Distant Worlds – Welcomes Sophie E Tallis!

This is the eighth post of a brand new blog series, as I dip my toes into the mysterious waters of author interviews – and as today is my birthday (gulp) and the auspicious publishing date for a very cool fantasy/sci-fi charity anthology I’m in (A World Of Their Own), it’s my turn to be in the hot ejector seat!

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 last few weeks I’ve been 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, there are still great bargains to be had, so grab yourself something special before the prices go back to normal! Awesome fiction at awesome prices!!!! hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks 

Right, now to our eighth author interview…epic fantasy writer and illustrator…

Sophie E Tallis

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Sophie, 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?

I always think of Ray Mears here, who undoubtedly would say fresh water, shelter, food and fire would be essentials. So, I’d take my very handy Swiss Army penknife with a ridiculous amount of useful tools in it, a waterproof and spider proof tent (essential for me!), a lighter, plastic bottle for water and warm blanket.  🙂

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

If I couldn’t take my four gorgeous white wolves with me and my family and friends, then I’d have to grab paper, pens, pencils, photos and some kind of music. If I can’t draw or write I’d go crazy pretty quickly and I need to have music.

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

I’m such an anti-social sod, I’d probably enjoy going it alone.

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

It’s almost impossible choosing only 5 books because I love so many, but I’d probably mostly choose the classics, things I know I love already and can read again and again. (There may be some cheating here!)

  1. The Complete works of Philip K Dick (I LOVE ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’, ‘A Scanner Darkly’, but also his short stories are awesome, ‘Minority Report’, ‘Total Recall’)
  2. The Complete works of JRR Tolkien (are you seeing a pattern here?)
  3. The Complete works of Frank Herbert (Dune has proved a very popular choice in these interviews, why? Because it is awesome!)
  4. The Complete works of GRR Martin (these are such large tomes they should keep me going for a while.)
  5. The Complete works of Joseph Conrad (yeap, strange choice perhaps, but I love ‘Heart of Darkness’)

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

I have incredibly eclectic tastes, but will leave out my opera and heavy metal albums.

  1. OK Computer – Radiohead (this was the sound track to my 4 month backpacking trip around New Zealand in 97/98. Awesome band, awesome album.)
  2. Pure Cult – best of The Cult (also part of my NZ soundtrack)
  3. Best of Vaughan Williams – I love Fantastia on a theme of Thomas Tallis, the soundtrack to White Mountain.
  4. Ten – Pearl Jam (great album and a huge part of my student days, when all I listened to was Grunge Rock – Soundgarden, MotherLoveBone, Soul Asylum, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Live…ahhh, the endless lumberjack check shirts, youth angst and long dirty hair!)
  5. Best of Blondie – (I wanted to be Debbie Harry!)

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?

Sadly water. Still can’t drink vodka since my missing 24hour memory gap from a binge when I was 17, and I don’t want Coca-Cola rotten teeth.

Random comet question: If you had to live somewhere else, would you chose Westeros or Middle-Earth?

I think Westeros would be awesome, but as much as I’d like to see myself as a strong survivor mother of dragons type, in reality I’d end up being murdered in about 5 mins by a drunk dwarf or have my head squashed by the Mountain. So I’ll be a coward and will choose a nice quiet corner in Middle-Earth, maybe the Grey Havens, and settle down with a dingy and a fishing rod.

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!

Book 2:

Darkness spreads, as prophetic warnings come to pass and a series of disturbing murders and arson attacks on the world’s great libraries and museums, multiply across the globe.

Morreck the Corruptor, an evil changeling of terrifying strength and sworn enemy of all elder races and humanity alike, has sired a ‘darkling child’, an heir that could bring about the destruction of the world.

The hunt is on and the war to end all wars is about to begin…

How would you choose to spend your time on this distant world?

Drawing, painting if I can make up some pigments from the surrounding materials available, and of course, writing.

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

In no order. My dogs, my family and friends, birdsong and nature in general (especially forests, Dartmoor, blue oceans).

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

Where do I start? Religion, war (often caused by religion or ego), pollution (including crappy reality TV), capitalistic greed and right-wing ***holes (the Tories and Republican Party).

Time-traveller questions (for Dr. Who fans): If you had the chance again to go on this deep space adventure, would you take it?

Yes, I think I would. 🙂

What is the one thing you wish you could turn back time and change?

Wow, there are so many things I wish I could replay and do differently. I don’t dwell on my regrets, life is too short, but…Yes, our struggles and strife make us the people we are, but I think I could have done with less character building and more happiness. I wish I could have stood up to the toxic people in my life earlier, before they caused all the damage they did, especially my ultra-violent alcoholic father, and just told him to…ahem off and then gotten on with my life.

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

Again, its so tricky to pick only 5, I have about 8 indie books on the go at the moment with a TBR pile of gargantuan proportions!

  1. Vortex – by Lindsey J Parsons. I admit that this is a sentimental choice for my dear friend who sadly passed away last year, but it’s also a great book!
  2. In Search of Gods and Heroes – by Sammy HK Smith. I haven’t finished this book yet, yes I’m slow, but it’s a brilliant book already.
  3. The Cooper Promise – Jen Williams. Okay, strictly speaking not an indie author as she is with one of the Big 5 publishers, but she’s a new writer and this was her debut and from what I’ve read…wow!
  4. The Art of Forgetting – by Joanne Hall, another awesome book I have started and am hugely enjoying.
  5. Willow Weep No More – An anthology of dark fairy tales by Tenebris Books, full of real gems.
  6. Yes, it’s my birthday so I’m picking 6 books! Songs of Seraphina – by Jude Houghton. I drew the fantasy map for this book which got me really interested in reading it. I’ve only just started, but it’s great!

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

Put the effort in and don’t rush yourself. Yes, there are plenty of authors out there who can whisk off a new book every few months and good luck to them, if you’re not one of those (which I certainly am not), then don’t rush yourself. Write the very best book you can and worry about time scales later, if it’s good enough it will be worth the wait. Do your research, treat the readers with respect, even if you only use a fraction of that research in your novel, the readers will thank you for putting the effort into your worldbuilding.

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

SAM_5206Sophie E Tallis in her own words…

I won’t use my standard bio because, hey, I’m getting bored of it!

Okay, I’m a glacially slow writer, who loves fantasy, science-fiction and most things of a nerdish nature. After 16 years of full time teaching I’ve swapped 50+ hour weeks, horrible office politics and heavy workloads for part-time, low stress work in a library surrounded by books and lovely people! Do I miss my old job? Er, no! When I’m not working, I’m juggling writing, illustrating and managing a hectic life with my four enormous white wolves who keep life very…ahem, interesting!

My inspirations are life, great writing and the natural world around me.

My publishers, Grimbold Books, well, what can say? I owe them so much. They did a beautiful job on my novel, real care taken and what a gorgeous cover! I won’t hark on about the past, but my first publishers were terrible people to deal with, just a thoroughly horrible, scarring experience, but Grimbold Books and their imprints, Kristell Ink and Tenebris Books couldn’t be more different – professional, author-friendly, honest, just lovely people who have your back and want the best for you and your novel.

My debut novel, epic fantasy, White Mountain, was re-published 1st December 2014 and I’m busy writing the sequel (slowly). I also write short stories and poetry and have 7 short stories being published this year in various anthologies.

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  • A World Of Their Own – An awesome anthology of fantasy, sci-fi and literary short stories by ‘The Alliance of Worldbuilders’ (AWB) is published 4th September 2015 (TODAY!!!!!). ALL profits go to a charity, a very worthy cause – The World Literacy Fund. I have three short stories in the anthology, ‘The Wishing Tree’, ‘Happiness is a lie’, and ‘The Artist’ as well as 6 fab illustrations. Amazon UK  &  Amazon US 
  • H is for HawkesburyH is for Hawkesbury – An anthology of short stories, poetry and novel extracts from the inaugural Hawkesbury Upton Literary Festival, published 19th August 2015. I did the illustration for the front cover and have one of my favourite ‘White Mountain’ excerpts in it – Amazon UK 
  • Fight-Like-A-Girl coverFight Like A Girl – A kick-ass anthology of women writers focusing on strong female protagonists who kick arse. I have an awesome sci-fi short story in this, ‘Silent Running’. To be published Autumn/Winter 2015 by Kristell Ink.
  • The Orphan and the Iron Troll (borderless)Shadows of the Oak – A wonderfully dark collection of equally dark fairy tales and sequel to ‘Willow Weep No More’. I have a magical Russian fairy tale, ‘The Orphan and the Iron Troll’, in this and the illustration I did to go with it. To be published Autumn/Winter 2015 by Tenebris Books.
  • I’ll be a little mysterious now as the details still need to be worked out, but there are two brand new ‘White Mountain’ short stories I’m hoping will tide over fans until Book 2 is ready next year. Very exciting!

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Book Blurb:

A dying world hidden from our own. An ancient people conquered by human progress. A ruthless changeling bent on revenge and power…and a sorcerer and dragon determined to stop him.

Amongst our modern world, lies another. An archaic and hidden world of tradition, sorcery and magic. Lost, long before the last Ice Age and barely surviving beneath the onslaught of human advance, it now faces its greatest challenge and its bitterest enemy.

As dark demons awaken from the past and a series of sinister disappearances and murders plague the secret cities of the few remaining elder tribes, a group of disparate travellers race against time to save a friend and destroy an evil that threatens to swallow us all…

***

Thank you, Sophie. Yes, congratulations, you are survivor! A decrepit mining transport has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xxx

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Sophie’s Adventures in Wonderland – BristolCon 2014

SAM_5104Okay, so before the week comes to a close, I want to share with you all my experiences of being a newbie at my very first convention, BristolCon!

Last weekend I ventured to Bristol, UK, town of my birth, to go to my first convention, BristolCon. It was held at the rather posh Doubletree Hotel (part of the Hilton chain) and has been running for the past six years. Its creator and chairman, fabulous fantasy writer and awesome fellow Grimboldian author, is Joanne Hall.

Joanne Hall & Paul Cornell

Being nervous as hell, the kind of nervous that seems to grow an orange in your throat so you can’t swallow, lose your voice and feel like you might pass out, I pressed on. Not only was it my first sci-fi/fantasy convention, but I would be meeting my lovely publisher too for the very first time, the extraordinary Sammy HK Smith of Grimbold Books & its imprint, Kristell Ink. I was a sweaty mess the moment I turned up, an embarrassing habit I have when very anxious and something I hoped nobody would notice though I was sure everyone would.

The daft thing was, while frantically moping my brow, I needn’t have been so worried. Within minutes my nervousness evaporated and seemed completely out of place in such a friendly environment. Everyone was SO kind, SO welcoming and utterly awesome! In fact within moments my phrase of the day was, “ten buckets of awesome!”

I arrived late, just after 11am, cursing myself for the notorious congested Bristol traffic and just missed Joanne Hall’s reading, something I had desperately wanted to see. With guest badge and lovely goodie bag in hand, which included an awesome free book by one of my favourite authors, Michael Moorcock, and a free Grimbold Books bangle, I headed to my first event – a fascinating discussion on the weather of Middle Earth! SAM_5118 For a nerd like me, it was manna from heaven. It was chaired by Bristol University’s Professor  Dan Lunt, who really brought Tolkien’s magical creation and the science of meteorology together. His climate change computer models were incredible and showed how JRR Tolkien really did have an understanding of geography, geology, meteorology and working eco-systems. Unsurprisingly, Dan Lunt found that the places on Earth most like The Shire, were areas in this country, particularly Lincolnshire and Leicestershire and an area in the south of New Zealand’s South Island. Having spent four months in New Zealand myself, backpacking in 1997/1998 (the inspiration behind my own Darkling Chronicles), I witnessed first hand what an amazing and inspiring place NZ is. The majesty and unspoilt grandeur of its landscape is so perfectly fitted to Tolkien’s Middle Earth. It still blows me away that when I watch the LOTR films, it’s like watching a personal travel movie for me, I see places Peter Jackson used that I actually stood in and that inspired me too, long before the films came into existence!

Anyway, it was a brilliant talk. I particularly loved the fact, that in climate terms and ecology, the place on Earth most like Mordor is…Los Angeles! Oh and in the darkened room, I managed to get away with shouting “Yes!” when I came across the awesome Grimbold Books advert in BristolCon’s lovely programme booklet! SAM_5102

Jim BurnsAfter the talk, I decided to try and find my very good friend and fantasy comic genius, Will MacMillan Jones, but me being me, I got rather side-tracked and ventured into the Art Room. WOW!!!!! Not only were there some seriously awesome artists and pieces of work in there, including canvases and prints by the very talented Evelinn Enoksen, and some very cool armoury, I came across a true genius of the fantasy/sci-fi world, legendary illustrator, Jim Burns! I have been a fan of Jim Burn’s work for many years and here he was in the flesh, surrounded by his astounding work! I was dumbstruck. Eventually I sidled up to him and introduced myself. We chatted for about half an hour. He talked about meeting Ridley Scott just after Alien back in 1979/1980 and how Ridley Scott was in the works to direct Frank Herbert’s epic Dune, a movie later directed by David Lynch. He talked about meeting John Hurt, an alcoholic mess at the time but lovely guy and how after the Dune project fell through, Ridley Scott’s people approached him to see if he would be interested in working on another project, my all-time favourite movie based on one of my all-time favourite books. Yes, I’m talking about Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, made into seminal epic, Blade Runner!!!!!! I was speechless…well, for about ten seconds. BLADE RUNNER!!!!! WOW!!!!!! Jim showed me the artwork used for Deckard’s flying car that he drew. AWESOME!!!! What an amazing artist and what a genuinely lovely chap. Even when our conversation was rudely interrupted by a bloke who clearly had all the social manners of a camel, Jim was the epitome of graciousness, allowing this bloke to talk brashly at him and interrupt everything he said. It didn’t matter, Jim Burns was and is a star! I immediately bought his beautiful book and had him sign it. Wow! It already has pride of place amongst my art books!

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After that, I sort of wandered around in a slight daze until I bumped into a lovely chap called Alistair Sims, who I recognised from chatting to on FB as being the owner of a gorgeous new bookshop in Clevedon, Books On A HillSAM_5025 We got chatting and went into the dealer’s room for me to find and introduce him to my friend, Will MacMillan Jones, who was one of the dealer’s at BristolCon, selling his very funny books, The Banned Underground, which had Jasper Fforde no less complimenting him on! And there in front of Will, in his cool ‘Man from Del Monte’ hat, was my lovely publisher and fellow fantasy writer, the irrepressibly cool, Sammy HK Smith and fellow Grimbold author, the wonderful Irish firestorm (and my personal Sat-Nav), Robyn Jane Fulton aka Ellen Croshain! What lovely lovely people!! Despite my sometimes loud and apparent bubbly exterior (having been a teacher for 16yrs you automatically learn to hide yourself behind facades of smiles and confidence, you couldn’t do the job otherwise), but in reality, I am actually very VERY shy and not confident at all. So for me, meeting new people is always a big thing and something I’m not terribly good at. But immediately I felt so comfortable around them and instantly really liked them both. Phew! Lol, I cannot tell you how different Sammy is from my last publishers, not just in how professional she is (she knows everyone and everything!) but in how friendly, honest, open, fun and just awesome she is. We all hugged. I’d known Sammy, a fellow AWB member (Alliance of Worldbuilders) since the Alliance started back on HarperCollins Authonomy in 2010, but it was so great to finally meet my gorgeous friend in person! 😀 Ellen, Sophie, Sammy

SAM_5018After chatting ten to the dozen, I followed my new friends through BristolCon’s plethora of wondrous tables, rooms and events. We ended up going to another panel, called ‘Influences on Authors’, (with Paul Cornell, Joanne Hall, Piotr Swietleik, John Baverstock and Jessica Rydill) which was a brilliant, spirited and humorous discussion which came up with some very unexpected topics, including Dan Brown and JK Rowling (both of whom I’m not fans of) and how different influences affect each author’s writing and their own personal ‘voice’. Listening to Joanne Hall on the panel, was a treat, and after the event I finally got to meet her!!! An amazing author and all round fantasy/sci-fi queen, I was utterly in awe of how she organises and runs this brilliant con, lol, I can hardly organise my bedroom! It’s funny what a small world it is though, I’d actually known Jo and been friendly with her for years on Authonomy, knowing her under the name of Hierath to my Tollam. It was only last year when I finally realised that Hierath and Joanne Hall were one and the same person! In amongst the audience, I also noticed another familiar face wearing a T-shirt with a quote you can’t easily forget, “Like the Wizard of Oz, only with whores and gore!” from Prince of Fools. I asked Sammy to confirm it, yes, it was Mark Lawrence! (the one in the white T-shirt in the background behind Alistair) SAM_5021

We headed back to the bar, where Sammy introduced a very shy me to an equally shy Mark Lawrence, he of the staggeringly successful Broken Empire series that has been giving GRR Martin a run for his money! I was rather in awe of Mark I don’t mind admitting and made some daft reference to him wearing a cooler T-shirt than mine (which he was). We left him and sat down giggling like naughty school children and made poor Alistair blush with our moomin (boob-age) antics! Lol, already I’d noticed how wearing my White Mountain dragon sketch emblazoned across my boobs, drew a LOT of attention! The sentinels

After some more giggles and serious writing chat, we ventured back into the con and went to see ‘The Fragmentation of Fandom’ discussion panel with, amongst others, Jasper Fforde! Ummmmm…definitely my ‘dish of the day’! I’m aware that I should have been listening to him but was just staring. Oh dear! We then grabbed a load of fabulous free books from the table outside and also met the lovely Karoliina Leikomaa who had been on the panel for Fragmentation of Fandom too and fantasy writer and reviewer, Sarah Jane Higbee, who had also been a teacher!

We retreated back to the bar and after drinks and shared chips, yum yum, we met the deliriously witty Anne-Mhairi Simpson who introduced us to her awesome card game, ‘Be the Bard’! What hysterics!!!! 😀

I cannot tell you what fun I had and just how daft I was to be so nervous.

BristolCon is TEN BUCKETS OF AWESOME and so are all the people I meet, especially my new and old friends. I shall definitely be making BristolCon a date in my diary EVERY year from now on. An absolute must for all fantasy/sci-fi fans, writers, readers and lovers of great literature and dark thrilling tales!

Highlights? All of it!

See you guys next year! 😀 xxx

SAM_5114Fenn endorsing Grimbold Books!SAM_5014Influences panel