Interviews

Vincent Chong mini-Q&A

Fresh from his recent World Fantasy Award win and just in time for Christmas, Vincent Chong – one of my favourite artists – has announced he’s releasing limited-edition prints of some of his work, including the art he did for editions of The Shining and Dr Sleep.

Vincent Chong illustration for “The Shining” limited edition

Even if those don’t take your fancy, his art is gorgeous (I have a ridiculous amount of it around the house, including a print of his “Fallen Angel” – natch – in my kitchen) and he has a huge portfolio of work available as standard prints too.

And because he’s not just a fabulous artist but a lovely guy, he’s also popped by the blog to answer a few questions. Like he had a choice…

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Q: Who are your favourite artists (or what are your favourite works of art)?

A: At the moment one of my favourite artists is Shaun Tan. His illustrated story books are simply beautiful and I love all the imagination and touches of surrealism that go into each one.

Q: Who or what do you think has inspired you the most?

A: Dave McKean‘s work has probably been the single biggest inspiration to me; it was seeing his covers for the Sandman comics (in the The Sandman Dust Covers collection) that first opened my eyes to the possibilities of combining digital techniques with traditional ones and what you could achieve by blending the two. It played a big part in shaping the style I developed and the techniques I’ve ended up using for my own work since.

Q: Is digital art more democratic than, for instance, a watercolour?

A: I’ve always liked the idea of anyone being able to own a copy of the artwork that isn’t seen as ‘less-than’ the original in some way, rather than there being one original that only a few could enjoy.

 Q: If you could illustrate any book, what would it be?

A: Nothing in particular springs to mind right now… I used to think I’d quite like to do my own reinterpretation of classic children’s books such as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. But having illustrated so many authors’ books over the years, I guess what I’d really like to do is come up with my own story to illustrate.

Q: What interests you as an artist? Do you find yourself coming back to the same kind of themes or ideas?

A: I like creating imagery that has various layers to it, and perhaps could be interpreted in different ways, or contain small details that people pick up on repeated viewings. I also love interesting textures so I continue to incorporate a lot of them into my work. Overall, I think my approach is more about building atmosphere and emotion in my art rather than producing images that are overly polished.

Q: What’s the last book you read, and the last film you saw?

A: The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave and Thor: The Dark World.

 Q: What are the best and worst things about your job?

A: Some of the best things…being able to get up whenever I want! And also not having to work alongside people I don’t like or becoming embroiled in inevitable office politics. And some of the worst things…getting a bit stir crazy working on my own at home and not having anyone around to have a natter with when I want!

Q: Finally… tell us a secret?

A: My biggest secret is that % &@?’£ ^&$**@ $*%^!!!

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Vincent Chong is an award-winning freelance illustrator and designer.  Since 2004 he has brought his creative vision and distinctive visual style to a wide range of projects for both print and the web.  Currently living and working in the UK, his art and design has been published internationally and can be seen on book covers, magazines, CD packaging, websites, flash games and book trailers.  He has worked for clients around the world including HarperCollins and Little, Brown and has illustrated the works of  authors such as Ray Bradbury and Stephen King.

You can follow his blog here.

The Next Big Thing

It finally got me. I’ve been tagged in the Next Big Thing meme (shout-out to Danie Ware, Paul Kane and Elspeth Cooper, all of whom cornered me and memed me into submission, as has the lovely Janet Edwards).

The idea is to answer a few questions on whatever it is you (the Tag-ee? The Be-tagged?) happen to be working on and then to pass on the tag to five other people. Think of it like Ringu, only with writers crawling through your computer screen.

Lovely mental image, isn’t it? Anyway. Let’s get on with things, shall we?

What is the working title of your next book?

At the moment, I’m working on BLOOD AND FEATHERS: REBELLION. Which is, fairly obviously, the follow-up to BLOOD AND FEATHERS, which came out in August this year.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

REBELLION being a direct sequel to B&F, it largely sprang from the fact that the characters’ stories weren’t finished. Alice wasn’t done, Mallory wasn’t done and Vin, well… Vin’s so scatty he’d probably forget if he was done. I wanted to open up the world – after all, we’ve only really seen hell so far – and to spend some more time with those characters, as well as to bring new ones into play. The angelic war’s been going on forever… and there’s a lot more to it than Alice knew.

What genre does your book fall under?

Like B&F, REBELLION likes to lurk on the borders. It’s closest to urban fantasy (certainly this time around, there’s an actual city…) but there’s elements of fantasy and horror in there too. What it isn’t is paranormal romance. By the way, I’m quite taken with “featherpunk” by way of sub-genre, if anyone feels like running with that…

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Ah. The best / worst question. I have fairly strong views on who’d be ideal for most of the characters… and several of them, I’m not sharing. This is largely because I like the idea that everyone has a slightly different mental image of Alice, or Vin, or Mallory – and that, technically, none of them are wrong. The Mallory you have in your head might look and sound completely different from the one in mine – but that’s the way it should be. It doesn’t make your Mallory any less “Mallory” than mine. So I’ll keep those three to myself, but I will tell you about a couple of others.

Michael, in an ideal and perfectly perfect world, would be Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. It’s funny, because I’d had a very clear mental image of Michael right from the get-go, which is a couple of years back… and the first time I saw a photo of him, he fitted exactly.

A new character who appears in REBELLION is the Earthbound angel, Castor – and him, I’d love to see played by Jamie Parker (who’ll be familiar to anyone who saw the Globe’s Henry V this year.) You should totally follow him on Twitter, by the way – @DickLeFenwick.

Finally, the one that everyone who’s familiar with my own Twitter feed (or, well, me) will have been waiting for. The Archangel Zadkiel – he’s mentioned in BLOOD & FEATHERS, but doesn’t appear in person until REBELLION.

Jeremy Renner.

Happy now?

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

With the Fallen wreaking havoc in the world and on humanity, the Archangel Michael is determined to destroy Lucifer once and for all – whatever the cost – and Alice, Mallory and Vin will be called on to sacrifice more than they ever imagined possible…

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m represented by the gorgeous, talented and lovely Juliet Mushens, and REBELLION will be published by Solaris Books in the summer of 2013.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Ask me that when I’ve finished it… which should hopefully be sometime in the next couple of weeks. If all goes to plan, it’ll have taken a few months. But that’s only a first draft. Getting to a cleaner version will take another month or so of tinkering on my part, and that’s before my fantastic and long-suffering editor Jon gets his hands (and his red pen) on it!

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

The easy answer is that it’s like BLOOD AND FEATHERS. I’ve been told that one’s comparable to SANDMAN SLIM, which I’ve not read yet but certainly will do. The easiest (and probably most useful) comparison to make is with the TV show SUPERNATURAL – we seem to overlap in a lot of ways, much to my initial despair. I’d written most of B&F before I started watching that one, so you can imagine how I felt when I got as far as season 4…

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The first book, in a way. There was that, and there was somewhere I went. I was on holiday with my family – while B&F was on submission to Solaris, funnily enough, and I had no idea whether they were going to want it or not – and we went somewhere that made me start thinking. You can’t take me anywhere…

There was also this, which has (in my head at least) become an informal theme tune for Michael. Because if this doesn’t make you think of angels, nothing will.

Not only is the video utterly extraordinary, if REBELLION had a sound, that would be it.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Someone described BLOOD AND FEATHERS as “post-Bourne angels”. REBELLION has more of them, interacting much more widely with the world, with the Fallen and with one another. Oh, and you might just get to find out what’s in all those notebooks that Mallory keeps knocking around his floor…

So that was relatively painless. (The photo of Renner helped, right?)

I’m going to pass on the meme by tagging five people to write their own post in a week’s time – but as this is me, I’m going slightly off-piste and tagging someone who’s not an author, but an editor. In this case, that’s Jared Shurin of Pornokitsch, and one of the people behind the Pandemonium anthologies.

Also tagged are Jonathan Oliver, Anne Lyle, Niel Bushnell and – because eventually he’ll have no choice but to cave under the sheer weight of tags and play along – Will Hill.

Rue Morgue & the Door to Hell

I’ve been a bit sporadic on here of late – mostly because I’m seriously getting into REBELLION, the follow-up to BLOOD AND FEATHERS at the moment. So that means you’ll see less of me online. In theory. I still waste far too much time on Twitter, partly because it’s become my office watercooler, really, and if I didn’t have that I’d be reduced to just talking to the cat. Or possibly waiting for him to talk back to me.

Meantime, you can find me talking about BLOOD AND FEATHERS, Buffy and many other things in Hell’s Shelves, on the Rue Morgue site.

And for your very entertainment, seeing as we’ve mentioned the “H” word, might I present the “Door to Hell“?

It’s a crater in Turkmenistan, discovered when Soviet geologists were drilling for gas in the 1970s (or so the story goes). The ground beneath the rig collapsed, taking all the equipment with it. Fearing a poisonous gas discharge, the scientists decided to try and burn off as much as possible, assuming it would take a couple of days to burn out.

It’s still burning today.

S’mores, anyone?

Today the internet…

So, who wants to hear me talking? No, really. On the off-chance you’ve not had enough of my wittering on here, you can actually listen to me waffling on (with the lovely Stephen Aryan trying to steer me vaguely in the direction of sense…) on the first Head Space podcast, which went up yesterday.

I’ve tried to listen to it (to idiot-check it, at least) but I haven’t yet been able to make it all the way through. It’s the sound of my voice, you see – I sound so much posher than I thought, and so terribly, terribly British! From what I could gather on Twitter yesterday, pretty much everyone feels exactly the same when they hear their own voices recorded. Is there anyone out there who sounds like they think they do? Or prefers the sound of their voice the way others hear it? Terrifying.

There have been a couple more reviews of BLOOD AND FEATHERS: one from Elitist Book Reviews, which was very cool and incredibly insightful (if a touch spoilerish in that last paragraph… consider that fair warning if you want to go in pretty cold…) who called it, amusingly, an “anti-Twilight” and said:

This is urban fantasy, colored in plenty of shades of blood-spattered moral gray. Morgan’s angels are vengeful, ferocious, and downright psychotic.

You can read the full review – spoilers and all – here.

A Fantastical Librarian has also posted a review, which is fab – and quite rightly mentions Pye Parr’s gorgeous cover art. I think my favourite part of it was this:

if it were possible to enter a book and explore its universe on your own, we could just walk in there and find it fully formed.

… but again, you can read the full review here.

I’m enormously grateful to everyone who takes the time to review the book, and to put their reviews online – and I’m obviously over the moon that it seems to be getting such an encouraging reaction so far. It means a lot.

In other news, Americans! I believe we are now a “GO” for publication… which means you should be able to find BLOOD AND FEATHERS… well, everywhere. So spread the word and catch an angel. Before they get away.

To celebrate, the Qwillery invited me on to the site to talk a little bit about the book, about writing, research and inspiration. They’re also running a giveaway, so if you want to win a copy, head on over and enter.

And finally, you can also find me talking about life as a debut author over at The Debut Review: including the road to publication and just how the editing process messes with your head…

Actually – one more thing. Very, very finally, thanks to Tor.com for mentioning BLOOD AND FEATHERS in their round-up of July releases.

An Assembly of Angels

It’s been a really exciting (and busy) couple of days, and I can’t quite believe how fast they’ve gone. Or how fast the release date for BLOOD AND FEATHERS is hurtling towards me!

The biggest thing for me, amongst a few big things, is that the first review for the book came in, and I’m absolutely thrilled. My Bookish Ways said:

… expertly weaves fantasy and horror elements into a creepy, exciting, roller coaster ride of a book. Lou Morgan’s angels aren’t warm, fluffy, and halo’d, either. They’re fiercely beautiful warriors, and distinctly “other.” The angel mythos is fascinating and rich, and the author has laid the groundwork for what promises to be an explosive sequel

(You can read the full review here.)

Basically, this brought a huge smile to my face – and not just because it’s a lovely review. It’s because it’s the first sense that other people have read the book: people I don’t know and who don’t know me, and that it’s now out there on its own. Being its own thing and standing by and for itself. It’s terrifying exciting. And it’s wonderful. The fact that the first review I’ve seen is also so positive just adds to the whole thing.

Kristin, who runs My Bookish Ways, was also kind enough to invite me to waffle on about all manner of things from medieval art to Prince Hal to angels via the City of London, and you can read that here.

If you’ve not yet had enough of me waffling (some of you have tremendous stamina, I know) then you can also join in the Friday Five fun on Pornokitsch. Every week, they ask a couple of people to choose 5 of something, and this week it’s… yep, you guessed it: angels.

I particularly love that Castiel has made 2 out of the 3 lists, proving that he really is All The Awesome. It also reminded me of something I found on Etsy yesterday which I reallyreallyreally want:

Knitted Castiel

He may be just about the coolest thing ever. Seriously.

Well.

Until someone knits a Mallory, that is…

Comics for Girls II (or: We Are Woman. See Us Draw)

I threatened, didn’t I? And I do make good on my threats (even the ones involving sledgehammers. Especially the ones involving sledgehammers). So here’s a round-up of a few things I’ve come across re: women and comics.

Eden, who writes the Comicsgirl blog, left me this link in her comment on my earlier post: an interview with Hope Larson & Raina Telgemeier, the authors of “Mercury” and “Smile” respectively. Incidentally, I’ve seen both of these being talked about as great examples of both female-written comics (with female protagonists) and as very well-written comics, regardless of the gender involved… ticking plenty of boxes.

Hope also conducted her own survey on girls & comics (bearing in mind she’s a YA author, the results are probably slightly skewed towards the mid-teens) which bears out a lot of what we all suspected anyway: that girls care about characters (but not to the exclusion of art), that they want to see more strong, female protagonists, that they need to feel welcome in the comics community–and that the extreme attitude towards women in mainstream comics needs to change. Interestingly, the survey also picked up that a lot of teen girls don’t really have anything more than a peripheral awareness of comics. The full thing–complete with Hope’s caveats–is here.

See also the great interview with Hope on the topic here: She Has No Head!

Onwards.

Geekmom’s post on women in comics looks at the template for the comic-book princess. Her theory is that they’re hard to find unless you adjust the pattern slightly, and stop looking for stereotypical fairy-tale princess figures, and instead look for superhero princesses. In other words, take Wonder Woman as your exemplar and you’re away:

Wonder Woman aka Diana Prince is actually Princess Diana of Themyscira. But wasn’t her status as a princess that made Diana the ambassador to the outside world. It’s her physical and mental toughness in a tournament that leads to her becoming a hero for all the world.

In other words, while she’s a princess, she’s also a warrior woman.

And this seems to be the template followed by most other superhero princesses.

They come from all over the Earth, from galactic kingdoms, and from far-flung fantasy worlds but none of them seem to be waiting for Prince Charming.

Instead, they’re all fierce defenders of their friends and their countries.

What I learned about super heroine princesses is that they will kick your butt, especially if you happen to be an evil overlord.

Gin & Comics comes at it from an altogether different angle, but nonetheless raises a valid point–that of merch. And he’s right: why should I be stuck with baby-pink tees with characters I don’t care about as my only options? (I should point out that I’m not above nicking my husband’s Silver Surfer t-shirt, but wouldn’t it be nice if I could get a shirt that featured Deadpool, or Gambit, or any of the other characters that apparently Girls Don’t Like)

An interesting blog post over here, on the “5 Worst Things to Happen to Women in Comics in 2010” (as well as, to be a little less doomy, the 5 Best). It’s a little more character-focused, maybe, but there’s some valid points.

A quick shout-out to the Ladies Making Comics Tumblr site as well as to the Laydeez Do Comics graphic-novel reading group (London-based). And I can’t miss out Selina Lock’s Girly Comic while we’re here, nor can I pass on the brilliant blog & website of Susie Cagle, which has just made me smile bigly.

It’s not entirely related, but it ties in with a different post I made on here a couple of days ago about The Vampire Diaries (and specifically the contrast between the female characters in the TV show compared to the books): yesterday, Alex Bell did her own post, and it’s a very good one indeed.

Thanks to everyone who commented and left me links: if I’ve missed something relevant, nudge me and I’ll update. I should add that I found several of these articles via the Fridge Dispatch site, which has been invaluable and comes highly recommended by moi (like that counts for anything…)

And yes, I know I’ve posted the Danger Maiden “Geek & Gamer Girls” video before, (and I accept it doesn’t exactly bring any sensible discussion to the table) but I like it, and you can’t be serious all the time…

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Little Epiphanies

It’s my son’s birthday. He’s 3 today, and I honestly can’t work out where the time’s gone.

Actually, that’s not entirely true: I know most of it’s been spent swearing, crawling round the floor (I’ve gone through the knees of five pairs of jeans in that time) and doing washing. There seems to be an endless march through the kitchen of clothes in need of a damn good clean these days. No-one warned me about that.

Also, while we’re on the subject, no-one thought to warn me that the smaller the socks, the easier they are to lose–and I was already a champion league sock-loser. There’s something almost zen about it.

Still. Three whole years. And in that time, he’s gone from a tiny wrinkled blue thing to a smart little boy who asks me why it’s dark at night (“Because it’s night time, and it goes dark at night.”… “But, why?”… “Because the sun goes to bed at night, because it’s tired.”… “But, why?” “Because.”… “But, why?”… “Because Mama needs a gin. Shhh.” Apparently I should be grateful: when I was 3, I turned around and asked my parents: “How did carrots first get on the Earth?” I’m not entirely convinced that I wouldn’t answer the same question with “Tralfamadorians“) and who told his first joke last week. Granted, it was one wholly plagiarised from Gigglebiz, but everyone’s got to start somewhere.

As it turns out, he’s not the only person I know celebrating today: big birthday cheers to my friend Andie, and to the lovely Guy Adams.

Rod Rees, too, has cause to be happy today: it’s publication day for Winter: the first volume of “The Demi-Monde“. Long-time readers of the blog (especially if you’ve come from the old Tumblr site) will know I’ve been behind this book since I heard about it in March. Rod was kind enough to send me a proof of it during the summer, and I couldn’t put it down. It’s a glorious romp, and I’m intensely jealous I didn’t think of it first. Or ever, because I can’t even begin to imagine how he fits it all into his head. And there’s another three to come…

I interviewed Rod for the British Fantasy Society a couple of months ago. The full interview, with much more insight into how the Demi-Monde functions, and the challenges of writing it, will appear in a future issue of the BFS Journal. For now, though, you can read a short version on the BFS website.

Big day. I’m off for a glass of champagne.

Strike One

(Or, the Blog of Wrath)

I’m cross. No, really, I am.

Part of this is down to today’s yet-another-Tube-strike, which in fairness don’t usually affect me. However, I had to go into London this afternoon to do an interview (more of which later) and this meant that yes, today it did affect me. It’s not actually that big a deal: I walk pretty much everywhere in central London–a legacy of being a student right in the middle–but what Tube strikes do is bring everyone up to the surface.

Seriously, you don’t realise how many people there are in the middle of the city at half-five in the afternoon, because on a normal day, most of them are about fifty feet below ground. But when there’s no Tube, they all emerge, blinking, wearing their trainers (awww, bless. It’s like they’re going off on a hike or something. Either that or they’re expecting an imminent mugging and think that speed is their best survival option) with no clue where they’re going. Whereupon their fellow grumpy Londoners (ie: me) trip over them, stumble about a bit and stomp off swearing profusely.

Which brings me to the Interview That Was Never Meant to Be. The plan was simple enough: meet in the British Museum, have a chat. All good.

No. Because the British Museum is closing early, thanks to the Tube strike (see point above. You know, the one about the swearing).

Fine: wait until eviction from the Museum looms, relocate to Starbucks. Discover we’re now next to the toilets, which have a twelve-mile long queue of tourists, all of whom didn’t get the chance to pee in the Museum and absolutely *must* do so now.

Again with the swearing, and again with the relocation–this time to a far distant table in the corner.

Ten minutes later, cue Lady With Broom (stage left): “Downstairs is now closed. Everyone must leave, kthxbai”. Or words to that effect.

More swearing–and at this point, my lovely interviewee and I looked at each other and agreed to call it a day. In all honesty, I’m slightly afraid of what’ll happen when I play the interview back (in its 3 sections. Christ). In all probability, the interview will have translated itself into Mongolian Throat Warbling or something.

Again: swearing. Copious swearing.

However, thanks are most definitely due to my long-suffering interviewee, Mike Carey, for being charm personified and having a sense of humour while mine was not just failing but flatlining. Not the easiest of circumstances, but he was incredibly patient, and for that I’m very grateful. I love his books, and if you’ve not read any of the Felix Castor series, you’re doing yourself a massive disservice: go and read one now. Hopefully the interview will find its way out into the Real World via the BFS sometime soon.

In the meantime, I find nothing solves a bad mood like a bit of Strictly Come Vader.

Who’d have thought the Sith could boogie like that?

Now, does anyone know where I can get a Mongolian Throat-Warbling to English dictionary? Just in case…