The Hardest Part: Ryan Hill on Dead New World

Raleigh author Ryan Hill is the author of two books, both out this year from Curiosity Quills Press. In May, it was his debut novel The Book of Bart, a novel of angels, demons, Templars, swearing, and sarcasm. Earlier this month saw the publication of his second novel, Dead New World, which begins a new trilogy: “Zombies aren’t mindless anymore. Before the world fell into chaos, the undead existed only in the imagination. Now, more of them walk the earth than living. Zombies move about freely, while humans entomb themselves inside concrete barricades to stay alive. All that, while the leader of a powerful cult – known only as Reverend – becomes the next threat to the rebuilding United States. Believing zombies to be God’s latest creation, making humanity obsolete, he wants to give every man, woman, and child the chance to become one. With his combined army of humans and zombies, he may well get his wish. Best friends Holt and Ambrose went up against the Reverend once. Holt lost a foot and a zombie bit Ambrose…though he survived the virus, only to become a human-zombie hybrid, reviled by the living and unwelcome among the dead. When the Reverend kidnaps the woman Holt loves, the race is on to save her from a fate worse than death.” Hill has interviewed himself about the book and described his own idea of a zombie survival bunker, and here offers a short essay on the balancing act of writing a novel that remained true to his vision, while not potentially alienating readers.

Dead New World

By Ryah Hill:

The hardest part of writing Dead New World was the ending. Originally, the novel ended with the main character putting a bullet in the head of the girl he loved, and left the fate of other characters up in the air. Their fates would have been revealed at the beginning of the second novel (DNW is the first in a trilogy). Several people who read the novel remarked that the ending, as it stood, was entirely too dark. While it was my intention to create a dark zombie novel, I couldn’t risk potentially turning off readers, so I set about trying to create an ending that satisfied my desire for a dark ending, but wouldn’t leave people feeling like the world was a terrible place to live in. Read the rest of this entry »


The Hardest Part/Coming to Town: Beth Revis on The Body Electric

North Carolina author Beth Revis achieved fantastic critical and commercial success with her Across the Universe series, a young adult science fiction trilogy about “a love out of time and a spaceship built of secrets and murder” that has been translated into more than 20 languages. For The Body Electric, Revis once again offers a young adult science fiction novel, this time focused on memory, identity, and trust: “The future world is at peace. Ella Shepherd has dedicated her life to using her unique gift, the ability to enter people’s dreams and memories using technology developed by her mother, to help others relive their happy memories. But not all is at it seems. Ella starts seeing impossible things, images of her dead father, warnings of who she cannot trust. Her government recruits her to spy on a rebel group, using her ability to experience, and influence, the memories of traitors. But the leader of the rebels claims they used to be in love, even though Ella’s never met him before in her life. Which can only mean one thing? Someone’s altered her memory. Ella’s gift is enough to overthrow a corrupt government or crush a growing rebel group. She is the key to stopping a war she didn’t even know was happening. But if someone else has been inside Ella’s head, she cannot trust her own memories, thoughts, or feelings. So who can she trust?”

Here, Revis writes about the difficulties in revising what had been meant as the first book as a trilogy into one standalone novel. It — and the novel — makes for intriguing reading. I’d originally asked her about this “hardest part” for The Hardest Part guest column series, and then saw that she has 5 events scheduled across the Carolinas from November 1-5 including Quail Ridge Books, Flyleaf Books, Malaprop’s, Park Road Books, and Fiction Addiction, as part of the Compelling Reads Tour which also includes (among others) Meagan Spooner and Megan Shepherd. So! I’m including this in the Coming to Town column as well. I hope you enjoy!

By Beth Revis:

The hardest part of writing The Body Electric was the revision process. In its original inception, the book was going to be the first of a trilogy and heavily focused on a government subplot. My agent and editor, however, pointed out that dystopian was fading, and the government subplot was distracting from the main plot of the book–a more personal story about a girl whose memories have been altered without her knowledge and who is wrapped up in something far bigger than her. Taking out the subplot was a huge change–but not as huge as cutting the book from three to one. Taking out the strings that led to sequels made the story tighter and stronger in the end, but it was excruciatingly painful to revise!

Once the book was done and edited, the rest sort of…fell into place. I did have a set back when I learned it didn’t fit with my publisher’s catalog, but the actual decision to self publish was fairly easy, mostly due to my wise agent, who was behind me the whole way. I’d worked with a graphic designer before on other projects, and she was available to do the exterior and interior design of the novel. I had great friends (and the internet!) to show me the ropes of self publication, and a wonderful indie bookstore that helped with the launch of the book. After years of writing and three published novels, it was amazing that the hardest part of the book was in the writing process, not the publication process!

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Beth Revis is the NY Times bestselling author of the Across the Universe series. The complete trilogy is now available in more than 20 languages. A native of North Carolina, Beth’s latest book is a new science fiction novel for teens, The Body Electric, which released October 6, 2014.


The Exploding Spaceship Release Day Edition: Review of A Call to Duty and Falling Sky

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Review of A Call to Duty, Manticore Ascendant: Book One by David Weber and Timothy Zahn (October 7, 2014, Baen)

Timothy Zahn is writing in David Weber’s Honorverse and he presents a story from the early days of the Royal Manticoran Navy. And at 354 pages, it has to be one of the shortest books in the series. Zahn has made himself as much at home in Weber’s extensive universe as he did when writing in the Star Wars universe.

The first four years of Travis Uriah Long’s enlistment parallel the story of the RMN during the same period. There are many people who don’t care about being battle ready, more who lie, cheat and steal, and those honest, hard workers like Travis get punished when they don’t accept that behavior. His refusal to back down to someone who is wrong leads him to switch from Impeller Tech to Gravitics Tech during his post-basic training. This ends up serving him well to get him posted to a ship which is a tightly run place like he imagined they all were before he enlisted.

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His outside-the-box strategies to get himself, his mates, and his ship out of danger or to rescue others are just what the revamped RMN will need. For those of you who haven’t read any of this series, this one is a good place to start because it is shorter and occurs earlier in the RMN’s timeline than the books focused on Honor Harrington.

As with all Honorverse books, you get naval battles, ship techie talk, and personal interactions of the crew. This volume was an easy read compared to some previous volumes and is of normal novel length. The plot and pacing are good and we see quite a bit of Long’s character and even what some of his officers think of him, which can be enlightening about that particular officer’s character. Hopefully we will see another volume with Travis Long in the near future.

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Review of Falling Sky by Rajan Khanna (October 7, 2014, Pyr)

Airships, feral zombie-like humans created by a disease, and a Jewish hero named Ben Gold all come together to make a very interesting post-apocalyptic first novel. Ben has an airship named the Cherub, which he inherited from his father.  Because of the risks of being on the ground, he lives in the airship most of the time.

Ben has hooked up with a group of scientists who want to cure the disease, but their refuge gets attacked by inhabitants from a floating city. Now he must work with the scientists, some old friends, and some new acquaintances to get them and their airships all out of the clutches of their attackers.

It’s fast-paced with good characterization and the background of the world and Ben’s history is a steady trickle throughout the story rather than being dumped on you all at once. Background information pops up as it becomes relevant to the narrative, as it should do in a well-written novel.

Ben balances a current love interest with an old girlfriend but does eventually end up with only one girl. We are left hanging as to their future beyond their surviving the final battle, so hopefully there will be another volume coming soon. This one was around 250 pages, so perhaps a second book was written at the same time and we won’t have to wait long!


Paul Kincaid’s From the Other Side, September 2014: Graham Joyce, Adam Roberts, Infinity Plus, Gwyneth Jones, and more

From the Other Side, September 2014

By Paul Kincaid

[Editor's Note: "From the Other Side" is Paul Kincaid's monthly column on books and news from the other side of the Atlantic.]

September has been a sad month, since it opened with the death of Graham Joyce. You would be hard put to find any photograph of Graham in which he didn’t have a huge grin. It’s a measure of the man: he was charming, delightful, great company and someone who enjoyed life to the full. He was also one of the finest fantasists you could hope to read. His two most recent novels, Some Kind of Fairy Tale and The Year of the Ladybird (which has just come out in America under the rather less evocative title The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit) are proof that he was at the very peak of his powers when he died. He will be missed by everyone who values good fantasy.

The Year of the Ladybird The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit

On a happier note, this month’s statutory Adam Roberts mention comes with the publication of his new novel, Bête (Gollancz). (That’s his third book this year, and his critical edition of Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria has just been published as well; does the man never sleep?) Bête begins when animal rights activists insert AI chips in the brains of animals, giving them the power of speech. The result is a black comedy that is being compared to H.G. Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau and George Orwell’s Animal Farm in considering the philosophical implications of our relationship with animals and whether speech and self-awareness equates with a soul. Though to my mind a more apposite comparison might be to the scene at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe in Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Read the rest of this entry »


Coming to Town: Marie Lu for The Young Elites at Flyleaf Books, interviewed by Sharon Stogner

This Wednesday (October 8th) Chapel Hill’s Flyleaf Books welcomes Marie Lu, the bestselling author of the Legend trilogy, for her new young adult novel The Young Elites, out tomorrow from Putnam Juvenile: “Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites. Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all. Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen. Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her. It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.

You can learn more about the book from its book trailer, and! of course in this interview by Sharon Stogner, where she talks about NC in the fall, writing in the point of view of a villain-to-be, YA vs. adult fantasy, and graphic novel adaptations.

Interview by Sharon Stogner

Q: Hello, and welcome to NC. You are a long way from home. NC is the second stop on an extensive book tour. Have you ever been to NC? Do you have time to explore any of the cities you visit while on tour, because I’m sure someone here can tell you where to find the best food NC has to offer!

I have been to North Carolina before, but never in autumn—so I’m especially excited to be here right now. The state is absolutely gorgeous! I never get to see any seasons at home in Los Angeles, but here, the leaves are all changing color and fall is in the air!

Q: I did some stalking searching on your Pinterest and Deviant Art pages (my goodness you are a talented artist!) and the images for The Young Elites are hauntingly dark and beautifully sensual. How does the tone of this series compare to your Legend series? Read the rest of this entry »


The Exploding Spaceship reviews The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

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Review of The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (August 26, 2014, Ecco)

Well, the first thing about this book is that the publishers didn’t market it as a fantasy. It’s classed as a historical novel because it is set in 1680s Amsterdam, The Netherlands. However, the premise of the story is that someone is making tiny copies of Nella’s actual house contents and dolls of her family and people who visit the house, and then sending them to her to fill the doll house she was given as a wedding present. Nella can’t figure out how they are doing it, even when she does determine who. So it is obvious there is a sort of magic or superpowers or something going on here but it is not explained.

The weirdness with the doll house contents is not the main plot of the story. The story is about Nella and the family she has married into. Her husband is not able to be a husband really and his sister still thinks it is her house although Nella is technically the lady of the house. The servants play a big role in the story and as is usual in historicals, the mixing of upstairs and downstairs makes for secrets the entire house tries to hide from outsiders.

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The setting of the house is well done with good descriptions of not just the objects but the mood people feel from the furnishings. The city is also well done: Nella walks around and you get a feel for the city. Winter makes everything feel different because of the ice and lack of easy movement in boats.

Note that although Nella is a young adult, there are some adult sex scenes in this book, some of which have same gender participants. It has a bit of blood and violence and some death. All of this is well done with enough visual to demonstrate the horror of something or show the forbidden love being revealed. The weirdness with the doll house gives the entire book a sort of creepy undertone because real world events are reflected in the parcels Nella receives from the miniaturist.

The book is very well written, particularly for a first novel. Note that the main character and her cabinet house are real but the story is made up. The novel has a definite European flavor to it, and does a good job exploring race, sex and class in a way no American writer could manage unless they had spent a great deal of time traveling. Although we primarily read and review speculative fiction, this book attracted our attention because Angela loves dolls, and like much “general” fiction today has a speculative fiction feel to it as well as the historical aspect. We would love to see what UK writer Jessie Burton would do with a historical based in the UK.


Coming to Town: Kami Garcia and Carrie Ryan for Garcia’s “Unmarked” at Quail Ridge Books, interviewed by Sharon Stogner

On Friday, October 3, Quail Ridge Books [Facebook] welcomes the NY Times bestselling coauthor of Beautiful Creatures, Kami Garcia, for Unmarked, the second novel in her “The Legion” series which began with Unbreakable, where “a supernatural murder leads a young woman to join a secret society, the Legion of the Black Dove.” Joining Garcia for the event is Charlotte author Carrie Ryan, author of the chilling The Forest of Hands and Teeth series. Quoth the bookstore: “Join us as they converse on writing and paranormal lit.  Ages 14+.” Here, Sharon Stogner interviews both Garcia and Ryan about their books, superstitions, writing for young adults, their favorite North Carolina spots, and, of course, Friday’s event.

Unmarked

Interviews by Sharon Stogner

KAMI GARCIA

Q: Hello, Kami and welcome to NC. You currently live in Maryland so I’m guessing you’ve been to or at least passed through NC before. Is there something you would like to do or a place you would like to visit here? Have some yummy eastern BBQ, visit a haunted spot?

My momther’s family is from a small town in North Carolina called Ahoskie. I also have family in Wilson, Greensborough, and Raleigh, so I’ve spent a lot of time here. My mom and stepfather have lived on the Outer Banks since I was in college, and we have more than a few Tarheels in the family. North Carolina BBQ is definitely one of my favorite things, and a few of my favorite places in NC are Wilmington, Chapel Hill, and Asheville. I’m too superstitious to visit any haunted places on purpose, but I’m always up for a trip to Bojangles.

Q: Your newest series is The Legion Novels. Besides plot, how does this series differ from the Beautiful Creatures? Is it darker, more/ less romance or suspense, etc? Read the rest of this entry »


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