Now, Homer never mentioned a pederasty in his works between these two, but Miller does. And I am not sure how I feel about it. Not about the fact that they are gay, but the fact that this is Achilles.

All in all, I enjoyed this book. It is a great retelling of the story and a great time capture of the past. It wasn’t anything special, and I didn’t feel heartbroken in the end, but it was definitely worth reading it. I give it three stars – ★★★ . 

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Interview With Author – Michael Kott

 Hello All!

I had the honor and opportunity to have an interview with Michael Kott – the author of Piasa, Cryptid and LifeShift. I have had the chance to read Piasa (read my review) and Cryptid (read my review)  so far, and LifeShift is on my TBR list.

When did you realise that you wanted to become a writer?

   I considered it at times but got serious when writing with my daughter.  After going to the Naval Academy  and serving her retired time in the Navy, she was attempting to pursue an acting career in Hollywood. She needed something to fill her time there and asked if I wanted to help her write a book about what it was like for a girl to go to the Naval Academy. This was in the early 2000s. She quit Hollywood because she could not see that lifestyle but as she followed her husband from station to station, we continued, via the internet, to continue write. While she was in Memphis, Tennessee, she had the idea of us getting together somewhere in between where I live (Chicago area) and Memphis. Looking at a map we decided on Alton, Illinois, where we found a nice Bread & Breakfast House to rent.  There I was introduced to the Piasa legend and I began writing about that.  Finally, Krystee, tired of the inability of agents to place her novel and finding herself about to have her first child, told me she was giving up writing. I continued.

 

Where do you get your ideas from?

   Our stay in Alton sparked the Piasa novel and an interest in Cryptozoology. That led to Cryptid.  Those stories are in my website blog. Cryptid contains a setup for a third novel but at present I don’t know if I want to continue them.  Most of my ideas of stories originate in the form of dreams, Usually I try to write based on the dream but it leads somewhere else. Both LifeShift and Moonglimmer started that way, as separate novels, but later merged into one idea. Many scenes are based on personal experiences, especially those in LifeShift and the currently being written, Shadow Lake.

 

Where did you get your idea for Piasa?

    I covered this above, but failed to mention that I was actually aware of this obscure legend even  before and it was instrumental in my suggesting Alton as our meeting place. I was looking up something else on the early internet and somehow came across the early pictograph which is said to be the Piasa. That sparked an interest and I gathered many stories of it, many which seemed to have now disappeared off the internet.  I was aware of a museum in Alton which had featured the Piasa myth in an exhibit, and when I found it was very close to a bed & breakfast, I suggested that as a place to stay. I have pictures of the trip (everything in Alton has changed) if you want to see them. The story started with just the Mike and Pamela characters until someone suggested it would be a good YA tale. Enter Sara Marshall.

How do you deal with a writer’s block?

   I’ve never had writer’s block, I more get Writer’s Interference. That is other things interfering with the process.  With those I let them run their course.

 

What does your writing process look like?

     I usually write in the morning’s, but sometime’s it runs all day. If Something changes, I go back and rewrite immediately. Everyone says to finish first but I can’t do that. Sometimes I switch stories when changes have put my intended outline in jeopardy.  When a story is well on its way I’ll seek someone to read it and give me feedback. Lately that’s been my editor. Being self-published, I don’t have some army of people at some publishers to fall back on. I seek out readers and I have a trusted editor in California. She is very honest with me and gives me critical feedback. When we agree a story is finished, I hire a cover creator and at the same time send it off to my formatter to create a print ready version and e-book. From there it goes to both CreateSpace and Ingram Spark.

 

How do you select the names for your characters?

   I thumb through a Baby names book I got when Krystee was having her first child. When I get an inspiration there, I use it. Sometimes I come across names I like and use them. This is for first names. For last names, I keep old graduation ceremony handouts and look for a last name that goes well with the selected first name. Real scientific, Huh?

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

   I love this question.  My secrets are that some scenes of my fictional stories are in actuality based on facts or beliefs. Sometimes they come out in the news and I worry people will think I put them in because i saw them on the news.  In LifeShift, Alex has a dream where he is living  on Mars and meets with a girl at the shore of and ocean. This was originally written about 2004-5. Two years ago, about 2015, an article appeared saying that science now believes that Mars was one day home to oceans of water. My story was based on a personal dream.  Way back when I first wrote Piasa, I included the entire scene with an escaped tiger. Several years after that scene was written a news story appeared out of Texas about an escaped tiger.

If you had to choose, Piasa or Cryptid, and why?

     Piasa because it was my first. The story line of Cryptid was a substitute as it was originally supposed to be about the Tasmanian Tiger. However, some stupid movie came out with like, killer Tasmanian Tigers, so I abandoned that as a Cryptid I would write about. There continue to be stories out of Tasmania and mainland Australia regarding sightings of thylacines, so maybe I’ll reconsider. I would need to go to Tasmania though so I can write about it.

Mike, thank you very much for taking the time to do this with me! I greatly appreciate it!

Circe – Madeline Miller [BOOK REVIEW]

CIRCE - Madeline Miller books book review blog diary of difference bookshelf bookstagram goodreads bestseller

WHEN I WAS BORN, the name for what I was did not exist.

 

I was waiting for two whole months to get this book from the library. And I finally had a chance to read Circe from Madeline Miller. A book that everyone was talking about. The only thing you were gonna see on Instagram. Well, here I am – sitting with the cool kids now, I’ve read this book.

The reason I wanted to read this book wasn’t because I wanted to be part of the cool kids. Actually, it was because Greek Mythology has a special place in my heart. See, I was born in Macedonia, a country full of history, and so very close to Greece, where histories and cultures and traditions match and mix.

When I was in school, our teachers focused hard on history. Especially Roman and Greek Mythology. So yes, I grew up with Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey  and yes, I know all the gods out there, what they do, who they married, who their children are.

I have read about Circe, but I have never given her any meaning, as she is not mentioned a lot in Homer’s works, as you might already know. And then suddenly, there is a book about her life. I had to read it!

AND I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT! FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART!

 

CIRCE - Madeline Miller books book review blog diary of difference bookshelf bookstagram goodreads bestseller

 

This might be my favorite book of 2018!

 

I enjoyed Madeline’s writing style. It was so explanatory and calm, and soothing, like swimming in nice calm waters. You would just gulp her words as you read, and before you know it, you have read 200 pages.

Circe, oh Circe! Her character was so well described – such a strong powerful woman. We start with her childhood, to her growing up, and we follow the process of how she learned things the hard way, how she is naive, and then suddenly isn’t, how she discovers the power she holds within, despite everyone else mocking her and saying otherwise. We see how she decides to say no, how she is not afraid to be a rebel, and how she suffers, and loves, and protects, and cares, and survives, and lives!

You will read a story about the love a mother has toward her child, the love a woman has toward her man, the love a son has towards her mother, the love for freedom, the love for glory…

If you love Greek Mythology, you will get the chance to say hi to some of your favourite gods, nymphs, titans, monsters – Zeus, Athena, Poseidon, Prometheus, Odysseus and many more which I will fail to reveal.

I hardly believe that this is a great book for introducing Greek Mythology to new young readers. I also hardly believe that this book will change the thoughts of many people, the way they see things, the way they live, the way they think.

 

It was one of my favorite things about him: how he always fought for his chance.

 

There are a lot of side characters that give their own meaning to the story as well, and there is also Odysseus, and at times it feels as this is his story, but in the end you realised that this story belongs to Circe only.

 

Do not listen to your enemy, Odysseus had once told me. Look at them. It will tell you everything.

I looked. Armed and armored, she was (Athena), from head to foot, helmet, spear, aegis, greaves. A terrifying vision: the goddess of war, ready for battle. But why had she assembled such a panoply against me, who knew nothing of combat? Unless there was something else she feared, something that made her feel somehow stripped and weak.

Instinct carried me forward, the thousand hours I had spent in my father’s halls, and with Odysseus polymetis, man of so many wiles.

 

To all of you out there – please take your time to read this book! It will leave you breathless, inspired, motivated and it will change your life forever. It changed my life – that’s for certain!

 

Read and Gone – Allison Brook [BOOK REVIEW]

This is the second book of the series, and even though I haven’t read the first part, I was able to follow this book quite easily. There are a few references to the past and you can quickly realise what happened. Though, if you wish to read the series, don’t start with #2, because there are a few spoilers here that you wish you hadn’t read if you read book #1. I won’t be reading #1 because the spoilers kinda ruined it for me. But I am sure it’s an amazing story as well.

Carrie works in a library and has a cat that brings with her at work. Her father is a famous bad guy, that spent all her childhood in jails. One day, he returns to town, trying to get his share of a box of jewellery that he stole with another man. But a murder changes everyone’s plans, and Carrie has to make some dangerous decisions. It is a wonderful story about family, love, Christmas and tragedy that ends well. 

This is a book full of mystery and crime, but it also is warm and family-oriented. I loved the mystery – crime part of it, I loved the scenes where everyone, mostly Carrie plays out to be a detective, but there were also scenes where things were so obvious, and she made terrible choices that made me cringe.

I struggled a lot to understand and like Carrie –  I didn’t like the way how she gets quiet and doesn’t talk and just cries, and suddenly when she leaves the situation, she bitches about everything and how things should’ve been done differently. WELL WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY SOMETHING WHEN YOU HAD THE CHANCE, THEN? But then, there were also moments when she would come up with some interesting hypothesis and actually succeed into making a right choice, and I would think – YEAH, that’s my girl.

All in all, definitely a beautiful read, with a few tweaks here and there. I would love to read something similar to this, and for you that love chick-lit and detective stories, you would most probably enjoy this read 🙂

Thank you to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books  for giving me a free ARC copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Coming Home – Fern Britton [BOOK REVIEW]

I had the pleasure to receive a copy of this book from GoodReads and HarperCollins. This was the first book I have read from Fern Britton, and I know it won’t be my last for sure!

Coming Home is based in Cornwall, England, a beautiful seaside area with loads of fisherman around. The author describes the place so well, that it made me want to go there, just to see it and be close to the characters. It reminds me of South Shields very much as well.

This is a story of one family, three generations and their difficult lives entwined with love, pain, leaving and coming back home.

Sennen is a woman that leaves her hometown, her parents and her two little children (Ella and Henry) at 17-years-old because life gets too hard to handle.

Ella and Henry are raised by their grandparents and live their whole life without their mother in their lives – until one day, Sennen comes back and wants to be a part of their lives. But are they ready for it?

We see the story through the eyes of Sennen, Ella and Henry and the grandparents. We travel from one generation to the other through the years, and we learn a lot for each of the characters. It is so well-written, that I wasn’t confused at all. Usually I get confused when authors try to do this in other books, but this one was definitely not the case.

This is one of those books that will hook you from the very first pages! The characters are so warm and close to the heart, that I felt like I have known them forever. I felt close to them and their feelings and thoughts, that I could have easily gone out and have a conversation with them. It is one of those books that fills you with anticipation, then gives you a back-story, and just when you thought things will happen as you thought, you will discover a surprise.

Wonderful plot and beautifully written – this is a book of love, family, broken and fixed hearts. This is a book that will make you cry while waiting for a train, and laugh out loud while drinking a hot chocolate in a coffee shop.

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Set Me Free: The Story of How Shakespeare Saved A Life – Salvatore Striano [BOOK REVIEW]

I received an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review of this book from Text PublishingNetgalley! The translator of the book did a wonderful job, as it didn’t feel at all like it was translated!

This is a story about an Italian prisoner that tells us how the prison system works, all the unfairness in it, and this is also a story that tells us how a person can still turn up good into a bad environment, and I was very happy that I witnessed that change from one chapter into another.

The way it was written was quite good, even though at times it felt a bit blunt and boring. Shakespeare was used in the book a lot, and sometimes he was overused and was in places where he shouldn’t have been. I believe that Shakespeare had influence over Sasa, but not as much as the theatre itself. I believe it was the theatre that made Sasa free, and not Shakespeare in particular. At the end of the day, I actually think that Sasa made himself free… Sometimes you only need a little push and nothing more.

I loved Sasa’s character, and I loved the way he sees life. I love how he sees the positive in all the negative, and besides all, he still wants to be a better person. We are all human, and we all make mistakes, and sometimes people know they made mistakes, regret them and want to become better. That is exactly what Sasa did, in an unfair environment.

I thought the prison was presented a bit unrealistic, as we all know what happens inside, and as much as Sasa wouldn’t hurt anyone if not necessary, almost 90% of the other inmates would – on regular basis. This was a little fact that annoyed me a bit. Other than that, I really enjoyed the book and can’t wait to read another book from Salvatore Striano.

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