Hello, and welcome to my second ever blog tour, celebrating Riptide Publishing’s release of Shadows & Dreams, the sequel to Iron & Velvet. Yay! Thank you so much to Romancing the Book for hosting me. And, to you, dear reader, for stopping by. If you’d like to come with me and keep me company on my virtual wanderings, you can find a full listing of when and where I am.
There’s also some kind of contest type thing happening. I had a bit of trouble choosing a prize for this one because most of the things Kate likes (booze, cigarettes, knives, women) are illegal to ship internationally. I thought about a fedora, but then I remembered people had differently shaped heads and there was no point sending somebody an item of clothing they wouldn’t be able to wear. So, basically, that leaves coffee and Bovril and nobody likes Bovril except people from the North East of England. I’m therefore going offer 250g of Jamaican Blue Mountain, the nicest coffee in the known universe, purchased from a wonderful speciality shop, ground or beaned to your specification. If you don’t like coffee, I’ll replace it with an equivalently lovely tea. I’ll also throw in a hard copy of Iron & Velvet (or the other thing I wrote) if that’s the sort of thing you’d like. I can even scribble stuff in it, thus reducing its re-sale value … or, y’know, not do that. I’ll announce the winner a handful of days after the end of the tour.
My newest release is Shadows & Dreams, which is book two of the Kate Kane Paranormal Investigator series. It’s a bit difficult to explain where the idea for a second book in a series came from because it’s sort of came from, well, having had a first book in the series. The basic premise came – and I’m sorry if this sounds either cynical or formulaic – from a sort of general awareness that I wanted the first couple of books in the series to be quite strongly vampire focused (with, the idea, that you’d pay more attention to the other supernatural creatures in later volumes) so I wanted something that would allow us to see more of vampire society, while also generally raising the stakes and building more world. I think it still stands alone for those people who – unlike me – are capable of starting a series somewhere other than the beginning.
You can read the blurb and an excerpt, and admire the cover art, over at Riptide Publishing.
Coming up next, I have yet another almost complete change of direction. I understand this is now how you’re supposed to do the whole brand building thing. Basically, it’s a steampunk western with Lovecraftian element set in a frontier town in the sky. Interestingly, it’s actually an iteration of the first thing I submitted to Riptide, but I’ve learned quite lot about, y’know, well writing since then. It’s called Prosperity, and it’s coming October, and there’ll be a sort of follow-up anthology of prequel/sequel shorts called Liberty & other Stories, which is due in January. Next year, I’m hoping get another couple of m/ contemps out there but that’s all quite up in the air at the moment. And then there’s Kate 3, of course, but that’ll probably be late 2015.
Describe your writing in 3 words.
How do you come up with characters names?
Quite badly, actually, given the fact I completely unintentionally named my protagonist after Batwoman. I wanted something that sounded like a noir protagonist, like Sam Spade, and actually it’s quite hard to find short hard-sounding female names. A lot of them are clearly a feminine equivalent of a male name, usually with extra vowels. The ‘K’ names get used an awful lot, especially in urban fantasy. There’s Kate Daniels, and I’ve just finished reviewing the first Kim Claypole book. So, yeah, that’s definitely a thing.
When I’m not goofing up, I do put quite a lot of thought into my naming, although, honestly, sometimes I’m a bit heavy-handed. The protagonist of Glitterland, who’s a washed up bipolar depressive, is called Ash Winters (oh do you see) and quite a lot of the characters in the Kate Kane books have a similar trying too hard vibe. Most obviously, the Prince of Coins whose name is actually Pryce. Subtle, Hall, subtle.
But just to give you a quick rundown of the major characters:
Julian Saint-Germain is named after Julian of Norwich who has the dubious distinction of being my favourite historical nun, and the Comte de Saint Germaine, who was a famous, mysterious immortal dude. I think some people get quite confused about Julian having a man’s name, but it was, and still is, fairly common for nuns to take the names of male saints. Also I kind of feel Julian’s quite an androgynous-sounding name anyway, but one of the interesting consequences of assigning a cross-gendered name to a character is how quickly you accept it, and how arbitrary that stuff starts to feel.
Tara Vane-Tempest is named after two real houses of the English nobility, although I think the Tempests are defunct now. Tara is just a go-to posh girl name for me, probably primarily because of Tara Palmer-Tomkinson. On the subject of gender-inappropriate names, I actually knew a bloke called Tara at college.
Nimue isn’t Nimue’s real name, because mages don’t use their real names because magic. Fairly clearly she’s named after the Nimue from Arthurian legend – she even walks out the goddamn Thames holding a sword in the first book. Again, not a subtle writer.
Elise is also pretty straight forward – it’s just another fairly common name for Galatea. Eve is a bit random. I think I just thought Eve Locke sounded supervillainy, and there’s the whole going after forbidden knowledge vibe thing.
What did you do to celebrate your first book? Do you do anything to celebrate a sale, new contract or release?
I know this probably makes me sound like the most boring person ever, but I didn’t actually do much at all to celebrate my first book. It still doesn’t feel quite real to me.
One of in the slightly weird things I’ve found about writing is that, as the author, you’re weirdly out of step with everybody else. I mean, launch is usually about four months after the bulk of my work is done. I don’t tend to talk much about the books I’m currently writing because it feels a bit strange to me to try and get people interested in something I haven’t actually done yet, and so, for me, the production of a book and the promotion of a book happen almost completely independently of one another.
Essentially by the time anybody has heard about one of my books, apart from me and my editor, I’ve basically finished with it.
I do, however, sigh a big sigh of relief when I sign a new contract because it means I can keep doing this, and publishing is a really uncertain business.
What’s the most interesting comment you’ve received about your books?
This one’s a bit random, but while I was working on I & V (the first Kate Kane book), one of the copy-editors came back with a comment along the lines of: “I find this a bit confusing, but I assume it will make sense to people who have read the other books in the series.” Which I found both worrying and satisfying because I&V was, of course, the first book in the series. But one of the things I was really interested in doing with the Kate Kane books was creating a sense that the reader is joining the story in the middle, and there’s lots going on in the world that makes sense to the people living in it, but isn’t necessarily immediately transparent to the audience. In a funny way, I think I was almost trying to capture the feeling you get from reading the fourth or fifth book in a series, but from basically page one. Of course, the disadvantage of that is that it can be hella confusing.
I had a friend at university who was massively into Babylon 5 (which might reveal more than I like about how long ago I went to university) and I remember very clearly her saying that a bit part of what got her into the series was that she sat down and watched ‘Midnight on the Firing Line’ and came away thinking “that was amazing, I really wish I’d see the season that built up to this.”
For those of who aren’t intimately familiar with episode titles from late 90s space opera, ‘Midnight on the Firing Line’ is, of course, the first episode of the first series of Babylon 5.
Basically, I think series get good when they have weight of precedent behind them and one of the things I wanted to do with the Kate Kane series was to build as much as that possible into the setting itself as early as I could.
Alexis Hall was born in the early 1980s and still thinks the twenty-first century is the future. To this day, he feels cheated that he lived through a fin de siècle but inexplicably failed to drink a single glass of absinthe, dance with a single courtesan, or stay in a single garret. He can neither cook nor sing, but he can handle a seventeenth century smallsword, punts from the proper end, and knows how to hotwire a car. He lives in southeast England, with no cats and no children, and fully intends to keep it that way.