Annotated Excerpt: ASH KICKERS by Sean Grigsby (Angry Robot)

GrigsbyS-2-AshKickersToday, we have the annotated first chapter of Sean Grigsby‘s latest novel, Ash Kickers — the sequel to Smoke Eaters. Published this week by Angry Robot Books, the author has added some commentary about the story and his writing. First, though, here’s the synopsis:

With ex-firefighter Cole Brannigan in command of the Smoke Eaters, the dragon menace is under control. Thanks to non-lethal Canadian tech, the beasts are tranquilized and locked up, rather than killed. But for Tamerica Williams, this job filled with action and danger, has become tediously routine.

When a new threat emerges, a legendary bird of fire – the Phoenix – it’s the perfect task for Williams. But killing the Phoenix just brings it back stronger, spreading fire like a plague and whipping dragons into a frenzy. Will it prove to be too much excitement, even for adrenalin-junkie Williams?

And now, on with the excerpt!

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Interview with SEAN GRIGSBY

GrigsbyS-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Sean Grigsby?

Now that’s a complex question! Sounds like something I should use as a mantra while meditating. But I’ll give a simple answer.

I’m a professional firefighter in central Arkansas, USA. Father, husband, sometimes DJ. And now, I’m super-stoked to be a professional writer as well.

Your new novel, Smoke Eaters, will be published by Angry Robot in March. It looks rather fun and interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

Firefighters vs. dragons… in the future. The ancient monsters have returned from beneath the ground and wreak havoc. Thankfully, a few people have been born with the ability to breathe dragon smoke and resist immense heat: smoke eaters. Cole Brannigan is a fire captain about to retire, and on his last fire call, he discovers he has these abilities and is recruited into the elite dragon-fighting force. The book has laser swords, ghosts, robots, and an evil plot involving them all. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Behind the Scenes of Chasing Embers” by James Bennett

tolkeinjrr-conversationwithsmaugSmaug. It must’ve started with Smaug. Smaug the Magnificent. As a boy of 8, I think that’s the first time I heard a dragon talk. A Conversation with Smaug by J.R.R. Tolkien is still one of my favourite illustrations. ‘Well, thief! I smell you and I feel your air’, isn’t that how it went? And that was also, I think, the first time that the 8-year-old me heard about a dragon being able to talk. Smaug was red, of course. To this day, it’s my favourite colour.

As an adult, I’m pleased to note that Professor Tolkien also drew on ancient sources, from the ‘night-scather’ in Beowulf to the talking dragon Fafnir of the Völsunga Saga. Fafnir, as it happens, used to be a man, but his greed for gold eventually turned him into a dragon, so one could argue that the seed of Smaug, in a way, was entirely human. Here you see the roots of the myth you’re tapping, a vein that stretches back to the elemental serpents of Ancient China, those noble god-beasts who were often depicted in human form, and one that will surely stretch on long into the future. Continue reading

Upcoming: THE WAKING FIRE by Anthony Ryan (Orbit)

RyanA-TheWakingFireAbove is the cover for Anthony Ryan’s next novel, the first in a new epic fantasy series — Draconis Memoria (that’s a very fantasy/heavy metal series title…). I quite like it — there’s a similarity to the recently-unveiled cover for Tom Lloyd’s next novel, but only in general positioning of Big Beastie and Puny Human…

I still haven’t read Anthony Ryan’s debut fantasy trilogy, The Raven’s Shadow, for some reason. Maybe I should get on that? Anyway, here’s the synopsis for The Waking Fire:

For decades the lands of the Ironship Syndicate have been defended by the ‘blood blessed’ – men and women able to channel the powers contained in the potent blood of wild drakes. Elite spies and assassins, their loyalty has established the Syndicate’s position as the greatest power in the known world.

Yet now a crisis looms. The drake bloodlines are weakening, and war with the Corvantine Empire seems inevitable. The Syndicate’s only hope of survival lies with the myth of a legendary drake, whose powerful blood might just turn the tide of the war – if it even exists.

The task of hunting down this fabled creature falls to Claydon Torcreek, a petty thief and unregistered blood blessed. He’s handled many valuable things in his time (most of them illegal) but nothing as priceless as his nation’s future.

The Waking Fire is due to be published by Orbit Books in July 2016.

Guest Post: “How to Build a Dragon” by Marc Turner

TurnerM-AuthorPicIf I asked you to picture a dragon in your mind, what would it look like? It would probably have wings and breathe fire. It might also have scales and a long barbed tail. As for the rest of its body, though, it would just look… well, dragon-y, right?

If a winged and armoured reptile is the basic template for a dragon, its other physical characteristics can vary hugely. When I was younger I did some roleplaying, and my game-world of choice was that of the Dragonlance novels. In those books, you find a real menagerie of dragons. Different breeds come in different colours, and breathe out different things. So, you get the quintessential red fire-breathing dragon, but you also get white frost-breathing dragons and blue lightning-breathing dragons. Those different breeds vary in size and power, and live in different habitats. Continue reading

Review: THE GREAT ZOO OF CHINA by Matthew Reilly (Gallery/Orion)

Reilly-GreatZooOfChinaUSA ferociously-paced action adventure

It is a secret the Chinese government has been keeping for 40 years. They have found a species of animal no one believed even existed. It will amaze the world.

Now the Chinese are ready to unveil their astonishing discovery within the greatest zoo ever constructed. A small group of VIPs and journalists has been brought to the zoo deep within China to see its fabulous creatures for the first time. Among them is Dr Cassandra Jane ‘CJ’ Cameron, a writer for National Geographic and an expert on reptiles.

The visitors are assured by their Chinese hosts that they will be struck with wonder at these beasts, that they are perfectly safe, and that nothing can go wrong…

I’m a big fan of Matthew Reilly’s novels — they’re unashamedly fun, action-packed adventure stories writ large. There is always a lot of research behind the extravagant action, which keeps the story rooted in reality (slightly twisted on occasion, of course). Each new novel by the author is a very welcome addition to my library, and I have enjoyed each one I’ve read (I’ve fallen a bit behind, recently). The Great Zoo of China is no exception: this is an absolute blast of a read.

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Interview with JEN WILLIAMS

WilliamsJen-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Jen Williams?

I’m a writer from south-east London. I wear odd socks and live with my partner and our cat. I have a Lego fixation and I own too many notebooks. I don’t get as much sleep as I would like, but then I like to sleep a lot. I think those are the important things covered.

Your debut novel, The Copper Promise, is out now through Headline. How would you introduce the novel to a new reader?

I like to describe it as epic sword and sorcery, so you still get a fat book that could conceivably be used as a blunt weapon, but the story moves at a tremendous pace. Two sell-swords of dubious morals are employed by a mysterious lord to explore the haunted Citadel of Creos, only to find that not only does their employer have a destructive agenda of his own, but that the Citadel is forbidden for very good reasons. A terrible force is unleashed on the world, and our heroes have to deal with it, even though it looks like they won’t actually get paid.

What inspired you to write the novel? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?

At the time, I had a few short stories out in the world, and I thought it would be interesting to release a series of novellas. I was also just coming out the other side of a serious Dragon Age: Origins obsession (a fantasy RPG videogame from Bioware) and my love of traditional fantasy had been reignited. I’d written books in various subgenres before, such as Urban Fantasy and Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy, or just Weird Secondary World stuff, but I’d never written something that was dragons, caverns, dungeons and taverns. I decided it would be fun to embrace all those lovely trappings of traditional fantasy, whilst writing them with a modern edge – there were a number of tropes I wanted to twist and play with, such as the Loveable Rogue, the Honorable Knight, and the Minions of the Dark Lord. I started writing the first novella (The Copper Promise: Ghosts of the Citadel) and fell in love with the world and the characters so much the quick novella project quickly became a big fat book.

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Also on CR: Review of Copper Promise

How were you introduced to reading and genre fiction?

My very first exposure to the fantasy genre was probably stealing my brother’s Fighting Fantasy books so I could look at the scary pictures. A few years later I remember picking up The Fellowship of the Ring from the library shelf simply because it was so huge, and I figured reading such a thing would make me look really clever (I think I was about ten years old at the time). It was the first book I fell in love with, as well as the book that made me love reading. From that moment on I read almost exclusively in genre, hopping madly from Stephen King to Terry Pratchett to Neil Gaiman.

How do you enjoy being a writer and working within the publishing industry?

I love it. I’ve written a number of books and stories, with many probably doomed to remain forever hidden on a memory stick, but I don’t believe I ever really thought I would get here: to have an agent, a publishing contract, to see my book on the shelves of actual bookshops. It seemed like too wild a dream, the sort of thing that happens to other people, and there’s part of me that still doesn’t quite believe it. There’s also a sense of validation too: when I was growing up everyone told me that writing would be too difficult a career path, and so you spend much of your time worrying that you’ve made a mistake. What if I’m deluded? What if I should be doing something else entirely with my life? When someone comes to you and says, “Oh, I really loved that character. And I laughed so much at this bit. Also, why aren’t these two having sex yet?” you can breath a big sigh of relief because to that person at least, you took the right path.

The novel was originally serialised. How did this impact your approach to writing the story? Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?

The book was originally split into four novellas. The tricky part of such a structure was making sure that each section had its own complete story to tell, as well as advancing the wider, overall story of the book. It was also important that the book not seem disjointed or like a series of short stories, so themes and character development had to be consistent too. The fun part was being able to have a number of slightly evil cliffhangers, and getting away with cutting out a lot of what I think of as “transition stuff”: moving the characters to where they need to be, or showing the passage of time. From a practical point of view, this meant editing each novella as if it were its own book, and then putting the whole lot together into one document and editing it again with a view to how it worked as a complete manuscript.

When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?

I’ve had an interest in stories and wanting to write them for as long as I can remember. Two of the first presents I asked for at Christmas were a desk and a typewriter, and I cheerfully plonked out stories about dragons and pirates all day long. My first “proper” attempt at writing was a somewhat sprawling, heavily Pratchett-influenced book about a rogue witch and her scheming witch-mother. I started writing it one day after a particularly bad shift at work, and over the course of a couple of years it eventually became book-sized, and I even finished it. That book was significant for me because up until then I hadn’t believed that I could write an entire book, and although it’s full of enormous rookie mistakes and blundering cock-ups, I still have a lot of affection for it.

What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?

I think fantasy is in a healthy place at the moment, with a greater emphasis on a kind of realism, not just in the depiction of violence and the consequences of violence, but also in the depiction of characters. This feels like a good change, a move away from the lighter approach of farm boys who reveal themselves to be long lost princes, towards a genre that is taking itself a little more seriously. That is to say, we value what we do and we’re approaching it with the seriousness it deserves.

Which probably sounds like an odd thing to say given that The Copper Promise, as a piece of sword and sorcery with an emphasis on monsters and magic, is a slight step away from the Grimdark trend. What I hope is that the book takes the bits and pieces we loved from old school, pulp fantasy – the wild magic and the dungeons and the spectacle – and applies a modern approach, adding a degree of realism to the characters. I was very keen, for example, to have a female character who was not reliant on a male character to give her purpose as a love interest or a catalyst, and a gay character whose story is central to the entire plot, and so on. Generally I think fantasy is moving towards being more inclusive, and that’s definitely a good thing.

What other projects are you working on, and what do you have currently in the pipeline?

I’m in the midst of editing the follow-up to The Copper Promise, which is a slightly darker book but with the same themes of magic and monsters and general mayhem-making. Writing a sequel to a debut novel is an interesting and slightly alarming experience, because while I was finishing the first draft of book two, The Copper Promise was receiving its first reviews; it’s very hard not to get fixated on that, not to mention the added weight of deadlines and getting paid for the work. Behind the anxiety though I’ve had a great time hanging out with these characters again, and I’m already looking forward to getting into the third book.

What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?

As I’m knee deep in the editing swamp I’m finding it difficult to concentrate on a single book – once your brain is stuck in hyper-critical mode it’s very hard to turn it off – but I’ve just started Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings, which has some of the most spectacular magic I’ve ever read, and Ash by Mary Gentle, which is an extraordinarily vivid experience. I’m not quite sure why I’ve decided to read two such enormous books at the same time, but when I need a break from all the epic I’m dipping in and out of Twisted Histories, a short story anthology edited by Scott Harrison, in which I also happen to have a short story, The Tides of Avalon.

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What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?

Despite writing a book that cheerfully embraces many of the tropes, I’ve never actually played Dungeons and Dragons myself. I was always far too shy as a kid to play a game that involved, well, talking to other people, and although as an adult I’m a fan of RPG video games I still have yet to sit down with the D20 and a dungeon master. Shameful, really.

What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?

Lots of book related stuff! Sending book two back to my editor and starting work on book three towards the end of the year, as well as continuing to fiddle with my notes on the fantasy series I’ll be writing once this current trilogy is finished. I’m very much looking forward to going to my first Fantasycon this year, and returning to Nineworlds in August, where I may even be convinced to attempt some sort of cosplay. Stranger things have happened.

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Be sure to check out Jen Williams’s website, Twitter and Facebook for more information on her novels and writing.

“The Copper Promise” by Jen Williams (Headline)

WilliamsJ-CopperPromiseA fun fantasy adventure

There are some far-fetched rumours about the caverns beneath the Citadel…

Some say the mages left their most dangerous secrets hidden there; others, that great riches are hidden there; even that gods have been imprisoned in its darkest depths.

For Lord Frith, the caverns hold the key to his vengeance. Against all the odds, he has survived torture and lived to see his home and his family taken from him … and now someone is going to pay. For Wydrin of Crosshaven and her faithful companion, Sir Sebastian Caverson, a quest to the Citadel looks like just another job. There’s the promise of gold and adventure. Who knows, they might even have a decent tale or two once they’re done.

But sometimes there is truth in rumour.

Soon this reckless trio will be the last line of defence against a hungry, restless terror that wants to tear the world apart. And they’re not even getting paid.

Lots of people have discussed the rise of grimdark, the loss of fun and adventure in fantasy of late. Personally, I’m rather fond of grimdark. I’m also rather fond of more fun-loving, adventure- and quest-focused fantasies of the ‘classic’ mould. The Copper Promise manages to straddle both of these camps rather skillfully. A lot of people are going to like this.

And, indeed, there’s a lot to like: some good protagonists to guide us through the world, plenty of action to be survived and enjoyed (as a spectator), dragons to fight and be killed by, dungeons to explore, treasure to be found, magic to be wielded, and pirates to fend off. The world is well-drawn and well-developed, and feels fully-formed very quickly. Readers will be drawn to the Band of Adventurers-style story that we’re thrown in to pretty much right off the bat. It was great to see the story unfold, and the heroes’ struggle against what they unleash from beneath the Citadel is epic and varied.

And yet. The Copper Promise didn’t excite me as much as I had expected. Yes, it was fun. Yes, I kept reading and Williams can certainly write both more serious and also wittier sections. But. It took me a while to really get hooked into the story. There were moments of exposition that verged on info-dumping (especially near the beginning). While well-written, the characters didn’t seem too inspired at first blush, and seemed to come right out of Fantasy Central Casting: a mischievous, reckless thief; a taciturn, moralistic and conflicted former knight. They were, however, pretty well-written characters, and Williams fleshed them out well over the course of the novel.

I felt that Wydrin’s quips and/or snark near the beginning of the novel sometimes verged too close to Lorelai Gilmore-like frequencies – it was like we were really meant to know that the character was sarcastic and feisty, and maybe it was a bit overdone. True, it fits her cavalier, act-first-think-later attitude to adventuring (and looting), and it did balance out later. But it irked me at the beginning (perhaps a result of my mood at the time I read it, perhaps not). Lord Frith, Wydrin and Sebastian’s benefactor, is a less grimdark version of Abercrombie’s Inquisitor Glokta, only high-born and less misanthropic, but equally driven and focused on his cause. Perhaps that’s a rather lazy comparison (Frith was also crippled by torture), but the connection popped into my head immediately after reading the prologue and then again after we are reunited with him and he hires Wydrin and Sebastian. Speaking of the three of them, they worked pretty well as a group, and I enjoyed reading about their exploits.

The issues I had with the novel were minor, but they were also clear. Along with the aforementioned niggles with regards to the characters, there were also occasional pacing issues – when the narrative felt a little uneven. And at other times, the characters’ speech patterns shifted from more ‘natural’ to forced or affected, which felt a little jarring as they were predominantly written in a very natural, engaging way – there were even a few moments of what felt like Renaissance Fair-esque weirdness near the beginning. I also think it could have done with being just a bit shorter – tightening up may have helped with the pacing issues.

A lot of people will like this novel. For me, this is a good novel, and one that looks back at what used to make fantasy so much fun and addictive and contemporizes it rather well. The sense of adventure, the quirky characters… a big, fuck-off dragon. That kind of thing. But, after finishing, I was not left with the sense that this had been a spectacular read. It will certainly be interesting to see what the author comes up with next. Williams can definitely write, and has obvious talent and love for the genre (there are so many lovingly adopted tropes and genre conventions that are gleefully included and tweaked).*

A cautious recommendation, therefore. If you are looking for a fantasy novel that has a classic sense of fun coupled with a more contemporary style, then The Copper Promise should suit your needs. I look forward to reading Williams’s second novel.

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The Copper Promise was received from both Headline and also as part of the Hodderscape Review Project.

* I am, of course, purely speculating about any levels of authorial glee.

Giveaway! THE NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS by Marie Brennan (UK Only)

BrennanM-NaturalHistoryOfDragonsUSA quick and cheerful post. I have one copy of The Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan to give away to some lucky reader in the UK. It’s the US Hardcover edition (published by Tor Books), but you should also know that it is going to be published soon in the UK by Titan Books, so if you don’t win, you will be able to get hold of the book easily in the near future.

Here’s what it’s about…

You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart — no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon’s presence, even for the briefest of moments — even at the risk of one’s life — is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten…

All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day.

Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.

Leave a comment or email if you’re interested in winning the book. That’s really all you need to do. I’ll select someone at random in one week (December 3rd, at midnight).

An Interview with JAMES MAXEY

Maxey-2-Hush

James Maxey’s Dragon Apocalypse is a series I have been eager to read for a long while. It has been one of many victims of Kindle Invisibility Syndrome (I bought Greatshadow soon after it came out). Now that I have acquired Hush and Witchbreaker, I’ll be sure to blitz through the series, which so many reviewers (many of whom share my tastes in this sub-genre) have enjoyed. So, without further ado, let’s get to the questions…

Let’s start with an introduction: Who is James Maxey?

I’m a guy who daydreams a lot and has enough discipline to write down some of the crazy stuff that crosses my mind.

Your latest trilogy, Dragon Apocalypse, has been published by Solaris. How would you introduce the series to a potential reader?

First, I refrain from calling it a trilogy, and usually only refer to it as a series. The three books out now constitute one arc of a larger story, but there will definitely be future books featuring these characters. It’s a big world with lots of potential, and my eventual story-arc covers decades.

My short pitch for the series is that it’s “X-men meets Tolkien”. The setting and scope of the tale are definitely epic fantasy, but the characters – and to some degree the plot lines – are more superhero inspired. Every major character in the series has some kind of superpower. Instead of battling super villains, they battle dragons, and also each other.

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The first book, Greatshadow, is mainly the story of Infidel, a woman with a mysterious past who is super strong and invulnerable. The story is told by Stagger, her best friend, who is secretly in love with her but never confesses his love until the moment of his death in the middle of the first chapter, after he’s accidentally been stabbed with his own knife. His spirit winds up tied to the knife that killed him, so that he winds up haunting Infidel, witnessing her trying to carry on with her life. After Stagger dies, she feels like she’s done with the life of a vagabond mercenary, and wants to make one last big score so she can be insanely wealthy and retire in peace. To do this, she joins up with a hunt to kill Greatshadow, the primal dragon of fire, with the goal of looting his legendary treasure trove. However, the hunt is being organized by the Church of the Book, the dominant religion of the land and the group responsible for her bearing the nick-name “Infidel”. She has to join a party of knights and priests sworn to kill her if they ever learned her true identity. Complicating matters even further, the leader of the dragon hunt is the legendary knight Lord Tower – the man she left standing at the alter near fifteen years before. Hijinks ensue. It’s a love story.

What inspired you to write the novels? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?

My previous series, the Dragon Age (not related to the video game), was actually science fiction in fantasy drag. Everything in the books has the look of epic fantasy, but underneath it all there’s scientific explanations grounding how our world became the world of Bitterwood. Having written all those epic fantasy books without any recourse to magic, I wanted to go in the opposite direction and create a world where science just doesn’t have any say in the rules. So, instead of the sun being a giant ball of burning gas, the sun is actually a dragon named Glorious who flies across the sky at the same time every day because he’s kind of obsessive compulsive. Also, the Bitterwood novels were fairly gritty, with a few moments of humor, but mostly a very serious tone. The Dragon Apocalypse is much more humorous. It’s not a parody of the fantasy genre, but it does have a lot of fun playing with some of the more absurdist underpinnings inherent to all fantasy.

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How were you introduced to genre fiction?

Comic books, mostly. Once I discovered superheroes, it was all over for me. My mother worried reading all those “funny books” would warp my mind. Boy, was she right! From comic books, I branched out into reading a lot of science fiction in high school, branching out into more fantasy in college, then, for a long time, settling into reading mostly non-fiction about science, history, geography, etc. I get much more day dream fuel out of reading about the real world than I do reading about made up places.

The Dragon Apocalypse novels are your second series to feature dragons prominently. What draws you in particular to dragons?

As you might suspect from my reading material, I’m something of a nerd. From the time I was in high school until well into my 30s, I played AD&D religiously. Usually, I was DM, so I got to play the roles of all the dragons and other monsters the players would fight. And, dragons really had a lot of questions surrounding them. Just what did they want all that treasure for? If they could talk, did that imply culture? They were pretty smart, genius level in fact, and a lot tougher and stronger than humans. Why weren’t they running the world? Eventually, these musings laid the groundwork for the novels I would go on to write.

How do you enjoy being a writer and working within the publishing industry? Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?

One specific writing practice I engage in is that I never look back. Once I start writing a book, I never read any of the first draft until I get to the end. Forward is the only direction. Also, I try to write as swiftly as possible, since I really think momentum matters. The faster I write, the better the story flows. I get into zones where my own thoughts go silent and it’s like I can hear the characters talking to one another. Which, arguable, is a symptom of an undiagnosed mental illness, but let’s not go there.

As to whether I enjoy it… well, yeah. People often ask me what I’m smiling about, when I’m just sitting around looking like I’m doing nothing. What I’m usually smiling at is something funny one of my characters just said in my head. I hope I never reach an age where I outgrow my imaginary friends.

When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?

I wrote a lot of short stories in high school, then a lot of terrible poetry in college. When I was 25, I put butt in chair and vowed to write a novel. It took me two years to accumulate 60,000 words. It was unrelentingly awful in just about every aspect. The characters were cardboard, the plot was random, the style was pretentious and opaque. The best thing about the book is that it taught me a lot about how not to write a book. Failure can be a great roadmap to success.

What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?

I confess, I read almost no current fiction. I used to write a book review column for Intergalactic Medicine Show, and reading nothing but new releases for a couple of years left me yearning to read some older material, stuff I’d always meant to get around to reading, but somehow never had. These days, I’m reading classics almost exclusively. Just this week, I finished A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and now I’m reading King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard. I’ve got a warm place in my heart for these older pulp novels. There’s something charming about reading books from an era when people were still creating the genres of fantasy and science fiction.

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As to where my work fits in, I’d say the writer I’m most often compared to is Terry Pratchett. I mix humor, action, and philosophy and try not to take my books too seriously, while also taking care not to slip into slap-dash silliness. I never want to let the humor get in the way of you caring for a character or undercutting what’s at stake in the plot. Ultimately, I write books that I want to read. I think that my pulp fiction affinities are pretty evident on the page, with my emphasis on larger than life characters having big adventures against exotic landscapes.

What other projects are you working on, and what do you have currently in the pipeline?

My debut novel was a superhero tale called Nobody Gets the Girl, which came out ten years ago this October. I’ll be celebrating the anniversary with a new print edition of the book this October that will include a new story set in that world. After that, I’m kind of at the mercy of publishers to find out what’s coming out next. I’ve got a steampunk novel under consideration by a couple of publishers, and recently finished the first draft of a new superhero novel called Accidental Gods that I’ll be shopping around soon. While those books are working though the publishing pipeline, I plan to work on a new Dragon Apocalypse novel.

What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?

In addition to the pulp novels, I recently read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and reread On the Road. On my daily commute, I’m listening to Jane Eyre as an audiobook. My most recent non-fiction was Gulp by Mary Roach, and I just today bought a book called Wretched Writing, which is about, you know, wretched writing. Lately, I’ve been working on three books at once; an audio book while driving, a bedtime book I read on my Kindle, and some kind of non-fiction paperback on hand for the times when I have little snippets of time to kill.

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What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?

This July, I wrote an entire first draft of a novel in just 4 days. (The superhero novel I mentioned, Accidental Gods.) Admittedly, non-consecutive days, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and the following Monday. Four fifteen hour sessions of just typing as fast as I could to never let the story lose it’s flow. I had a small window of time where my old day job ended and my new day job hadn’t started, and wanted to find out if I could use the intervening days for something productive. Now, I entertain fantasies of locking myself in a cabin with a bottle of tequila and a laptop with no internet connection for one long weekend and seeing what I might emerge with…

What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?

In March, I turn 50. I’m going to have a huge party the night before, then, the next day, celebrate by taking a 50 mile bike ride. I’ve been building up to it all summer; so far, the longest distance I’ve done is 30 miles, but I think with another six months of training I’ll be able to do it.

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Be sure to check out James Maxey’s website for information about his novels. In addition, The Dragon Apocalypse was recently collected into a handy omnibus eBook.

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