Distant Worlds – Welcomes Katrina Jack!

This is the sixteenth outing of a new blog series, as I dabble 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 (yes, the interview goddess herself is being interviewed this week!) 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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The Distant Worlds strand started a few months ago, 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. Check out their cool titles while they’re still at bargain prices! hyperurl.co/GrimboldBooks 

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A World Of Their Own – an awesome anthology of fantasy, sci-fi and literary short stories, with ALL profits going to charity!

But now we’re branching out and will be zoning in on an extraordinary group of people, The Alliance of Worldbuilders (AWB), who I am also VERY proud to call close friends.

The AWB – a bunch of uber-talented fantasy and sci-fi writers and artists who met on the HarperCollins writing site, Authonomy, back in 2010. We formed The Alliance of Worldbuilders, a friendly, inclusive and wacky group and our collective friendships have seen us through some very hard times, including the sad loss of one of our own, Lindsey J Parsons. In honour of Lindsey, our dear friend who tragically died in January 2014, the AWB have created an awesome anthology of short stories, which was published in glorious paperback and e-book on 4th September 2015! It makes the perfect prezzie and ALL profits go to charity, the World Literacy Fund, fighting illiteracy around the world, so grab a great book and help a great cause too! Amazon UK & Amazon US

Right, now to our sixteenth author interview, and our forth AWB interview, the Midnight Marauder herself, Queen of interviews and dark urban fantasy, the wonderful…

Katrina Jack

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Katrina, 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?

Hmm, only 5? Hard to choose. Well first would have to be my laptop, so I could write about what I see. Then there’s my cat, Meg, for company. I’d also have to have a box of cat food, ‘cos she nags incessantly to be fed. I’d also have to have a pad and pen to make notes about my adventure. Oh, and several bars of chocolate.

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

My Kindle, can’t live without that. My comfy slippers, ‘cos I have flat feet. My leopard print pyjamas; alright, I’ve got no taste, but I like ‘em. My favourite fluffy blanket, and last, but not least, a family sized bottle of diet Pepsi.

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

I probably would seek out other life-forms, but I’d watch them from a distance for a while, to see if they were friendly or likely to bite my head off.

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

Oh it’d have to be any of Terry Pratchett’s discworld novels, because they make me laugh and his characters are fantastic. And a book I’ve recently discovered, via the TV series, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. The series was fantastic. For once the BBC had actually spent money, as the production values were superb. The book is beautifully written, with vivid characterisation and marvellous narrative and dialogue.

What 5 songs or albums could you not live without?

Holst’s Planet Suite, Meat Loaf’s Bat out of Hell, Roy Orbison’s Pretty Woman, Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick, and Nat King Cole’s Unforgettable.

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?

No brainer – vodka.

Random comet question: If you could live in any fictional world, what would it be and why?

I’d live in Ankh-Morpork, a fabulous city, on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. Why? Because it’s a crazy, hilarious place filled with magic. mayhem & wizards.

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! 

Okay. My latest book, still a work in progress, is called Elawyn’s Song, book one in The Songstress Trilogy. Basically this is a follow on from The Silver Flute Trilogy. It details the journey of Elawyn, who possess a singing voice so pure, it can cause cities to topple. At the end of the last book of The Silver Flute Trilogy, Elawyn has been contaminated by demon blood and must find a way to cure herself.

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

Reading, writing and eating chocolate.

What 5 things would you miss most about Earth?

The parks around where I live. My brother. My house. My friends. Social media.

What 5 things would you NOT miss about Earth?

The place where I work, although I like the people I work with. All the bloody stupid wars that are going on. Social inequality. Politics. The banking system.

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

The loss of my father.

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

Yes, I think I would. They do say travel broadens the mind and mine’s on the verge of stagnation at the moment.

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

Your good self, as White Mountain is a wonderfully epic journey of a read. The characters are literally magic, and the illustrations superb. Tricia Drammeh, for the same reason. I’ve read book 1 in her Spellbringers series, Spellbound, an absolutely gripping, paranormal story. Jane Dougherty’s The Dark Citadel, book 1 of her The Green Woman series. Set in a dystopian world, it’s a magnificent blend of myth and legend. The Binding, by Sam Dogra. An unusual tale of a girl’s struggle to lead her own life and the often traumatic journey she takes to try and achieve this. And last, but not least, our dear friend, Lyndsey Parson’s Vortex, Return of the Effra. A beautiful classic fantasy. The story is split between this world and one filled with fantastical creatures that seize the reader’s imagination and carry it away into a wonderful blend of war, romance and adventure.

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

I always give the same advice: craft your work until it shines, and most importantly, never give up on your dream. As for readers, if you like a book, leave a review.

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

kjKatrina in her own words…

Well, I’m a fifty something year old woman. I’m single and I reside in the city of my birth, Liverpool, and the source of most of my inspiration, along with different types of music. The inspiration for Land of Midnight Days, and subsequently the other two books, came from The Littlewoods building in Liverpool and a Jethro Tull album. I’ve written since I was aged about fourteen and could read before I even started school. I have three books published, by Ecanus Publishing under the Banner heading The Silver Flute Trilogy. The genre is YA urban fantasy and they’re available from:

Waterstones

Katrina’s Amazon UK Author Page

Katrina’s Amazon US Author Page

Bio:

I began writing many years ago and Land of Midnight Day was my first published work. A few years back I had a bit of a windfall and invested some of it in obtaining a degree in creative writing at Liverpool John Moores University.

Although I primarily write urban fantasy, I also enjoy other genres, such as murder mysteries, romance and biographies. My favourite authors, in the fantasy genre are: Robin Hobb, Jim Butcher, David Gemmell, Jack Vance and many more.

I was born in October 1956, in the wonderful city of Liverpool, at the now demolished hospital known as Sefton General, which was so ill equipped in those days, that my poor mother’s drip was hung from an old broom pole! Talk about the lap of luxury, eh? 

I still live in Liverpool, in an area rich in public gardens and parks, plus a cemetery and a crematorium – great for inspiration, believe it or not. Included in some of the wonderful historical buildings in the area, is the mansion house known as Allerton Hall, former home of Richard Lathom, who fought as a Royalist during the civil war and is a grade II listed building. It makes a guest appearance in my novel, under a different guise of course.

dawn horizonLatest Book Blurb

Jeremiah has at last reached the end of a long road, which has led him from his native city, into the Gloaming and ended in the Midnight Land itself. Despair, tragedy, and the precious silver flute, have accompanied him every step of the way. 

He must now face up to whatever awaits him there – good or bad. No matter what the outcome is, he must close the gates to the Midnight Land and restore freedom to, not only his own world, but all the others weighed down by the oppression of evil. 

Will he succeed?

Katrina’s other fabulous books:

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Thank you, Katrina. Congratulations, you are survivor! A passing military frigate has honed in on your distress beacon, you’re going home!!!

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Happy Horizons! 😀 xx

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Great days are made of Hay!

Firstly, apologies for the length of this blog post…but I had so much to share…!

On Sunday 24th May I had the great fortune to visit my beloved Hay-on-Wye again, nestled deep in the Welsh and Herefordshire countryside (it straddles the border between England & Wales), for their world-famous literary festival, The Hay Festival.

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It was a truly wonderful and exhausting day, tinged with great delights and just a little bittersweet sorrow. For it was almost exactly three years ago that I last visited the Hay Festival, as I did on Sunday, with my good friend and fellow fantasy writer, Will Macmillan Jones, and it was on this occasion, three years ago, that we saw the wonderful Sir Terry Pratchett on what turned out to be his very last appearance at Hay and one if not the, last public appearance before his untimely and sad passing earlier this year. I remember the event well, Will being a truly gifted comic fantasy writer akin in many ways to Terry Pratchett, his hero, was particularly excited to see the great man as was I. Sir Terry was witty, erudite, bracingly honest and, quite understandably given the nature of his condition and imminent demise, more than a little wistful and reflective. We noted that trademark and cutting sense of humour which was so prevalent in his work, but was now tinged with a grimness, a reality of the brevity of life perhaps. And so, coming back to Hay for the first time since that auspicious visit, brought the enormity of losing such a literary giant into clear focus. He was a man of many talents and his legacy will outlive us all.

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For this year’s visit, despite the sad memories of three years ago, I was very excited to see one of my favourite writers, Kazuo Ishiguro. I had read ‘Remains of the Day’ and ‘Never Let Me Go’, some time ago, and yes, saw the ubiquitous movies, and loved them. I was not to be disappointed. Kazuo Ishiguro proved to not only be an extraordinarily talented writer, but a genuinely lovely human being. Honest, warm, and completely open, he seemed amazed and genuinely humbled by his own success and quite baffled about how he has arrived where he has. Not a hint of complacency or arrogance.

SAM_7052He spoke in the main Tata Tent on stage to TV & radio presenter, Martha Kearney, a woman I knew well from various arts programmes and the whole conversation was televised. I was pleased to be sitting at the back behind the whirling TV cameras, and despite being so far away from the stage, we had a great view!

SAM_7054Kazuo Ishiguro spoke about his newest book, ‘The Buried Giant’, and the elements which permeate his work, the quietness, stillness with emotions bubbling under the surface, which is the trademark of his writing. He spoke about things unsaid, how we all have such buried giants in our lives, and whether we should speak about such experiences openly, good and bad, or self-censor ourselves, a kind of collective amnesia to allow us to continue in our daily lives rather than be caught up in the pains of the past. Should we remember everything regardless of the consequences? It’s a powerful notion. After all, although ‘The Buried Giant’ is not an overtly allegorical tale, none the less, the author spoke about conflicts such as the Rwandan Genocide and the Yugoslavian War, where neighbours had lived in relative peace despite their religious or cultural differences for years until suddenly a catalyst, a memory, an event had sparked hostility long harboured but buried, and the outcome of that Buried Giant was the slaughter of thousands and the disintegration of the country.

SAM_7056Is it good to remember or better to forget?

Interesting notions to be sure. I found myself conflicted over it. Certainly I have witnessed and been a part of a very traumatic past, full of personal tragedies and barbarity, things that scar, things that are best forgotten in order to try to move on and form some semblance of a future, of a future happiness. Churning up such painful memories for me, are not entirely helpful. I lived those events that made me who I am, I survived them and talked about them infinitum afterwards, but at some point a form of amnesia is helpful, a means of wiping the slate clean and starting again. In my case, new home, new location, new name. But certainly I found it a mesmeric and remarkably personal talk.

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Another of Kazuo’s wonderful observations and one which most of my fellow fantasy writers will wearily nod their heads in agreement at, was the acute prejudice Kazuo Ishiguro faced when he told people that his next novel was going to be a fantasy book! He injected the conversation with humour, saying how unprepared he had been for the sheer level of prejudice he found against ogres. He talked about the inherent dangers in people being pigeon-holed into only writing in a certain genre, and how freeing it was and necessary to cross those invisible genre boundaries. Quite rightly, he talked about how people took the ‘rules’ of their chosen genre far too seriously and that he didn’t want to adhere to any restrictive and creative constrictive rules. Good for him! Yes, I see myself as primarily a fantasy writer, but I also write sci-fi, literary, children’s and poetry, and I hate some of the rigid made up ‘rules’ which others always want to adhere to those of us who write in those genres. I love the freedom of Ishiguro, that he defies such constrictions and instead writes about themes which inspire him, whether it falls into the category of literary, historical or sci-fi fiction. These genre boundaries are primarily there for marketing purposes by publishers after all.

SAM_7048It was refreshing and enlightening to hear. But yes, myself and Will certainly pricked our ears up when Kazuo described the snobbery and prejudice against the fantasy genre, as of course, most fantasy writers have experienced this, how somehow the fantasy genre is frowned upon as being a lesser form of writing than crime, sci-fi, historical etc., that somehow it is only the domain of the childish and illiterate.

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SAM_7002After the event, Will and I raced to the festival bookshop to meet Kazuo in person. While he was graciously signing my books, I asked him the question again and he elaborated, that yes, he had been hugely taken aback by the level of prejudice in the book industry against the fantasy genre and fantasy writers, that so many people had been surprised by his wanting to write in that genre! In fact, Kazuo went on to say that he was actually writing a newspaper article about it along with a prominent fantasy writer! SO great to have a light shone on this subject at last. SAM_7075

Great writing is great writing, regardless of genre!

Lol, anyway, I digress. It was fantastic meeting Kazuo and being able to chat to him for a little while, a real gentleman and such a genuinely lovely person. I marvel at his talent, and certainly hope to achieve even a little of his quality and success in my own writing.

Another funny moment, was Ishiguro talking about how he had always thought that writers peaked at 45 (so I only have a few years left!), and that all their greatest work, their seminal pieces had been written before this time…he then went on to say, that as he had now passed 60 yrs, he was rethinking this! 😀

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After our fabulous Kazuo Ishiguro event, we continued to wander around the Hay Festival. So many events going on, the whole place was buzzing. Musicians on tom-tom drums, SAM_7023Romany caravans, fluttering flags that gave the whole place a Tibetan feel, bohemian artists around every corner and to suit every taste, from street art to posh galleries, children events to the most intellectual fair. A heady mix of art & culture under canopies of white. The sky threatened rain, but the rains held off and in dazzling moments of perfect sunshine, I defy anyone not to think they had risen to Elysium!

SAM_7007Just before we left, to take the shuttle bus into the town itself and ensconce ourselves in their beautiful bookshops, I took a photo which for me perfectly encapsulated the Hay Festival experience – a woman fast asleep in a deck chair in the blustery sunshine, surrounded by bibliophiles of every age, total heady exhaustion!

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We headed into Hay-on-Wye. The first sight was a little dismaying though, for amongst the plethora of bookshops which over the years I have visited so many times, there were noticeable gaps. Yes, even in a book heaven and haven like Hay, at least two bookshops had closed, replaced by clothes and odds & ends shops. We’ve all heard the disturbing news of bookshops closing around the country, but to have at least two (I suspect three) independent and antiquarian bookshops close in Hay-on-Wye of all places, filled me with dread. I ask all of my friends out there, by all means by your kindle editions from Amazon, but please, PLEASE support your local independent bookshop! If you don’t support your local bookshop, frankly, it may not be there for many more years and what a poorer world we would have as a result!

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We wandered in and out of the bookshops, the posh expensive one, the cheap as chips one, the Hay castle one (on a wonderful honesty basis), and my favourite, The Hay-on-Wye Booksellers! Yes, I totally blew my book budget and bought loads! I couldn’t help it. Although my feet were aching with a dull persistence, the nooks and crannies of this shop held me in sway, around every corner was a little gem, a little undiscovered beauty…ah! I wish you could see and smell the pages, the leather bindings, gold leaved embossing, the parchments, the buckram coverings, the slightly imperfect spines, the whole experience….sheer book bliss!

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What a thoroughly lovely day….I must mention that we popped into Shepherds, the most gorgeous ice-cream parlour, something straight out of a Neapolitan street, all rounded art deco glass front, high lacquered countertops and mosaic tiled floors, with the scent of espresso in the air! It was, without doubt, the best ice-cream I have ever tasted outside of Italy itself, only later did I find out that this family firm was venerated by many others (besides my taste-buds) and made their delicious ice-creams from sheep’s milk! Wow and yummy! SAM_7096

All in all, it was one of those magical days that come along so seldom. Great company and great culture colliding into one utopian day that left me utterly exhausted but on a high all the way home. Thank you, Hay, I SHALL be seeing you again, very soon! Next year, I have my sights on the wonderfully talented, Neil Gaiman (appearing at Hay this Friday 29th May). SAM_7084

See you all next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, and the year after… 😀 xxx

P.S. For other Hay Festival experiences, including the amazing Sir Terry Pratchett event, see previous posts: https://sophieetallis.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/make-hay-not-war-a-tribute-to-hay-ray-and-sir-terry/

and

https://sophieetallis.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/make-hay-while-the-sun-er-shines/

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Make Hay not war! …A tribute to Hay, Ray and Sir Terry!

I wrote this post two years ago, but it is particularly poignant today, given the tragic news that Sir Terry Pratchett has lost his long fight with Alzheimer’s. He was a colossus of the fantasy genre and one of our brightest literary lights. He will be sadly missed by those who knew him and the millions of fans worldwide that wish they did. RIP Terry, you’re one in a billion! 😦 xxxx

Sophie E Tallis - Author/Illustrator

I’ll admit that my expectations of the Hay Festival were high…and I was NOT disappointed!

Returning home last night, at nearly 11pm, utterly exhausted and elated with a boot full of books, I found myself in a blissful state of delirium. What an experience! Not just the festival itself, with its Tibetan-like rainbow flags (perhaps fluttering in homage to the God of Books), its eco credentials and bohemian artsy feel, but the whole town and how each compliments the other. The entire vibe of the place…this little idyll, this heaven for book lovers nestled amongst the most breathtaking landscapes. Just bliss!

In a time of grim realities, economic meltdown, political confusion, conflict and war, to be immersed in such a haven is nothing short of magical. There are so few places where the written word is so celebrated. The minute my writer friend and I stepped foot in the town, you could almost feel…

View original post 502 more words

Make Hay not war! …A tribute to Hay, Ray and Sir Terry!

I’ll admit that my expectations of the Hay Festival were high…and I was NOT disappointed!

Returning home last night, at nearly 11pm, utterly exhausted and elated with a boot full of books, I found myself in a blissful state of delirium. What an experience! Not just the festival itself, with its Tibetan-like rainbow flags (perhaps fluttering in homage to the God of Books), its eco credentials and bohemian artsy feel, but the whole town and how each compliments the other. The entire vibe of the place…this little idyll, this heaven for book lovers nestled amongst the most breathtaking landscapes. Just bliss!

In a time of grim realities, economic meltdown, political confusion, conflict and war, to be immersed in such a haven is nothing short of magical. There are so few places where the written word is so celebrated. The minute my writer friend and I stepped foot in the town, you could almost feel a palpable tingle in the air. Everyone was there for the same reason…an unbridled love of books.

The rain, thankfully not as heavy as predicted, couldn’t dampen our spirits. So with twitching debit cards we started our foray into Hay’s wonderfully eclectic bookshops.

My advice for any visiting Hay-On-Wye? Bring a backpack…you can squeeze more books into it and leave your hands free to hold more!

Heading from one bookshop to another, via a cappuccino and slice of coffee cake, my growing rucksack and I quickly learned the ‘squeeze-squeeze-side shuffle’ needed in tight spaces and stacked shelves.

Amongst my prized buys of the day – a beautiful first edition 1866 green leather-bound collection of Lord Tennyson poems with gold-edged hand cut pages, gold ‘Arts & Crafts’ embossing on the front and back AND…(discovered only this morning as I took delight in placing all my books on the correct bookcases)…gorgeous illustrations by Hunt, Millais & Gabriel Dante Rossetti, the founders and geniuses of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement!

Wow! I can’t believe I’ve found such a treat for the senses for a mere £6.50! What a find…now you don’t get that from a kindle!

My other highlight? Well, after some serious trawling round Hay, we headed back to the festival and its billowing tents for the main event, an hour-long talk from Sir Terry Pratchett! What a thrill! We jostled our way into the Barclays Pavillion and settled down to watch and listen to a master of the fantasy genre. A real privilege.

Terry spoke candidly about his work and life. Poignant but always humourous and sharply witted, the hour regrettably flew past, despite the continuous munching of the man mountain sitting in front of me and the irritating fidgeting of the teeny girls next to me whose constant moving kept rocking my chair and making me sea-sick!

Of course, during the course of day, the news also broke of the sad passing of another great author, the astonishing Ray Bradbury, whose seminal novels including Fahrenheit 451, have been incredibly influential and inspiring to readers and writers alike. Terry Pratchett himself commented on the sad event, saying what a wonderful writer and what a lovely person he was.

Together with the loss of Anne McCaffrey earlier in the year, it has been a time of literary loss, particularly in the fantasy and science fiction genres, but the legacy such writers and their astonishing body of work leaves behind, ensures their immortality in the pantheon of great writers and artists.

After the fabulous talk, we inevitably took the shuttle back into town for some more book grazing. Hay, rather splendidly, leaves many of the bookshops open into the evening.

We wandered over to the castle, a beautiful ruin of a place, and poured over yet more shelves of delights before reluctantly having to say goodbye to a truly wondrous little place.

May the sun never set on you Hay. I shall definitely be returning for a longer stay!

I raise a glass to the glory of Hay, Ray and Sir Terry…marvels all!

See you next year! 😀

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Tragically, Sir Terry Pratchett lost his long struggle against Alzheimer’s on the 12th March 2015, he will be greatly missed by all. I for one, shall think of him when I visit the Hay Festival again this year. A literary giant in his own life time, one of our brightest lights has been extinguished, may he shine on in the heavens and give Death a run for his money! xxx

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