RisingShadow Review for Bloodsworn

RisingShadow has reviewed my latest novel Bloodsworn. It is one of the most detailed reviews I have received so far and it described it as “perfect escapism for everybody who loves classic epic fantasy with dark and gritty elements” and “one of the best reads of the year”.

To read the full review, click here.

Author Interview: Lorraine Wilson

Today I have been given the pleasure and privilege of interviewing Lorraine Wilson, whose debut novel, This Is Our Undoing is due to be published by Luna Press on the 3rd of August. It looks like a fascinating novel so I have taken some time to ask her some questions.

 

 

Lorraine lives by the sea in Scotland, writing speculative fiction set in the wilderness and heavily influenced by folklore. She is fascinated by the way both mythology and our relationship with the natural world act as mirrors of ourselves and lenses for how we view others, and with a heritage best described as a product of the British Empire, she is drawn to themes of family, trauma, and belonging. After gaining a PhD in behavioural ecology from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland she spent several years as a conservation researcher in odd corners of the world before turning to writing. She has been stalked by wolves, caught the bubonic plague, and once had a tree frog called ‘Algernon’ who lived in her sink.

 

First of all. Tell us more about This Is Our Undoing. Judging from its blurb, it seems like it might be a mosaic of genres?

Yes, it kind of is! It’s a speculative novel, but speculative is a very broad ‘genre’ term, so in this case, This Is Our Undoing has elements of SciFi in its near-future, slightly dystopian setting, but it has a fantastical thread in it too (that I can’t tell you about without spoilers!), along with hints of folklore and lots of science and the wilderness … and at its very bare plot essentials, it’s got a murder mystery … So take your pick!

 

 

What would you say are its principal themes?

I said to someone recently that this book was my protest against powerlessness, and I think I inadvertently stumbled across my best summary of it so far! It’s my attempt to say that the choices we make in the face of issues far beyond our control (like societal intolerance, climate change, political corruption) still matter. It’s about the legacy of harm and loss, and how our identity is shaped by both our trauma and our choices. Family (and found family) is central to the novel because they are the people you will most risk yourself for, both your life and your identity, and I wanted to explore that conflict of protecting those you love versus staying true to yourself.

 

Was it the first novel you attempted to write?

No. Definitely not. I move back and forth between books so sequencing them is tricky, but I think this was about my fourth? My first was quite thoroughly awful and is never being allowed out of its locked drawer! The other two are sitting waiting for me to revisit them with a little (lot) more distance.

 

How long did it take you to find a publisher for it?

I just checked my files and late 2018 was when I started subbing it to agents. After six months with only a handful of full requests, I revised it almost completely and decided it might be too cross-genre to fit traditional publishing routes neatly, so started approaching indie publishers … and Luna was one of the first I submitted to in summer 2020. So… just under two years, maybe?

 

 

You have a PhD in animal behaviour and there is mention of the forest playing a part in This Is Our Undoing. How much of this knowledge you possess have you utilised whilst writing this book?

Quite a bit, to be honest. In two ways. First in the creation of the setting – as someone who has lived and worked in boreal forests, I know what it feels like to walk through the forest at night, what it sounds like at dawn or smells like when you’re in the middle of a clearing. I know what birds are singing and which flowers are flowering when etc etc. All of that background information was really useful in allowing me to make sure the scenes felt real and alive, and also – and I LOVE doing this – allowed me to use the environment my characters were in to provide subtext, adding to (or contrasting with) whatever atmosphere I was trying to create, whether that was sorrow or fear or loneliness. If you read the book, you might be able to spot me doing this – cherry-picking from the environment to add hints and emphasis to the scene’s action. It’s fun, and if nothing else, makes use of that hoard of obscure knowledge!

 

 

The second way I used my training is more direct in that my main character Lina is a scientist carrying out ecological research. So the details of her job, the work and studies she is involved in are all things I have done to some degree, although I’ve played around with the state of technology a little bit given that we’re slightly in the future. It was fun to write a field scientist character, but the reason I did that was actually because I wanted the contrast between the wildness and wonder of the forest, and the cruelty of the past that Lina thought she had escaped from (evil author laugh).

 

 

What is next? Does This is Our Undoing have a sequel or are you currently working on something completely new?

This Is Our Undoing doesn’t have a sequel. I’ve toyed with the idea of writing the stories of a couple of the side characters but that’s not happening any time soon! I’m currently working on two new books, both at the drafting stage. One is another speculative near-future story full of digital ghosts, hedgewitchery and more forests! The other is heading the other way in time – it’s a historical fiction about belonging and family trauma and Victorian women botanists.

 

Would you consider writing in any other genres?

Ha! See above. Yes! The historical fiction was a total shot in the dark for me. I’d never written anything like it but I wrote it during lockdown, without any planning and whilst homeschooling, and it was the pure escapism I needed at that time. I have also written other slightly less speculative books, based in the present day, but they are still (as is the hist fic one) influenced by folklore and the wilderness. I think those two themes are my ‘genres’!

 

What book are you currently reading?

I’ve just finished beta reading the next in the Chemical Detective series by my fabulous friend Fiona Erskine, and you are in for a treat with this one! So now I’m flicking between a few until one grabs me, which is my current strategy at the moment as my reading concentration powers are suffering from ‘pandemic brain fatigue’. Currently being sampled are: Elif Shafak’s Forty Rules of Love, Christina Sweeney-Baird’s The End of Men, Heather Kassner’s The Forest of Stars, and Georgette Heyer’s An Infamous Army. An eclectic mix!

 

And finally, would you like to give a shout out for three books which you feel more people should read, and tell us why?

Oh excellent… deep breath…

Intisar Khanani’s The Theft of Sunlight. It’s a lovely, thoughtful, thrilling, diverse and rich YA fantasy that deserves all the love!

Yvonne Battle-Felton’s Remembered. Because it is stunningly evocative and powerful, and because Yvonne is just the greatest, most generous champion of other writers, and I can’t sing her praises enough.

Nghi Vo’s The Empress of Salt and Fortune. This is a hypnotic book full of layers and kindness and potency, and everyone should read it!

 

Thank you, Lorraine!

Lorraine Wilson’s This Is Our Undoing is due to be published by Luna Press on the 3rd of August, and can be preordered at Luna Press, Amazon, Waterstones, The Book Depository, as well as other outlets.

 

 

Author Interview: David Craig

First of all. Tell us more about the books you have had published so far. There are three from two different universes, I believe?  

Yes, Resurrection Men and Lord of the Hunt (of the Sooty Feathers series, published by Elsewhen Press) are Gothic Supernatural/Historical Fantasy novels set in Victorian Scotland. They primarily tell the tale of two body snatchers (Hunt and Foley) getting caught up in a brewing supernatural war in Glasgow, featuring vampires, demons, werewolves and magicians. Book 2 (Lord of the Hunt) is also partly set in the Highlands, where Hunt learns a secret regarding his own family. The series is intended to be a quartet, and I’ve tried to depict an accurate Glasgow to balance the supernatural elements.

My second published book (also by Elsewhen Press) is Thorns of a Black Rose. It is an action/adventure fantasy in a North African-inspired setting (think Ancient Egypt, Morocco and the Sahara Desert). It tells of the sorceress Shukara and young thief Tamira getting caught up in the intrigues of the ancient city, Mask, before joining with desert ranger Jassan, braving the desert in a quest against the assassins of the Black Rose. It is a more traditional fantasy than the Sooty Feathers books, with a smaller cast of characters.

 

 

You have spent some time in Africa, which helped inspire the setting for Thorns of a Black Rose. Would you like to tell us more about that? What were you doing there?

I spent eight weeks volunteering in the Pidwa Wilderness Reserve in South Africa’s Limpopo Province fifteen years ago, helping catalogue the animals we encountered, focusing on the elusive leopards. Geographically it had little influence on Thorns but will be more useful in later books.

My second trip to Africa was a holiday to Morocco, mostly in Marrakech (which partly inspires the city of Mask), but we also visited the village of Ait Benhaddou (UNESCO Heritage site) which has appeared in a lot of films and television series, such as Gladiator, Lawrence of Arabia, and Game of Thrones. This village was a huge inspiration regarding Thorns’ village of Pashbur. We saw some breathtaking scenery driving through the Atlas Mountains to get there. It was also useful to spend time in the heat, imagining being out in it with no respite.

 

Were any of these three novels the first you attempted to write, or are there some unpublished ones in a hard drive somewhere? 

Resurrection Men was the first novel I finished, but I did start three prior. One was a rather gloomy vampire story beginning in the early 20th century that I abandoned. The banter between Hunt and Foley in Resurrection Men was a reaction to the gloom of this early novel. It existed only on paper and has since been binned!

I also started a fantasy novel in a Regency-era-esq setting with muskets and cannons. The first draft was mostly finished, but it was handwritten. I’ve still got it somewhere but it’s pretty bad.

 

 

How long did it take you to first get published? 

I started planning Resurrection Men in late 2010, started it in earnest in June 2011, and worked on it on and off until 2015, when I first submitted it. Many improvements later I sent it to Elsewhen Press in late 2017, was accepted in early 2018, and published several months later. So … eight years from initial planning to publication.

 

One thing the two of us have in common (aside from being published by Elsewhen Press) is that we have both written urban fantasy and epic fantasy (which are typically deemed to be on opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to fantasy). Do you feel like your writing assumes a different style or tone between the two subgenres?

Yes. The Sooty Feathers books are written in a faux Victorian style, a bit flowery in places. Thorns is more Sword & Sorcery so the style is a bit more straightforward.

That is actually very similar to the way I feel about my urban fantasy books compared to my epic!

 

 

What is next? Do Thorns of a Black Rose or the Sooty Feathers series have any sequels lined up? Or are you writing something completely new?

I’ve just been taken on by the John Jarrold Literary Agency on the strength of the recently finished Diabolic Immunity, a contemporary urban fantasy set in Glasgow that loosely shares a setting with the Sooty Feathers books. I’m currently nearing completion on The Blood Hour, a book I started five years ago. Thorns was written later as a prequel of sorts to introduce three of the characters. The Blood Hour has an expanded cast of characters, intended to be a homage of sorts to the idea of adventuring parties. It also has some flashforwards to a future with a similar tech level to our world. I’m also planning the last two books in the Sooty Feathers series as well as a sequel to Diabolic Immunity.

 

Would you consider writing in any other genres?

Yes. I’ve a historical fiction book in mind, in the Napoleonic era, and also an adventure thriller where a group of fortune hunters have to retrieve a very rare (and possibly drinkable) bottle of wine from the Titanic. But who knows when I’ll find the time to write them!

 

What book are you currently reading?

I’m doing a slow, often interrupted, re-read of the Malazan books by Steven Erikson and Ian C Esselmont. I’m also reading a book called Bloodsworn, by a Tej someone-or-other… can’t quite remember his name? 😛

I’m also partway through As Ants to the Gods by Alex Burcher and getting ready to read Howul by David Shannon, and City of Brass by S.A Chakraborty.

 

 

Well, as YOU brought it up, it is only correct that I do some shameless self-promo and provide illustration, right? 😉

I hope you enjoy it!

 

 

 Finally, would you like to give a shout out for three books which you feel more people should read, and tell us why?

Word of Honour by Nelson DeMille. An interesting story about a US veteran of the Vietnam war who, along with his unit, are accused of war crimes during that war (the novel was written and is set in the 80s). A very good read and the court scenes are brilliantly written IMHO.

Nothing else springs to mind as books that aren’t already well-read.