Coming to Town: Okla Elliott and Raul Clement for The Doors You Mark Are Your Own, at Atomic Empire and So & So Books

When UNC-Greensboro graduates Okla Elliott and Raul Clement came back through North Carolina this spring in support of the publication of their debut novel The Doors You Mark Are Your Own (Dark House Press, April 2015) I was caught completely unawares — I have got to keep a better eye on The Regulator’s newsletter! Not so this time, as I’ve got both their reading tomorrow (Tuesday, December 22, at Durham’s Atomic Empire) and early next year (Wednesday, January 6, at Raleigh’s So & So Books) circled on my calendar.

The novel is in turns a postmodern bit of surrealism, an epic literary dystopia, and a Russian science fiction pulp. There’s the book’s fictional “author” (Aleksander Tuvim) and the fake “biographies” of our two “translators”, Elliott and Clement. There are marked-out passages, inset journal entries, footnotes, maps, a Dostoevskian cast of characters, revolutionaries, plagues, sibling rivalries, and subplots and tangents galore. And, at 724 pages, it’s only the first book in a planned trilogy set in the fictional future world of Joshua City.

Here, Elliott and Clement answer a few questions about the trilogy’s origins, their literary influences, the balancing act of side-plot overload, the book’s road to publication and its book design, and when we might expect to see book two. Enjoy! And see you at Atomic Empire tomorrow, where you can also pick up a wide swath of last-minute gifts. And there’s beer on tap. Just saying.

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Q: How far back do the origins of The Doors You Mark Are Your Own and “Aleksandr Tuvim” lie? All the way back to your UNC-G days?

We met in 2004, while working at New York Pizza in Greensboro. Okla was a graduate student and Raul an undergrad. The idea went through many iterations. It started with a simple pitch, “Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Idiot as set in Hollywood,” and then took on more and more elements of science fiction and postmodernism. Originally we envisioned it as something we called “The Platypusical,” which was an odd mix of stage play, musical, and film. Then it became a screenplay. We eventually realized the idea was too big to be contained in that form, so we made it into a novel.

Q: You were both just here this spring on your tour to promote the release of the book; how did this return trip come about, and why (other than the list of good beers on tap!) Atomic Empire for this reading? (I know Raul’s a long time local turned ex-pat, and I’ve held a couple of readings there in the past, but I hardly ever see readings there! It’s a fantastic space.) Read the rest of this entry »


Coming to Town: Adam Christopher for Made to Kill at Flyleaf Books, interviewed by Mur Lafferty

New Zealand-born British novelist Adam Christopher (Empire StateThe Burning DarkSeven Wonders, and Hang Wire) is making a rare US appearance at Chapel Hill’s Flyleaf Books this Saturday [Facebook] to read from his forthcoming novel Made to Kill, which begins his new “L.A. Trilogy” from Tor Books: “Set in Hollywood 1965, Made to Kill is very much a noir mystery, except that the detective is a robot (with a heart of gold) and his Gal Friday is a supercomputer with a Lucille Bluth sensibility. The novel was born out of short story written for Tor.com called “Brisk Money” whereby the author imagines an undiscovered sci-fi novel written by Raymond Chandler.” Joining Christopher in conversation will be Durham author Mur Lafferty, who also took the time to ask Christopher a few questions about juggling genres and projects. Do note the start time for Saturday’s event is 6 pm as opposed to the usual 7 pm, and! There will be wine and snacks, and with both Lafferty and Christopher, it’s sure to be an entertaining time. I’ll see you there! And do check out the fantastic book trailer over at Tor.com, and if you’re reading this from further afield, you might want to check out  the official L.A. Trilogy website for the other remaining events on his tour.

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— Interview by Mur Lafferty —

Q: Your work is heavily entrenched with American Noir elements. How long have you been a fan of the genre, and what made you want to write your own twist?

I love mystery and crime fiction, and in particular the hardboiled and noir varieties. I’m a huge fan of Raymond Chandler in particular, and I knew that he wasn’t too keen on sci-fi – but at the same time, I thought that a Raymond Chander SF novel would be really interesting. My editor kinda challenged me to write it, and that became the novelette “Brisk Money”, and from that, I suddenly found myself with a whole trilogy of books about a robot detective who is really a robot hit man. This kind of genre mash-up is a lot of fun to write!

Q: You’ve had a very busy year, with novels, tie-ins, and comic books. How do you structure your schedule to handle these projects, and how do you keep so many stories straight in your head? Read the rest of this entry »


Coming to Town: Marko Kloos, author of the Frontlines series, for HonorCon at the Hilton North Raleigh/Midtown

Marko Kloos is the author of the Frontlines series of military science fiction. Born and raised in Germany, Kloos has has been a soldier, a bookseller, a freight dock worker, a tech support drone, and a corporate IT administrator. A graduate of the Viable Paradise SF/F Writers’ Workshop, he now lives in New Hampshire with his wife and two children. Their compound, Castle Frostbite, is patrolled by a roving pack of dachshunds, colorfully illustrated as “a team of awesome space-merc dachshund outlaw heroes blasting their way across the sky” in the header image on his website.

The Frontlines series is set in the early 22nd century, where North American Commonwealth “welfare rat” Andrew Grayson enlists in the military “for a shot at real food, a retirement bonus, and maybe a ticket off Earth.” (The only other remotely plausible way out is by drawing a winning lottery ticket for a colony ship settling off-world, and that’s as remote as any lottery-winning dream can be.) We get to see both this all-too-plausible and too-near future Earth of grim poverty and ever-escalating action and space battles through Grayson’s eyes as he encounters the wonders and horrors of a Solar System-spanning conflict with the alien Lankies.

Kloos joins a fantastic lineup of military science fiction — including Taylor Anderson, David Weber, A.G. Riddle, David Drake, Tony Daniel, and Chris Kennedy — at this weekend’s HonorCon at the Hilton North Raleigh/Midtown, with individual day and full weekend passes still available. It’s a further escalation of HonorCon’s roots as a convention focused almost entirely on Weber’s Honorverse — complete with many attendees in full Royal Manticoran Navy uniform — into a truly full-spectrum military science fiction convention. (Though, still, certainly, with the RMN out in full regalia in full force!) I’m looking forward to catching as much of it as I can.

While Kloos was already getting rave reviews (and comparisons to Scalzi, Haldeman, and Heinlein) for his first two Frontlines novels, Terms of Enlistment (initially self-published, then quickly snapped up and republished by Amazon’s 47North) and Lines of Departure, it’s fair to say that his stature in the science fiction world was raised both by his Hugo Award nomination and by the grace and clarity with which he declined the honor. That’s one of the several topics in the following interview, conducted via email ahead of (just barely!) today’s “boarding action” and other first day festivities at HonorCon. Enjoy!

 

Q: Are you familiar with David Weber’s Honorverse series, around which HonorCon has grown? Or Weber’s other ongoing SF series, Safehold?

I’ve been a fan of the Honorverse books since On Basilisk Station, so yeah, you can say I’m familiar with it. ;) One of my friends clued me in on the Honor Harrington books three or four novels into the series, a good while before I decided to get serious with my own writing. I have not however read any of the Safehold stuff yet.

Q: How did you get involved with this year’s HonorCon? Read the rest of this entry »


Coming to Town: Taylor Anderson, author of The Destroyermen series, for HonorCon at the Hilton North Raleigh/Midtown

Texas author Taylor Anderson is the New York Times bestselling author of the Destroyermen series. A gunmaker and forensic ballistic archaeologist, Taylor has been a technical and dialogue consultant for movies and documentaries, and an award-winning member of the National Historical Honor Society and of the United States Field Artillery Association. He has a master’s degree in history and has taught that subject at Tarleton State University.

The Destroyermen series, beginning in 2008 with Into the Storm, concerns the fate of the United States Asiatic Fleet in World War II, and while I will leave it to you (and Wikipedia) to learn of its real history and fate, Anderson’s books carry a Great-War vintage “four-stacker” destroyer from that fleet (along with pursuing Japanese battleships) into a squall, which acts as a portal transporting both pursued and pursuers into an alternate earth where humans never evolved. There, the two dominant species (the peaceful Lemurians and the warlike, reptilian Grik) are at war, and sides must be chosen, escalating the conflict into a global war that with 2015’s Straits of Hell comprises ten novels, with an eleventh, Blood in the Water, due out in June 2016. (Perhaps I should have read the publisher synopsis of Blood in the Water before asking my final, foolish question, but! as usual, I leave my “own goals” for your enjoyment.)

Anderson headlines a fantastic lineup of military science fiction — including David Weber, Marko Kloos, A.G. Riddle, David Drake, Tony Daniel, and Chris Kennedy — at this weekend’s HonorCon at the Hilton North Raleigh/Midtown, with individual day and full weekend passes still available. It’s a further escalation of HonorCon’s roots as a convention focused almost entirely on Weber’s Honorverse — complete with many attendees in full Royal Manticoran Navy uniform — into a truly full-spectrum military science fiction convention. (Though, still, certainly, with the RMN out in full regalia in full force!) I’m looking forward to catching as much of it as I can.

Here, Anderson took the time via email to answer some questions about Weber, Navy weapons systems research, careless anachronisms, audiobooks, alternate histories, and, yes, a really, really stupid one about Blood in the Water. Enjoy!

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Q: Are you familiar with David Weber’s Honorverse series, around which HonorCon has grown? Or Weber’s other ongoing SF series, Safehold?

Yes.  I read David’s On Basilisk Station about sixteen years ago and loved it.  I quickly devoured the rest as they came out and always look forward to the next.  I was honored to meet David at DFW-Con, around the time my second or third Destroyermen novel came out.  We had a long, vastly entertaining conversation, and I was amazed to discover I’d become friends with one of my all-time favorite authors!  I hadn’t begun reading the Safehold Series until about that time as well, and one of the things that struck us both, I think, was how much alike we think in a number of ways.  We’ve corresponded since, sometimes just going on for hours about ballistics or historical weaponry.  He called me several months ago and told me about this year’s HonorCon.  I thought “it’s been too long,” and said, “I’ll be there!”

Q: Your military SF concerns Naval battles in both a “mundane” alternate historical setting (actual 1940s ships and armaments) with various technological adaptations from the alternate Earth’s dominant species, wholly original to your work. Have you kept up with current Navy weapons systems research, like the recent demonstrations of lasers and rail guns, which certainly put today’s reality in line with yesterday’s science fiction? Read the rest of this entry »


Coming to Town: Julia Elliott for The New and Improved Romie Futch, at Quail Ridge Books and The Regulator Bookshop

South Carolina author Julia Elliott‘s remarkable collection The Wilds was one of the best books of 2014. I absolutely loved it: Levitating old church ladies warning their granddaughters against hellfire; Exoskeleton-assisted escapes from nursing homes; The dogpocalypse; Every story a miniature world we get to step into for a little while. With her new book The New and Improved Romie Futch, we get a story we get to step into for novel length, complete with taxidermy and cybernetics and biotechnology and a quasi-mythical “Hogzilla”. Elliott’s work defines in weird, delightful prose an all-too-near “New South” that’s in turns hilarious (seriously laugh out loud hilarious) and wondrous and frightening, and her new novel has dark comedy and imagination to spare, as Kirkus Reviews will tell you. Elliott’s reading last year at The Regulator was highly entertaining, and this year she’s back for not one but two events: Friday, October 23 at Quail Ridge Books [Facebook], and Saturday, October 24 at The Regulator [Facebook], both at 7 pm. If you want a sampling of what to expect, her recent personal essay for the NY Times (which could have been lifted straight from a short story in The Wilds, or at the very least the direct basis for one) and an excerpt from Romie Futch are great places to start. Here, Elliott answers a few questions about short stories that won’t be contained, her “epic baboon novel” in progress, and (what else?) deep-fried, bacon-wrapped Tootsie Rolls. Enjoy!

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Q: How wrong would I be to think of “Romie Futch” as a story that fits right in with The Wilds, but just wouldn’t be contained at anything less than a full book?

You’re right on target here, as The New and Improved Romie Futch began as a short story that was too big for its britches. I sent it out. It got rejected, though a few editors remarked that the idea was interesting, but that the story was kind of bursting at the seams. After shelving it for five or six years, I read my cousin Carl Elliott’s piece “Guinea-Pigging,” originally published in The New Yorker, which describes the seedy underworld of pharmaceutical clinical research trials, particularly the subculture of test subjects who make these trials into a career. This inspired me to flesh out the research part of Romie’s story, all of the events that take place at the Center for Cybernetic Neuroscience in Atlanta Georgia. And so began the process of transforming a failed short story into a (hopefully) viable novel.

Q: You’re also still (of course!) writing short stories; “Bride” (published in Conjunctions last fall) was selected by T.C. Boyle for inclusion in The Best American Short Stories 2015 along with stories from Louise Erdrich  (read The Antelope Wife, people!), Ben Fowler, on and on. Is there something essential that separates a “short story idea” from a “novel idea” for you? Read the rest of this entry »


Coming to Town: Robert Beatty for Serafina and the Black Cloak at Quail Ridge Books and Triangle Reads Moveable Feast

Asheville author Robert Beatty has a problem we might wish on all of our favorite authors: his Disney-Hyperion debut novel Serafina and the Black Cloak is selling more quickly than it can be restocked, even by online behemoths Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. Historically-set at the end of the 19th century, the novel opens with the eponymous Serafina skulking through the shadows of the recently-completely Biltmore House, hunting rats. Before long, however, she’s stumbled onto something far worse: a mysterious stranger has just caused a terrified girl to disappear into the swirling darkness of his black cloak, and now his attention is fully on Serafina herself.

A champion fencer, author Beatty has plenty of experience with lightning-quick reflexes, and as a fan of Tolkien, T.H. White, and Gene Wolf, he’s certainly well-versed in both Old and New World fantasy storytelling. Debuting at #3 in The New York Times bestseller list upon release, both readers and critics (Kirkus Reviews, School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and the Historical Novel Society, among others) agree the technology entrepreneur-turned-author’s synthesis of these influences is a compelling, spooky read for both young readers and grown-ups alike.

This weekend, Beatty is one of the guests at the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance trade show at the Hilton North Raleigh/Midtown, where he’ll be taking part in SIBA/Triangle Reads Moveable Feast of Authors on Sunday afternoon, before which he’ll be in Raleigh for a (fantastically well-attended, if the Facebook event RSVP count is to be believed!) reading and signing at Quail Ridge Books on Saturday at 6 pm. I’m grateful to Mr. Beatty for his time via email for this “Coming to Town” interview, and hope you enjoy his answers about his success, his goals in writing the book, the short-film quality book trailer, and what’s coming up next. Enjoy!

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Q: I suppose it’s a good problem to have when even Barnes & Noble and Amazon literally can’t stock your book fast enough. Have you been surprised at the overwhelming response to Serafina’s story?

I put my heart and soul into writing Serafina and the Black Cloak, so I was hoping people would enjoy it, but, yes, I’ve been very pleased by how deeply people love the character and the story.

Q: The Chapter 1 excerpt nearly had my head spinning: is Serafina a cat? No, but wait, why is she living in the basement? And how can she see in the dark? Who (and what!) is this incredibly creepy man in the black cloak, and will Serafina get away? It’s not a first chapter where I tell my daughter, “OK, now, good night, sweet dreams!” Read the rest of this entry »


Coming to Town: Christopher Moore for Secondhand Souls at Quail Ridge Books

New York Times bestselling comic fantasy author Christopher Moore was last in town the May before last in support of The Serpent of Venice, the second of his novels after Fool to feature “Pocket”, Moore’s expanded and hilarious reinvention of The Fool from King Lear. He’s also the author of Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal and Sacré Bleu: A Comedy d’Art in which the apparent suicide of one Vincent van Gogh is investigated by a baker with whom van Gogh happens to have attended art school. But! Before you get the wrong idea — as I foolishly did — that Moore has a flair merely for things European and ancient, let me go back to the beginning.

Ohio-born San Francisco author Christopher Moore’s 1992 debut novel Practical Demonkeeping introduced readers both to Moore’s wit and to his soon-to-be interconnected novels set in and around a supernatural-infused California, replete with demons, vampires (Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story), gods of various pantheons (Coyote Blue), and Death incarnate, along with recurring characters and cameo appearances from detectives to shopkeepers and even Rastafari. It’s a richly textured world, though there’s absolutely no required reading order, other than the strong recommendation to read actual series in order. Which brings us to…

Moore returns to town this Saturday (September 5, at Quail Ridge Books at 7 pm) for his just-released 15th novel Secondhand Souls, a direct sequel to his 2008 Quill Award winning bestseller A Dirty Job, in which acknowledged “beta-male” Charlie Asher stumbles from minivan-driving secondhand store proprietor to a new career as a death merchant, one of several such colorful characters collecting the souls of San Francisco’s departed and ushering them safely onto their next lives, against the gathering forces of the underworld. Meanwhile, Asher is trying to raise his daughter Sophie, in whom Death Incarnate also has a significant interest. Read the rest of this entry »