Coming to Town: Scott Westerfeld for Afterworlds at Quail Ridge Books, interviewed by Mur Lafferty

Scott Westerfeld came to prominence a decade ago with his award-winning and best-selling dystopian young adult series “Uglies”, then set his sights on a middle grade alternate history of Steampunk “Clankers” and gene-splicing “Darwinists” for his “Leviathan” series, a fantastically-illustrated (and narrated, by Alan Cumming) adventure-romp through WW1-era Europe by diesel-powered mech walkers, modified whale airships, and (perhaps) even stranger methods. It’s been 3 years since Goliath concluded that series, and today Westerfeld’s new young adult/new adult novel Afterworlds launches from Simon Pulse. Tomorrow night (Wednesday, September 24) he’ll be in Raleigh for a reading at Quail Ridge Books.

Afterworlds is about “Darcy Patel, a young writer who bangs out a novel in her senior year of high school, has it published for a ton of money, and moves to New York City to revise it, write a sequel, and hang out with the NYC YA crowd.” And! “Interspersed with Darcy’s story is the entirety of her novel, also called Afterworlds, about Lizzie Scofield, a young girl who escapes a terrorist attack by playing dead, but then discovers that she has played too well . . .” You can get a feel of what’s going on here via the book trailer, or dig into some excerpts (PulseIt, B&N, and the longest at Overdrive).

Here, Westerfeld takes the time via email for an interview from Durham author Mur Lafferty. Westerfeld’s tour kicks off in New York City tonight, and Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Books is stop #2 tomorrow, ahead of stops in Pennsylvania, DC, St. Louis, Milwaukee, London, and beyond.

Afterworlds

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld (Simon Pulse)

Interview by Mur Lafferty

Q: Most authors find it difficult to write one story, and you’ve had to weave two together nearly effortlessly. Was that more difficult than crafting your other books?

Writing two interwoven stories was complicated, certainly, but it’s also very compelling to write two stories that interact with and support each other. Like any novelist, Darcy’s real life influences the book she’s writing. When she learns something about the world, whether it’s a big truth about true love or something as simple as a cool new word, it’s reflected in the pages of her novel. So whenever I got stuck on Lizzie’s story (the novel-within-the-novel) I only had to look at what was going on in Darcy’s life for inspiration.

Q: NaNoWriMo tends to polarize authors (and other publishing pros). Many pros think it’s a waste of time or it invites drek to hit agents’ desks in December or tells people it’s OK to write only once a year instead of make a habit. And then there’s you and a handful of others who see it as a positive. What made you want to not only feature a NaNoWriMo writer in your book, but dedicate the book to WriMos?  Read the rest of this entry »


Friday Quick Updates: The Escapism Film Festival this weekend along with plays and musicals and comedy, John and Carole Barrowman announced as NC Comicon headliners, a free writing workshop, and more

Friday, September 19, 2014: Who’s up for a show? You have your pick between film, stage, musical, and comedy performances tonight, with The Escapism Film Festival, Little Green Pig’s HMLT, and North Raleigh Arts’ Xanadu playing through the weekend. Some of the Escapism lineup? Ice PiratesThe Princess BrideMad Max Beyond ThunderdomeThe Neverending StoryThe Last of the Mohicans, and The Last Unicorn. Yup, it’s set to be a fun weekend, though watch out for parking in downtown Durham as it’s also CenterFest, back after a year’s hiatus.

Meanwhile, NC Comicon had some big news, announcing that John Barrowman (Dr. WhoTorchwood) and his sister and frequent co-author Carole will join Fiona Staples (Saga), Nathan Edmonson (The Activity), and many more as guests this November. Additionally, the accompanying ComiQuest Film Festival lineup was announced, including AkiraConan the BarbarianFlash GordonIron GiantHoward the Duck, and more.

NEWS ROUNDUP:

  • Melissa Scott and Jo Graham are in the Cyberpunk StoryBundle
  • John Hartness (And David B. Coe, among others) have mentioned a friend and writer who recently passed away, D.J. Davis, urging people to buy Davis’ debut novella
  • NC writers Nathan Ballingrud and Dale Bailey have a story, “The Crevasse” up on the Drabblecast podcast
  • Speaking of podcasts, the (Parsec Award nominated) Baen Free Radio Hour recently had local author David Drake on to talk about his new collection “Dinosaurs and a Dirigible” — and! today will debut part 1 of the locally-produced radioplay “Islands” which premiered at Raleigh’s Living Arts College on Wednesday

CROWDFUNDING ROUNDUP: For her birthday today, Emmett Davenport invites you to donate to the Kickstarter for a puppet show by Lady Attercop and Emmett Davenport called “Lushington’s Lounge” where we’re invited to “Join dashing steampunk darlings Emmett Davenport and Lady Attercop of The Clockwork Cabaret, or at least their puppet doubles, as they negotiate the thorny, tasty, and just plain bizarre landscape of vintage Victorian cocktails, and their modern counterparts.” And! Eryk Pruitt’s IndieGogo campaign for his new short film “The HooDoo of Sweet Mama Rosa”  successfully reached its $3000 goal, but there’s still time left (through midnight tonight) to be a part of it. Another Kickstarter with North Carolina ties is for a film of Terry Bisson’s fantastic “Bears Discover Fire”, which is currently $5,000 short of its $15,000 goal.

Next-to-Lastly, and a few of you should know that I’m looking right at you as I type this, the deadline to apply to be the Piedmont Laureate for Speculative Fiction is today, September 19. We have an absolutely fantastic collection of authors in the area, and I don’t envy this year’s judges in the slightest.

Lastly, speaking of the Piedmont Laureate program, a free writing workshop is coming later this month: “Join 2014 Piedmont Laureate Carrie Knowles for a free fiction writing workshop at the historic Borden House, site of the administrative offices of the old Methodist Children’s home. We’ll take a short tour and talk about how to use both place and time to anchor a story and create characters. During the workshop you will have a chance to write and get feedback on your work. Borden House in Fred Fletcher Park, Raleigh, Sunday, September 28 from 1:30-4pm. To register, please contact Carrie Knowles.”

-Sam

UPCOMING EVENTS, SEPTEMBER 2014 Read the rest of this entry »


Local author new release: Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle

John Darnielle’s brilliant lyricism is no secret to Triangle-area fans of his internationally-acclaimed band The Mountain Goats. Fewer have, however, taken the plunge (or perhaps known about) his more lengthily literary side, expressed most publicly (until now) as a novella in Continuum’s 33 1/3 series, Black Sabbath: Master of Reality, a 100-page examination of the classic heavy metal album from the perspective of a 15-year-old psychiatric patient. His first full-length novel, Wolf in White Van, was published on Tuesday, and concerns itself with similarly heady (and dark) themes. After launching the book in New York City in an event with John Hodgman, he returns home to Durham tonight for the first of two local readings. Tonight (Thursday, September 18) he’s at Motorco Music Hall, presented by The Regulator Bookshop, and on Monday (September 22) he’s at Quail Ridge Books. Yesterday, the novel was named to the long-list for the National Book Awards for Fiction.

Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle (FSG Originals)

Welcome to Trace Italian, a game of strategy and survival! You may now make your first move. Isolated by a disfiguring injury since the age of seventeen, Sean Phillips crafts imaginary worlds for strangers to play in. From his small apartment in southern California, he orchestrates fantastic adventures where possibilities, both dark and bright, open in the boundaries between the real and the imagined. As the creator of Trace Italian—a text-based, role-playing game played through the mail—Sean guides players from around the world through his intricately imagined terrain, which they navigate and explore, turn by turn, seeking sanctuary in a ravaged, savage future America. Lance and Carrie are high school students from Florida, explorers of the Trace. But when they take their play into the real world, disaster strikes, and Sean is called to account for it. In the process, he is pulled back through time, tunneling toward the moment of his own self-inflicted departure from the world in which most people live. Brilliantly constructed, Wolf in White Van unfolds in reverse until we arrive at both the beginning and the climax: the event that has shaped so much of Sean’s life. Beautifully written and unexpectedly moving, John Darnielle’s audacious and gripping debut novel is a marvel of storytelling brio and genuine literary delicacy.”

In some ways, Wolf in White Van acts a s kind of anti-thesis for Darnielle’s recent work with The Mountain Goats. The band’s 2012 album, Transcendental Youth, has its more somber edges at times but (I would argue) if not a more ecstatic through-line, an encouragement both direct and indirect to get up, go out, and do/be/create, at least some destination of if not acceptance then catharsis. In Wolf in White Van, we encounter mostly aftermaths — of a 17-year-old’s reasonless actions and of a later, different pair of teenager’s foolish decisions — and how these together make anything resembling meaning, or not, where even catharsis is in short supply. Of the dangers of both going out to do, in joy and curiosity, and also of staying in and delving too deeply into your own dark fantasies. In this short, emotionally packed and affecting novel, even the multiple universes which branch out from every decision are weighed against reality as something perhaps to mourn. In this spiraling, reflecting, inverted narrative, the power of Darnielle’s lyricism in prose to affect you is emotionally and even physically staggering. There’s not even much of a fleeting glimpse of the romanticism of melancholy: we get neither “depression” nor “psychosis” just what happened. Read the rest of this entry »


The Hardest Part: T. Kingfisher on Toad Words and Other Stories

In early August, NC author T. Kingfisher published a new collection Toad Words and Other Stories, a “collection of fairy-tale retellings for adults. By turns funny and dark, sad and lyrical, this anthology draws together in one volume such stories as ‘The Wolf and the Woodsman’, ‘Loathly’, and ‘Bluebeard’s Wife’, along with an all-new novella, ‘Boar & Apples’.” While many of the stories had previously appeared in various forms on the author’s blog, having substantial new content and a trove of stories to pick from made for an interesting set of decisions when putting the collection together. Here, Kingfisher writes about trying to put together a collection that wasn’t too dark, wasn’t too light, but rather: just right.

Toad Words and Other Stories

By T. Kingfisher:

When I was trying to assemble my first anthology, Toad Words & Other Stories, I often felt like I was wandering a strange countryside without a road map.

I’m sure there are people out there who think that this is an ideal way to travel. These people probably throw their Lonely Planet guide in their battered rucksack, toss in an extra pair of socks and a power bar, and go off on a six-week backpacking trip through the Andes.

I sometimes wish that I were that sort of person. Read the rest of this entry »


The Hardest Part: Tony Daniel on “Islands”

Baen editor Tony Daniel has been a busy man of late. Since his 2012 novel Guardian of Night he has published 3 additional novels (Star Trek: Devil’s Bargain and two books co-authored with David Drake: Manly Wade Wellman Award-nominated The Heretic and just-published The Savior) and two short stories, and directed and hosted Baen’s Parsec Award-nominated podcast The Baen Free Radio Hour. He’s also been active on the convention circuit, both as a panelist and (of course) as a frequent host of the Baen Traveling Road Show. In March of this year, Daniel put out a casting call for “Islands”, his new radio play adaptation of a novella by Eric Flint, and would go on to guide the production through auditions, rehearsals, recording sessions, post-production soundtrack and sound effects, and, on Wednesday September 17, Daniel will finally present the premiere performance at a free screening at Living Arts College in Raleigh, where the radio play was recorded, ahead of its online debut as part of the Baen Free Radio Hour on Friday, September 19, in turn ahead of public availability at Baen’s online store.

It was a thrill and an honor to have had a small part in the production, and to be able to take in first-hand the amazing performances of cast members Tracey Coppedge, Paul Kilpatrick, Lex Wilson, Jeff Aguiar, Izzy Burger, Rika Daniel, Carter, Paris Battle, Gray Rinehart, Pj Maske, and Cokie Daniel. (Between rehearsal takes, the talent on display just ad-libbing around for fun by this group was wonderful to be around.) Both Tony Daniel and director Jerome Davis were likewise amazing to work with, and to watch work. Here, Daniel writes about his background in script writing, and how “Islands” came to be.

Islands Poster

By Tony Daniel:

We made radio plays back in 2000 and 2001. I got hired at Seeing Ear Theatre at SCIFI.COM by its creator, Brian Smith, who later became a good friend and writing partner, and we made many radio plays with wonderful, cinematic soundtracks, quite unlike anything that had been made before, because they, those who created and developed the form, and created its Golden Age, simply didn’t have the technology before. We had a wizardly sound engineering genius named John Colucci. We had a great budget to work with, so we hired stars to get more people to listen. For about two years, I was perhaps the only full-time audio drama scriptwriter and story editor in the world. At least in America. Then the dot com bust came along, and the whole thing, the whole web site, got shut down to ashes. Probably a hundred people laid off, poor kids suddenly out $65,000 a year and with no prospects except Starbucks, if that. To be laid off in New York City is no joke. You will quickly get eaten alive by rent.

Brian, by the way, took a job as an audiobook editor after Seeing Ear, and then quit and started an artisanal ice cream shop in Brooklyn. It has become a New York phenomenon. Ample Hills. You have to go there when you’re in town. Read the rest of this entry »


Coming to Town: Kim Harrison at Quail Ridge Books for The Witch with No Name

This is it. This is the big one. Kim Harrison’s bestselling “Hollows” series kicked off with 2004’s Dead Witch Walking and yesterday saw the publication of the concluding thirteenth novel, The Witch with No Name. Harrison has come through town on her tours for many of the previous books, most recently just back in March for The Undead Pool, and NC writer/editor Sharon Stogner reprises her role as “Coming to Town” interviewer ahead of Harrison’s next local appearance, this Friday (September 12) at Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Books as part of her full tour which includes events nationwide.

harrison-witch-20426917 

Interview by Sharon Stogner:

Q: Hello and welcome back to NC. This is your second visit to NC this year to promote a Hollows book. How have these last six months been? And how does an author celebrate the release of their final book in a successful series?

Thank you, Sharon! I always like getting back to Raleigh, though this time it is sooner than I had anticipated. I just couldn’t ask the readers to wait an entire year for the last book, and since it was already turned in, we went for it. Being the last book is very much a double-edged sword. Some of the readers are feeling the sting of it, and if the truth be told, I had a very hard time writing it. But the best way to get over the last book blues is to start right in on what comes next. Getting out and giving the readers a chance to say good-bye to the Hollows is going to be a great way to send Rachel off on her happy ever after, and Harper is going all out with a midnight kick off and final good-bye party the night before Halloween, and lots of stores and events in between.

Q: You will have a few double signings on this tour with author Richard Kadrey and have just done a Reddit Q&A together. Does The Hollows and Sandman Slim books have the same fan base? Whose idea was it to combine the promotional tours? Read the rest of this entry »


Coming to Town: Stuart Rojstaczer for The Mathematician’s Shiva

“Her craziness was happily wed to her intellect. There are no reasonable geniuses in this world, I am convinced.” So writes middle-aged fictional geophysicist Alexander “Sasha” Karnokovitch of his mother, within the pages of actual geophysicist Stuart Rojstaczer‘s debut novel The Mathematician’s Shiva. A brilliant mathematician, Rachela is rumored to be taking the secret proof to the Navier-Stokes equation to her grave. But first, and trust me, somehow this all works, Rojstaczer gives us alternating scenes of heartbreak and humor, introducing Rachela on her deathbed along with her fantastically weird family. As the story continues, a parade of mathematicians will arrive to poke around her house in search of her last work, but there is so much more than the ongoing narrative at work: Rojstaczer employs chapters recalling Sasha’s youth, learning mathematics at his father’s hand, complete with diagrams and historical context — “Leo” in one of his father’s instructional stories turns out to be Leonhardt Euler — as well as excerpts from Rachela’s memoir A Lifetime in Mathematics, chronicling her Jewish family’s flight from the rise of Hitler. If this is beginning to sound too heady or heavy, a brief remark: even the chapter titles contain bits of humor. And if you pause to take a sip of vodka as often as Rachela’s younger brother Shlomo…

Rojstaczer, a long-time professor at Duke University now living in California, will be at Durham’s The Regulator Bookshop this Thursday, September 11, at 7 pm for a reading and signing event. Via email, he answered some questions about his book and his background in reading and writing.

the-mathematicians-shiva-9780143126317M

Q: You and “Sasha” are both Wisconsin-born geophysicists, the son of Polish-Jewish post-WW2 immigrants. Do the similarities end there, or is there any shared familial or other background of yours which you were able to use to inform the character and his family?

Sasha is older I am, has a bit stronger Eastern European roots, is more arrogant, is a better mathematician, and is a lifelong skirt-chaser. He’s an amalgam of people I know and love and sure, there’s more than a little of me in Sasha. You can only act so much in creating a character. There’s at least a little of me in all of the characters in this novel. Originally, the family in this novel was going to be Hungarian. But I quickly realized I knew nothing about Hungarian culture. In contrast, I know about Polish and Russian Jewish culture intimately. It’s a bitter fit. Grounding this novel in a culture I know emotionally and intellectually gives it necessary and vital authenticity, I think.

Q: A novel with (even sparse!) mathematical formulae and graphs seems that it could be a hard sell, particularly for a debut novelist. Was this the case at all? Read the rest of this entry »


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