Book Review: ‘Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic’ by Alex Kane

Set an even longer time ago in a galaxy far, far away, BioWare’s 2003 Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic wowed players with its compelling characters, lightsaber customization, complex morality choices, and one of the greatest plot twists in both video game and Star Wars history. But even for veteran studios like LucasArts and BioWare, the responsibility of making both a great game and a lasting contribution to the Star Wars canon was no easy task.

Featuring extensive new interviews with a host of KotOR’s producers, writers, designers, and actors, journalist Alex Kane weaves together an epic oral history of this classic game, from its roots in tabletop role-playing and comic books, to its continued influence on big-screen Star Wars films. Whether you align with the light or the dark side, you’re invited to dive into this in-depth journey through one of the most beloved Star Wars titles of all time.

Plot summary taken from Amazon.

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If you made a list of the best RPGs released before 2010, what would be on it? Post-apocalyptic masterwork Fallout 3 late in the decade. Space-opera shooter Mass Effect? Of course. But there is one more RPG that belongs high up on that list. And it just so happens to be made by Mass Effect developer Bioware.

2003’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (or KotOR) is a masterpiece. Praised by both Star Wars fanatics and the general public alike, it has lived on in the minds of gamers for nearly two decades. Alex Kane and publisher Boss Fight Books have taken a dive into the history and creation of this beloved game. Game development is a tricky business. Developers and studios are hammered by brutal crunch times, budget problems and expectations. Now include the protective gaze of Lucasfilm, and it gets even worse.

With a quote from Ben Kenobi to get the book started off right, Alex Kane puts us directly into the early days of KotOR’s development. From there we are pulled through the day to day, the E3 crunches and different colored light saber drama. If you enjoy the nitty gritty details of game development, this is the perfect book for you. Alex Kane presents the story of Old Republic’s creation in a sharp, clear manner. The new interviews shine light on some of the lesser known aspects of the game’s production.

If you love video games or Star Wars, this book is a fascinating read. Books like this give me a true appreciation for the entire process of video game creation. I think I’m going to have to find more Boss Fight Books to read.

 

 

Interview: Alex Kane

It’s April 3rd, which means it’s time for this month’s Interview! Every month I’ll be interviewing authors and creators about their newest works, their lives, and what influences them. For this month’s interview, I’m joined by game critic and video game Jedi (or Sith Lord!?) Alex Kane!

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Welcome Alex! I’m so happy to have you on my website today! Interviews can be a little scary sometimes, so I’ll start with an easy one: tell us a little bit about yourself! What are some of your first video game memories? And have you ever heard of a little thing called ‘Star Wars’?

Super Mario Bros. 3 with my dad was a big one, and Mario 64 not longer after that. I remember many hours of GoldenEye against my sisters growing up, and Halo at friends’ houses. One of my favorite gaming memories, for sure, is the time my brother and I built a portal to the End in Minecraft and slew the Ender Dragon. Crazy as it sounds, that was probably the closest I’ve ever come to having a mystical experience, and it happened in a video game.

There was a period of my life where a lot of big events were coming at me in a hurry, and the games I played in that timeframe will always mean a lot to me. They helped me make sense of things. I became a father just as I was starting to write game reviews, and I played Night in the Woods the same week we brought my son home. Then I played through the Morrowind
expansion for The Elder Scrolls Online with him sort of napping in my lap shortly afterward. I treasure those memories.

Star Wars, like games, is something that’s been a part of my life almost since I was four or five years old, but it really started to become an obsession in ’97, when I saw The Empire Strikes Back during its special-edition run, at the Rivoli Theatre in my hometown. That was when I started begging for the toys, and watching them over and over on VHS and so forth.

You’re the first gaming journalist I’ve interviewed here on my website. I saw that you’ve written for Variety, Polygon, USGamer and others. How did you get into game writing? And, more importantly, what are some of your favorite games of all time?

I’ve been writing for ages, and publishing stuff since college. When I went freelance in 2014, I spent my second big check on a Wii U bundle with Wind Waker, and then Bungie’s Destiny
landed a few months after that. With this newfound freedom of being my own boss, I fell pretty hard for Destiny and the social experience it offered; I spent like two thousand hours in that world over the course of three years. When an editor for Kill Screen — which used to be a really hip publication full of brilliant games journalism — put out a call for freelance news writers in 2016, I jumped at the opportunity, and he took a chance on me. I worked hard to make a good first impression, and that led to gigs with Rolling Stone and some other places. I got very
lucky.

Some of my favorite games — outside of KotOR, obviously — are things like Super Mario
Bros. 3, Skyrim, Halo 2, Night in the Woods, Star Fox 64, Pokémon Red, the new Spider-Man.
Wind Waker was a big one for me, too, when I picked that up in 2014. It sort of helped me mourn my grandparents in the midst of this wild career transition; I loved that Link had a grandma, because I’d just lost mine six months prior. And it’s also probably one of the
three best Zeldas.

Your first book comes out via Boss Fight Books this month. It’s a deep dive into the 2003 RPG classic Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. I just finished reading it and I loved it! This is a game that deserves this kind of exploration. How did this book come to be?

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For one thing, it’s ultimately the result of me learning how books are written. I think I emailed my editor the KotOR pitch in May of 2016, and then he called me up in late October of that year and offered me a contract. That’s a day I’ll never forget. That wasn’t long after I started getting paid to write about games, actually, but I already had a lot of publishing experience
as an editor, and from doing short fiction and acquisitions and various little contract projects.

The truism in writing and publishing is that it’s all about persistence, in some ways, and that was definitely true for me in terms of establishing a relationship with Boss Fight and getting on their radar. Knights of the Old Republic wasn’t the first pitch I sent them,
and I think my editor, Gabe, admired my tenacity a little bit.

Do you think you’ll ever write a book like this again? And if you would, what game or facet of the gaming world might you look at next?

I definitely think there’ll be a book two, and I know what book I want to write next, but it’s gonna take another big stroke of luck to make it happen. I think there’s a good chance that I’ll be writing about either Star Wars or video games, or something very closely related to those, but it’s hard to say exactly when that might materialize. I love the official guidebooks and things like that — the DK Publishing Star Wars line. I’d love to do a bit of Star Wars fiction, if given the chance. I’m doing some behind-the-scenes copywriting for Lucasfilm, so there’s always that sense that maybe if I keep my head down and my fingers crossed, some of those things could happen. One day.

I’ve spent most of the last three years writing about people who make games and other forms of entertainment, and I just love telling those stories. I hope to do it for a really long time.

As a game critic, I’m sure you play lots of games. What games are you currently playing? And what have been some highlights of the year so far?

There’s a ton of games coming out later in the year I’m excited about, like Control and Jedi: Fallen Order and The Outer Worlds, but so far my big hits of 2019 have been Apex
Legends and The Division 2 — neither of which I saw coming. I’m always fiddling around with several games at any given time; right now I’m playing Oblivion,Division 2, Battlefront II, and Anthem.

Lastly: where can people find you online?

I mostly live on Twitter, at @alexjkane.
Or on Xbox! And my publisher, of course, can be found at bossfightbooks.com.


Alex Kane’s book Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is up for preorder! If you liked this interview and want to read more, you can see the Archive here.

Interview: Carrie Laben

It’s the first Wednesday in March, so that means it’s time for another Interview! Every month I’ll be interviewing authors and creators about their newest works, their lives, and what influences them. This interview is with horror author (and birder!) Carrie Laben.

Carrie Laben Author Photo

Hello Carrie! I’m super excited to be interviewing you on my blog today! I’m going to start off today with the ultimate softball request: tell us a little bit about yourself! What made you want to be a writer?

Thank you! It’s a very exciting time, as I’m sure you can imagine, and I always appreciate the opportunity to get the word out about my work.

As far as wanting to be a writer: My parents had a dairy farm and I’m the oldest of seven children – I wanted a job that I could do indoors, sitting down, and no manure anywhere. But I still wanted to feel that I was producing something real and tangible and satisfying, and that narrowed the field of office jobs down quite a bit. Then there’s the fact that I just plain like writing and find it fun.

While scrolling through your Publications page on your website, I noticed that one of your hobbies happens to be bird-watching, which I think is pretty cool! What does bird-watching entail? And what attracts you to the hobby?

I like to say I’ve been birding since I was a toddler – my mom started teaching me the names of birds at the feeders when I was two or three. It’s the perfect combination of the collector’s impulse with appreciation of nature.

There’s hardly any wrong way to bird-watch, so long as you’re looking at birds (if you look at a butterfly or a frog by mistake, don’t worry, those are legit hobbies too!) Some birders travel all over the world trying to see as many species as possible. Some do ‘patch birding’ – where you try to spot the most species in your own backyard or local park. Others don’t focus on numbers but try to get a better understanding of local patterns – when the birds migrate, which species breed where, etc. If you’re interested, one great place to get more information is the blog 10,000 Birds, where I am a semi-regular guest blogger.

At the end of this month, Word Horde will be putting out your debut novel, A Hawk in the Woods. It sounds like the perfect ‘cosmic horror road-trip’ novel that we all need right now. What can you tell us about your book? How did it come to be?

The Hawk in the woods

A Hawk in the Woods is a combination of aspects of the genre that fascinate me, from folk horror to Lovecraftian cosmic horror to the quiet psychological horror that families inflict on each other down the generations – even when they’re trying to break free of the past. The main characters are twin sisters and as the story opens, one is gravely ill and the other is in jail. The reader gets to ride along as they go on the lam and confront their legacy, and also see how they grew up caught in a power struggle between their grandfather, their mother, and a community that knows there’s something just not right about the whole family.

The first seed of the novel was a folk song called The Cruel Mother, in which a woman is threatened with supernatural vengeance for a wrong she did to her children. There are a number of excellent, haunting versions available but I’m particularly fond of Emily Smith’s rendition, and Fiona Hunter’s.

A lot of young writers I talk to get discouraged with the grind (sending stories out on submission, etc.) and the constant struggle that is the publishing world. Do you have any general advice for any writers looking to get published?

For young writers in our genre in particular, my best advice is not to let yourself be boxed in. I’ve seen too many people get caught up in the notion that a few markets, editors, and awards are the end-all and be-all, and that the regard of a small handful of people is the key to success. This leads to cliquishness when things go well and despair when they don’t. Make friends, have fun, but remember that any particular corner of the genre is not the world and no one person has the power to make or break your career (not even you!) If you can’t get into some particular market read widely and try to find something that works a bit better with your style – as well as writing and revising like a fiend, of course!

As a corollary, I still tend to see the received wisdom that genre writers need to stick together because the literary establishment despises us. This is much less true than it was in the past. I went to an MFA program myself (at the University of Montana) and while it’s certainly not the best path for everyone, I shared classes with both students and professors who were not only open to genre work but doing it themselves. There was even a workshop completely dedicated to supernatural fiction, where I shared the first few chapters of Hawk and got a lot of valuable advice. So don’t wall yourself off from possibilities out of defensiveness or fear!

Let’s talk about books for a moment. What’s in your To Be Read pile right now? Any books you’re looking forward to in the future?

I’m pretty sure that my TBR pile is longer than my actual expected lifespan at this point, and I’m a fast reader! That said, some recent fiction I’m really looking forward to digging into includes Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss, Mothlight by Adam Scovell, and the latest from Marlon James and S.P. Miskowski. I also read a lot of nonfiction and on that front I can’t wait to open up The Secret Lives of Glaciers by my old classmate M. Jackson, which recounts a year in the lives of Icelanders living on the front lines of climate change. That’s going to be the real-life horror that the next generation has to live with, if we don’t act fast.

Where can people find you online?

My website is at http://www.carrielaben.com, which is nice and easy to remember. I also have a Twitter presence, @pinguinus, and a Facebook author page (https://www.facebook.com/Carrie-Laben-2256476324631738/) if you want up-to-the-minute updates.


Don’t forget to purchase Carrie Laben’s debut novel on the 26th of March! Thank you for joining me for this month’s Interview, and I’ll see everyone again soon!

Interview: Matthew M. Bartlett

Happy February! It’s the first Wednesday of the month, so that means it’s time for another Author Interview! This month’s interview is with haunted radio jockey/author Matthew M. Bartlett!

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Hello Matthew! I’m very excited to be interviewing you today! I like to start my interviews off with the lord of all softball questions: tell us a little bit about yourself. What made you want to be a writer? What do you do when you’re not putting words on a page?

When I was little, I wanted to write a magazine about the neighborhood kids. I named it Magazine Magazine. It never made it to even the first issue. To be fair, I was maybe seven years old. So the desire was there long, long before the ability.  That desire hit me early on, because I was a reader. I read a lot of Hardy Boys books and Alfred Hitchcock’s Haunted Houseful, and whatever I could get my hands on, Reader’s Digest, books based on the television show Get Smart, stuff on my parents’ and grandparents’ bookshelves. Then my grandparents, knowing my love for the Universal Monsters (I’d never seen the movies but was transfixed by the pictures), bought me King’s Christine, and the novelization of the first Omen movie. I was on the cusp of being a teenager then. I still wanted to write, but couldn’t manage to put anything decent together. A lot of writing was intimidating; writers seemed to know a lot about the world that I simply didn’t. In college I wrote poetry for classes, and I’m proud of a lot of that stuff. I admit that I’ve pilfered some lines from my old poems for my fiction. At that time I was reading a lot of American novelists like Mailer and Kesey and John Irving, and the Beat Generation writers, too. In my thirties I found my way to Lovecraft and Ligotti and Aickman, and I read all the King I could get my hands on, still. It wasn’t until I started up a fiction page on Livejournal, writing short pieces that ended up in Gateways to Abomination and Creeping Waves, that I essentially taught myself to write fiction. That was in 2004. I was 34 years old, and I didn’t put out Gateways until ten years later. During that ten years, I didn’t really think of myself as a “writer,” because I did not have the need to write every day, or even every week. That has changed.

When I’m not writing, I’m either at my job or lounging around watching television or movies with my wife and cats. Or else I’m reading. I’m not exactly living a fast-paced, exciting life. I hope you weren’t hoping I’d say “rock-climbing” or “body-surfing” or “traveling to distant lands.”

I think your creative voice is wholly unique. I find it dream-like, each horrifying image like a flashbulb in the dark. Anyone that knows their horror can spot a Matthew M. Bartlett story from across the room. Can you talk about what goes into a short story for you? What does your process look like?

It always starts with a vague concept, or a word or a phrase, one overheard or one that jumps into my head. The way I work is, if I sit down and open up a work in progress, or open up a new blank document with an idea in mind, I write. It’s automatic. If I don’t, I don’t. So I get myself to that computer every day and I open up that document. I rarely have a map in my head of where a story will go. Most times I have only the beginning. Sometimes I have that and the end, and no middle. And I just go where my mind takes me. And I do a lot of internet and book research, sometimes just to get tiny details right. I usually have a few projects going, so if I find myself stuck on one, I bounce over to the other.

You have a novella being published by Darkscape Press later this month. It’s called If It Bleeds and it looks absolutely incredible. What can you tell us about this new book?

This is a book very much in the vein of Gateways to Abomination, in that it’s a stringing together of short pieces that connect with each other in angular ways. They all revolve around a singer, and a song, and a deal with someone who isn’t quite the devil.  There’s a visit to a home for wayward boys, a strange incursion at a Gentleman’s Club, a grisly scene in a building near the National Mall in D.C., and a lackluster performance by a local band on a town green. There are beheadings, at least one shooting, and a few stabbings. So, essentially, it’s a love song, a sing along, a homicidal radio play without a if it bleedshero. The book basically serves as a prologue to the third full-length book about my fictional radio station WXXT, with Gateways being part 1, and Creeping Waves being part 2. The third book will have a lot of stuff about the FCC, or at least my version of it, which involves corruption and black magic. Right now I see it as a traditional novel, not a mosaic novel like the first two. The book has a cover and a frontispiece by the incredible Yves Tourigny, and gorgeous interior color illustrations by Luke Spooner. Incidentally, Nightscape will also be publishing a three-book set of illustrated hardcovers including my book Gateways to Abomination, Jon Padgett’s Secret of Ventriloquism, and a book of short story collaborations by me and Jon. It’s called Secret Gateways. Secret will be illustrated by Harry O. Morris, Gateways by Aeron Alfrey, and something special is in the works for the third book.

A lot of young writers I talk to get discouraged with the grind (sending stories out on submission, etc.) and the constant struggle that is the publishing world. Do you have any advice for any writers looking to get published?

I do, for what it’s worth. A lot of it is common sense and nothing you won’t hear elsewhere. Read widely and often. Put your head down and put in the work. Write wherever and whenever you can. If you’re serious, and want to be a professional, don’t let video games and television take over your free time. Writing should bring you enjoyment, but remember that it is work.  Aim high. Don’t give away your work. If you receive feedback, try to put aside your ego and see if there’s any worth in it. Understand that if one venue doesn’t want your story, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad story; it rangel-body.jpgmight not be to that editor’s taste, or it might be not quite what he or she was envisioning for the work they’re putting together. Behave on social media. Know how to read the room, so to speak. Read what people in the writing community post for a long time before you wade in. If you have a book you want people to buy, don’t push it on them. Don’t friend writers, editors, and publishers on social media and then immediately ask something of them, like “look at my book, like my author page.” Self-promote only in spaces where self-promotion is explicitly requested. This is important because the genre fiction community on social media is smaller than you think, and we all talk to each other. Bad behavior gets around. Keep trying, if publication is what you want. Discouragement and rejections are part and parcel of writing. A thick skin and a belief in yourself are assets. Finally, and this may be a hard pill to swallow, if writing brings you nothing but misery, if you’ve given it all you’ve got to no avail, there’s no shame in stopping.

Let’s talk about books for a moment. What’s in your To Be Read pile right now? Any books you’re looking forward to in the future?

I’m currently reading Coyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias, who is a true poet and a compelling writer. The new Simon Strantzas collection Nothing is Everything is in the mail, on its way to me. I’ll soon be starting A Rather Haunted Life, a Shirley Jackson biography. I’ve pre-ordered Carnivorous Lunar Activities by Max Booth III, and Wounds by Nathan Ballingrud, who is one of my absolute favorites. I also have House of Windows by John Langan to look forward to, and I’m really looking forward to his next collection. I stalled out on Don DeLillo’s Mao II, but may pick that up again for a re-try. Otherwise, I dip into the massive amount of collections and anthologies both old and new I have sitting around my house.

Where can people find you online?

My website is www.matthewmbartlett.com. I have a Patreon site where you can see and hear not-yet-published pieces and readings. I occasionally tweet but mostly retweet at @MattMBartlett. I’m on Facebook a lot.


Thank you for joining me, Matthew! This ends today’s transmission… Try not to pay to much attention to the voices hidden in the static…

Interview: Trevor Henderson

It’s January 2019 and that means it’s time for another interview! Every month I’ll be interviewing authors and creators about their newest works, their lives, and what influences them. This month’s interview is with artist and cryptid king Trevor Henderson!  

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For my first question, I like to keep things simple. Tell us a little bit about yourself! What made you want to be an artist and a writer? What other hobbies do you enjoy in your free time?

Okay! So I’m an illustrator who lives in Toronto! I love horror in all it’s varied forms. I’ve been an artist who is interested in drawing monsters and scary things since I was very, very young, and this is entirely my Dad’s fault, him being a big horror fan who introduced me to horror films at a very young age. Both of my parents have always encouraged my art. I wouldn’t say I’m a writer, the little snippets I post with my art are more just me exploring a little bit. I was moved to start including them when I ran a tabletop horror game this past year and had to come up with a developing horror plot on the fly. It was so much fun, I started incorporating the written word into my art.

As for other hobbies, I listen to podcasts, play video games, board games, read horror fiction, and see a lot of movies. I was on a couple podcasts this year and it was a lot of fun. I’d love to do it again.

I think that your fame in the horror community comes from your absolutely jaw-dropping found-footage art. The power of your art certainly comes from seeing the supernatural lurking among the mundane. Can you talk about your Sirenhead.jpgart? 

Thank you so much! The supernatural co-mingling with the every day word in subtle and horrible ways is one of my favourite ideas in horror. The whole thing started as an idea to see if I could replicate a found footage horror film and boil it down to a single image and a couple sentences. The response has been so amazing that it has really encouraged me to continue playing around with the format, and it’s lead to me creating continuity between certain images, with a couple specific monsters popping up more than once, and some basic lore being developed. I’ve always loved found footage horror, and think that at it’s best, it provides a unique film-going experience.

You’ve released two books so far featuring your art and your fiction. The first, ‘Odd Noises in Empty Rooms’, is a collection of short horror stories and ghost drawings. The other is a book of short horror comics called ‘Bad Things Coming’. Greats titles! What can you tell us about those two books?

The first book, “Bad Things Coming” is a collection of four short (really short!) horror stories done entirely in pencil, with a risograph printed cover. The idea was to pay homage to the format of one of my favourite horror manga, “Fuan No Tane (Seeds of Anxiety)“, which manages to be terrifying in only a couple pages per story. I don’t think a lot of the book holds up, but there are a few drawings in it that I still love.

Odd Noises in Empty Rooms” is my newer book, and it’s a collection of scratchy black and white ghost drawings, with little one-page accompanying ghost stories. It was inspired by the work of Stephen Gammell, who is most famous for doing the terrifying art for the “Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark” books. They were hugely formative for me as a little kid, so I wanted to pay homage!

As I think most creative types can attest, it’s not always easy to stay on that treadmill. Life gets in the way, and sometimes the words and the art don’t want to flow. Have you ever experienced that? And what tactics do you use to keep it at bay?

It can be a real struggle. I work a full-time day job, and sometimes it’s nearly impossible. When I paint ghosts into photos in my found footage art, I find I can manage when I’m tired and don’t feel like drawing, because the background image is already there. I can look at the photo and be inspired to imagine what kind of creep is lurking in the background. In this way, I’ve been able to be productive and produce one or two found footage images a day, more or less, for the last couple months. It can be so hard, though. As long as you’re making SOMETHING every couple of days, you are improving. But at the same time, don’t push yourself. It’s understandable to be too tired to be creative after working a job all day.

Time for a dream job scenario: You’re given an unlimited budget and the ability to work for any company, with any characters. What is your dream project? (For me, It’s writing a Batman novel or five.)

Oh man, that’s an exciting question. I’d love to be hired on as a concept designer for the television show “Channel Zero“, in my opinion the best horror show on the air. It’s constantly showing off these fantastically designed and executed monsters, and I’d love to have a hand in helping to develop their next iconic entity.

Last question! Where can people find you and your works?

Hands in the Forest

Oh yeah! You can find me on most social media, but I use Twitter the most. You can follow me at https://twitter.com/slimyswampghost. I’m also on tumblr at http://slimyswampghost.tumblr.com/ and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/trevorhenderson/!

Author Interview: Gemma Amor

Chestnuts roasting over a horror fire…

Or something. It’s December, and that means it’s time for my final interview of the year! In case you’re new to the blog, every month I’ll be interviewing authors and creators about their newest works, their lives, and what influences them. This month’s interview is with horror podcast maverick Gemma Amor!

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I’m very excited to be doing this interview with you today! I like to start my interviews off with an easy question: tell us a little bit about yourself! Why did you decide to become a writer? What other hobbies do you have in your spare time?

I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. It was never really a conscious decision for me, but simply something I always did. I spent a lot of time by myself as a child, and writing was a natural byproduct of that and being a ferocious reader from a young age. Over the years I began to take it more and more seriously, and then, eventually, I realized I couldn’t live very comfortably without writing, and would feel anxious, frustrated and upset the longer I went without putting pen to paper. So it became my way of life, and is now my main source of income (which is why I only eat every other week).  All of this means I don’t really have many other hobbies, because I don’t get a huge amount of spare time. I am also a parent, which is tantamount to pouring any free time that remains into a vast, black hole. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

You seem to have an affinity for spooky podcasts! I first discovered your work on a recent episode of the stellar No Sleep Podcast (the Halloween episode). I saw you’ve got pieces slated for several new podcasts in 2019! What can you tell us about your podcast work?

Podcasts are my addiction, and I found the podcast community to be an instantly welcoming and warm place full of like-minded people. I realized that although I love writing fiction, I also love hearing audio adaptations of my work. Once my first story was accepted by NoSleep, I was no sleep podcasthooked, and began writing more and more stories for audio. Writing for audio demands a lot of a writer in different ways to straight fiction, so I learned a lot as I continued to submit stories and reach out to other, similar shows such as Shadows at the Door, and the Grey Rooms. Most importantly, however, getting involved in podcasting meant that I built connections with actors, producers and mentors who possessed so much knowledge and expertise that I’m now producing two of my own shows, both of which are out in 2019. Calling Darkness is a horror-comedy show that I’ve co-written with NoSleep stalwart S.H. Cooper. It stars Kate Siegel, from Netflix smash-hit The Haunting of Hill House, as our narrator, and a whole host of other great voice talent from the world of audio-drama, including David Cummings, Graham Rowat, Dan Zappula, and many more. It’s an irreverent, female-led audio drama co-created by myself, Cooper and so many other talented people. Kate is just wonderful in it- I’ve listened to her raw audio for the first four episodes, and can’t stop smiling.

I’m also writing, producing and acting in forthcoming audio drama Whisper Ridge, which is again slated for release in 2019. It’s a serious audio-fiction series set in the post-gold-rush era of the American frontier, and follows the journey of a young Sheriff who comes to the town of Whisper Ridge only to encounter strange phenomena. It’s quite different to my other work, and I’m really excited to record the pilot, which will be out soon.

I saw your first collection, Cruel Works of Nature, releases in December of this year! I signed up for your newsletter so I can get eyes on it when it releases! How did this collection come about? What can we expect from the stories within?

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After buckets of blood, sweat and tears, it’s finally out! Which is so surreal, and it’s delightful to finally have something tangible and published that I can hold in my hands. I’ll be updating my mailing list very shortly with links to the book on Amazon. Cruel Works of Nature is a hand illustrated collection of short stories, some of which have been adapted by the NoSleep podcast, others which are exclusive to the book. Each story deals with some aspect of nature or the natural world that has gone horribly awry. I have a thing about the great outdoors, animals, flora and fauna, and skewed realities. I also have a thing about monsters, and so this book is a love-letter to the upside-down, as it were. Its been really well received so far, which is lovely, and has spurred me on to write the next collection, which I’ll release in 2019.

Let’s talk about books for a moment. What’s in your To Be Read pile right now? Any books you’re looking forward to in the future?

I’m reading so many books at the same time that I need to stop, and catch up. I have a collection of short stories by H.G.Wells to get through, and then I might revisit Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, which I try and read once a year simply because I love it so much.

A lot of young writers I talk to get discouraged with the grind (sending stories out on submission, etc.) and the constant struggle that is the publishing world. Do you have any advice for any writers looking to get published?

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 My advice would be not to give up. Even if you send one story to a thousand people, and it gets rejected each time, don’t give up. Do consider, however, getting beta-readers involved for constructive criticism, or a writing mentor who can help you learn and shape your words more effectively. There is nothing that cannot be re-written and improved upon.

And always, always, ALWAYS follow the submission guidelines, no matter who or what you are submitting to. Guidelines are there for a reason, and ignoring them will piss editors off no end.

You’re enjoying a cup of coffee in a crowded café when the door dings. Your favorite author walks in and asks if he/she can take a seat in the empty chair at your little table. You nod your head and they sit down. Who is that author? And what will you talk about? No subject is off limits.

Dear God, I could never choose one author, and I’m so socially defunct that I would never invite them to sit with me and make awkward conversation! But if I had to, at gun point, I would talk to the following:

Angela Carter, about female characters rooted in magic realism, about fairy stories, and about Bristol, where I live and she studied.

Stephen King, about anything he wanted, but primarily writing horror as a means of coping with your own personal demons,

Stephen Hall, about grief and allegory,

Hanif Kureshi, about short stories and love affairs,

Mary Shelley, about her utterly bonkers life,

Robert Jordan, about world building in the Wheel of Time series.

But it’s far more likely I would turn a deep shade of red, sweat a lot and mumble something incoherently about the weather!

 

Thank you Gemma! To find out more about her work, check out her website at gemmaamorauthor.com. This interview is the 6th I’ve done for my site, and I hope to continue going strong into 2019. Every writer/creator I interview offers a new perspective and excellent advice about their craft and lessons writers like me (or you) can truly learn from. Stay awesome everybody, and tune in next week for my end of year review.

Author Interview: Kelly Robson

It’s November 7th and that means it’s time for this month’s Author Interview! Every month I’ll be interviewing authors and creators about their newest works, their lives, and what influences them. This month’s interview is with Nebula Winner Kelly Robson.

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Kelly Robson. Photo Credit: Maxwell Ander

Hello Kelly! I’m very excited to have you here on the blog today! I like to start my interviews off with the ultimate softball question: tell us a little bit about yourself. What made you want to be a writer? What do you do when you’re not sitting at your keyboard?

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a little kid. Book have always been the most important thing in the world to me. But I caught the short SFF bug when I was sixteen and picked up my first issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine. Contemporary short SFF just blows my mind. It’s so powerful, so flexible.

I have a nine-to-five office job in downtown Toronto, which is only a fifteen minute walk from my apartment. I love not having a commute — it gives me time and energy for writing after work.

I discovered your writing through Tor.com late last year. It was ‘A Human Stain’ that drew me in. After I saw Sam Wolfe Connelly’s incredibly creepy art, I knew I had to read it. This story is a perfect example of how amazing speculative fiction can be. I think you must have performed some kind of gothic-magic to cram that much atmosphere and detail into 40 pages. Your story rightfully won the Nebula for Best Novelette. Can you give us some background on ‘A Human Stain’? What was it like to win that award?

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Isn’t that cover art amazing? I love it so much. Ellen Datlow edited “A Human Stain,” and she put me through FIVE rewrites. One of the great things about horror stories is the sensory detail — it’s not horror if you can’t feel it! The story wouldn’t have won the Nebula if Ellen hadn’t pushed me to perfect it, and at the end, neither she nor I could really tell if the story worked or not. So winning the award was a complete surprise. I really expected not to win, and my co-finalists are all people I know and like so I was rooting for them. Then at the ceremony, I was busy live-tweeting the results on my phone, and was poised to take a photo of the winner when my name was called. I sat with my mouth open for a full ten seconds before moving.

Your book ‘Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach’ landed on shelves in March of this year. Though I haven’t got a chance to read it yet (it’s in my teetering TBR pile) it looks like you’ve created a very unique world. How did you go about writing this book and managing all the demands that world-building requires?

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I go about world-building in an organic way, by reading a lot of interesting non-fiction and then synthesizing the best bits. I don’t really take notes, I just try to get an understanding of how the world works. So my Earth of 2267 is based on a lot of information from David Graeber’s terrific economics book Debt: The First 5000 Years combined with my own understanding of the professional services world to create a unique economic system. I really believe economics is the physics of world-building. Once you understand that piece, everything else falls into place.

A lot of young writers I talk to get discouraged with the grind (sending stories out on submission, etc.) and the constant struggle that is the publishing world. Do you have any advice for any writers looking to get published?

I tell new writers that the writers who make it are the ones who don’t quit, so to make it, you have to find the survival strategy that works for you. That’s going to be different for everyone. Maybe that means doing what I did: write a lot but not submit stories until I knew my stories were good enough to sell to the bigger SFFH markets. Other people find a way to enjoy the submission grind. Others go to a lot of workshops, and get tons of feedback on their drafts. So just do what’s right for you and don’t quit. If you never quit, you never fail.

What’s next for you? Any new books or stories on the horizon?

Right now, I’m working on a sequel to ‘Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach’. And I’m discovering that second books are really difficult.

Let’s talk about books for a moment. What’s in your To Be Read pile right now? Any books you’re looking forward to in the future?

I’m reading an arc of Caitlin Starling’s The Luminous Dead, which is an SF Horror and it’s simply terrific. It’ll be out next year. I’m reading a lot of horror right now. And I’m desperately looking forward to Annalee Newitz’s next novel, which I think should be out next year, too!

Last question: You’re stranded on a desert island with one historical figure from any point in history. Who’s it going to be?

Such a hard question! I think it would have to be Oscar Wilde, because I’d really like to collaborate with him on a decadent, epic space opera.