Hi everyone! Very excited today to amplify the voices of some passionate indie authors and hopefully add to your TBR piles. I’ll also be hosting some awesome giveaways over on twitter too!
It’s important to me as a blogger to do my small part in helping to highlight authors who have decided to go the self published or indie press route as well as the traditionally published one, so I really hope you enjoy today’s post and consider going monster hunting with one or more of these authors!
We also have 2 more self published authors featuring in Mythology Day later in the week in a post that’s a little bit different! Thanks again for reading, let’s kick off with our first author monster interview…
Introducing J. R. Snyder
J. R. is an American fantasy author, living near Seattle, WA. His debut novel, A Season of Ravens, is the first in the Sin Eater Tales series.
When he’s not writing, he spends his time hiking in the mountains of western Washington, playing hockey, and traveling abroad, stocking up on local folklore books.
Hi J. R and welcome to Fantasy Monster Week!
Hello! Thanks for having me!
Your book A Season of Ravens feels like the perfect fit. Can you tell potential readers what they can expect?
A Season of Ravens is a collection of 8 short stories that all focus on a character named Asher Norwood and his raven partner Aethon. Asher is a sin eater – a kind of mage that helps defend his world against dangerous beasts and angry spirits. Fitting for Fantasy Monster Week, each of the eight stories features a different monster or dark magical threat that Asher has to track down, investigate, and fix.
I think the short story format works well, especially when it comes to lone protagonists – it gives the reader the opportunity to experience each exciting adventure without having to go through the filler and down-time in-between. Was this something you had in mind when going for this style?
Definitely! I was heavily inspired by some of the pulpy, bad-guy-of-the-week fantasy works that I grew up reading. With so many doorstopper fantasy books, I really wanted to write an easily approachable book that had a collection of fun adventure stories. Everyone is so busy, sometimes you just need a short story about a guy fighting harpies aboard a pirate ship, ya know?
I read The Aldergeist Witch (the first story in this collection) in preparation for our interview and I really enjoyed it. Within a few pages you captured that magical, mysterious, adventurous type of atmosphere that can make fantasy so captivating. I also like that you touch on monsters being a matter of perception. Do you feel that human nature gives us a need to find a monster, whatever form it may take?
I’m glad you enjoyed The Aldergeist Witch, that’s one of my favorites! If you look at most folklore, it’s often just our fears projected onto some sort of supernatural explanation. Whether it’s to help explain dangerous concepts to children, or reinforce certain beliefs in society, I think it’s easier for humans to give those fears a face. Partly, I think it’s also a bit of collective guilt. Humans can be pretty terrible sometimes, and it’s easier to make sense of it when we can give those actions a monstrous façade rather than face our own shortcomings as a species.
Do you have a favourite fantasy monster?
Outwardly, they’re not very monstrous, but I’ve always been fascinated by the folklore surrounding will-o’-the-wisps, hinkypunks, and forest lights. I do a lot of hiking and camping, and the idea of a creature in the forest luring me to a grisly end with a swaying lantern always sends shivers down my spine. I also love that every culture around the world seems to have some version of this monster; makes it feel more real somehow!
Are there are books or media you’d say your story is influenced by?
So many! The seed idea for the book originally came to me while listening to the Lore podcast. For books, the Witcher series, Uprooted, and Yamada Monogatari inspired me a lot with their monsters and mysterious, whimsical magic. Lastly, I like to travel a lot (during better times) and wherever I go, I make sure to grab a book of the local folklore. There are so many weird monsters from around the globe that don’t get explored in normal fantasy books!
What’s next for you, are you planning any more Sin Eater novels?
It’s shaping up to be a busy year for me writing-wise! I just released an audiobook version of A Season of Ravens and published a free short story on my website* called The Vampires of Thalkirch. I’m currently in the process of writing the next novel in the Sin Eater series, which should take the adventures, monsters, and magic even further!
You can find J. R on…
Introducing D. B. McIvor
D.B. McIvor loves tackling deep existential questions in his own writing and in the work of others. He spent eighteen years developing the world behind this novel, the first in a series, to do exactly that. McIvor lives with his fiancée in Calgary, Alberta.
Hi D.B! Thankyou for taking part in monster week, and welcome to the blog.
Hey Alex! Thank you for asking me to be a part of Monster week, I am really excited to be a part of it!
I understand your fantasy series, Bahlion’s Freedom is one that’s been a long time in the making. When did you first dream up your story and how has it developed over the years before it came to be published?
I started dreaming up Bahlion’s Freedom when I was fourteen which is about twenty years ago now, shortly after my first fantasy reads which were Tolkien’s books. I was excited to read more fantasy stories but part of me was disappointed to find that the books I could find mostly featured species borrowed from either Tolkien’s books or Earth’s Mythologies. I still enjoyed those stories and don’t see a problem with that aspect but still I was disappointed, so write what you want to read right? It began there and grew into an entire universe from there because I kept asking myself a question I was sometimes left with regarding certain aspects of stories; “But why?”. I found that I needed to know the very root of everything I wanted to write about. So the main story of the series is the story I want to tell about the universe but there is a lot of life surrounding it. Feeling like I had all of those questions answered allowed me to finally sit down and start the first draft a few years ago.
One thing I really like about your ideas is that you’ve created your own fantasy species from scratch, rather than going for the traditional monsters such as Dragons and Griffins. How in depth have you thought about these species; do they have a place in the ecosystem and an evolutionary background or is it more a case of show the reader rather than tell them this background?
Thank you! Unfortunately, I cannot go into too much detail of their origins and ties to the universe without spoilers. They do have their place and roots in the environment and ecosystem but even those differ from “world to world” within the universe. What I can say is that the basic rules of survival differ from our own and that I do not leave unanswered questions at the end of the series. Unfortunately the series is not finished haha!
A bit of an ambiguous question, now: what is a ‘monster’ to you? Does it need to be scary?
I think being a monster comes more from your actions than it does your appearance. Using Tolkien examples, trolls are ‘monsters’ but if there was a troll that ran into battle with the Rohirrim we would think of it more like a friendly giant. We think of Sauron as a villain but I would argue that his actions make him as monstrous if not more-so than a troll.
Do you have a favourite fantasy monster?
Dragons for sure. Dragonlance was one of the first series I picked up and it was absolutely because I saw a cool Dragon on the cover.
Would you say your work is influenced by any other writers?
I think it is, but loosely and it would be a long list. I will say, Tolkien got me interested in fantasy and once I had started dreaming of my own universe, Robert Jordan opened my eyes to just how vast a world or universe could be.
What would you hope a reader might take away from reading your books?
Unfortunately, one of the two answers would provide spoilers, but I want to bring that sense of escape and wonder. I love speculating about where stories may be going and why or what certain aspects might really mean or the reasons for it. If I can provide that for some people I will die happy.
What was the hardest part about bringing your ideas to life as a full story?
How to describe a universe that is this different from our own while still telling a story and not boring the reader. Trying to avoid over-explaining or to avoid just “talking to the reader” for paragraphs or even pages at a time. I feel as though I landed on a good way to do so but again, I can’t go into detail about it without spoilers.
Thanks for joining us and sharing your passion for your work DB!
Again thank you so much for including me in Monster week!
You can find D. B on…
Introducing Darran Handshaw
Darran M. Handshaw is the author of The Engineer – his debut novel. In addition to writing, Darran works as an R&D Engineer where he designs and invents new products and holds more than 20 patents. In his spare time, Darran is also a firefighter and EMT with his local fire department where he was recently elected as Assistant Fire Chief. When Darran isn’t writing, inventing things, or responding to emergencies, he enjoys his time with his wife, Stefanie, and son, Corwin.
Hi Darran, and welcome to Monster Week!
Hi Alex! Thanks for having me. It struck me as quite the appropriate event for me. The Engineer isn’t about monsters per se, but there are quite a few terrifying creatures in Redemption. The city was left abandoned by its people for a very, very long time and ecology has done its best to fill the void left behind. A new people only arrived in Redemption less than one hundred years ago, and they found more to contend with than just the shattered city and broken artifacts.
Before we get onto the monsters, your followers on twitter will know The Engineer is a story very close to your heart – can you tell anyone who doesn’t know why the inspiration for your book is particularly special to you?
Yes! The Engineer is the True Story of how I met my wife! Stefanie was one of the co-creators of Redemption MUSH, an online, text-based RPG. I created Actaeon to play in her world and soon met her Knight Arbiter character, Eisandre, there. It changed my entire life. The story around them was so epic that I thought it should be immortalized in an appropriately sized tome. And so I wrote my first novel about it.
The cover art is particularly striking and immediately sets the imagination racing, and the synopsis also gives a sort of Sci-fi Indiana Jones vibe. Are there any movies or books you’d say fans of would enjoy The Engineer?
Sci-fi Indiana Jones is a fitting comparison. I just read a book called Non-Stop by Brian Aldiss that one of my readers recommended to me which has very similar vibes. Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C Clarke is another. As a main character I’ve described Actaeon as MacGyver meets Walter Bishop from Fringe meets Tehol Beddict from the Malazan series. If I had to compare The Engineer to one story, I’d say it is most similar to the game Horizon: Zero Dawn. The game came out around the same time as my book which left me worried, but it turns out that although the ambiance and feel of the world are strikingly similar (and both main characters are archers from a tribal society), the stories are quite different. Some aspects of the world building for HZD are so similar though that it makes me wonder if one of the writers played on Redemption MUSH.
Onto Monsters then, “Deep beneath Pyramid, a deadly creature stirs” – this sounds a little ominous! Can you tell us any more about this creature?
At the start of the book Actaeon is tasked with eliminating the rancid smell in the open marketplace beside Pyramid. Next to the marketplace is an intricate system of partially ruined tunnels and passageways that allow for runoff and wastewater to drain from the marketplace. He quickly discovers that the tunnels are clogged not with waste but with some sort of slime from a creature. Actaeon sets to work designing a device to capture one of the creatures. He finds that the creature fills the entirety of the tunnels with its bulk in passing, spits its caustic offspring when threatened, and likes to prey on animals and people at the fringes of the marketplace. Act and his friends do manage to take care of the creature at no small cost to themselves, but that clears the way for an even more horrific type of creature to move in — the deathcrawler. If you look up a house centipede you’ll get a good idea of what the deathcrawler looks like — if it was one hundred times smaller and didn’t inject its offspring into live prey. As I said earlier, ecology is extremely good at filling voids.
What do you think it takes to make a fantasy monster memorable?
The most memorable fantasy monsters are the ones with unusual features or abilities. In my own stories I try to infuse creatures with some pretty unique characteristics. The stranger or more alien, the more wondrous or terrifying. That discovery is interesting to explore in stories. Some of the more memorable monsters that come to mind are the sand worms of Dune, the Blob, the Endermen from Minecraft, the Demogorgon in Stranger Things, and Stephen King’s Langoliers.
Do you have a favourite SFF monster?
Absolutely! It’s gotta be the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters. And Ray Stantz sums up my entire monster creation process perfectly when he describes how he came up with it in the movie: “I couldn’t help it. It just popped in there.”
Anything new in the works for you?
I’m working on a standalone sequel to The Engineer called Guardians of Redemption. Guardians follows the continued adventures of Actaeon during Redemption’s Second Invasion War. Actaeon’s put in the very unlikely position of leading a military force to break the siege of Pyramid. For a person who always does his best to avoid fighting, refused to join a warband when he was younger, and didn’t even undergo the Trials during his time in Raedelle to help him become a warrior, it is a truly unusual circumstance that is quite interesting to write about. Of course, the monsters from The Engineer come back to make an appearance, including deathcrawlers and the slimy horrors beneath the Pyramid. There are also several new monsters, including the terror bird, artifact monsters, and a mysterious entity known only as The Veiled One.
Thanks for taking part Darran, it’s been great to have you!
Thanks for having me, Alex. And thanks for hosting Monster Week!
You can find Darran…
I hope you enjoyed today’s post. Stay tuned as there are some great self published giveaways coming on twitter, including A Season of Ravens, The Engineer and Finding Your Harpy Place!