Interview with GEORGE MANN

manng-authorpicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is George Mann?

Hello! I’m a novelist and scriptwriter, based in the East Midlands, and I’ve been writing professionally for over ten years now. I’m a former publisher and, before that, a bookseller, so I’ve always been lucky enough to work with books.

Your next novel, The Revenant Express, will be published by Titan in February. The fifth book in your Newbury & Hobbes series, it also marks the 10th anniversary of the series. Congratulations! How would you introduce the novel and series to a potential reader?

Thanks! The Newbury & Hobbes series is very close to my heart. I see it as a Victorian Fantasy/Mystery series, with a little dash of the occult. Anyone who likes the idea of a lovechild of Steed & Peel from the Avengers, Hammer Horror, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who should find something to enjoy in the stories! Continue reading

Advertisements

Witchblade: Rebirth, Vol.1 – “Unbalanced Pieces” (Top Cow/Image)

Witchblade-Rebirth-Vol.01Writer: Tim Seeley | Art: Diego Bernard | Inks: Fred Benes, Alisson Rodrigues | Colors: Arif Prianto of IFS

In the wake of Top Cow’s Rebirth, Sara Pezzini has relocated from New York to Chicago and struggles to adapt to being a private detective. Pezzini quickly discovers that a change of scenery and occupation hasn’t changed one thing… the Witchblade is still a magnet for the supernatural Quickly drawn into a conflict between two mystical gangs, she must once again balance her responsibility as bearer of the Witchblade with her personal life.

Collects: Witchblade #151-155

I haven’t read a great deal of Witchblade comics, or other comics in Top Cow’s universe (Artifacts, The Darkness), but I’m somewhat conversant in the mythology. I read the first book by Ron Marz, which was itself a reboot/jumping-on-point, but then became distracted by the New 52 and a selection of other books (I’m not proud of it, but… Batman, baby!). After it was announced that Tim Seeley was taking over writing duties, my interest was piqued once again, having rather enjoyed his Hack/Slash horror-comedy series. So I dove in… And rather liked what I found.

I’m not sure that this needs a particularly long review. People who know the series already will know pretty much what to expect – it’s dark, gothic, but also slick. The only major difference is the location, as Sara has moved to Chicago (interestingly, that’s also where Dick “Nightwing” Grayson just moved to in the DC New 52). For new readers, this book has a lot of extra material that gives you some background. It’s not essential to read in order to enjoy this, though, as the concepts are pretty tried-and-true, but with some well-conceived and original developments.

Seeley blends a private investigator storyline and feel with just the right amount of weird in the first issue/chapter to get us intrigued. But then things get really weird – Sara tangles with biker witches, age-sucking creatures with a very strange version of their own ‘Witchblade-armour’, and a strange, supernatural beastie with a long history of fighting bearers of the Artifacts…

Things are not going well for Sara in her new environment, and her sense of displacement and ennui is well written. She’s finding her place, and it’s not going particularly well – on the social, financial, and divine purpose fronts. Add to this a policewoman who has it in for Sara, and a rather unsatisfying romantic (un)attachment with a stage magician harbouring an ulterior motive.

The story is well-written, well-paced and well-realised. Despite my aforementioned lack of fore-knowledge of the extended Witchblade mythos, I didn’t have any trouble following this. It’s weird, it’s sometimes amusing, it’s often creepy. The art team does a great job of bringing Seeley’s story to life on the page in crisp, sharp artwork. It’s eye-catching and vivid. I’m very glad I picked up volumes two and three in the ComiXology sale the other day, as I think I’ll be sticking around for a lot more of this series. I may have to try out the Rebirth The Darkness series, too.

If you are a fan of supernatural stories, filled with the occult, magical and gothic weirdness – not to mention a few gribbly beasties – then Seeley’s Witchblade is absolutely for you. Definitely recommended.

An Interview with REBECCA ALEXANDER

AlexanderR-SecretsOfLife&DeathUK

Rebecca Alexander is the author of the much-anticipated The Secrets of Life and Death, which was published today by Del Rey UK. I caught up with the author, and asked her about her novel, her writing practices, and more…

Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Rebecca Alexander?

I’m a writer with one foot in the occult and the other in crime. This is perfectly normal for a psychologist, I used to meet the most interesting people in my job. I’ve worked with people in all categories of prison; with people in the community who ought to be in prison; and some very intriguing people who explore the occult. I’m also fascinated by folk beliefs and magical thinking – the belief ordinary people have in magic that they are not always aware of. Once you’ve literally had tea and biscuits with a pair of heathens, a few druids and a chaos magician the lines between real life and fantasy get blurred.

Your latest novel, The Secrets of Life and Death, is published by Del Rey UK. How would you introduce the novel to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

Secrets is the first book in a three book series about sixteenth century sorcery used to keep people alive (who should be dead). I’m a huge fan of Kelley Armstrong, and I loved her world of inter-related characters. Her first books were about werewolves, then the next about witches, and so on. I’ve written the first two books of the Secrets trilogy for Del Rey UK, and hope to complete book 3 this year. But I also have a prequel called A Baby’s Bones about the archaeological discovery of a dead baby in a well, and a plan of book 4 which focuses on one of the smaller characters, Pierce, who may or not be quite human.

AlexanderR-SecretsOfLife&DeathUK

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

I was partly inspired by working with dying people who had outlived their expected life span, and would describe it as “living on borrowed time”. I also cared for my own daughter through a terminal illness and remembered that desperation to try something, anything that would save her. If someone had proposed a spell I would have tried it. At that point I probably would have sold my soul to save her, it’s what parents do. 

How were you introduced to genre fiction?

I fell in love with science fiction (H.G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs) before my teens. I progressed through historical romance (Georgette Heyer), fantasy (Bram Stoker, Ursula Le Guin), and horror (Dennis Wheatley) before my brain really processed that it wasn’t all real. I have carried on reading across all sorts of genres, and find some of the best crossovers in children’s fiction (like Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and Patrick Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go). It’s not surprising that I write across a couple of genres at a time.

AlexanderR-CrossOverExamples

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

I found transferring from a ‘hobby’ writer, to a professional writer quite easy, as far as the writing went. I had developed a writing habit of a minimum of 500 words a day when I started doing an Open University course a few years ago, and that built up to 1000 words a day during my MA.

But the publishing industry was completely different to any I’ve ever worked within. It turned out to be a very small world of people, many of whom have a lot of influence, and seem to know lots of other agents, editors, publicists etc. That’s not a bad thing, just strange to me. If I started a new job as a psychologist I would be employed, have a line manager, supervisor and strict hours and conditions, clinics and appointments. I have to be proactive and disciplined to write and edit the books, but I also have to be reactive to suggestions from the publisher. It’s all good, but it seems strange at first not to hear from people for weeks or even a month or two, then suddenly there’s a flurry of emails or calls about editing a book or the launch. It keeps the excitement levels up.

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 can’t remember not wanting to be an author. Living within a world like Narnia or down the rabbit hole with Alice for hours at a time develops the imagination. I started writing books as soon as I could write (sadly, not legibly, so I don’t have any of my first stories).  I started writing seriously in my teens. I was also an insomniac, I still am, and started telling myself stories to get to sleep. I still do, I’m presently ‘working’ on a retelling of a legend of a ghostly hunt by bronze age people on Dartmoor. It may end up in book 4. Or I may get some sleep.

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

WintersonJ-TheDaylightGateFantasy is a huge genre. I’m at the urban, realism end but it can go so far I wouldn’t know how to describe the breadth of it. I recently read The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson – beautiful writing with a vein of poetry, but also a fantastical story (even more overt fantasy that mine) so even “literary” writers invest time in fantasy. I aspire to write something as imaginative and vivid as that. I love fairy tales, at the back of a lot of fiction are the stories we were told as children by authority figures. There’s a healthy dose of crime and historical fiction in my books – fantasy lends itself to many crossovers. I think fantasy is in a very exciting phase of development, and women writers are very prominent in it.

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

I have books 4 and 5 planned and because I can’t plot properly, I create scenes that are islands that I aim for as I write. I’m also writing a ghost story about the strange over-dependant relationship between twins. I write two books a year, and create odd characters and scenes for possible future books as I go along. I’m also writing a musical with my songwriter husband, just for kids, based on the four horsemen of the apocalypse. ‘Satan’s Song’ is coming along nicely.

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

I’m reading lots of non-fiction research into Dartmoor’s legends and about Barbary Coast corsairs for book 3. Who knew that pirates raided the Devon and Cornwall for thousands of slaves in the 1600’s, as well as capturing hundreds of ships? How can you read that kind of research and not want to create a story about it? Or at least dress up and buy a cutlass. The fiction I’m enjoying is partly crime by Lisa Gardner and also fantasy by David Wellington: 23 Hours. And Terry Pratchett’s The Long War is next.

AlexanderR-Reading

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

People think of me as a chatty, gregarious wife and mother of six, who teaches, participates in groups etc. but I have a streak of curmudgeon that means I love to be left alone – for weeks at a time. I used to sneak off to our caravan by the sea, just write, and not speak to anyone for days. Eating, sleeping, hygiene optional. Then I come back to full on family life, refreshed. I’ve also, except for the anomaly of being born in Malta, never used my passport.

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

More than anything, finishing the trilogy. Having created (or found) my characters, their story is so vivid and real I feel I may have just left them around the house. Sadie in front of the telly, Jack hiding in the study watching the crows, Kelley bigging up his adventures to the kids by the woodburner. I hate the idea of not completing strands I started way back in early drafts of book 1. I’d also like to do some research somewhere that requires a passport!

Comics Round-Up – Constantine & Lucifer (DC, Vertigo)

Still haven’t been reviewing as many comics as I had been earlier in the year, but I recently started reading two very good series – one brand new and on-going (Constantine), one already completed (Lucifer). I enjoyed them both very much, so I thought I’d show them some brief love on the blog.

CONSTANTINE #1-4

Constantine-1to4

Writer: Jeff Lemire & Ray Fawkes | Artist: Renato Guedes (#1-3), Fabiano Neves (#4) | Colors: Marcelo Maiolo

Liar, cheater, manipulator… John Constantine is all of these, and yet he uses these skills and more to protect the world from the darkest corners of the DC Universe.

Spinning out of both Hellblazer (which spanned 300 issues, and was Vertigo’s longest-running series) and also Justice League Dark, this series gives John Constantine its entire attention. I’ve only dipped in to Hellblazer, and certainly haven’t read nearly enough to consider myself overly familiar with the character or conversant with his part, but I enjoyed what I had read. The dark focus on the occult and supernatural were like catnip to me, and they were also what made me try Justice League Dark (which I have been enjoying quite a bit, too).

Constantine-01-Interior2

This series is written by Jeff Lemire, who also recently took over JL Dark. It’s a really good opening to the new series, I think, and we get a good introduction to Constantine’s character. It’s dark, deliciously so, and Constantine is his charming-anti-hero-self throughout. He’s not afraid of sacrificing others for the “greater good”, either – making him not a whole lot better than his antagonists. The end of #1 was particularly gruesome and startling, but these four issues are filled with visually and narratively stunning work. The main villains in this particular story (still incomplete at this stage) is the Cult of the Cold Flame, who have cropped up in JL Dark, too. I’ll certainly be reading more of this series. Recommended.

(Issue #5 is part of the Trinity War story-line, so I’ll be reviewing that as part of an Event review, in a few weeks’ time.)

*

Lucifer-Vol.01LUCIFER, Vol.1 – “Devil at the Gates”

Writer: Mike Carey | Artist: Scott Hampton (Sandman Presents…) & Chris Weston | Inks: James Hodgkins | Colors: Daniel Vozzo

From the pages of THE SANDMAN, Lucifer Morningstar, the former Lord of Hell, is unexpectedly called back into action when he receives a mission from Heaven. Given free reign to use any means necessary, Lucifer is promised a prize of his own choosing if he fulfills this holy request. But once he completes his mission, the Prince of Darkness’ demand shakes the foundation of Heaven and Hell. Now as his enemies unite to stop his reemergence, Lucifer gathers his forces as he prepares to launch his new revolution.

Collects: Sandman Presents Lucifer #1-3, Lucifer #1-4

This is an excellent, independently intelligible spin-off from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman (of which I have only read the first book).

In the first of these two story-arcs, we join Lucifer at his Los Angeles club, Lux. I’m not really sure how to review this book. It’s excellent, certainly, and wonderfully dark. It reminded me of Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series (which is excellent and highly recommended). Lucifer is called up to help out Heaven one last time, in return for a particularly generous reward. The former Lord of Hell sets off on a very strange, dream-like journey. People’s wishes are coming true, and the consequences are starting to become devastating. Teaming up with a “victim” of this plague of wish-granting, Lucifer needs to get to the bottom of the mystery, before the world wishes itself into chaos.

In the second story, the first of Lucifer proper, we begin in Hamburg, where a set of mystical Tarot cards tries to influence the world around it. We get some neo-Nazis, hate crimes, and all of the seven deadly sins exaggerated and enhanced by the influence of the Tarot cards. Lucifer intervenes, in order to bring balance back to the world.

I really liked the alternative location – for once, we weren’t in the USA or UK, which I certainly welcomed. It’s still early days, but we start to see how the series will shape up in the future. I don’t want to spoil things (from either of the two stories), so this is perhaps a rather thin, unsatisfactory review. Nevertheless, I think this is an essential read for anyone with a taste for the darker sides of fiction and comics. Heaven and Hell are popular tropes in speculative fiction, but Lucifer Vol.1 offers a genuinely original spin, and is both written and visualised brilliantly.

I liked this so much, I bought volume two before I had even finished it. I’ll be starting that very soon indeed, so will hopefully have a review up in the next week or two. Deliciously dark, this is a must-read.

Lucifer-01-Interior1

Upcoming: “The Whitechapel Demon” by Joshua Reynolds (Emby Press)

ReynoldsJ-WhitechapelDemonI’m only familiar with Joshua Reynolds through his work for Black Library (and have particularly impressed with his contributions to the Gotrek & Felix series). I spotted this via his Facebook page, though, and was rather intrigued…

JOHN DEE WAS THE FIRST.

Formed during the reign of Elizabeth I, the post of the Royal Occultist was created to safeguard the British Empire against threats occult, otherworldly, infernal and divine.

It is now 1920, and the title and offices have fallen to Charles St. Cyprian. Accompanied by his apprentice Ebe Gallowglass, they defend the battered empire from the forces of darkness.

In the wake of a séance gone wrong, a monstrous killer is summoned from the depths of nightmare by a deadly murder-cult. The entity hunts its prey with inhuman tenacity even as its worshippers stop at nothing to bring the entity into its full power…

It’s up to St. Cyprian and Gallowglass to stop the bloodthirsty horror before another notch is added to its gory tally, but will they become the next victims of the horror disguised as London’s most famous killer?

In the tradition of William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki the Ghost-Finder, Josh Reynolds presents the Adventures of the Royal Occultist. Join Charles St. Cyprian and Ebe Gallowglass as they race to halt the workings of a sinister secret society and put an end to the monstrous manifestation in… THE WHITECHAPEL DEMON!

The novel will be published by Emby Press in November 2013.