Sunday, 30 January 2011

Kiss Me, Kill Me, Part 4 with Carrie Ryan

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Zombies. They’re the monsters of the day, it seems. You can’t stroll down the street without some shambling horde following after you demanding ‘brains, brains, BRAINS!’. Why zombies? Why now? What does it all mean? Is it some zeitgeist statement of the world we live in, one of mindless desire, of purposeless hunger, of the infection that spreads the inanities of modern, meaningless existence, the realisation we are just shuffling along this mortal coil driven by no higher purpose than the need to feed?
No idea. Zombies are cool.
Now, the one thing about zombies are they’re there to be made fun of. Okay, they are scary, but they’re slow, simple and frankly, repetitive. The fright factor’s gone.
Welcome to the Forest of Hands and Teeth and the world of the Unconsecrated.
It’s a world no bigger than a village, surrounded by a fence, surrounded by a forest, surrounded by a world with nothing but zombies. Their moans drift eternally through the branches of the trees. They endlessly search the fence for the flesh beyond. There is nothing else.
Except, perhaps, the legend of an ocean.
Mary has grown up with such stories, of the vast water, the endless openness of the sea and sky. The freedom of such a place without fences, without the forest.
It is bleak. I fact I would consider this one of the bleakest books I’ve ever read. Mary’s world is one from the Dark Ages, all the glories and wisdom of our world of science and knowledge has been left far far behind and long forgotten. It is a world where the Sisterhood rule with an iron, inflexible will and to defy them is to risk being abandoned beyond the fence and amongst the Unconsecrated.
But Mary is convinced that something exists beyond the village, she doesn’t believe they are the last humans on Earth, the chosen of God.
Then Gabrielle arrives. Mary sees, trapped within the Cathedral, a girl in red. An Outsider. She discovers in that instance, that there is more to the world than the village, than the Cathedral, the Forest of Hands and Teeth.
The story is a quest, in the truest sense of the word. It’s about Mary’s search for freedom from the world she was born, and trapped, within. But to break free of her society takes huge courage and will involve pain, suffering and hard lessons.
Carrie weaves within Mary’s story the lives of her closest loved ones. Brother Jed, Cass her best friend. Harry and Travis, brothers who tear Mary’s heart apart. The one she desires and the one she needs. Together with a young boy, Jacob, they flee their village when it is over-run, and must make their way towards a new world, the village of Gabrielle and to the ocean, if it exists.
Carrie’s world-building is second-to-none. The Sisterhood could easily be the bad guys but, given the trouble the world’s in (hey, zombies), you can completely understand their fear in making sure everyone toes the party line. I even caught myself (more than once) thinking, ‘Mary, you’re being selfish! Just listen to Sister Tabitha!’ There can be no weak links in society when it’s on the very brink of destruction.
Complex, chilling and tense to the nth degree The Forest of Hands and Teeth is a novel that gives no easy answers and neat, ‘tied with a bow’ endings.
So, without further ado, let’s find out what’s going on within that big brain of Carrie’s (brains, brains, BRAINS! Sorry, had to put that last one in).

1. Most zombie novels are somewhat (recent) post-apocalyptic world while yours is firmly early medieval. Technology has long gone, the Church controls all aspects of life and duties are very much split along gender lines. Can you tell us a bit about how you came to decide this setting?
Ever since I saw my first zombie movie in law school I’ve been obsessed with how we (individually and as a society) would survive a zombie outbreak. Most books and movies focus on the immediate aftermath but I was fascinated with what would happen long after that: when zombies weren’t the new scary monster but were a part of everyday life and had been for several generations. So Mary’s world is actually the future: about 150-200 years after the Return (the zombie apocalypse and I’m purposefully vague about when that takes place but it’s in the near future). But when I started to sort through the realities of a post-zombie world, I realized how quickly society would regress, especially if you removed books and the ability to create a collective memory. Suddenly, the only information available is what’s passed down orally and while many cultures in the past have had fantastic oral traditions, our current society isn’t really trained for that -- we rely on books and computers and the internet.
Whenever I’m talking to readers who live near the coast of the US they usually laugh at the idea that a whole village could forget about the ocean and then I ask them to name the Great Lakes. Only about 5% of the readers I talk to (who don’t live near them) can name all five Great Lakes and I use that to prove how easily information is lost. Besides, if you were facing the zombie horde and passing down stories to the next generation, would you remember to say “Oh and there are these lakes really far away and here are their names just in case you need to know.” And even if you did, would that next generation remember them all and also pass them down?
A ton of information would be lost (how much do each of us know about our great-grandparents? Already memory is fallible and porous.).
As for the aspect of religion, that came naturally to the setting (the village was created by nuns who’d been nursing infected soldiers fighting the zombies in the Forest after the Return). First of all, I thought it would be natural that a village like that would spring up around a defining aspect such as religious conviction but second of all I wanted to show the strain between a governing body that withheld information and knowledge as a means of control and through that control protect the people and how in the end that takes away people’s right to make their own informed decisions about their lives (more on that in the next question).
And you’re definitely right about how much of the village is split along gender lines, I did intend to make it a matriarchic society -- in the end, the women have the power.

2. Mary’s conflict is between her desire for freedom and her duties towards the greater community, her village and society in general. This theme is central to the book and made me think about Billi, my own heroine, who makes the opposite choice to Mary and chooses to forgo individual freedom for the good of the group. Did you ever feel Mary was in the wrong, especially when she goes so strongly against everyone? She says ‘her life is not her own’ but is anyone’s?
This is one of the exact questions I wanted readers to ask themselves. I do think that at times Mary is selfish but I also recognize that in that world often being selfish is what keeps you alive. Mary’s entire village is selfish because they close themselves off from the rest of the world (withholding their resources) in order to keep themselves safe. I think one of the issues I tried to raise is that Mary was never given the true choice between individual and community because so much information was withheld from her. In part, I think this often mirrors our world where it’s easier for those in charge (from parents to governments) to hold back information hoping that we’ll make the decision they want because we’re not informed otherwise. Many times this leads people to make stupid uniformed decisions with lasting consequences.
Is this the right course of action? Some people think yes and others think no. I don’t know if that if Mary and those who came before had been told more about their situation if they’d have chosen a different path. There are times when she does put her own self interest aside for that of the community and times she doesn’t (I’m wary of being specific because of spoilers).
I do think that it was Mary’s quick thinking that often kept her group of friends alive and it’s too easy to discount the agency of those around her (i.e. to think that Mary caused what happened to them -- everyone in the book had their own choices to make).
More than anything, I didn’t want anything in the book to be too simple. It’s not so easy to say “the Sisterhood lied and therefore are evil” because they did so out of love and a fierce desire to protect their charges.

3. Tell us a bit more about the two men in Mary’s life, Harry and Travis. Travis starts off the desire-able one, Mary’s passion for him is only second to her need for the ocean but as the story progresses we begin to see the leadership qualities of Harry. How did the two brothers develop? Was this something you planned from the start or something that grew organically?
I think the love triangle was both a little bit of both something that I planned and that I grew organically. My theory on love triangles is that while it may appear it’s as simple as a heroine (or hero) choosing between two love interests that it’s really about the heroine figuring out who she is and each love interest reflecting a different part of her.
I wanted both Harry and Travis to be wholly viable options -- one represents a calm stability, a very comfortable life, and the other represents a more reckless passion and uncertainty. It’s then up to Mary to decide who she is: is she someone who wants a calm and comfortable life or is she someone who would embrace passion even if it potentially comes with great risks? Once she figures out who she is, it’s easy for her to figure out which love interest bets fits with that part of her.
It was really important that this not be an easy decision for her -- I remember watching the movie Sweet Home Alabama several years ago and I felt like that was one of the first times I ever noticed that a real love triangle should involve a real decision, it shouldn’t be so lopsided because then it’s just a trope.
At the same time, I also wanted to develop Harry and Travis’s relationship -- the camaraderie and competition between them. They’re both trying to do what they think is best for the other and at the same time getting in each other’s way. Sibling relationships can be so complicated!

4. Tell us some more about your zombie love. Any other books or films you’d recommend?
I still sometimes find it very odd to be such a huge zombie fan since I hadn’t even thought about zombies until I was in law school and my husband somehow convinced me to go see Dawn of the Dead. But now I’m pretty much a fanatic! And I feel so lucky that zombies have experienced a recent upswing in popularity because I love seeing it all! I think one of my favourite zombie books is Max Brooks’ World War Z -- just really amazingly thought out and told. I’m also a huge fan of The Walking Dead -- both the graphic novel and the TV series based on it. What I love about that series is that Robert Kirkman’s original intent was just to explore a post-zombie-apocalypse world, not have a set and clear arc like most books and movies. That whole premise utterly fascinates me! As for movies, you can’t go wrong with the one that started it all -- Night of the Living Dead -- and I also love Shaun of the Dead because it perfectly mixes happy and sad. And of course I like the remake of Dawn of the Dead just because that’s the one that started it all for me!
A big thanks to Carrie for joining in with this series. Remember, if you want to check out who else has been on this already, just click the 'Kiss Me, Kill Me' box somewhere on the right hand side of this blog. BTW, if you've enjoyed this series so far, do feel free to link and retweet, I won't charge you.
Next week I will be posting Part 5 of the series, Brenna Yovanoff, author of the wonderfully creepy The Replacement. Soon after will be Becca Fitzpatrick, Holly Black, Melissa de la Cruz and oh so many great authors and their awesome books.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Tainted Love

Not only one of the greatest songs of all time but today's subject.
Paranormal romance. Isn't it all about tainted love?
But is any love truly pure? Isn't it all 'tainted' one way or another?
Now I'm not an expert on this topic, after all I've still not read Twilight (but did enjoy the movies and am Team Victoria all the way!) but since I am part of the genre (at least, on the very edge of it) I suppose I must have some opinion. But hey, you can have an opinion on many things without knowing anything about them, can't you?
I've recently interviewed Becca Fitzpatrick, author of the rather splendid HUSH, HUSH and CRESCENDO. You'll hear about that interview soon enough. The two main characters are Patch (fallen angel) and Nora (normal teen). Nora's torn between the deep attraction she feels towards Patch and her fear of him. There are disturbing acts of violence, her house is broken into and her best friend assaulted. All the signs are it's Patch. Nora's not stupid. She's a quick-witted and clever young woman and not so naive. But Patch is irresistible. And, my God, does he know it. He can invade her mind, twist her senses, make her doubt her sanity. But like a knife through it all is their mutual attraction, despite the very real dangers.
There's a tainted love at the heart of Maggie Steifvater's SHIVER, between werewolf Sam and Grace. Sam's not the archetype bad boy, he's actually very kind, loving and truly dedicated to Grace. But this is his last summer before he turns into a wolf, once and forever. His curse tainted everything, adds a desperate melancholy to their love, knowing it's going to end by winter and there's nothing they can do about it.
Anthony and Cleopatra, Romeo and Juliet, Othello. Shakespeare knew all about tainted love. We have conflicting ambitions, family vendettas and jealousy. You cannot be human without tainted love. You think perhaps the love between parent and child is pure, without flaw. Er, what about Cronos? What about Oedipus? What about Electra? A child cannot grow to adulthood without the parent's death. Our children are there to replace us. Some seek that moment sooner than nature intended. And the parents, older, wiser, more cunning, can fight back.
Tainted love is at the heart of my books. The conflicting urge to love and destroy. Look at Arthur and Billi's relationship. A father bringing up his daughter to be a killer. Maybe his killer. Billi and Mike. Two damaged children who are driven to extremes because they never decided their own fates. They are both pawns in the plans of their fathers. No wonder they understand each other so well. No wonder Billi makes some serious mistakes.
Then we have Kay, who, I'd argue, is the purest of them all. His love is not blind, but his feelings towards Billi are tainted, though with the best of intentions. And he pays the price.
Dark Goddess develops Billi's relationships in two directions. The first is her feelings towards a young girl, Vasilisa, who is being trained as a Templar. Just like Billi was, recruited into the order at a young age and given no choice.
Then she meets the Russian prince, Ivan Alexeivich Romanov. Both of them are born leaders, and born warriors. There's mutual respect, and rivalry. There's distrust. Both are willing to sacrifice the other for the cause. Billi's been betrayed before and is wary of it happening again. Ivan knows he's got assassins lurking in every shadow, is Billi just another one? Waiting for his guard to drop?
Tainted Love.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Kiss Me, Kill Me part 3 with Rachel Hawkins

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
Really, I have had enough. Angsty vampires, brooding werewolves, mysterious fae and alluring, wise witches. It’s all gotten so dark, hasn’t it? Are we really in love with so much misery?
Frankly, I blame advertising. When I was a lad the biggest advert was a cheery crowd up on a hill wanting to buy the world a Coke. Fun, smily, beautiful people in a world of sunshine. But that was before they invented diabetes.
To quote the great man with the clown face, “Why so serious?”
Yes, yes, yes. I know my stories are as grim and the grimmest brothers Grimm living in Grimland, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the odd jolly jape as much as the next man. So Thank the great gods of the netherworld for Hex Hall. And Rachel Hawkins.
Hex Hall is a school for delinquent supernaturals (Prodigium). Our heroine, Sophie Mercer, a witch who means well but results badly, has been sent there after a love spell went way way too well. She makes friends with the local hot and crushworthy Archer Cross, makes enemies of a trio of supermodel dark witches, and teams up with Jenna, the one and only vampire student at Hex Hall. Who promptly goes on a killing rampage. Apparently.
Mix up a cult of religious fanatics descended from the Knights Templar (HELL YES!) and Sophie’s great-grandmother’s ghost and you have a high school experience like no other. Except my school was EXACTLY like that. Exactly like that.
The best way to give you a flavour is by teasing you with this extract.

There was the soft snick of a match being lit, and a small pool of light illuminated the figure.
She was wearing purple silk pajamas, a black candle cradled in her hands. Two other candles blazed to life and I saw Chaston and Anna, also pajama-clad, standing behind Elodie.
“Sophie Mercer’” Elodie intoned, “we have come to induct you into out sisterhood. Say the five words to begin the ritual.”
I blinked at her. “Are you freaking kidding me?”

Yes, Hex Hall has a lot of lines like that. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and is just plain old fashioned funny. Like books used to be.
I was lucky enough to track Rachel down, and whilst sipping a cup of Earl Grey tea, asked her a few pertinent questions.
1. I love that Sophie’s half-English. Any plans to send her over here? There’s a very nice tea shop near Fortnum and Masons I could take her to. So, is it true that Brits make the best wizards?
It’s very true, you are a Wizardy People, you Brits! And yes, Sophie WILL be going ‘cross the pond in the 2nd Hex Hall book, DEMONGLASS. I went to the UK when I was about 20, and I totally fell in love with all Boys With Cute Accents, and Places In Which To Drink Beer. Wait, I mean with the rich cultural history, and old buildings, and fascinating museums, and...did I say history already? Anyway, when it came time to write DEMONGLASS, I knew I wanted to send Sophie to England, and the majority of the book takes place in one of those big, ancestral country manors I’m told you all have.
2. L’Occhio di Dio, better known as the Eye. If I have one complaint about Hex Hall us how you’ve portrayed a bunch of knife-wielding religious fundamentalists as the bad guys. They’re descended from the Knights Templar! What’s not to love?
Look, I dig a hot dude in black, running around with a sword in his hand and righteousness in his heart as much as the next gal. I WILL say that there may be more to the Eye than meets... um...the eye. Still, even you have to admit their propensity for carving young girls hearts out MIGHT have something to do with the whole being seen as villains thing.
3. Obviously the ‘vampires who love pink’ market has been sadly neglected for too many years, so hooray for Jenna! Any other twisted facts about Jenna you’d care to share? What are her musical tastes? I’m suspecting she’d not into that whole goth thing.
It’s my firm belief that Jenna participated in a beauty pageant or two back in the day, and she probably had QUITE the Barbie collection (but no Kens, obviously. Barbie+Midge 4-eva!) As for her musical tastes, I think she definitely listens to Ani DiFranco and probably some Florence+The Machine. However, her musical guilty pleasure? Girls Aloud. (Who, I must add with shame, are also MY musical guilty pleasure.)
4. The story starts off pretty light, but gets darker as it progresses until by the end you’re having to read it with a very bright and shiny torch. Sophie’s lied to, betrayed more than once and several of her school chums don’t make it to the end of term. How have these events changed Sophie and what clues can you give us about Hex 2, Demonglass?
First off, I love that y’all say “torch” for “flashlight.” It makes me picture legions of British children, hiding under their covers with flaming sticks held aloft.  And yes, the events of Hex Hall definitely change Sophie going into Demonglass. She’s a little tougher now, and a whole lot more suspicious of everyone’s motivations. However, girlfriend has in no way lost her sense of humour! (There *cough* may be a Twilight joke or two. Allegedly.) Some things you can expect from Demonglass include fire, Surprise Betrothals, swords, references to Chuck E. Cheese, kissing, and Tons of Stuff Blowing Up.
5. I've saved the most serious question until last. One, actually, two, of the things that struck me about Sophie where the constant references to the size of her breasts. Now we all know, as writers, you never put anything in a book unless it's going to be relevant later on. For those not familiar with the term it's called 'foreshadowing' and means if you put a gun on the mantlepiece at the beginning of the story, then, by heck, someone needs to have gone all Tarantino with it before the end. So, can we discuss Sophie's breasts, in a grown up not-giggling at all manner? Are they the source of her supernatural might? Are dark witches better endowed? What about dark warlocks? In what area are they, shall we say, larger than normal? What I'm asking does the size of a warlock's wand matter?
Stop sniggering at the back. We can see you.
Well, Sarwat, I think there is little doubt that Boobs=Magic. That's just science. HOWEVER, what you may not know (and I am probably violating many tenets of the Lady Code by revealing this) is that there is an ACTUAL algorithm detailing just how breast size relates to superpowers. Created in 1844 by Ada Lovelace, this complex equation is one of the most closely guardedsecrets of womanhood, so I obviously cannot reveal it to you. Of course, my cover story is that I made Sophie bountiful of chest because I was a little tired of reading about all the flat-chested chicks in YA. Life is no picnic for the well-endowed teen girls, either!
Sadly, you have seen through my ruse, so yes, Sophie's magnificent bosom is IN FACT related to her bad-ass magical powers. Unfortunately for warlocks, superpowers do NOT equal increased junkitude, mostly because, as I think we can all agree, Lady Lumps>>>> Boy Parts.

There you have it. Kind of makes me wonder about Hermione and if Sophie could take her in a battle. Fairly likely given the difference in their, well, you know, cup sizes. Now for those of you who've been paying the slighest bit of attention will know that this is not over, not by a long shot. I will be teaming up, joining forces, dueting and all together getting into a dynamic duo with Rachel as we'll be touring around the US together in March! An entire continent, at our feet.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The 1980's were GREAT!

This is writing related, I promise. Okay, actually, it's not, at all. But if you were born pre-1975, I hope this may give you a pleasant trip down memory lane. If, however, you were born after 1975, and don't have older siblings, I can only pity you, so read on and find out what you missed.
I think the moment you get into music defines you. That era will have a profound effect. It's the first time you step onto the dance floor, enter the Darwinian arena that is the disco and take part in the unconcious mating rituals so prevalent in the animal kingdom and transplanted with all its show and pomp under the glittering disco-ball.
I remember the near homicidal RAGE when my friend Clive got to do the slow dance with Suzanne (the girl in the year above me who'd failed her Chemistry so was retaking hence in our after school swot club and our first and only date was her and four of my friends going to see Revenge of the Nerds which, frankly, is not a chick flick and then there was the fight over who would sit next to her but nothing happened and she drove us all home, one by one because she was, after all, a year older and could drive). Oh, and apparently he also got a snog out of another girl I really fancied, which I feel he did on purpose just to wind me up. Needless to say he came to a bad end and now lives in Australia, surfing and sailing each weekend. Serves him right.
I learnt to dance to Frankie Goes to Hollywood, which explains a lot. But first there was the AWFUL two-step that all us geeks fumble through. What is it about dancing and people who are good at maths? THEN I went to Imperial College of Science and Technology which is GEEK CENTRAL and the discos there were filled with anxious, spotty lanky teenage boys all vaguely dancing around the ONE girl in the department, who, ineviatably, would then go out with one of the cool guys from the neighbouring Royal College of Art.
Eventually some form of free-style dancing developed, but antropologists would still be able to place in firmly in the mid-80's dance culture.
I remember my first nightclub visit. I ended up having a nose-bleed in the toilets. No, not because I'd got into some fight because I was hitting on some girl (as if), I just got a random nosebleed.
My other big passion (which led me here, actually) was playing Dungeons and Dragons. Yes, I know. What part about me being a geek didn't you get? My favourite character was Nemesis, the Paladin. Really, it is as boring as it sounds.
However, that's when I first started writing. So when someone asks me how long I've been writing and I say 'Oh, about thirty years', that tends to put them off on the idea of becoming writers. It's been a loong road. But so worth it.
But what mattered most in the 80s, about being that age, was the passion, the thrill and the excitement of being a teen. That never changes. I think a lot of us who write children's fiction and YA is because we remember that age so vividly. It was a blast. Could have done without the acne, though.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Kiss Me, Kill Me, Part 2 with Cindy Pon

Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon
Elves. Wizards. Brawny barbarians, noble knights and hobbits. Orcs too. Yes, yes. We’ve read that one, dozens of times. Yawn.
What gets me about most fantasy fiction is, well, the lack of fantasy in it. Each time I see a map, some dodgy runes, and names like ‘Olaf the Mighty, barbarian of the Northern Wastes’ I put the book down and read something else.
I know we all owe a great debt of gratitude to Tolkien but do we really have to rewrite Lord of the Rings over and over again?
Which brings me neatly to Silver Phoenix. I am ashamed to admit it’s the first Chinese fantasy book I’ve ever read, but it’s opened up a whole new truly fantastical world to me. We have kung fu warriors, immense celestial dragons, isles of immortals and Ai Ling, teen heroine with a destiny that has haunted her through the ages. Most fantasy heroes have some sense of predestination, but Ai Ling’s is presented in a unique way. No finding a ring in the caves for her but something decided since her spirit lingered in the lands of the dead.
The book’s a quest, but set in a mythical Chinese world called Xia. Ai Ling has been promised in marriage to someone truly horrible so flees, to search for her father who’s been summoned to the Emperor’s court and never returned. On her adventures she meets two brothers trained in martial arts, Cheng Yong (on a quest of his own) and Li Rong, face demon seductresses, journey to the land of the gods and rescue a goddess to reach the Imperial court and discover that an immortal sorcerer, Zhong Ye, is behind all her troubles, and all is not quite what it seems...
The book is full of exotic, alien beauty from the customs, to the clothes, and especially, the food. You’re totally immersed in a fantasy world that, for the first time in AGES, really does feel fantastical.
Ai Ling, the heroine, has her special powers, but it’s her determination that’s the best thing about her. She’s independent, but not arrogantly so, she needs help and gives it too. All the main characters get their moments to shine, Cheng Yong is very, very cool and I’m really hoping Book 2 (Fury of the Phoenix) will explore more of his past.
There was so much I want to tell you about this book, and fortunately I have here Cindy Pon, the author, to help me. Oh the wonders of modern technology...

1. In the West we’re brought up reading Greek, Norse, Celtic and Egyptian mythology. Even with my Asian background I wasn’t that familiar with Eastern mythology until I was well into my twenties, it’s just not that common over here in the UK. Tell us a bit about your own background and how you came to write a fantasy based in mythic China.
Sarwat, I was exactly the same! I grew up in the US learning about western mythology and loving them--especially Greek. I knew a few of the folklore tales tied with holidays in Chinese traditions, but my family isn't one of storytellers. So I didn't know anything beyond that. It wasn't until I decided to write Silver Phoenix that I researched more within Chinese folklore and incorporated it into my first novel.
2. The book’s fairly open on the subject of sex, with Ai Ling’s marriage preparations, a potential rape scene and her final encounter with Zhong Lee. Fantasy novels are somewhat notorious for their chasteness. Did you worry that some readers might find it too explicit?
Is it terrible to say I don't worry about readers at all when I'm writing? I try to remain as true to the storyline and the characters, and leave the editing to my editor. I didn't realize how forthright I was about the subject of sex until ari at asked the same during an interview. In Xia, a girl's place was to make babies when she came of age. There was no dancing around it, and for me to do so as an author would have rendered the story inauthentic. And when I did edit with my editor, all those scenes stayed.
3. Food. Your book is full of details of every meal Ai Ling takes. Blimey, my stomach rumbles just thinking about it! What’s your favourite meal? Burger?
Burger! Snorts! It'd definitely have to be Chinese or Taiwanese. Noodles are a favorite and so are dumplings. I love minced pork with rice, xiao long bao, chow mien, mapo tofu, stinky tofu--Chinese food is so varied and delicious. I would die without rice after a few days. Ha!
4. Ai Ling goes way off the map when she ends up in the one-armed world of the three-eyed Archer and the Anatomist. Where on Earth did THAT idea come from!?!
Those lands were inspired by A Chinese Besitary: Strange Creatures from the Guideways Through Mountains and Seas. It is an ancient text thousands of years old that the average Chinese probably would not have heard of or read. It detailed many different lands, people, gods, plant life, creatures and beasts. One couldn't help but be inspired reading it!
5. Much of Ai Ling’s problems arise from the gender politics of her world. She’s expected to be an obedient daughter, marry whom she’s told to, not allowed to travel alone and viewed as a possession rather than a human being. Given this remains true for far too many women even now, how much of this is taken from, say, ancient China, and how much of this was created for your setting?
I tried to stay true to cultural expectations of women in Chinese society from centuries past. At the same time, I left out the practice of foot binding because it would have rendered the story I wanted to write impossible. I always say that my story is Asian-American influenced. Because that is my background and thought and experiences, and what contributes to my stories and writing.
6. Book 2, Fury of the Phoenix, is due out soon. What can we expect from Ai Ling and do we see Chen Yong again?
Yes! Fury of the Phoenix will be out on March 29 this year. I call it a pre-sequel. There will be two storylines: Ai Ling and Chen Yong six months after Silver Phoenix ends, and Silver Phoenix and Zhong Ye three centuries before. I'm very proud of my sequel, I hope you enjoy it when you read it, Sarwat! Thanks so much for featuring me and my books here. I'm reading Dark Goddess now and loving it!
There you go, she's reading Dark Goddess and loving it. So if it's good enough for Cindy, then it's good enough for you.
There's still plenty of awesomeness to come and what's more, along with Becca, Holly, Brenna, Joy et al (see, I'm now on first names with all these people. See Sarwat name drop.) we've also got Kiersten White, author of the spendidly splendid Paranormalcy on board. Huzzah!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Introducing Billi SanGreal

Okay, some of you will have already met Billi, but this is for those in the US who have as yet not had the opportunity to meet her in Dark Goddess, since it comes out on the 25th.
For those of you unfamiliar (sign, there are such people in the world) with Billi, let me give you a few details.
1. She's fifteen and has had a unique unbringing. Her home-schooling program includes swordfighting, unarmed combat and occult lore.
2. Her favourite things are her 160GB Classic iPod, hanging out with friends, and kicking Unholy ass. She specializes in fallen angels and werewolves.
3. You do not want to be romantically involved with her. She has a fatal effect on boyfriends.
4. She will be taking ass-kicking to whole new levels in Dark Goddess.
5. In the new book she meets a Russian prince, Ivan Alexeivich Romanov (who should have paid more attention to item 3).
6. Her father, Arthur, was tried for the murder of Billi's mother. He's an ex-Royal Marine and just this side of psycho. He falls under the title of 'Very Bad Parent Indeed'. He's the one mortal the Devil himself fears.
7. Billi's a lot like her father.
Devil's Kiss was set in London, my home city. It was the perfect setting for the first book, grim, ancient, gothic. But I didn't want to repeat myself in book 2 so the action moves to Russia, to Moscow. Now that's a damn awesome city in it's own right. Very different to London, which is a walkable city. Moscow is MASSIVE. Monolithic and gloriously imperial. If Devil's Kiss was urban fantasy, Dark Goddess is my dark fairy tale. It's my Red Riding Hood myth. That's why Billi wars the red on the cover. She's the red the wolves should be afraid of.
Now, don't believe it's all about swordfighting and extreme violence! I have to tell you about the new boy in Billi's life, Tsarevich Ivan Alexeivich Romanov. Grey-eyed, elegant, cultured and extremely deadly he's heir to the Romanov throne and an exceptional warrior in his own right. Billi and he could do great things, if they don't kill one another first.
I'm madly excited about Dark Goddess. Billi's a changed girl from Devil's Kiss and her relationships in a mess, she's torn up by what happened, by what she did. But the stakes are higher than ever. An ancient evil has awoken, a goddess that has been feared by mankind since he lived in the caves. I'll tell you about her later...

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Department 19 by Will Hill

A secret organisation dedicated to fighting supernatural evil. A teen hero discovering their part in the midnight war and learning to kick ass. Vampires, the old school version in all their throat-ripping, crimson-washed glory. These are a few of my favourite things.
Welcome to Department 19.
Will Hill's premise for his new book is simple. What if Bram Stoker's Dracula was not fiction, but Van Helsing's memoir? What if the heroes of that book, Dr. Seward, Jonathan Harker and Arthur Holmwood had, along with Van Helsing, set up a secret department within the British government dedicated to fighting the vampire menace?
And now, a hundred years later, the most powerful vampires in the world make their move...
It's a bit of a 'slap the head' moment. Vampires are immortal. Their minds work in the timescales of decades, centuries even. Setting things in place that may only pay-off a hundred years from now. Absolutely fantastic. Pure evil, genuis intellect with a patience only an immortal could have. More of my favourite things.
Jamie Carpenter is sixteen and has just been recruited into the department. He discovers the following:
1. His father was one of the Department's top field agents.
2. His father was the Department's biggest traitor.
3. The most powerful vampires in the world, three brothers turned by Dracula himself, want him. And not in a good way.
4. Said vampires hold his mother hostage.
5. His dad's best friend and his guardian angel is Frankenstein's monster.
Well, enough to spoil most people's day, don't you think?
The book centres around Jamie, but there are crucial glimpses of the past including a New Year's Day unmasking that would make even Richard Dawkins turn to religion.
Department 19 is high tech and gloriously so. UV bombs, stealth helicopters and the awesome T-bone, a gas-propelled stake launcher. I so want one for Christmas. Can I, Dad? Can I?
There's so much I want to say about this book. It's incredibly well researched. The references, historical, political, geographical and mythical are spot on. We have walk-on parts from Gladstone, Bram Stoker himself aswell as the key players from Dracula. There's a labyrinth of names and I understand from the author he's put in a lot of time assembling vast family trees and backstory. It shows.
Jamie's a likeable and believable hero who rises up to the challenge to prove himself to the doubters and clear his family name. There's something brilliantly naive about him, but he's no fool.
My only two concerns are these:
1. Larrisa, the homicidal vampire girl, doesn't get as much page-time as she should. She's a critical part of the story but only comes into her own well over half-way through. What's great is it's clear Jamie fancies her (and doesn't she know it) but she is a HOMICIDAL VAMPIRE. What part of that don't you get? For once, it's a vampire romance with 'doomed' written all over it. Mainly in Jamie's arterial blood. I suspect she'll be more involved in Book 2.
2. It ends on a nerve screaming cliff-hanger. OMG, I so want to tell you about it now. You have to wait 12 months before you find out what happens next. Some might find that BLOODY INFURIATING. I suppose all I'll do is re-read it just when Book 2 comes out next Jan.
The book comes out in March and closer to that time I hope to do a Q&A with Mr. Hill. However, in the meantime I have a little treat for you. I have a copy to give away. It's an ARC, but I think it's more beautiful than the final version (though that will be hardback and this is paperback) because the front cover just has the graphics on the front, no title, no author's name. Pure awesomeness.
The competition is open to all and all you need to do is comment below and include the words 'we wants in, my precious!' or something similar.
BTW, before I forget, I have another announcement. The winner of the Chainsaw Gang's '12 Deaths of Christmas' competition is Gwen Thomas. Huzzah for Gwen. She'll be getting a whole bundle of signed books shortly.
Also, before I forget and BTW, I have another author of awesomeness joining the 'Kiss Me, Kill Me' series. Will announce she shortly. Blimey, that's 12 of them now.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Kiss Me, Kill Me, Part 1 with Maggie Stiefvater

I know, I know. You think you’ve slipped into some alternative universe and into one where a Sarwat Chadda is a fan of para-normal romance and you’re looking outside the window for the skies to be filled with red clouds and the statues to be weeping blood or whatever they do when the Apocalypse has finally arrived.
Fear not, this is not the first sign of the Apocalypse (which is, as we all know, due next Tuesday about 3.30 GMT) but my first ever review of a love story!
Over the next twelve Mondays I will will be delving DEEP into the paranormal genre. I'll be reviewing and interviewing the great, the good, the mad and the bad of the YA paranormal fiction. It's not just romance, I assure you. There'll be a grand prize draw at the end and the goodies will make you blush. So, we'll kick off with...
SHIVER by Maggie Stiefvater
Openings. Oh how a book lives or dies with its opening chapter. As you may know I like my openings to have a certain ... intensity.
How about a small girl dragged from her swing by a pack of werewolves?
That, we like.
Move forward a bunch of years and we’re in the company of Grace living in Mercy Falls with her parents (no orphans yet, which is nice) and hanging out with her friends Olivia and Rachel. She’s that bookworm in the corner, good student, a bit quiet and obsessed by the yellow-eyed wolf that watches her over the winter, the yellow-eyed wolf that protected her when she was a child, dragged from the swings by the rest of the pack.
Then the attacks start. School bully Jack Culpeper is killed, his body vanishes, the locals organise a wolf hunt and the hunt leaves a bleeding, naked boy, yellow-eyed, on Grace’s porch. Sam.
There’s none of that ‘is he or isn’t he’, we know, Grace knows, he’s a werewolf.
They are destined for each other. They’ve watched each other with silent yearning for years, and now they’re together. The end? All’s well and we’re listening for the wedding bells? No. And this is where the story takes a major turn for the worst. Werewolves change with the seasons. As the temperature drops the beast comes out. It’s getting colder and the change is coming. Once Sam turns, that’s it. This is his last year as a human. One by one, they all become wolves, forever. Just as love has come, the winter snows will take it away.
The falling temperature adds an unbearable intensity to the page turning. Each chapter headlines with the day’s temperature and day by day, it drops.
Winter is creeping nearer and Sam will be gone.
Needless to say there’s far more but what’s best about Shiver is the truth of Grace and Sam. Sam’s not some clichéd ‘bad-boy’, he’s sweet, loyal, sincere but with a very damaged past (the reveal about the parents is shocking, but sadly believable. People destroy what they don’t understand), trying to make one last human contact before he becomes a never-changing wolf. As a bloke who writes action I really believed in Sam for his goodness, for his better angels and his struggle. The book is split between Grace’s viewpoint and Sam’s, both are equally strong and support each other.
Grace has a family, a caring mother and father, but is neglected in her own way. The story about her being forgotten in the car demonstrates that neglect (not conscious, you always believe the parents do love her, but in a vague way), and includes an important clue for other reasons.
Beck, Jack, Isabel and Olivia work well as secondary characters. Especially Jack and Isabel, the brother and sister who start off as the bad guys but reveal a depth and strength that lesser writers would not have bothered with. The fate of Olivia is brilliantly set up and I wish I could reveal more. Suffice it to say you will care about the second string and the fate of all of them. No-one is set up as a clichéd ‘best friend’ or ‘school-bitch’ or ‘wise mentor’.
Final note is the beauty of Maggie’s writing. It has a slow elegance to it that lingers in the mind. It’s like watching snow melting on a sunny day. Crisp, melancholy, sparkling in many colours.
But hey, why take just my word? I was pretty lucky to cross paths with Maggie in November and as one werewolf fan to another, there were a hundred and one things I wanted to ask her, but the queue was long and the security tight. But with (dare I say it?) a wolf-like tenacity, I’ve chased her down and managed to grab a few answers off her. So, friends, lycanthropes and all other manner of beasties, please put your paws together for the one and only Maggie Stievater!

1. Lets get the obvious question out of the way. Why werewolves?
It was an accident. Actually, it sort of was. I’m a big fan of the idea that when you write about magic, you’re actually writing about something else, and I always thought that the metaphor that traditional werewolves stand for was outdated. Traditionally, werewolves stand for giving yourself over to the brutal beast inside you, with all the violent and carnal desires that entails. Well, Americans do that pretty much every day, so where’s the fear in that? So I never thought I’d write about werewolves. But I had decided I really wanted to write a bittersweet novel for teens, and then I had a dream about wolves -- simply wolves, not men with excessive chest hair -- and I thought, okay, this is possible. If the metaphor is instead that you will lose your identity, your humanness, the things that make you unique . . . well, now, that is something that Americans are afraid of.

2. Sam’s brilliant and a fantastic change from the clichéd ‘bad-boy’ of the genre. It would have been so easy to make him scary, brooding, misunderstood and dangerous, but you focus on his sincerity, his honour and his loyalty. Tell us what you think of Sam.
Well, thanks. I made Sam Sam for two reasons. First of all, if the big conflict of the story is that the character is going to lose his humanness, he better be a damn fine human for you to care. We have to think that the world stands to lose a lot if he disappears. So I wanted him to be genuine and interested in the things that make humans great: poetry, music, opposable thumbs, quiche. And then the other thing was that I wanted readers to really believe that without that whole werewolf thing, he and Grace really stood a shot of being together. And while fiery bad boys in leather pants are all fun and games, I don’t think, in real life, that anyone can picture the fiery bad boy doing a load of laundry or remembering your birthday. I wanted him to be just a really nice guy. I went out of my way to describe him as being less than edibly handsome, too. Grace finds him cute, but that doesn’t mean everyone would.

3. I’m all for strong heroines and what I love about Grace is that she’s clearly Sam’s equal and (emotionally) the stronger. What helped me believe in her was that she knows she’s obsessed with wolves, Olivia even takes her up on it, but that obsession grew for when she was attacked as a child. That first scene really sets the ambience of the entire book. I’d love to know how that Chapter 1 came about.
Remember that dream about the wolves? I’ll confess that the first line of the book is from the dream. Possibly because I watch too many movies, my dreams tend to be pretty cinematic, especially when I’m in the midst of brain-storming, which I was that day. And the wolf dream opened with the line: “I remember lying in the snow, surrounded by wolves . . .” with Grace’s voice (which, by the way, is eerily similar in the audiobook of Shiver). Initially SHIVER was a short story, and that first scene formed the bulk of it. I needed to establish Grace’s relationship with the wolves and make Sam sympathetic at the same time, as well as setting the mood. It changed surprisingly little when I converted it to a novel.

4. I’m interested in the parental units in this book. Both Sam and Grace have parents that fail them. Grace’s parents are a sort of ‘caring neglect’, they’ve got their own lives and just expect Grace to get on, even though Grace’s dad does almost kill her with that neglect, while Sam’s are more than violent towards him. Then you’ve got Beck, Sam’s seemingly perfect werewolf mentor (who nevertheless has his own dirty secrets). Can you tell us a bit more about the part this neglect played in Grace and Sam’s lives?
Well, I’m a big believer in the idea that your parents form a large part of who you are as a person -- either you become them or you run away from who they are. I needed for Grace to be super independent, and there were a few different ways to do that, but I decided to go with her neglectful parents after one of my early school visits. I didn’t go to traditional high school (I was home-schooled from sixth grade on), so one of my stipulations in my early days was that I got to follow a student around for the school day. Well, at this particular school, I was blown away by how the students were miniature adults: their parents gave them cell phones, lap tops, a car, kissed them goodbye in the morning (if that) and then said “see you whenever you get back.” And then the parents had completely separate social lives. So I knew I wanted to talk about that sort of well-meaning neglect and what it would do to someone down the line. And then Beck . . . one of the things I wanted to explore was how, when we grow up, we stop seeing our parents as the idols that we regarded them as when we were children. We start to see their flaws and their secrets and see that they, too, are human, and it can be searing and disappointing and agonizing. I wanted to play with that in Sam/ Beck’s relationship. And his awful real parents? Belief is hard, and illness is terrifying, especially when it’s unexplained.

5. The final chapter completes the story perfectly. Part of me worries that, given its perfect ending, how could you move the tale on without betraying the end of Shiver? Was a series always part of the plan or something that came along later?
Initially I thought I could fit everything I wanted to do into Shiver, but as I came close to the end, I realized I had left a lot of stones unturned. I asked Scholastic if I could do a sequel, and then, as I started to plot that out, I realized I really needed three to do the character development justice. The hard part was balancing plot and character development in LINGER -- I needed the characters to be much stronger in order to take on what happens in FOREVER, and I was very much hoping that readers would be interested in watching that journey to get there. Thank goodness they still like me.

6. Can you tell us a little from where you intend to go from here?
You mean, post werewolves? I’m just finishing a standalone paranormal novel that’s coming out just after FOREVER. It’s bloodier, and more action-y, but there’s still some kissing as well. The tone is entirely different from anything I’ve done before and I’m simultaneously nervous as hell and so excited I could pee about it.
And on that slightly damp note I'd like to thank Maggie for taking part and kicking off the tour. There's much, much more all about Mercy Falls and Maggie here on her website. You will not believe how many foreign editions there are of her book! Practically every one on the planet should have a copy of her book by the end of the year.

Next Monday the 'Kiss Me, Kill Me' series will be turning to all things Chinese with my mate Cindy Pon. There'll be dragons, immortal sorcerors, martial arts and a brand new heroine on the block, Ai Ling.

Friday, 7 January 2011

The Rachel and Sarwat EPIC US tour!

Back to America. As of Monday 28th Feb I'm on tour around the vast and glorious US of A. Again. I know I've done it before but I missed a few bits, okay?
Obviously the publishers don't trust me to be able to manage on my own, so I'll be on these epic travails with Rachel Hawkins, legendary author of Hex Hall and Demonglass!
We'll be teaming up on events, doing schools together and no doubt fighting over who has the window seat. When I discovered I was joining forces with her, I did ask around, you know, to be sure her personal habits were compatible with mine.
My word, she has some fans. They called here 'funny, witty and amazing'. Which is very different from how I've been described ('danger to world peace' I think was one of the printable phrases). It puts me under a lot of pressure. Gosh, it's a challenge to get matching socks on in the mornings let alone manage to be 'witty and funny and amazing'. I'm kind of feeling a bit like Robin to Rachel's Batman. I get to wear the green pants. Not a cool look for me.
I'm hoping my British accent will make up for any personality flaws.
"But where, Sarwat," I hear you cry. "Where will you be? We'd love to meet our favourite author and have our books signed. It would be quite nice to meet you too, we suppose."
Seven flights in 12 days. It will be rather insane and tremendous.
Mon 28th Feb- Arrive in Chicago.
Tues 1st March- Anderson's Bookshop, Naperville.
Weds 2nd- Fly to Memphis to do an event at Davis-Kidd bookstore.
Thurs 3rd- Off to Oxford, Mississippi. Event will be at Square Books Jr.
Fri 4th- Fly off to Houston and at Blue Willow bookstore in the evening. Hope for some peccan pie while I'm there.
Sat 5th March- Still in Texas. More Peccan pie. Off to Murder by the Book bookstore (where I did my FIRST EVER event in 2009. Excellent!)
Sun 6th March- To Phoenix! To Changing Hands bookstore!!
Mon 7th- Barnes and Noble in Phoenix (TBC)
Tues 8th- Fly to Oakland, California. Learn to surf. Then off to Copperfield's bookstore.
Weds 9th- At Kepler's bookstore in Menlo Park, CA.
Thurs 10th- If it's Thurs, it must be San Jose! We'll be at Hicklebee's. We'll save a seat for you.
Fri 11th To Seattle and appear at Third Place Books. Get my sister that Nirvana teeshirt.
Sat 11th Still in Seattle, bookstore TBC. Then stumble onto the plane and fly home.
Sun 12th -collapse on the sofa and sleep for three days.
I'll update this on my website when I've got all the times, but safe to assume they'll be evening-ish.
There'll be school visits in amongst those, but if you are in the neighbourhood, please come and say hello! I've a feeling I've had more than my share of US trips now and I'm not sure when I'll be back next. So this is my chance to meet EVERYONE. If you don't come, how will I remember your birthday?

Wednesday, 5 January 2011


Gosh, there's a lot of paranormal romance out on the shelves, isn't there? Most of it is now tottering on my desk too.
Okay, I'm half-way through the run down of the 'Kiss Me, Kill Me' blog series and now for the other helpful chums who've offered to spill the beans on all things that go bump and 'aargh!" and perhaps sigh seductively in the night.
My one totally sad fan-boy moment was when I met Holly Black back in Orlando. I must admit, she was part of my 'research' when I was trying to break into writing. I read Tithe back in the day, trying to work out what it was that made writing just work. After all, the best way to break into something is just follow the best, and try to do what they do.
So, to cut a long story short, when I did meet her, I was all a bit gibbering. She didn't seem to mind me snatching her own copy of Black Cat out of her hands (I think I gave her my bookmark in exchange), then getting her to sign it. She's obviously forgiven me and will be one of the superstars who'll be taking part in the tour, right here.
Oh, on the subject of superstars, have you heard of Becca Fitzpatrick? Oh, a few. Marvellous! Becca will be dropping by as well to discuss exactly what it is about angels that make us 'squee'. Yes, they are bloody beautiful books and I, for one, was jolly glad that she was there making angels radioactively HOT. And it's not because I have a fallen angel in my book too. Okay, it might be.
On the subject of favourite monsters, lets talk about werewolves. Werewolves of Mercy Falls. Maggie Stiefvater writes werewolves. She writes them very well. They are brutal, loyal, savage and full of longing. When I decided to do my 'catch up' on the para-norm rom genre, I started with Maggie. I am converted. I'll be picking her brain on Monday. I promise to clean up afterwards.
Gosh, do we need a break from all this supernatural stuff? What about the other heroines, bad-boys and badder girls? Oh, yes. Like spies and supercrooks.
I am still trying to get my two girls into the Gallagher Academy. Foreign languages, kick-boxing, encryption and personal grooming. The perfect education for the modern girl! Ally Carter, the author-in-awesomeness behind Gallagher and Heist Society will be advising us all on how to make sure that, if you are breaking into a highly armed foreign embassy surrounded by machine-gun carrying goons, what accessories go best with a bullet-proof vest and if you can really garrote someone with a pearl necklace. Not that I've tried. Well, not recently.
As you may know, Dark Goddess (my new book, are you paying ANY attention?) is inspired by my love of Russian mythology. So it was quite natural I should team up with Joy Preble, author of Dreaming Anastasia and the soon to be released Haunted, stories centred around the doomed Russian princess. They also include Baba Yaga herself! For an old girl, that witch goes get around, doesn't she? I feel all books should contain at least one reference to Baba Yaga. So, Joy and I will chat about what it is that makes the Russia myths so appealing.
And then we have Silver Phoenix. I've never read a book like it. Set in mythical China it's about a teenage heroine, Ai Ling, and her adventures in a fantasy world quite unlike any you've ever read. The author, the glamourous Cindy Pon, will be here, telling us all about it and why, if you can't have Baba Yaga in your book, The Lady in White is a pretty awesome alternative.
Now, to finish, I have a moral tale for you. So sit up straight. There will be times in your life when, unbeknownst to you, you will cross paths with someone who, in the future, will ROCK THE WORLD. It's kind of like meeting JK Rowlings when she was still an Edinburgh housewife and she handed you a copy of a signed first edition Harry Potter and but you didn't have the right change or the queue was too long. My story's a bit like that. Back in BEA 2009 I was busy signing copies of Devil's Kiss when some strange woman with a strange name asked me to sign a copy for her. We chatted, we laughed (mainly about her name), shook hands and off she went. She'd just written a book too but I think my luggage allowance was too high already or something stupid like that but basically I didn't get a copy of hers in return. Which is a damn shame since it turned out to be Wings and debut at 1# in the NYT a few months later.
Suffice it to say I hold onto ALL my signed copies nowadays.
Aprilynne Pike is the final addition to the tour and I'm immensely happy that she's taking part. I bet everyone knows how to spell Aprilynne now.
Brenna Yovanoff. Carrie Ryan. Cindy Pon. Rachel Hawkins. Maggie Stiefvater. Melissa de la Cruz. Ally Carter. Holly Black. Joy Preble and Becca Fitzpatrick. Aprilynne Pike. They'll all be taking part in the 'Kiss Me, Kill Me' series, right here.
Frankly if one of your favourite authors ISN'T on the list above, well you're completely in the wrong place, aren't you?
It all kicks off on Monday 10th January with Maggie Stiefvater.

Monday, 3 January 2011

'Kiss Me, Kill Me' UPDATE!

Well, Dark Goddess is imminent in the US. I'm hoping this may be of some interest to a few of you beyond my immediate family.
A large box of advanced copies of the hardback has arrived in all it's shiny glory and there I am wondering 'yes, well I don't need ALL of them, do I?' though (can I admit this, what the hell, I bet everyone does this) I have a copy of each different version of my books up on the shelf, including spare copies in Polish (if anyone's interested). Is that vain? I kinda wonder if JK Rowlings has, like, a whole library of Harry Potters ranging from translations in Aremenian to Zulu to, er, American to Zimbabwean.
Maybe it's just me.
Where was I? Oh yes. Kissing and killing. Two of my favourite activities, except the killing one, obviously (which, actually, even if I had done, I wouldn't admit, would I? Though given how few people visit the website, who would notice? Except maybe Homeland Security in which case, I'd like to explicitly state I have never done any of the later and frankly not much of the former).
'Oh, for Heavens sake, Sarwat, wasn't the "quit rambling" one of your New Year's Resolutions?'.
No, it wasn't, so stop being a smart alec.
However, what WAS a New Year's Resolution was to embrace* the following YA authors at this here blog:
So, starting THIS Friday 7th Jan 2011 and running EVERY Friday for the next ten, I will be reviewing and interviewing the shining gods of all things YA and paranormal! I guarantee you have their books on your bookshelf and if you don't you will damn soon!
What have I got? Well want to you want?
Yes, yes, VAMPIRES. What a surprise. I know about that already. Then let me tempt you bloody little beasties with Bluebloods, courtesy of the glamourous Melissa de la Cruz. I met Melissa in Orlando as part of the Hyperion posse and she has very kindly taken time out of her busy life of writing, poolside meetings and Hollywood parties to discuss why high fashion and bloodletting go naturally together.
Oh, did someone say ZOMBIES? You there, behind the boy with the sticking-out ears. Well, the BEST zombie book out there right now is The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, isn't it? Well it's damn lucky Carrie a mate of mine. See, I knows famous people. Carrie will be enlightening us with the hungry dead and telling us on what makes her world so uniquely terrifying.
WITCHES? I have witches for you. Rachel Hawkins has written Hex Hall, a home for deliquent spellcasters (and vampires, faeries, ghosts and werewolves too). Creepy, hilarious and spooky, all in equal measure Rachel will explain how bust size is a measure of supernatural power. Like I didn't know that already.
Seriously, is this not fan-boy/girl enough?
Gosh, some people or never happy.
Faeries. Yes, I said faeries. We cater to all tastes. I have a soft spot for faeries, but if they're done properly. That means crib-robbing, cursing and terrorizing the foolish mortals that don't play by their rules. Like they do in a town called Gentry. Brenna Yovanoff's first book, The Replacement (yes, the one with the creepy pram cover) is already a New York Times bestseller. Good thing then she owes me a favour, isn't it?
I think I will leave it there, for now. There are a few more authors who subscribe to the 'Kiss Me, Kill Me' philosophy, and I'll tell you about them later. Suffice to say it will include kick-ass heroines, werewolves, fallen angels and Russian princesses. And there'll be a competition. Like I said, I've a few copies of Dark Goddess to offload.
*When I mean embrace I mean metaphorically, not in either a) a vampiric way sense since I'm not one of the undead or b) in the prelude to kissing sense either, after all my wife does read this blog. Well, she says she does.