To kick off my newsletter, I’ve asked a couple SFF authors to allow me to interview them and to give away one of their books. I’m so pleased to have Carole Cummings visit today. Read on to learn more about her and her work. Remember to read through to the end to find out about the giveaway!
Welcome Carole. Let’s start by telling people a bit about you.
Thanks, Andrew. It’s lovely to be here. 😀
So, this is the part where I say I’m into surfing and rock climbing and competition slalom in the off-season, right? Um. Yeah, I don’t do any of that. I hiked a volcano once, though. And slept in a yurt on the coast of Oregon. Drove through a tornado once. Well. Okay. I pulled my little Datsun B210 (it was orange, OMG!) over into the parking lot of a pizza place because I couldn’t see through the rain, and when it died down, the pizza place was a pile of tinder. Like, 30 feet away from me. And I didn’t see a thing and had no idea it was a tornado until the emergency crews showed up and wondered why me and my little car didn’t get sucked into the funnel cloud.
These days, though, I write, I take my daughter’s service dog to training (there’s a lot of training!), and try to find time to write some more. There’s never enough! I have things in my head that want out!
I don’t think I have one, really. I love them all. I’m all about possibilities and impossibilities, and all of the Spec Fic subgenres involve the fantastic and the incredible. As long as someone can take that and make it credible, make me really believe, I’m happy.
Aisling was your first series I believe, what is that about?
It was the first series I published, yes. It’s about a young man, Wil, who is, quite literally, a dream weaver, plucking at the threads of humanity to guide the warp and weft of the mortal fabric while trying to slip the traces of those who kept him captive and now continue to hunt him. It’s also about the constable, Dallin, who’s been assigned to find and then escort Wil back to his own country to avoid more friction between the perpetually hostile nations, and what it takes for him to re-think what his duty is and to whom. Guns and magic, and bad guys who maybe aren’t, and good guys who maybe don’t have entirely honorable motives.
Can you tell us something we won’t find in the blurbs?
Well ! ! ! ! SPOILER ! ! ! ! I was pretty convinced, up until I wrote the last chapter, that Wil wasn’t going to make it until the end. There are a lot of religious themes in the series, and in keeping with that, I thought Wil was going to end up being the required Sacrifice. And I really couldn’t see how else the story could end. But Wil and Dallin managed to find a way, so I was happily off the hook.
Your Wolf’s-own series has proven quite popular and well received. Where did you come up with the idea for Fen Jacin-rei – a man whose mind is host to the spirits of the dead?
There were several influences at the time that converged to build Fen, but the Voices of the Ancestors spiraled out from having been researching some aspects of Japanese culture and its creation myths. The idea of ancestor worship is a big part of many Asian cultures, and I thought, “What if that went somehow horribly wrong?” It occurred to me how awful it would be if a person was not only insane, but if the insanity itself was not actually that person’s—like secondhand psychosis. So you’d have a technically sane mind essentially hosting the voices of a multitude of insane spirits. And how could one fight through that and manage to function? Fen answered that question quite nicely.
Tell us about the other main character, Kamen Malick?
Oh, Malick. Sigh. Well, you either love him or can’t stand him. And you’d be justified in either case. Opportunist. Libertine. User. Killer. He’s kind of an asshole, honestly, but he also likes to pretend he’s more of an asshole than he actually is. He’s not really the “antihero with the heart of gold” because his heart’s a little too black for that. He’s the kind of person who could easily seduce you then cut your throat, even if he likes you. But there’s this odd kind of honor in him, and he does end up redeeming himself rather decisively, though I was really pleased to see that he didn’t then turn into a nice guy once his redemption was secured. He’s still an asshole, but now there’s very good reason for him to be. Books one and two of Wolf’s-own were about Malick learning to be the kind of person who could make a difference to someone like Fen. Books three and four were about Fen then learning to be an actual person.
Do you plan any more books in the series?
I won’t say I plan on it, but the characters—especially Morin—have been demanding a fifth book for quite a while now. It’s probably only a matter of time before they wear me down, but that world was a dark place to spend so much time in, so I’ve been avoiding it.
You’ve got a new release, Blue on Black, would you consider that more ‘Steampunk’ than Fantasy or Sci-fi?
I think it’s an equal mix of all three. And it doesn’t include the more popular aspects of today’s Steampunk—Victorian setting, clockwork technology, leather corsets, etc.—but closer to Steampunk’s origins, i.e. Old West-type setting, steam-powered trains, anachronistic technologies, that kind of thing. There are technologies included in the story that are actual hard science, and some that riff on the science and wander into the fantastic. So while the world lends itself mostly to Steampunk, I think the story elements and technologies involved round it out into all three subgenres.
Who are the main players?
There’s Bas, who’s a Directorate Tracker—someone who can sense when an individual possesses a particular power, called “Tech” in this world, like kineTech (telekinesis) or psyTech (psychic talents), etc. He goes undercover to an isolated desert town, owned by robber baron Petra Stanslo, to track down a missing weatherTech, and when he gets there, he instead finds Kimolijah Adani—a genius gridTech who’d been working on some revolutionary designs when he was supposedly murdered some years back. Bas needs to figure out what Kimo’s doing there, what Stanslo has to do with Kimo’s “murder”, and why it appears as though Kimo is cooperating in his own captivity and abuse. And then he needs to get everyone the hell out.
Tell us something interesting that’s not in the blurb?
There were three chapters I ended up cutting from the beginning of the book, so Kimolijah’s sister’s character only exists as a vague subplot device, which almost made me cry because I loved her character, and I loved how she always managed to scare the crap out of Bas just by looking at him.
Also, almost all of Kimo’s designs and inventions are based on Tesla’s work, and almost everything in the book—be it creatures or technology or even the weird multibarreled guns—are either things that actually exist, or are based very heavily on things that exist, albeit with a bit of a Fantasy twist to them. It’s as “hard science” as a SciFi/Fantasy/Steampunk story can be.
Bas’s first trip out into the Dead Lands. I loved scaring the crap out of him, and I cannot tell you how much it amuses me that Mister Badass Gunslinger has a serious problem with spiders.
What part made you struggle the most?
The subject matter in general. I did not like writing the kind of situation Kimo finds himself in, and I didn’t like having to extrapolate what someone like him might have to do to survive it and how he felt the need to alter it in his head because it was so important to him that he not be a victim. I think readers will see through him, and Bas certainly does, but watching how Kimo twists his circumstances in his head so he can pretend his situation is entirely on his own terms was kind of heartbreaking.
Since there is always another story to tell, what are you working on now?
Argh. About three things, actually. One is a humorous little thing that may one day be a novella about a street magician who does real magic and the Reaper who keeps trying to “transition” him and is very confused when it keeps not working. There’s another, more serious, piece that involves a warrior king and his battle mage, and then something else I’m not willing to talk about yet. Hopefully I’ll be done with at least one of these things… soonish.
What have you read lately that most people haven’t read but should?
Two things, if I may. The first is actually a fanfic that absolutely blew me away with its creativity and worldbuilding. Candle, Cup, and Casket by Desiderii is based in the Merlin (BBC TV series) fandom, but you don’t need to have watched the show to enjoy the story. (I’ve never seen the show, and I loved this story with an esoteric bliss.) In fact, it might be better if you haven’t, because it’s actually an extraordinary and vast space opera and has nothing to do with Knights of Yore and such. I rec it to anyone who asks me about a good Spec Fic read, because it’s got everything I love—juicy, thinky plot, political intrigue in a fully developed, absolutely fantastic world, and best of all, lots and lots and lots of in-depth character development. (Seriously. It was so good I hunted down the author and tried to talk her into publishing it, but she wanted to keep it free for readers. Which is awesome of her.)
The other is nonfiction—Why We Read What We Read by John Heath and Lisa Adams. A friend gave it to me a few years ago and I just recently re-read it. It’s an interesting look into the sorts of reading material we’re attracted to and why. What I found most intriguing was the correlation between a person’s reading preferences and their general ideologies, why some spurn formula while others won’t read anything but, and what that says about a person. If you’re willing to have a look inside yourself and your reading choices, I found it to be quite insightful and fascinating.
Honestly? A hot date with a good book. And coffee or Pepsi on IV drip. Maybe some chocolate zucchini bread for nibbles. And, most importantly, quiet! (I’ve had four children. It gets noisy.)
Last question is all yours – feel free to talk about anything you want the readers to know about you, your book, anything at all.
Since DSP Publications started rolling out their nonRomance titles of various genres, I’ve been doing Genre Talk over at the Novel Approach Reviews blog. This has resulted in people believing two things of me that aren’t really true:
1) That I’m a kind of spokesperson for DSP Publications, which isn’t a bad thing, but I don’t want people to think I’m more than what I am. Genre Talk is just my way of promoting the kinds of things I personally like to read and the people who write them. It’s also a way for me to show people the difference between Romance with some fantasy elements, and Fantasy with a romantic subplot. And believe me, there’s a huge difference—one that, if readers were aware of that difference going into a book, they might not emerge disappointed that they didn’t get what they wanted. (And we genre authors would end up with a lot fewer one-star “where was the romance?!” reviews.) The point is, I don’t speak for DSP Publications. I just love the press and the authors who write for it, so I like to tell people why. That’s all.
2) That all of this means I don’t like Romance. Really really not true. I do like it, quite a lot. I just don’t write it. And it’s not even that I don’t want to—it’s that I can’t! And I’ve tried! It’s just not the way my head works. Things get all plotty in there, and then there’s always some kind of Big Picture thing that weasels its way in, and then people start doing magic and stuff, and it just… keeps going! I can’t help it! But none of this means I have a single thing against Romance or those who read/write it. I just want people to know what it is I do and that it’s probably not their cuppa before they spend money on one of my books. If you’re looking for Spec Fic that’s character-driven and with a plot that makes you think, I’m your girl. If you’re looking for something that’s all about the romance… I wish I was your girl. No, I seriously do. I’d be making a lot more money! Alas, I’ll just be over here, knee-deep in plot and worldbuilding, and playing quarters with my royalty checks. 😉
Thanks for letting me come play in your sandbox, Andrew! I had fun. ❤️
Thanks so much for being my guest today —AQG
BLURB from Blue on Black:
Kimolijah Adani—Class 2 gridTech, beloved brother, most promising student the Academy’s ever had the privilege of calling their own, genius mechanical gridstream engineer, brilliantly pioneering inventor… and dead man. But that’s what happens when a whiz kid messes with dynamic crystals and, apparently, comes to the attention of Baron Petra Stanslo. Killed for his revolutionary designs, Kimolijah Adani had been set to change the world with his impossible train that runs on nothing more than gridstream locked in a crystal. Technically it shouldn’t even be possible, but there is no doubt it works.
Bas is convinced the notoriously covetous and corrupt Stanslo had something to do with Kimolijah Adani’s tragic and suspicious end. A Directorate Tracker, Bas has finally managed to catch the scent of Kimolijah Adani’s killer, and it leads right into Stanslo’s little desert barony. For almost three years, Bas has tried to find a way into Stanslo’s Bridge, and when he finally makes it, shock is too small a word for what—or, rather, whom—he finds there.
Carole lives with her husband and family in Pennsylvania, USA, where she spends her time trying to find time to write. Recipient of various amateur writing awards, several of her short stories have been translated into Spanish, German, Chinese and Polish.
Free shorts, sneak peeks at WIPs, and other miscellany can be found via Carole’s
Carole is giving away an eCopy of Ghost the first book in her “Wolf’s Own” series. To enter, just email me at Andrew@andrewqgordon.com and put – “I’m in” in the subject heading. That’s all I need. I’ll pick one winner on July 4th. Remember this contest is only open to subscribers of my newsletter.
Untouchable. Ghost. Assassin. Mad. Fen Jacin-rei is all these and none.
His mind is host to the spirits of long-dead magicians, and Fen’s fate should be one of madness and ignoble death. So how is it Fen lives, carrying out shadowy vengeance for his subjugated people and protecting the family he loves?
Kamen Malick means to find out. When Malick and his own small band of assassins ambush Fen in an alley, Malick offers Fen a choice: Join us or die.
Determined to decode the intrigue that surrounds Fen, Malick sets to unraveling the mysteries of Fen’s past. As Fen’s secrets slowly unfold, Malick finds irony a bitter thing when he discovers the one he wants is already hopelessly entangled with the one he hunts.
Check out Carole’s Website for details about the rest of the series and her other books: