New ARCs

Source: Publisher

The ARC fairy has been kind to me lately. Here are some of the ones I’ve received recently.

New ARCS – I’m particularly interested in the Beth Cato and Claire O’Dell. Can’t wait to find some time to read these!

Authors Welcome

I don’t often weigh in on the various dramas in book blogging fandom. Most of the time,  I don’t care enough to get involved. This is my space,  and seeing as how it’s a very small one,  the drama doesn’t tend to make it here.

In this case,  however,  I have something to say.  The question of whether or not authors should comment on reviews and discussions of their work has been a hotly contested one for as long as there has been work to be read.  I’m sure even the first stories chiseled into a cave wall or painted on a vase invited their own criticism.

The question of whether it is wise for an author to respond to discussions of their work  is beyond the scope of this post.  (Note: It usually isn’t.)  But it’s also not my place to make that decision for an author.  If I post something publicly,  then I cannot be upset when the public – including the author –  responds.  If I didn’t want those responses,  I would have made it private.

Authors *are* fans. In some cases, authors are the ultimate fans. Can anyone argue, for instance, that Brandon Sanderson is not the ultimate Wheel of Time fan?  (Spoiler: not with me,  you can’t.) There is room in fandom for everyone,  including content creators.

On the other hand,  I don’t own fandom.  If I did,  you can believe I would be making some changes.  The great thing is that NO ONE owns fandom.  But I do own this space.  This is my world; I am Creator here.

And in my world,  everyone who can maintain civil discourse and type a coherent sentence is welcome,  regardless of age,  gender,  race,  sexual orientation,  religion,  creed,  ability,  fandom of choice,  and yes –  even publishing status.

Be you welcome and merry,  my friends.

Review: The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination Edited by John Joseph Adams

Review: The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination Edited by John Joseph AdamsThe Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination on February 19, 2013
Pages: 368
Format: eBook
four-stars
From Victor Frankenstein to Lex Luthor, from Dr. Moreau to Dr. Doom, readers have long been fascinated by insane plans for world domination and the madmen who devise them. Typically, we see these villains through the eyes of good guys. This anthology, however, explores the world of mad scientists and evil geniuses—from their own wonderfully twisted point of view.

An all-star roster of bestselling authors—including Diana Gabaldon, Daniel Wilson, Austin Grossman, Naomi Novik, and Seanan McGuire…twenty-two great storytellers all told—have produced a fabulous assortment of stories guaranteed to provide readers with hour after hour of high-octane entertainment born of the most megalomaniacal mayhem imaginable.

Everybody loves villains. They’re bad; they always stir the pot; they’re much more fun than the good guys, even if we want to see the good guys win. Their fiendish schemes, maniacal laughter, and limitless ambition are legendary, but what lies behind those crazy eyes and wicked grins? How—and why—do they commit these nefarious deeds? And why are they so set on taking over the world?

If you've ever asked yourself any of these questions, you’re in luck: It’s finally time for the madmen’s side of the story.

Everyone knows that superheroes are boring. Villains are more interesting: more complex in their madness, more brilliant in their darkness. When the villains are also genius scientists… Well, then you have something remarkable. The authors writing for this collection go in all sorts of different directions. Some of their villains are well intentioned, others are narcissistic, some are spurred on by achievement, others by revenge. And some of them are truly, genuinely mad.

I’ve been trying to decide on a favorite story, but I don’t think that I can. They are all wonderful and unique in their own way.

  • Professor Incognito Apologizes: An Itemized List (Austin Grossman),  in which a mad scientist/villain apologizes to his girlfriend for deceiving her, is a perfect opener.
  • Father of the Groom (Harry Turtledove) seems to be the weakest in the set, telling the story of what happens when the Bridezilla’s new father in law is a mad scientist.
  • Seanan McGuire’s Laughter at the Academy is the mind-bender of the bunch.
  • Letter to the Editor (David D. Levine) is an unexpected twist.
  • Instead of a Loving Heart (Jeremiah Tolbert) is the kind of story I wish The Mad Scientist’s Daughter (see my last review) would have been.
  • The Executor (Daniel H. Wilson) is one of the best in the book, and probably the most touching.
  • The Angel of Death Has a Business Plan (Heather Lindsley) reminds us why evil geniuses should work alone. This one made me smile, and is one of my favorites.
  • Homo Perfectus (David Farland) was the most disturbing of the bunch, featuring a power-hungry, rapist CEO.
  • The narrator of Ancient Equations (LA Banks) had me rolling my eyes.
  • Alan Dean Foster’s Rural Singularity could be the best in the book and certainly has the most unique mad scientist.
  • Captain Justice Saves the Day (Genevieve Valentine) takes a refreshing approach.
  • I’d love it if The Mad Scientist’s Daughter (Theodora Goss) became a series. How cool would it be to have more stories of popular fiction’s most mad scientists’ daughters?
  • The anthology’s headliner Diana Gabaldon has the longest story in The Space Between. It’s well-written but ill-explained and wasn’t in the running for favorite.
  • Carrie Vaughn’s Harry and Marlowe Meet the Founder of the Aetherian Revolution is another story I hope we might see more of eventually.
  • Blood & Stardust (Laird Barron) was entertaining, but hard to follow at times.
  • I’d say L.E. Modesitt, Jr. has the creepiest villain — a political mad scientist — in A More Perfect Union.
  • Naomi Novik’s Rocks Fall is brief but particularly special. I found it intriguing.
  • Mary Robinette Kowal’s We Interrupt This Broadcast reminds us that she can do much more than her long form fantastical Victorian romance and do it very, very well.
  • Marjorie M. Liu gives us the interesting tale of a man dealing with the legacy of his name: Lex Luthor in The Last Dignity of Man. Disturbing, thought-provoking, and will make a tug or two on the heartstrings.
  • The Pittsburgh Technology (Jeffrey Ford) is the only one who doesn’t show us the face of the mad scientist behind the sinister plot. Not the strongest story in the bunch, but worth a read if you have the time.
  • Mofongo Knows by Grady Hendrix takes us back to pulp novels, stories of simian villains, and their inevitable conclusion. If you liked Chuck Wendig’s Dinocalypse Now, you’ll like this story.
  • I found The Food Taster’s Boy by Ben H. Winters the most thought-provoking and a good final note. It reminded me somehow of Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series.

I read this book when I was sick one weekend, so all the stories have a certain surreal quality in my memory now. (This is the sick weekend that ended with me washing my face with shampoo accidentally because I was that exhausted and disoriented from being awake for what seemed like 473 hours in a row.) I received a digital ARC from Netgalley but ended up buying it anyway. Overall, I’m pretty glad I did. 

four-stars

Review Revisited: DARKER STILL by Leanna Renee Hieber

You may remember back in December when I reviewed Leanna Renee Hieber’s newest novel, Darker Still. At the time, I had one lingering question that had bothered me.

A Novel of Magic Most Foul

If I could ask the author one question, though, I would want to know why Natalie needed to be a mute. Maybe that’s a factor that comes to play more of a role in the sequels, but our heroine’s background at a Victorian-era “school for the deaf” is mentioned several times but seems not to make much of an impact on the story line itself.

Yes, this really bothered me at the time because it seemed like an arbitrary handicap thrown in for possibly non-story-telling reasons. Well, I’m happy to tell you that I recently found out that I’m a complete idiot (about that anyway).

Here’s a quote from a recent guest post from Leanna at WORD for Teens:

The fact that my heroine Natalie suffers from a disability, Selective Mutism, proves another hurdle in a time period full of brick ceilings. Her condition is, I dearly hope, a reminder for all women, no matter what age, to literally and figuratively “find your voice” amidst a patriarchal society where women still struggle for equal pay, equal rights, equal power. 

Click the link above to go read the rest of the article, which has a lot more insight into the book than just this bit.

Now: about me being an idiot. Well. There’s not much I can say, I guess. I wasn’t expecting a metaphor that serious in a YA novel. I failed to make the connection, in a way that would make my AP English teacher very disappointed in me.

That said, this revelation makes me even happier and more excited for the next installment in the series, which incidentally is called The Twisted Tale of Miss Natalie Stewart and is scheduled for US release from Sourcebooks Fire on November 1st according to Goodreads.

Review (w/Giveaway!): The Taken by Vicki Pettersson

The Taken is the first book in a new series, Celestial Blues, from Vicki Pettersson, author of the Signs of the Zodiac series. It was released from Harper Voyager on July 4, 2012.

Because I love you, I went to see Vicki when she was in town back in July. She gave me several 4×6″ promo cards featuring the cover art of The Taken, and she was kind enough to sign them for me. I have three of them that I’ll mail anywhere in the USA. To enter, check out the form at the bottom of this review. 

The Blurb

Griffin Shaw used to be a PI, but that was back when gumshoes hoofed the streets . . . and he was still alive. Fifty years later, he’s an angel, but that doesn’t make him a saint. One small mistake has altered fate, and now he’s been dumped back onto the mortal mudflat to collect another soul–Katherine “Kit” Craig, a journalist whose latest investigation is about to get her clipped.

Bucking heavenly orders, Grif refuses to let the sable-haired siren come to harm. Besides, protecting her offers a chance to solve the mystery of his own unsolved murder–and dole out some overdue payback for the death of his beloved wife, Evie.

Joining forces, Kit and Grif’s search for answers leads beyond the blinding lights of the Strip into the dark heart of an evil conspiracy. But a ruthless killer determined to destroy them isn’t Grif’s biggest threat. His growing attraction to Kit could cost them both their lives, along with the answer to the haunting question of his long afterlife . . . [Goodreads]

The Review

This book has a much bigger streak of romance in it than the Zodiac books did. It also has no superheroes, just to warn you. What it does have is an angel bad-boy, a modern-day rockabilly heroine, and a serious murder-mystery (or rather: two murder-mysteries) to solve.

If you’re expecting Pettersson’s writing to get lighter with this new series, then you are seriously mistaken. This author has a (much deserved) reputation for being absolutely vicious to her characters, and while this opening doesn’t quite have the brutal gut-punch that The Scent of Shadows did, it still isn’t a quaint walk in the park. In fact, this book should probably carry a trigger warning for rape/sexual assault.

The main relationship is a little abrupt, but the mystery and danger is gritty and real. You can’t really compare Kit with Joanna (the protagonist from Zodiac), because they’re so totally different, but I admit to not falling in love with Kit in the same way. Joanna was dark, tough, and strong. Kit is strong, too, but also sunshine-y cheerful, stubborn, and… Well. I don’t know if she’s too stupid to live, but she doesn’t seem to be the smartest person in the world. For a journalist, this proves a weakness that can (and does) put her into danger.

On second thought, it’s not that Kit’s stupid. She seems quite intelligent, actually. It’s just that she’s way too trusting. She married a jerk that didn’t appreciate her. Then she lets her best friend walk into the seedy hotel room where she’s murdered. As if that weren’t enough, she doesn’t run screaming when she finds Griff, claiming to be an angel, in her house.

Yep, I would be totally credulous if I found a strange man in my bedroom at night who then advised me he was a supernatural being after a short conversation. Sure, he saved her life — but that would only get you so far with me. (I’d probably just call the cops rather than getting out the frying pan and beating him to within an inch of his life, for instance.)

If you don’t take this too seriously, you should do just fine. There’s an odd contrast between the campy-ness of Kit’s rockabilly lifestyle and her interactions with Griff against the deadly serious conspiracy of the ending. I find that contrast intriguing rather than off-putting, but some readers may not be so forgiving.

All in all, this story is like that kind of chocolate you can get with the hot pepper in it. (Here’s an example.) It’s a sweet romance tale, with the bite of murder and conspiracy. It’s a gritty noir murder-mystery with some great witty dialogue. This story is trying to be a lot of different things, and while it doesn’t quite succeed in being everything for everyone, it’s a compelling start to a story that I plan on being in line for through the end.

[xrr rating=3.75/5 imageset=default]

[FTC Disclosure: While I purchased my own copy of this book to review, I did receive the promo items I am giving away from the author at no cost to me.] : {Post edited to refer to the correct government agency.}

[contentblock id=2 img=code.png]

Good Dilemmas

I have three ebooks all pre-ordered and ready to download to my Nook first thing in the morning (if Barnes & Noble is on the ball, that is). I thought I’d take a moment to share them with you, because I’m super excited about all of them.

The first is a book I’ve been waiting a long time for:

In steam age America, men, monsters, machines and magic battle to claim the same scrap of earth and sky. In this chaos, one man fights to hold on to his humanity–and his honor. . .
Life on the frontier is full of deceit and danger, but bounty hunter Cedar Hunt is a man whose word is his bond. Cursed with becoming a beast every full moon, Cedar once believed his destiny was to be alone. But now, Cedar finds himself saddled with a group of refugees, including the brother he once thought lost.

Keeping his companions alive is proving to be no easy task, in part because of the promise he made to the unpredictable Madder brothers—three miners who know the secret mechanisms of the Strange. To fulfill his pledge, Cedar must hunt a powerful weapon known as the Holder—a search that takes him deep into the savage underbelly of the young country and high into the killing glim-field skies defended by desperate men and deadly ships.

But the battles he faces are just a glimmer of a growing war stirring the country. To keep his word Cedar must navigate betrayal, lies, and treacherous alliances, risking everything to save the lives of those he has come to hold dear… [Goodreads]

  • I adore Devon Monk’s writing, and have been waiting for this forever. This is the sequel to Dead Iron, which I review here. And don’t miss Devon’s blog tour, complete with free fiction and multiple giveaways for a free copy of the book, a Tin Swift magnet, and a hand-maid steampunk bookmark! 

Angel Crawford is finally starting to get used to life as a brain-eating zombie, but her problems are far from over. Her felony record is coming back to haunt her, more zombie hunters are popping up, and she’s beginning to wonder if her hunky cop-boyfriend is involved with the zombie mafia. Yeah, that’s right–the zombie mafia.
Throw in a secret lab and a lot of conspiracy, and Angel’s going to need all of her brainpower–and maybe a brain smoothie as well–in order to get through it without falling apart. [Goodreads]

  • This is the second book in Diana Rowland’s White Trash Zombie series, which have the absolute most rockin’ cover art I have EVER SEEN on a zombie novel. If you like campy horror (think: Shaun of the Dead) then you absolutely must read this. I reviewed the first one over here.
  • The third and final book on my list is different from both of these. In fact, it’s a little bit of a departure from my normal reading habits – so much so that I’m wondering if I’ll end up loving or hating it. (I hope I don’t hate it.) Usually when I read fantasy, I stick to off-world fantasy. I have had mixed luck with historical fantasy. (Gail Carriger? GOOD. Other things? VERY, VERY BAD.) But I’ve heard so much about this book, and I’m so fond of this writer‘s non-fiction blogging over at Magical Words that I couldn’t help but pre-order it, from sheer wondering how all those plot elements ended up working out.  (Full disclosure: I read one of this author’s other, more traditional fantasy novels and, while I liked it, I still haven’t found the time to pick up the next book in the series. So many books, so little time!)

Boston, 1767: In D.B. Jackson’s Thieftaker, revolution is brewing as the British Crown imposes increasingly onerous taxes on the colonies, and intrigue swirls around firebrands like Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty. But for Ethan Kaille, a thieftaker who makes his living by conjuring spells that help him solve crimes, politics is for others…until he is asked to recover a necklace worn by the murdered daughter of a prominent family.
Suddenly, he faces another conjurer of enormous power, someone unknown, who is part of a conspiracy that reaches to the highest levels of power in the turbulent colony. His adversary has already killed—and not for his own gain, but in the service of his powerful masters, people for whom others are mere pawns in a game of politics and power. Ethan is in way over his head, and he knows it. Already a man with a dark past, he can ill afford to fail, lest his livelihood be forfeit. But he can’t stop now, for his magic has marked him, so he must fight the odds, even though he seems hopelessly overmatched, his doom seeming certain at the spectral hands of one he cannot even see. [Goodreads]

 

  •  Which means I have some very hard decisions to make tomorrow. Since I have to work, I can’t read them all. Which should I start with first? (Feel free to vote more than once or for more than one book!)

Review: Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

Throne of the Crescent Moon is the debut novel from Saladin Ahmed, who has been a finalist for both the Nebula and Campbell awards. It was released February 7th, 2012 by DAW books.

The Blurb

The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, land of djenn and ghuls, Khalifs and killers, is on the brink of civil war. To make things worse, a series of brutal supernatural murders strikes at the heart of the Kingdoms. And it’s up to Doctor Adoulla Makhslood to solve them.

“The last real ghul hunter in the great city of Dhamsawaat,” Adoulla just wants a quiet cup of tea. But when an old flame’s family is murdered, he is drawn back to the hunter’s path. Recruiting old companions and new, Adoulla races against time–and struggles against his own misgivings–to discover a plot for the Throne of the Crescent Moon that threatens to turn Dhamsawaat, and the world itself, into a blood-soaked ruin. [On Goodreads]

The Review

Y’know. I had this whole 2,000 word review all typed up where I ranted about a review of this book that, essentially, called it misogynistic and shit writing. But I don’t feel like editing that crazy rage-fest.

So here’s what I’ll say instead: that review was wrong. So very, very wrong. I admit, there was one moment while reading this book where I had a fly-off-the-handle-feminist moment. Then, I took a step back, a deep breath, and realized that one stray thought by a character balanced against the incredible ass-kicking action of all the females in this book makes my initial knee-jerk invalid.

Does this novel fail the Bechdel test? Erm. Without double checking to be 100% sure, I’m gonna say – yeah, it does. Are there about a bajillion other fantasy novels out there that are also Bechdel fails but that are just as worthy of a read? Also yep.

So why read this one? Because it’s worthy in a different way. Ditch your European-grown fantasy roots and saddle up for something a little more “birthplace of civilization” flavored. Did I fall in love with this novel? I have to admit that, no, I didn’t. Did I enjoy it? Yep, quite thoroughly actually and I found it completely worth the time I invested in it.

There’s just one piece of my rage-fest rant that I have to relate here. One of the beefs the review I read had (and to which I am not going to link to here) was that one of the main female characters is a sort of were-lion and her powers are inaccessible to her during menses. So, of course, there was a bit of feminist rage about “OMG why does she have to be powerless three days out of the month simply because she’s a woman that’s so misogynistic!!!1!one” (paraphrasing, not a direct quote).

To which I say:

1) Traditional mythology, fable, and even other fantasy books all have tons of references  to a woman’s power being tied to her menstrual cycle. This is not new, and ranting simply because a MAN dared to use it as a plot device is, frankly, in my opinion very silly.

2) Why do we even have to look at it as “She’s being stripped of her power for being a woman!” at all? For one: her power is being limited, which can only be a good thing. She is still a bad-ass, shape-shifting lion who kicks ALL KIND OF ASS during all the crazy fight scenes. (Seriously – super exciting fight scenes!) Remember “absolute power corrupts absolutely”? How about, “unlimited power makes for a boring fucking character”? (Hm. Sounds like something Chuck Wendig would say, but I digress.) Her power is being limited in a way that not only makes sense within the confines of the world, but it’s being done in such a manner that she’s forced to look at the world not as an animal but as a human being and, yes, a woman. Which brings me to my next point…

3) Why is it okay for other fantasy writers (even men) to write werewolves as creatures who are tied to the same sort of lunar cycle but not in this case? Because this author came right out and tied it to menses instead of being coy about it? Honestly, I’d rather have it this way. At least it gives some sort of vaguely scientific reasoning – more so than “the moon made her turn into a monster!”.

Creating a strong feminine character doesn’t mean stripping her of everything that makes her a woman. In fact, that’s quite the opposite. I see the author here creating a character who, while being constrained by the fact that yes, she is actually female, works within those limitations to become that much more powerful. Which is how it works in real life, isn’t it?

Bottom line: do you want another cookie-cutter, leather-wearing, bed-hopping Bond knock-off with an X chromosome or would you like to maybe see an actual girl dealing with all the things a girl has to deal with? Which includes, for those unwilling to face it (both in fantasy reviews and in modern politics!), menstruation and thinking about child-bearing.

Argh. I swore I wouldn’t rant, and I did it anyway.

One of my favorite things about this book is that our heroes are mostly old people (there are a couple of young ones, a displaced youth and an apprentice, but they are rash and young and smartly idiotic in the way that only teenagers really can be). It’s refreshing to see a fantasy that ISN’T a coming-of-age story. Our hero, Adoulla, is around sixty and world-weary and feeling ready for his long-overdue  (at least in his opinion) dirt-nap when we meet him. There is a charm to the elderly in that they are fearless and unafraid of looking foolish (whether it is being overly sentimental about worldly possessions or absurdly proud of their own flatulence). This book captures that perfectly, and I hope to have 1/10th the sass at that age that any of these characters do.

Just read this book. Especially if you enjoy unique fantasy settings, such as N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms or Brandon Sanderson’s A Way of Kings. It’s worth it, and it’s a fraction of the size of other door-stopper fantasies written by the likes of Rothfuss, Jordan, Sanderson, et al. You can read it in a weekend, form your own opinion, and wedge your mind open just the tiniest of fractions. It’ll be good for you. But don’t take it from me. Read the damned book already and stop taking advice from opinionated strangers on the internet!

 

Magic Most Foul Giveaway

Annnd… Because I’m a huge dork who forgot to include it in the previous post. There is a giveaway attached to the lovely Leanna Renee Hieber’s guest post, sponsored by her Greatness and courtesy of her dear publisher, Sourcebooks Fire.

Giveaway is for one (1) copy of Darker Still and is open to any human person on the planet Earth who leaves a comment either here or on the previous post (I’ll combine them) before midnight in the Eastern (my) time zone on February 19th.  

Thank you all and sorry that didn’t get included on the original posting. February has left me flabbergasted this year.

Guest Post: 5 Things to Look Forward to in Magic Most Foul by Leanna Renee Hieber

A Novel of Magic Most FoulA Note from Kia: You’re in for a treat today, kiddies. Our dear friend Leanna Renee Hieber has stopped by to give us an exclusive look at all the things we are eagerly awaiting in the next Magic Most Foul novel. (And oh, YES, we certainly are, aren’t we?) Said novel even has a name now: THE TWISTED TRAGEDY OF MISS NATALIE STEWART

Edit: Also there is a giveaway! Post comment here to win copy of Darker Still! Rules over here

So now without any further chit-chat, let’s let Leanna have her say! 

Five things to look forward to in the next Magic Most Foul novel (Releasing this November!) In no particular order:

  1. Adventure! On Trains! Natalie and Jonathon as heroine and hero continue to lead the series. Our brave young lovers escape from New York City to dodge the after-effects of magic but have to dodge some additional problems along the way.
  2. There’s an homage to Frankenstein in a most disturbing way.
  3. There’s an homage to both The Exorcist and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in one new character.
  4. A Victorian Goth club. AKA “Her Majesty’s Association for Melancholy Bastards” – And I, the author, am a card-carrying Goth and member, so there.
  5. Making out in train cars and carriages. Enough said.

Stay tuned at http://leannareneehieber.comhttp://facebook.com/lrhieberhttp://twitter.com/leannarenee

Reasons to check out DARKER STILL: A Novel of Magic Most Foul if you haven’t already:

  1. There’s a haunted painting. A British Lord is trapped inside. And he’s really good looking. (See, that’s three reasons just in one).
  2. Natalie Stewart, a spirited and opinionated young woman everyone can cheer for, overcomes danger, incredible personal odds and adversity to save lives and save the day.
  3. It will give you the shivers. Lots. Promise. I’ve been told that Natalie’s dreams aren’t to be read right before bedtime.
  4. It’s full of danger, intrigue, mystery, curses, magic, nightmares, disguises and pretty dresses!
  5. It was chosen as an INDIE NEXT recommended book by the American Booksellers Association and it’s a trilogy, so you’d best start now…

Cheers!Leanna’s website: http://leannareneehieber.com and Twitter: http://twitter.com/leannarenee and FB: http://facebook.com/lrhieber

About Leanna

[Source] Author, actress and playwright Leanna Renee Hieber grew up in rural Ohio inventing ghost stories. She graduated with a BFA in Theatre from Miami University, a focus in the Victorian Era and a scholarship to study in London. She adapted works of 19th Century literature for the stage and her one-act plays such as FavoriteLady have been produced around the country. Her novella Dark Nest won the 2009 Prism Award for excellence in the genre of Futuristic, Fantasy, or Paranormal Romance.

DARKER STILL: A Novel of Magic Most Foul, first in Leanna’s Gothic Historical Paranormal trilogy for teens (Sourcebooks Fire), hit the Kid’s/YA INDIE NEXT LIST as a recommended title by the American Booksellers Association. Seventeen Magazine said of DARKER STILL: “This chilling tale will draw you in and keep you guessing until the very last page!” The book has been praised by Shelf Awareness, The Chicago Tribune, Pixie Magazine and more. DARKER STILL will also be translated into several languages.

Interview with Vicki Pettersson, Author of Signs of the Zodiac

Welcome to Waiting for Fairies’ first ever author interview! Vicki Pettersson, author of The Signs of the Zodiac series, Feathered and Sequined Goddess of the Southwestern Desert, graciously agreed to “break [us] in”, so to speak. She even agreed not to do the interview by smoke signal as originally planned. My signal fire was a little weak that day, what can I say? This premiere interview is awfully fitting, since the very first book review ever posted at Waiting for Fairies way back in March of 2007 was Vicki’s first book: The Scent of Shadows!

I have to say, I was nervous to do this interview. Who wouldn’t be nervous when speaking to a tall, leggy redhead who is not only a NYT best-selling author but could also probably Can-Can me into the ground? You have no idea how often I’ve double, triple, and quadruple checked that I have spelled that name correctly, every time, so I wouldn’t completely humiliate myself. (Especially after recently doing a review of Jesse Petersen‘s last book!) Luckily for me, Vicki is a classy lady who didn’t begrudge me my interview-ginity. And, P.S. – it’s Swedish and pronounced “Pet-ter-suhn”, in case you were curious!

If you’re unfamiliar with Signs of the Zodiac, you can read yesterday’s review, check out Vicki’s bio on her website, or just skip ahead for the interview!

Book 6 - Signs of the Zodiac

 

Q1: The Neon Graveyard is the last book in the series. I’m sure Joanna is relieved her author won’t be off plotting new horrible things to do to her. Are you sad to be saying good-bye?  

VP: Oh, sure – blame me!

Here’s a secret, one I’ve held close to my heart throughout this entire series: I didn’t initially think the series, or Joanna, was all that dark. I mean, I was always aware that she was tough, but the way I saw it, my job was to create antagonists and conflicts to rival that toughness. So Joanna created her enemies (and the plot twists) which then returned to shape Joanna, and on it went.

It wasn’t until I was having dinner with my editor – who loves the series as much as I do – that I realized just how dark I was going with this character. I casually mentioned that Joanna’s reactions didn’t seem all that extreme to me, and my editor looked at me like I’d just stolen her cocktail. Twice.

That said, I too started feeling Joanna’s fatigue, especially after CITY OF SOULS. How much can one woman go through? And it was the answer to that question that steered me toward ending the series. I didn’t want to throw new monsters at her just for the sake of conflict, or to merely extend the series. That would cheapen Joanna’s previous efforts, and dilute the emotion of such a hard-fought journey. So I’m happy with this ending, and thrilled that even after everything she’s been through, she can believably retain her toughness and go out swinging.

Q2: Speaking of those horrible things… You never, ever pulled any punches in this series. Was there ever a point where you stopped and said to yourself, “Man, this is getting pretty brutal”? I know you practically had a reader revolt on your hands after City of Souls. Man, that was a long, long year to wait for resolution! Did you ever want to be nicer to your cast of characters?

VP: That year-long wait was awful for me too. I wanted to tell each and every reader, “Just wait, please trust me. I know what I’m doing!” But I think that strong reader reaction came precisely because Joanna’s journey had gotten so brutal. It also had nothing to do with the story’s fantastical elements. Readers had put themselves in Jo’s shoes, and were feeling her emotional pain acutely, so that was a real turning point in the series. From the fourth book on, the series had less to do with fantastical new creatures, or the world of the Zodiac, than it did with Jo’s emotions and personal life.

Did I ever want to be nicer? Yes. But not as much as I wanted to tell the truth about her and her world.

Q3: Midheaven is an interesting aspect of the books, and I’ve always wondered what you intended when you describe it as a “woman’s world”. What did you want people to take away from that description? For instance, I found it beautiful and mysterious – yet also pretty savage (kind of like women in general can be at times). Were you trying to make a gender statement there or was it simply something to fuel the story?

VP: I believe the primary purpose of fiction is to entertain, so while I wasn’t trying to make a statement, I did want to explore this matriarchal society I’d set up in the Zodiac series. Preaching, or having some sort of authorial agenda is a no-no, yet novels are such a great way to explore haunting social or emotional questions. Would it really be so much better/different if a woman were running things? My conclusion was exactly what you stated: at their best, woman are beautiful and mysterious. At their worst, they can be savage. Exactly the same as men actually, if in different ways.

Q4: When we readers are finally ready to say good-bye to Joanna and company, it appears you have something else wonderful in the works. It’s being described as “a partnership between a supernatural private eye and a rockabilly reporter with a real nose for trouble.” What can you tell us about the new Celestial Blues series that we can’t already find out from your FAQ?

VP: The first book in the Celestial Blues series is called THE TAKEN. It alternates narratives between Griffin Shaw, a moody fallen* angel/P.I., and a female reporter named Kit Craig, who is full of modern-day rockabilly swagger. Mind, “fallen angel” is a bit of a misnomer. Grif hasn’t fallen as much as he’s been busted, and working with Kit is a by-product of his punishment. I’ve just handed in the first draft, so I promise you’ll be hearing a lot more about THE TAKEN very soon!

Q5: What authors are YOU reading right now? I know in the past you’ve praised the work of Richard Kadrey. Is there anyone else we should be checking out while we wait for Celestial Blues?

VP: Other than the usual suspects, I can recommend Sophie Littlefield, who does an amazing job in both mystery and UF. She’s quickly becoming one of my auto buys, and UF readers should definitely pick up her AFTERTIME. I got behind on my reading in J.D. Robb’s IN DEATH series, so I’m playing catch-up now. (Problem is, she writes faster than I can read!) Alie Condie and Suzanne Collins are my most recent YA reads; I’m really enjoying the dystopian YA trend. Other than that, lately it’s been a lot of thrillers. I also can’t recommend Diana Gabaldon enough to those who may not yet have picked up OUTLANDER. I actually feel sorry for people who haven’t read that book.

Q6: Thank you so much for stopping by and giving us a little bit of your time! Is there anything else you’d like to say to either long-time readers or those just picking up the series?

VP: I just want to say thank you to all my readers – no matter when they started reading. Without them, there wouldn’t be a Signs of the Zodiac series … or the upcoming Celestial Blues series. I also want to give props to those readers who’ve been with me the last four years. Following Joanna Archer hasn’t always been an easy journey, but I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.

Thank you, Vicki, for stopping by! I hope my readers out there will consider picking up Signs of the Zodiac if they haven’t already. This series has the Waiting for Fairies Seal of Approval! (Yes, I just made that up. I can totally do that. It’s my blog!)