10 Questions with Michael J. Sullivan

We’re back with another interview!  This time, it’s with Michael J. Sullivan, author of The Riyria Revelations.  I decided to have the authors introduce themselves, so from now on, it’s all his words.

My name is Michael J. Sullivan and I’ve been published in just about every way you can: small press, self, big-five, foreign sales (15 countries) and audio.  I have sold over 300,000 books most of which are from my fantasy debut series: The Riyria Revelations which is six books but sold as a trilogy by Orbit. My second series, The Riyria Chronicles is two books and is just releasing now (also from Orbit). The Crown Tower (Aug 6) and The Rose and the Thorn (Sep 17).  My science fiction novel, Hollow World, will be coming out from Tachyon Publications in April, 2014 (print), Recorded Bokoks (audio), and I’ll be self-releasing the ebook.

1. What’s your favourite colour?

I’m going to go with blue as my favorite color as it has a “u” in it and being in the states I’ve removed two u’s from the question.

2. What’s your favourite food? Do you like Marmite?

I don’t really have a favorite food, but I do have two favorite drinks. Coffee – consumed in the morning to help me write and Guinness which is my preferred social beverage. I’ve never tried Marmite but be willing to try it someday.

 3. Which country would you most like to visit?

Ireland is number one because it is the home of my people. I still have a lot of relatives that live there. My daughter visited last year and absolutely loved it so I’m sure I would too.  Following that my two big bucket list locations are Australia and New Zealand…and not just for the Marmite.

4. What genres do you like to read?

It would be easier to answer what I don’t read as I read and love just about all kinds of books. The only thing I don’t read is romance and erotica, but all else I say bring it on!. That means anything from memoirs to mystery ad thrillers, science fiction and fantasy, and a lot of historical fiction.

5. If you were going to write a book outside your genre(s), which genre would you choose?

I’ve really not considered myself a “genre writer.” People would classify myself as fantasy, but that’s just because it’s the first thing I got published. Prior to the books that made me famous I wrote 12 novels across a wide range of genres: coming of age, literary, mystery, thriller, science fiction, young adult…I may publish them (or stories based off of them one day). I’m excited by the possibility of releasing a book in every major genre at some point.

6. Describe your writing environment, including room, desk, sounds, etc.

We are a bit cramped for space at the moment so I used to have a writing office but now it takes up ½ of a very large bedroom. I have a  huge desk, dual monitors, lighted keyboard. The desk is clear of clutter, the only real thing on it is a pad for notes, a pen holder, and a bladeless fan for when it gets hot. I have a leather office chair and a huge framed poster of the artwork that Marc Simonetti did for my Hollow World novel over the desk.  I don’t write with music (usually) and I have to have coffee and complete isolation. If my wife steps into the room I’ll stop writing until she is gone. I won’t even let the dog in the room when I’m writing because even him just shifting position or yawning would distract me.

7. If you could have dinner with any character (person if non-fiction) from your books, who would it be?

Myron Lanaklin. He is a character that is 100% satisfied no matter what his situation. We could discuss history and philosophy and I wouldn’t have to be concerned about him crying in is beer or bemoaning this, that, or the other thing. He finds joy in the simplest of things and it would be a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

8. Do you draw maps when planning your books?

When writing fantasy I always do. In fact that is usually my first step as I need to get the lay of the land and the names of places so that I can keep things consistent as the story unfolds. For something like Hollow World, which is science fiction based on a far future earth I don’t as it really doesn’t come into play in any meaningful way. In that case it’s more about mapping a timeline of what has occurred from “our time” to the time period of the book.

 9. Do you ever read self-published books?

Sure, all the time. Unlike some people who seem to differentiate between the two, I know that the real issue is the quality of the writing, not the mode of publication. There are many self-published authors whose books (like my own) were later picked up by big-five publishers which just reinforces that there is plenty of quality there. I’ve even written a guide for Ranting Dragon on 20 self-published authors worth reading.

 10. I’m interested in fantasy, science fiction, history, and classics. Which author’s books would you recommend to me?

For fantasy I would recommend Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, and newcomer Anthony Ryan. For science fiction I would go with some of the classics like Asimov and Heinlein. For historical fiction I think Ken Follett has some amazing books out. When it comes to classics I really enjoy Steinbeck’s writing.

You can contact him or follow him in several ways.  Follow him on Twitter, check out his website, and view his Facebook pages, personal, author, and Riyria.

Thank you very much, Michael.  For the record, I’m sure Australians would prefer Vegemite.  I’ll definitely check out the list of self-published authors your wrote about, and the authors you recommended.  And of course, I look forward to reading Riyria.  Thanks again!
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Book Review – Speaker for the Dead

speakerforthedeadSpeaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card is the second book in Ender’s Saga. What we have here is the sequel to the popular Ender’s Game, where Ender Wiggins has defeated the Buggers and promptly disappeared.  This takes place around 3000 years after the Bugger War, and Ender is back.  If you’re expecting more of the same as Ender’s Game, you have a big surprise coming.  It’s nothing like the original book.  It may even be better.

Ender Wiggin is now a Speaker for the Dead, a non-denominational non-religious person who digs up information about the recently dead and publically gives their life story from an unbiased position.  That means the good and the bad are laid out for everyone to hear.  He’s older than he was in Ender’s Game, and his sister Valentine is also older, having travelled with him, and so they are much wiser.  Ender’s been asked to be a speaker for someone who died on the world of Lusitania, where a small community is set up to study the Piggies, a kind of sentient life.  The community is Catholic, but as Ender is not, there’s a lot of resistance.  Andrew Wiggin is well-known as a Speaker for the Dead, and is quite respected.  Ender is the Xenocide, the man reviled for being the one who killed an entire species.  Even though they are the same person, Ender is from 3000 years earlier, so no one connects the two.  It makes an interesting conflict between the two personas.  Novinha is an interesting character, being withdrawn from everyone, which makes it quite the challenge for Ender.  Her children are a diverse group, from those who hate Ender, to those who trust him deeply.  Jane plays Ender’s source of information and is a useful tool to get his way with anything.  However, apart from Ender, the stars are the Piggies.  Card does a great job portraying an alien species and their culture.

The story is at times very dark and violent.  But there are reasons for the violence, and it’s not understood until later in the book.  The secrets and lack of communication really help keep the suspense and interest level high.  Who are these Piggies?  Are they good or bad?  With a lot of conflict happening between various parties, there’s no level of comfort, though as in Ender’s Game, Ender seems to know the right thing to say and do, although it does create a lot of turmoil.

The setting is pretty simple and very confined.  It takes place mostly on Lusitania, in the village, and with the Piggies.  I felt that I got to know the community quite well, and could picture it nicely in my mind.  With such a small area, I got to know it intimately.  I thought that was well done.

Card’s style and length of his novels makes them easy and quick to read.  This was quite the departure from Ender’s Game, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.  Speaker for the Dead may arguably be better.  I thought it was.  I give this 4 1/2 stars out of 5.  It is highly recommended!

Book Review – Terrene: the hidden valley

terreneTerrene: the hidden valley by Eric Liu is an interesting merging of science fiction and fantasy.  It’s a book about technology and climate change as a central theme, but takes place in two different worlds, the near future and a hidden valley.  There are two parallel stories that are linked through a girl named Flora.

Flora is living in a valley where technology is naturally grown from plants, as they seem to have an incredible knowledge of plants.  Everything is made of plants, even the lights.  And they’re alive.  Flora is trying to find out what happened to her father, and the Institute is the only way.  She means to get there somehow, and find out what happened to her father.  However, she has dreams about Jane Ingram, who is a scientist in the United States in the early 21st century who is trying to solve the problem of global climate change.  But how are these two ladies linked?

In the world of Terrene, Flora is a typical underachiever who becomes the heroine.  Her friends and classmates are a mix of stereotypical teenage story characters, the nerd, the bully, the confident popular guy, and so on.  Flora is the misfit, the bullied.  She has a problem with blacking out whenever she gets worked up.  On Earth, Jane is a brilliant scientist with her equally intelligent son and her unemotional research assistant.  It seems like a typical coming-of-age story with your typical characters, but those initial character types do develop into something more.  I was glad of that.  However, I found many of the characters to still be quite simple.

The world of Terrene is wonderfully described.  That’s one of the strong points of this book.  I could imagine everything very clearly, and what I saw in my mind was a remarkable world.  The valley and the Institute were very interesting. The future Earth side of the story was done reasonably well, but is overshadowed by Terrene, I feel.

I found that the flow of the story, switching back and forth between the worlds, was done well, though I caught myself hoping to get back to Terrene.  I was far more interested in Flora’s story and world than I was of Jane’s.  It’s not that I didn’t like the future Earth, I just found it a bit more tedious to get through when the comparatively vivid Terrene was waiting just a few pages later.  I guess I just wanted to spend more time in Terrene and explore that world more.  One thing I was worried about was that a lot of the conflict in this book didn’t happen until the latter half.  It was a slow first half.  Not that this is bad, the first half was more like an exploration of the world, but it still lacked the excitement I would’ve wanted.  My interest level started high, then for most of the first half of the book, I was wondering when anything exciting would happen.  But by the end, I was pretty satisfied with the tension and action.  The ending was a big surprise.  I didn’t see that coming at all, though looking back at what happened, I could understand many of the unusual incidents.  However, the ending made me feel a bit disappointed.  It’s a personal taste when it comes to fantasy worlds, but it may be perfectly fine for others.

Overall, I’d give this a 3.5 out of 5 stars.  For those interested in science fiction and fantasy, as well as real issues, such as climate change, then this book is for you.  I enjoyed it.

10 Questions with J. Thorn

I’d like to introduce you to J. Thorn.  I reviewed his now out-of-print book The Arrival and found it very intriguing.  So, I thought it would be good to get to know the author.  You can, too.  You can follow him on his website, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and Goodreads.  So, please enjoy the interview.

1. What’s your favourite colour?

The absence of color; black.

2. What’s your favourite food? Do you like Marmite?

I love Cajun food and sushi. I enjoy anything out of the ordinary. Comfort food is predictable and boring. I have no idea what Marmite is.

3. Which country would you most like to visit?

Ireland. I have ancestors that came to the United States from the Emerald Isle and I would like to visit someday.

4. What genres do you like to read?

I read mostly horror and dark fantasy although I also enjoy sci-fi, epic fantasy, thrillers, and action-adventure. I’m not a fan of biographies.

5. If you were going to write a book outside your genre(s), which genre would you choose?

I probably wouldn’t write outside my genre as it would confuse my readers although I’ve written chapter books for children with a different pen name.

6. Describe your writing environment, including room, desk, sounds, etc.

I need to write in silence as I’m easily distracted by just about anything. My attic is converted into a home office where I do most of my writing. I love the altitude (third story attic) and watching the squirrels chase each other on the neighbor’s roof. My desk is really big and I keep it clean and clear for the same reason I like silence. I’m easily distracted. You should see what this squirrel is doing right now. He’s hanging from the gutter and swatting at this leaf. And now a robin landed on the chimney and…

7. If you could have dinner with any character (person if non-fiction) from your books, who would it be?

I would try to get a date with Sage from The Hidden Evil series. She’s a badass and she’s hot. I enjoy the company of strong, independent people.

8. Do you draw maps when planning your books?

I use my own experience for certain books that need grounded in reality and for those that are not I create from my imagination. Neither of those scenarios require me to have illustrated maps and don’t involve an outline or plot map either.

9. Do you ever read self-published books?

I don’t care if a book is self-published or not. All I care about is reading a good story and if a book doesn’t grab me in the first chapter I ditch it and move on to another. Life is too short for books that don’t catch my attention. I’m not saying they’re not “good” books, just that they haven’t engaged me. I never leave a review for a book I have not finished. If I get to the end I must have liked it so I don’t post negative reviews for that very reason.

10. I’m interested in fantasy, science fiction, history, and classics. Which author’s books would you recommend to me?

I’m a huge fan of Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, and Ray Bradbury. I’ve recently gotten into The Beam by Sean Platt and Johnny Truant as well as most of Scott Nicholson’s catalog. My newest favorite is The Book of Paul by Richard Long which is beautifully grotesque.

Thank you very much for your answers.  I’m also very interested in Ireland.  I love history, so Ireland’s castles would be amazing to visit.  It’s interesting that you also write children’s books.  I’ve also thought about it, though they’d be illustrated.

I hope you enjoyed the interview.  If you have any questions, you can always leave a comment.

10 Questions with Baye McNeil

Welcome to my new regular series, 10 Questions.  It’s a series of brief 10 question interviews with authors I may or may not have read.  In this first installment, I’m honoured to have a fellow resident of Japan answer my questions.

Baye McNeil, known for his blog, Loco in Yokohama, his first book, Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist, and his new upcoming book, Loco in Yokohama, lives not so far from me, and has a lot to say about his experience being a foreigner in Japan.  I recommend subscribing to him on Twitter, Facebook, Google +, and Pinterest. So, without further ado (I know, this is cliche), here’s the interview.

1. What’s your favourite colour?

Blue

2. What’s your favourite food? Do you like Marmite?

Lasagna. No, can’t say I do.

3. Which country would you most like to visit?

Tanzania

4. What genres do you like to read?

Biography, autobiography, sci-fi

5. If you were going to write a book outside your genre(s), which genre would you choose?

Sci-fi

6. Describe your writing environment, including room, desk, sounds, etc.

I generally write in a tiny cubicle in an Internet cafe.

7. If you could have dinner with any character (person if non-fiction) from any book, who would it be?

Grand Admiral Thrawn from the Heir to the Empire Star Wars books by Timothy Zahn…or maybe Hermione Granger from the Potter books.

8.  Do you write from experience or expert knowledge?

Both.

9. Do you ever read self-published books?

Yes.

10. I’m interested in fantasy, science fiction, history, and classics. Which author’s books would you recommend to me?

Anything by Timothy Zahn and you can’t lose.

Thank you, Baye!  I’d like to add a little here.  I do have Timothy Zahn’s first Star Wars book listed as ‘to buy’ on Goodreads, so I am quite interested. And Hermione was always my favourite from Harry Potter.  Also, I have finished reading Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist, and a review will be coming soon.

I will have another interview next week, this time an author who likes dark fantasy and horror.

Book Review – A Clash of Kings

aclashofkingsA Clash of Kings is the second book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin.  The story picks up right where A Game of Thrones left off, and it continues in the same fashion.  That is, lots of death, violence, sex, and plot twists.

The first book established the explosive situation that we’re in the middle of now with this book.  The format is the same, each chapter following a different character, and we see what’s happening from their point of view.  We now have Davos, who follows Stannis Baratheon, and Theon Greyjoy, who was a secondary character in the first book.  From these points of view, we see everything that happens in this massive war that is now taking place.  It’s a very complex story, and we don’t always see everything that’s happening.  There are many surprises, including deaths that we don’t expect.  That’s one thing I’ve learned from reading these books, don’t expect everyone to live.  War is nasty, and the heroes may be the ones to die.

At this point, I’m finding that the most interesting characters to me are Tyrion, Daenerys, and Arya.  Tyrion is a master at manipulating people.  He is fascinating.  He’s not all bad, though.  He does have a heart, and he seems to legitimately prefer a more peaceful solution to everything, but not everything goes his way.  Daenerys is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, after her father was deposed by Robert Baratheon.  She’s young, but she has dragons on her side.  She’s driven by her birthright, and she believes that’s most important.  She wants what she believes is rightfully hers.  Despite her young age, she’s more mature than you’d expect.  Arya is the youngest Stark daughter, and I think one of the best fighters.  She has a lot of drive, and she certainly doesn’t give up.  I’m really looking forward to seeing how she does in the next book.  I’m not so fond of either Baratheon brother, who both claim the crown, but especially Stannis.  I also don’t particularly like Catelyn Stark or Sansa Stark.  I definitely don’t like Theon, but I do like Jon Snow.  His story is going to be very interesting in the next book, I believe.

The setting is vividly pictured in my mind thanks to Martin’s ability to describe the scenes.  I get the image of a war-torn land filled with fires, burnt forests, and lots of death.  It’s dark, and that’s the way it should be.  The political maneuvering, betrayal, and blackmailing make this very unpredictable and anything could blow up at any time.  I’m loving it.  Unlike traditional fantasy, this series doesn’t use much magic, though it’s starting to show up now.  Also, the dragons are coming back.  This is getting very interesting.

I would give it 5 out of 5 stars.  Amazing storytelling, believable three dimensional characters, incredible world building, and surprises everywhere.  Highly recommended to anyone who doesn’t mind a lot of violence, sex, and death in their fantasy.