Distant Worlds – Welcomes Katie Alford!

This is the sixth post of a brand new blog series, as I dip my toes into the mysterious waters of author interviews.

Having watched so many fantastic interviewers (Tricia Drammeh and her Authors to Watch, AFE Smith (see below), Katrina Jack and her New Authors section and Susan Finlay’s Meet the Author to name a few of the best – please check out their wonderful blogs), I’ve always been a little reluctant to throw my hat into the ring…but here goes!

One of my all-time favourite worldbuilding PC games, is Sid Meier’s ‘Alpha Centauri’. So, in homage to that (and a shameless rip off of BBC Radio 4’s ‘Desert Island Discs’ and AFE Smith’s brilliant blog series Barren Island Books), here is my own author interview series – Distant Worlds.

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To kick off the Distant Worlds strand, over the next few weeks I will be focusing on fellow fantasy and sci-fi authors from ultra-cool UK publishing house, Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books – a bunch of uber talented and whacky characters who I am also proud to call friends.

Grimbold Books were also doing a fabulous ‘Summer Promotion’ from 31st July – 4th August, where ALL of its wonderful titles were priced at only 99p/99c across Amazon platforms. Now, although the promotion is now over, check out their titles to still grab a great bargain before the prices go back to normal! Awesome fiction at awesome prices!!!!

hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks

Right, now to our sixth author interview…the cosmically awesome and talented…

Katie Alford

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Katie, YOU find yourself cast adrift in deep space, your colony pod’s life support is failing, your only chance of survival is a distant habitable world…

What 5 essentials would you choose to help you survive?

A hunting rifle, although I probably wouldn’t hit anything with it. A lighter, a must for lighting fires to cook the beasts caught with the rifle. A homing beacon, how else will I eventually get rescued? An axe, to chop down trees and make a shelter/ fence to keep away any savage alien beasts. Rope, to tie the shelter together. We’ve all learnt from poor Eeyore that just piling logs together never ends well.

What 5 personal items would you salvage from your crashed ship before it explodes?

My chocolate stash – It would probably feed me for a month. My laptop – Can’t live without that. A solar powered charger for said laptop, otherwise it wouldn’t last long. My phone, I have a number of unread e books on it which should keep my entertained until rescue. My teddy bear, because I’ve had her since I was born and would hate for her to go up in flames. Plus, should I be attacked by a savage alien beast I could use her as bait, sneak around behind said beast and blast its head off.

Would you seek life-forms for help or go it alone?

Depends how attractive they are. A little eye candy would make being marooned more bearable.

What 5 fantasy/sci-fi books would you have to keep with you and why?

  1. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Oh, damn it! I forgot my towel.The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkozski. I’ve got no interesting excuse for this one.
  2. The thickest Twilight book, because I’ll be needing something to light the fire with.
  3. One of the Disc World novels. I can’t choose a favourite that would damn my soul forever. I’d grab whichever one is closest to hand.
  4. The Day of the Triffids, because after rereading that book my situation wouldn’t seem so bad.

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

  1. Queen’s Greatest Hits, so I can rock out the new world.
  2. The Heart of Everything by Within Temptation
  3. Cult by Apocalyptica
  4. Dark Passion Play by Nightwish
  5. The Macarena, because it would be fun to teach the dance to the native inhabitants and then upload the video to you tube when I get back, because let’s face it, aliens dancing the Macarena is sure to go viral.

You are all alone on a distant world with little chance of being rescued…do you choose water, vodka or coca-cola to drown your sorrows?

Coco-cola because caffeine is a necessity for a writer. I couldn’t possibly live without it.

Random comet question: Bella or Katniss?

Who is Bella and Katniss? Are they going to eat me for not knowing?

You have 30 seconds (max 100 words) to tell the alien approaching you about your latest book. Remember this is more pressurised than an elevator pitch – screw up and he’ll eat your brains! Go!

It’s a tale of two great powers in time: Atlantis with their academics and time conservation teams and the Norse, a new rising power. The Norse’s emergence sends technological ripples out through the time steam, disturbing its peaceful waters and diverting the flow through some of the most pivotal moments in history.  After decades of quiet time watching, the Atlanteans are caught off guard by the violent changes surging down the time stream, threatening to destroy all known civilisations, even that of Atlantis itself. The Atlanteans soon find themselves battling not just to save the world but also its history. Yes, I was sad enough to make it exactly 100 words…

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

Fast food outlets, I don’t think they deliver to deep space. Google Maps, very useful in avoiding getting lost. Steam Store, how am I supposed to buy new games without it? Computer repair shop, when I inevitable drop my laptop into viscous goo and realise there’s nowhere to get it fixed in deep space. The super market, because hunting beasts to live is hard work.

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

Cold callers – Haha! Can’t get me here! Party political broadcasts, if I want to indulge in a blatant work of fiction I’ll watch a film. Apple products – IPhones and IPads should all be shot into the nearest black hole. Frozen, because nearly every post on my facebook page mentions it and I don’t have children so I should be sheltered from it.

Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans):What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change?

I would go back in time and tell myself to pick up my Magic the Gathering decks as well before jumping into the life pod.

If you had the chance again to go on this deep space adventure, would you take it?

Depends how attractive the aliens are really.

What 5 indie authors and books you would recommend to any carbon based lifeform – and why?

Well there are my favourite two Kristell Ink Books, In Search of Gods and Heroes By Sammy HK Smith and Darkspire Reaches by CN Lesley.

Terry K Simpson has written many fine books including his The Quintessence Cycle Series. How he manages to churn so many out, I’ve yet to discover.

Kat Hawthorne is a very talented writer and has had both novels and a number of short stories published. Her website also looks fantastic.

And last but not least, the latest Kristell Ink release Green Sky and Sparks by Kate Coe. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m sure it’s fantastic.

What advice can you give to fellow space travellers (writers and readers) out there?

Just because everyone else has read a certain book, it doesn’t mean you have to read it too.

Before we leave you and blast into another parallel universe, please tell us about yourself, your inspirations and your publishers!

PhotoKMAlford2Katie Alford in her own words…

I write fantasy Sci-Fi and Steampunk and love playing computer games, strictly for inspirational purposes of course. I’m also a Digital Artist and create both 2D and 3D Computer Generated art. I even modelled and animated my own book trailer found here: Book Trailer

My publisher is Grimbold Books which have published many exceptionally good titles. You can browse them right here: Grimbold Books

Bio:

Katie was born in London and raised in Bristol. After a number of years in Middlesbrough, where she gained three degrees in 3d modelling and digital art subjects, she moved back to London, where she currently resides.

She loves playing computer games, watching anime and art and writing. She is a member of both the Kingswood Writers Group and the Greenacre Writers Group, who run the annual Finchley Literary Festival. She is really good at starting novels but not so good at finishing them, with her in progress works now into double figures.

As a day job, she works as an admin assistant which gives her many boring hours to contemplate her evening’s writing. She has won a number of short story competitions but recently realised it was taking precious time away from her novel writing and so stopped entering them, but she does now sometimes judge them instead.

The current genres she has written works in include fantasy, sci fi, steampunk, dark fantasy, folklore and detective and she has recently dabbled a bit in poetry, she is not intending to take that any further, it just seemed a good idea at the time.

Amazon UK

Amazon US

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Latest Book Blurb:

For over a hundred years Atlantis, a culture of academics, has ruled the flow of time. It’s only travellers, they sought to conserve its flow and research and document the many cultures that span it. During that time, the only ripples threatening disturbance were the mischievous pranks of a few rebellious teenagers. In particular, those of a Hayden Edward Lywen whose constant pranks kept the Department of Time Conservation or DTC in high anxiety as their overworked operative Professor Lokyne was forced to run back and forth through time, restoring the timeline again and again.

Tired and rundown by the constant battle with his students, little did Lokyne know that he would soon be yearning the simplicity of dealing with rowdy teenagers. As a threat soon emerged far beyond those he’d dealt with before; a threat that would rewrite the whole of known history and plunge Atlantis into a war for which they were ill equipped and inexperienced. Can Atlantis find a way to fight back in time to stop their own culture being wiped from history, or is a new era dawning, as all cultures will eventually come to an end?

***

Oh look, is that a rescue ship I see? I hope it reaches me before that pack of vicious, alien wildlife catches up with me. I guess I ate too many of their friends.

Lol, thank you, Katie. Yes, congratulations, you are survivor! A passing medical frigate has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

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Publication Day!!!!!

Lol, okay, I’m already late I know, but it’s taken me nearly a week to process what’s happened!

My epic fantasy, White Mountain, the first of my Darkling Chronicles trilogy, was brilliantly published by Kristell Ink Publishing and Grimbold Books last week on 1st December 2014!!!!

To say I’m ecstatic would be a gross understatement, kind of like saying that George Lucas is only vaguely fond of science fiction!

My wonderful new publishers are a world, in fact, a galaxy far far away from what I had encountered previously and the level of dedication, hard work, expertise and passion with which they have approached the publishing of White Mountain, is more than I could ever have hoped for. From the attention to detail, the editing, the formatting, the layout, the beautiful calligraphy, not to mention the AWESOME original artwork commissioned for the AWESOME new cover!!! Wow! I’ve gone from hell to heaven in one leap!

White Mountain full book jacket

I won’t dwell on the past two years, mostly because this is an incredibly happy time and I don’t want to miss a blissful second of it! I’m humble and thankful beyond words, but mostly, for the first time in ages, I am really truly excited, thrilled and proud to have my novel, a book that took ten years in the writing and researching, finally published as it always should have been!

So, before I continue gushing all over your lovely carpet, what is the book actually about?

Well, beyond the plot itself, a struggle for survival against all odds, the courage it takes to stay the course and an epic showdown between good versus evil, the book is also about identity.

Wendya Undokki

Yes, it’s an epic fantasy in the old-fashioned ‘high fantasy’ tradition, but the themes run deeper than just the action. Throughout the book, the primary issues are around identity, how do we define it, define ourselves? Are we fated to repeat history, to be slaves to our genes? What defines family? Is it the people we are related to through blood that constitute a family or the people we choose to have in our lives, people we love and trust? I have my own personal reasons for being interested in that subject matter. I have said on more than one occasion that I identify with Wendya the most, for many of the same conflicted, complicated reasons.

The book deals with another of my passions, the transformative nature of the world we live in today. Our disappearing natural planet mirrors the growing confines that many of the main characters find themselves in. Humanity is everywhere, how does an ancient pre-existing culture hope to continue surviving, in secret, under such overwhelming pressures? How can the world continue as it is, with the current level of wanton destruction? In many ways the disintegration of the natural world perfectly reflects the disintegration of the characters own archaic civilisation, long past its prime and teetering on the edge of extinction.

I don’t hate every aspect of modern life, like Tolkien generally did, how could I? Where would I be without my blog, my TV, my modern comforts?

But like so many of us armchair activists, I worry for the planet’s future, for nature and the few wild places left. Even in the small rural idyll where I grew up, the bluebell wood at the bottom of the road that I used to play bare foot in, with the little twisting stream running through it, was torn up and replaced by ten ugly Barratt houses. Instead of building much needed houses on brown field sites crying out for rejuvenation or renovating the UK’s many abandoned buildings, our precious woodlands and green spaces are being carved up.

Once lost, those precious green spaces are lost forever.

The Grey Forest

Again, loss is a running theme too. Something we all experience to varying degrees and something that each of the characters have certainly experienced. Loss is as much a part of life as life itself, it is something that can define us, if we let it, or spur us on to achieve our goals while we still have time.

Lol, I’m sounding terribly serious here when I don’t mean to be. The novel has humour and lightness, particularly in the running banter between the characters, but in many ways it is an exploration of the state of humanity through a fantasy lens. That’s probably my favourite genre, not just fantasy, but ‘magic realism’, the blending of the real world with the fantastical one.

Anyway, enough pontificating. Here is a small excerpt from White Mountain, hope you enjoy it! 😀 xxx

*****

The midday sun passed into a hazy afternoon. The last soldiers descended, and the host were on their way again, marching at a great pace to recover lost time. The landscape changed around them. Flat plains and rambling hills of tussock gave way to gnarled weather-beaten rock and thicket beds, their needle like thorns starkly black against the grey granite.

The ground sloped steadily downward before levelling, where the barren expanses of rock fell away into mud, reed and bog. They had reached the Shudras, the silent marshes.

Slimy quagmires stretched out before them as an endless sea. Troughs of stagnant water riddled their way into hazardous deep pools. Foul smelling vapours rose from the ground in choking clouds. The thought of crossing such a place lowered all their spirits.

“This was once a wondrous land,” Hallm said. “These were the water-meadows of the great Kara Kara River. The pure waters fed Fendellin’s rarest orchids here. Grass-pipers, willow larks and meadow-cranes, flitted amongst its grasses. Now, its foul mud clogs every channel and tributary with stagnant filth. Its water sprites and larks have long departed.”

“Our beasts cannot cross this!” King Baillum declared raising his hand. “The pathways should be clear at this time of year. This is the only passage through the swamps…the waters have risen! Another evil M’Sorreck has perpetrated on this land. If we try passing, we shall lose many good horses. Certainly, the wagons cannot cross.”

“How far do these marshes stretch?” Korrun asked Hallm.

“Eight and ten leagues at the shortest crossing, which is here,” he replied.

The King’s stoicism gave way to anger. “How could this happen? We sent scouts ahead to gauge the terrain. Why did they not report this? Bring them here!” he demanded.

Frell whispered into his father’s ear. The dwelf watched the King’s face change, an unmistakable flash of shock. The news was not good. Korrun glanced at Wendya and the wizard. As if reading his mind, Gralen stepped forward.

“If wheels are no use, wings will have to do,” he said boldly. “My kin can take the wagons and the oxen if the rest of you can find a way through?”

Korrun smiled. “He is right, Sire. If the fÿrrens can carry the heavier loads, we should be able to cross. I am a tracker and used to finding lost pathways. I’m sure we can find a way.”

“And if the horses are lost?”

“Then my kindred will have more burdens to bear,” replied Gralen simply. “A dworll is lighter than an ox!”

King Baillum managed a brief smile. “No obstacles too great? We shall see,” he said beckoning to Sedgewick above.

Sedgewick and the other dragons swooped down to carry the various wagons and carts, siege-rams and battle gear, too heavy for the marshes. The most careful dragons carried the nervous beasts, zebu, water buffalo and battle oxen, the eighteen leagues north, to dry land.

Following Korrun and Hallm, the army began their arduous crossing of the Shudras.

It was well into the night before the last exhausted traveller reached the delights of hard ground once more. They set up camp, the slimy mud and stench of the marshes clinging to each bedraggled member as an unwelcome reminder of the day. A deep unease fell on them.

Korrun sat quietly by one of the campfires, listening to Lord Tollam and Hallm speculate, in hushed tones on the battle to come.

“It could be a Hal’Torren’s choice all over again,” Hallm commented.

The other dworlls nodded grimly.

“Hal’Torren’s choice? What’s that?” Korrun asked.

Hallm shrugged. “It’s any situation where the outcome is pre- determined or unavoidable, and usually terrible.”

Lord Tollam poked the fire, his violet eyes reflecting the glimmer of the flames. “It is an old legend, but a true story. Hal’Torren was a nobleman, strong, incorruptible, a hero and leader to his people. He lived in Oralam, a beautiful city once. One day he returned home to find his family held hostage by his sworn enemy, M’Sorreck. Hal’Torren loved his family deeply, his wife, his three young children. He offered his life in exchange for theirs. But Morreck wanted something far more precious. He wanted to break Hal’Torren utterly.” Tollam sighed. “No matter what he did, how he bartered and begged, Hal’Torren was given a dreadful choice. Watch ten thousand of his own people perish, innocent children and families like his own, to save just one member of his family, or save his people and watch all his family die. Now Hal’Torren was a great leader, and he loved his people, but like any father, how could he sacrifice his own family?”

Korrun looked at the wise old dworll. “What did he choose?”

“To condemn ten thousand souls to a grisly death, to save one of his family.” He shook his head. “Then he had to make the worst choice of all…which member of his family to save. That is Hal’Torren’s choice. It is no choice at all. You are damned whichever path you take!”

“How did it end?” the dwelf asked quietly.

Lord Tollam sighed and glanced at his son as if thanking the gods that he never had to face such a choice. “Tragically of course…he chose to save his daughter, the youngest of his three children. They were then forced to watch his wife and two sons being murdered before them. Naturally, it traumatised the young girl. Only a few years later her father found her hanging from a willow tree. He promptly hung himself beside her. You see why Hal’Torren’s choice is impossible. Save one, sacrifice others, condemn yourself.”

“Morreck is a fengal beast, a monster!” Korrun said through gritted teeth.

“Yes, of the worst kind…” replied Tollam.

Hallm looked at his father for a moment then turned to the dwelf. “Have you ever faced a Hal’Torren’s choice?” he asked.

Korrun shifted uneasily, his face half hidden in shadow. “Once,” he whispered.

“What happened?” Hallm asked, trying to hide his surprise.

The dwelf stood up, his eyes lost in the fire. “I made the wrong choice,” he said simply, then turned and left.

*****

Fendellin and the Encircling Mountains

White Mountain cover

White Mountain full book jacket