You've surely heard of Dolly Pond - star of the late 90's and early '00's animated show 'Pond Life'?
If not - you're in for a treat. 20 Glorious episodes ( all available on Youtube here) explore the life of Dolly - a confused young woman who dreams of a better life, and finds her friends, family and job rather mundane and dull. She's far too scared to do anything about it for long, but her attempts to try are gloriously funny, packed full of warm humour and a certain sense of pathos too. Dolly, whilst insecure, direct, self-centered, whiny and non-commital, is very real - and her experiences will ring remarkably true with the audience.
'Pond Life' first aired on Channel 4 in the UK, but due to scheduling issues, never received the massive audience it should have done - it's a comedy with adult themes, not necessarily suitable for the teatime slot it ended up airing in. Watching it back, it's remarkable just how ahead of its time 'Pond Life' is - arriving around the time of Bridget Jones Diary, and coming long, long before shows like 'Fleabag' which allowed an unguarded look at female characters who were vulnerable, real, and often in the wrong.
With adult animations back on our screens in a big way, it's a delight to say that we'll be seeing Dolly Pond back on our screens very soon.
In preparation for her triumphant return, I caught up with Dolly Pond over Zoom to find out exactly how things had been going over lockdown....
Many thanks to Dolly's creator Candy Guard, producer Seb Strakowicz and Dolly's Voice Actress Sarah Ann Kennedy for this - I have never had this much fun on a project!
Author of "How A Loser Like Me Survived the Zombie Apocalypse" Steven Bereznai, dropped by ThePageisPrinted for a chat about his latest book
You’re not one to stick to any one genre – what made you decide to tell a Zombie story?
Like many people, I have a fascination for what the end of the world could look like. I've also been itching to try my hand on one of the big three of the horror genre, vampires, werewolves or zombies. The latter won out because I've never been able to get the opening of Dawn of the Dead out of my head, where a quiet suburb is transformed into a scene from hell. I wanted to do something like that, but my own take on it.
It’s a hugely popular genre – did you have any inspirations in mind when you wrote “How a Loser Like Me…?”
In addition to Dawn of the Dead (see above) Fatal Attraction played a part in my mind. I love Glenn Close and wanted to catch some of that growing insanity. In the case of "How a Loser Like Me", the main character Marty is not only contending with the living dead, but also the ex who totally devastated him. When we first meet him, he's got his life back together again. He's got a great fiancee. He thinks he's got it all figured out. Everything's coming out Marty. But as he loses everything, he has to face whether he's really changed since that breakup or is he still that same loser. Just when he needs to be at his strongest, he's feeling his weakness as his ex chips away at him. She, in turn, is growing increasingly psychotic.
How people react to the Zombie Apocalypse is a key part of the book – and feels very real compared to other zombie films/programmes/books etc. How do you think you would react? Do you think you’d survive?
Lol, that is such a great question. I know I've watched/read a good zombie yarn when I find myself imagining what I would do in that scenario. I've got a crowbar, but now that you've asked it may be time go cross bow shopping :). Clearly, I need to work on my survival skills. To put it in Walking Dead terms, I'm season one Carole, but I think I have the potential to be the bad ass she grows into; I just need to find my Daryl.
The characters give the book a real heart – they’re likeable and recognisable from the off. How did you conjure them up, and how did you get in their mindset when writing?
They are definitely not based on me (wink). I can relate to the characters for sure. I've experienced versions of what Marty has gone through, using "game" to woo someone only to find out I've bitten off more than I can chew, and I've faced the emotional consequences of that. Being with a taker isn't so much fun, even if they are a "10." Also, as someone who was a couch potato growing up, and who got into fitness late in life, I also relate to Marty's struggles to play catch up, never quite measuring up to long-time or natural born athletes. But, he keeps going and so do I. It was also lots of fun writing the "villain" Heidi. She's strong, smart and beautiful. If anyone in the book is a survivor, it's her. And of course there's Marty's best friend Gary. Writing that bromantic straight-gay friendship was very much inspired by the bros in my life.
If someone were to make a film (or a tv show) of your book, who would you cast in the lead roles?
There are so many options. I could see James Franco playing Marty or an in-shape Seth Rogen, which I guess would be Chris Pratt.
For the hot but dumb trainer Devon, a shirtless Colton Haynes, Charlie Carver or Zac Effron type would be delightful.
Tessa Thompson won me over in Thor: Ragnarok. I could see her playing Heidi very nicely.
You’ve covered the Superhero genre and the Zombie genre recently – do you have any other genres you’d like to tap into?
I've got a YA fantasy novel sitting in a drawer. It's actually the first book I ever wrote. I'll get back to it one day.
Lastly – what’s next for Steven Bereznai?
I'm currently working on the sequel to the YA dystopian book I Want Superpowers. There's so much more to explore in that world. It's fun getting back into it.
Steven Bereznai - thank you very much! You can read a review of Steven's latest - "How a Loser Like Me Survived the Zombie Apocalypse", here
Having recently read (and loved) “Soho” – Part One of the “Theo and Maria” series, ThePageisPrinted invited author Rob Adam into HQ for a chat.
Firstly, could you tell me a little about yourself? Who is Rob Adam?
have to apologise in advance, but I can’t lie.. I have to confess! After an evening of drinking copious amounts of red wine, midweek might I add, this is the bit that I have left until the very end to to the open, ambiguity of the question. Okay, so, where to begin..I’m a 39 year old gay man living in Yeovil, treading water in my current job role as a customer service agent until my true calling of “author extraordinaire” comes to light… I’m artistic and creative by nature, but have always been a realist.
Sound good enough.. No? Okay.. Let me dig a little deeper.. Without a doubt I’m a lover of the human race.. Everything on the spectrum from the damaged to the slightly bruised. The confident and borderline arrogant to the unjustifiably timid. The secretive to the wide open, the unexpected to the predictable, the raucously funny to the seemingly dull.
I love to cook. For anyone who reads my books, you’ll realise this quite quickly. I cook everything from Spanish Tapas, French bistro to Dim Sum.. You name it, I’ve cooked it. Ask any of my friends I love horrors, thrillers, independents, and foreign films, and let’s not forget the cry-your-heart-out, intentionally, emotional, sob-fests. Surely that’s enough
“Soho” is a hugely fun read exploring the lives of two characters living in contemporary London. What inspired you to write it?
I’m really glad you asked that, Luke. Growing up as a gay teenager in a small town in Somerset with so few positive depictions of homosexuality, I rapidly became jaded. The frequent visits to the local video store to find sharp, witty, gay themed stories would almost certainly end in a disappointing choice of two options… Option one.. Porn – or thinly disguised instructional safe sex videos, otherwise known as soft core porn. Or, option two – awkward, heart wrenching stories of coming out followed by self loathing, or excessive drug taking to cope with said self loathing.
After my fifth, foolishly optimistic trip to the shop, something inside me just clicked and I thought to myself… This just isn’t good enough. I don’t want someone feeling sorry for me for being gay. I actually feel very proud to belong to the community and so should every gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person! So, when I finally felt I had enough life experience under my belt to start writing the first of the books in the trilogy, I thought, what better place to start than our capital, Soho… and the rest, as they say, is history.
There are hints of both Sex and the City and Queer as Folk in the book, but it’s also very much your own – and there’s something very British and specific to the events in the book, especially the in-depth knowledge of Soho. Was this a conscious decision?
Definitely! I believe that we are very lucky to live in Britain. We have an incredibly varied multicultural community, vibrant and diverse sexualities, and let’s not forget, we have our well renowned ( and much loved ) British sarcasm, and I wanted to celebrate that to the fullest. As for the hinted influences from Sex and the City ( hail to Carrie and the gang ) and Queer as Folk ( who can forget that scene between Stuart and Nathan ) I couldn’t agree more! In reference to Sex and The City, I was elated to learn, as I’m sure we all were, that these incredibly independent, sassy and successful women, were brought to life in all their authenticity from Candice’s perfectly realised source material, by a group of extremely talented gay men! Much in the same way as our American counterparts, I believe that Maria and Theo’s dynamic is unique. They can take the proverbial piss out of each other one minute, only to come together in unending solidarity the next.
There’s a lot of sex in the book – but somehow it always seems rather fun and joyous, and never veers into being at all seedy. Was celebrating sex and sexuality something you were keen to do?
If you think there’s a lot of sex in Soho, just wait until you read book two, Luke! ( Cold showers recommended ). Seriously though, you are quite right. As someone who has always believed in the open discussion of sex and sexuality, I wanted it to be playful, erotic, and above all, realistic. I would confidently bet that if I was able to ask a cross section of the people reading this right now, they would have at some point or another, burst into fits of laughter whilst in the throws of passion due to one or the other saying something funny or risqué. I think it is the one thing that joins us all as human beings. No matter who we are, no matter what our bodies look like, and no matter how old we get, sex and sexuality is something that should always be celebrated and over all, enjoyed.
Whilst Theo initially appears to be the main character, it soon becomes clear that Maria is just as important. How hard was it to get yourself into the mindset of such a vibrant woman as Maria?
Of all the questions you have asked me, I am utterly thrilled that you recognise that there are two main characters who are equal in their presence! I will come back to the reason for my gratitude for this recognition later, but for now.. delving into Maria’s mindset. I apologise in advance for rambling for the next sentence, but the reason for the accuracy of Maria is because of two reasons. The first being the rich tapestry of women I am lucky enough to call my dear friends: Zoe, Abi, Kate, Louise, Ness, Hayley,Jenny, Annu, Anna, Donna, Ashley, Maxine, Gill, Janet… the list, literally is never ending. Each one of these incredible women have made me feel in awe, delighted, connected, impassioned, inspired, motivated and above all, lucky to know them. Over many, many nights of ‘girl talk’ and frank discussions, I have been welcomed into their collective bosom as one of their own. The second is more organic to me: I used to be a woman.. I’m kidding! Seriously though, the reason I have been able to write from a strong female perspective is that I have grown up identifying with the female psyche. I love the comradery and the connection that women have with each other. I love how they are indelibly linked through their mutual understanding and their capacity for love and communication, something I have always been in complete solidarity with.
“Soho” would make for a great tv show – do you have any actors in mind should it reach the silver screen?
I love this question! Of all the people who have read Soho, believe it or not, this is the most commonly asked, ( due to the majority proportion of the book being dialogue, therefore reading like a script, and thus feeling like a film or television programme ), although, usually people ask me for movie star castings as opposed to television stars
So, starting with, in my opinion, the easiest person to cast, Maria. I cannot put into words how incredibly proud, elated, orgasmically, through-the-roof-happy, I would be if I could have Mila Kunis to step into her shoes. When I watched her appearance on Alan Carr a few years ago, I was amazed at her adept ability at ‘ laugh out loud ‘ British humour. Beauty and brains equals Maria.
The next easiest would be Kez… Idris Elba, without a shadow of a doubt!! He is one smooth, charismatic, beautiful man that encapsulates everything that is a strong, London born and bred, black man.
Theo, oddly enough, is my hardest to place ( due to his heavy influence and character basing of, none other than me ). The jury is well and truly out on him..I have my own ideas, but, since he’s based in me, I wouldn’t like to reveal
Callum.. Oh, Callum, how I love you.. If I used an american counterpart, I would choose Kevin Hart for his height and his impeccable comedy timing, but I would equally love Jason Steed, another of our homegrown British talent, to assume the role. I’ll keep my lips sealed for the rest of the cast… you know.. In case it comes into fruition
Finally – what’s next for Rob Adam?
Where, oh where to begin!? Well, aside from the final two components to the Theo and Maria Trilogy that are also available on Amazon , I feel it’s necessary to mention the prequel to Soho, So Far.. which is the back story to the trilogy.. ( I urge you to read this before starting book three due to the twists and turns that have important relevance and reference to the series )
As for the unrelated, you could indulge in Cut It Out, a novelette that can only be described as a ‘ who fucked who? ‘ with a comedic and completely unexpected twist..
Work in progresses include a numerous dating, multiple storytelling angled novel based on a restaurant, not dissimilar to the hugely popular television series ‘ First Dates ‘.
But… Exclusively.. the book that my friends and family are desperate for me to finish, is a new project that is so far removed from my usual.. It crosses multiple genres and can only be described as a science fiction/ horror/ cat-and-mouse unbearably tense thriller..
Before I head off, I would like to thank Luke for taking the time to read my book and for giving it such a glowing review and I would also like to thank you all for listening to my endless, waffling diatribe, I do appreciate it.. please enjoy
Thanks for stopping by Rob! We’re looking forward to reading Part Two, and our review of “Soho” is now up here:
Firstly, could you tell me a little about yourself? Who is Steven Bereznai?
Lol, I feel like I’m about to fill out a dating profile. Other than long walks on the beach, with the wind in my hair, I love sci fi, and have been known to binge-watch Buffy and Teen Wolf, and I’m loving the adaptation of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (I was a fan of the books as a teen). When I’m not writing (and admittedly watching too much TV), I play recreational water polo, something I took up as an adult to pull myself out of a post-relationship depression (although it terrified me to play a team sport, it was somewhere to be, not alone, two nights a week). I’m also taking an adult ballet class (for now anyway–I’m TERRIBLE) and I’m a travel writer, which takes me to some interesting places.
“I Want Superpowers” is a rather compelling blend of both the dystopian Young adult novel, and an exploration of superheroes and comic culture. What were your main influences when writing it?
So many influences! Hunger Games and Divergent rank very high, along with Kick Ass, X-Men and the Avengers. From classic literature, definitely the Chrysalids and 1984. In 1984, the main characters have their secret place that they escape to, and in I Want Superpowers so does Caitlin and Normand. For them it’s a comic book shop. Imagine a world where there are hardly any comic books, and you stumble into a comic book store that survived the apocalypse, and there’s all these titles and back issues that you’ve never even heard of, hundreds, maybe thousands of them! My brain is exploding just thinking about it.
As a book with comics and superheroes so close to its heart, were you influenced by any superheroes in particular? For me, there seemed to be some nice references to Marvel’s Inhumans line in the rather horrific method of exploring whether people have powers, and the dystopian future with superheroes and the protectors felt like something that could fit well with a dark future like that of the “Days of Future Past” timeline in X-Men. In addition, Catwoman’s claws definitely seem to have a hold on you!
Well, I died a little when I watched the Deadpool movie, and the brutal ways they use to get Ryan Reynold’s character to develop a power, because it was more similar to Caitlin’s Testing Day than I would’ve liked. I swear I wrote I Want Superpowers before the Deadpool movie came out! Oh well, it was a great film, and the process that teens like Caitlin endure to try to get them to Manifest powers was different in many ways. For one, it wasn’t some underground operation. In fact, in her world, it was institutionalized. Every teen had to go through it, and yeah, it hurts. The main idea I wanted to convey was that powers don’t come cheap. There was a price to be paid. It was dangerous, with possible head injuries and maiming, and most teens wouldn’t even have powers in the end. In terms of Days of Future Past, that was one of my favourite storylines in the X-Men comic books. Remember the cover with Wolverine and Kitty Pride on it, with the poster behind them of who has been slain and who has been apprehended? That image always wrenched my gut, and I wanted some of that in I Want Superpowers. I wanted that darkness. To me, it’s just a more satisfying experience. Maybe I’m like the evil, emotion-feeding clown in Stephen King’s It. And yes, I heart Catwoman!
Whilst the general feel of the timeline is rather dark, it’s nice to see that both sexuality and gender are dealt with by most as almost an afterthought. Was this a conscious decision on your part?
So I definitely wanted the gender and sexuality rules of this society to come through without overtly explaining them. We see the world through Caitlin’s eyes, so she already knows how it works. To spell things out would’ve clashed with that. But to make it feel like an “afterthought,” as you put it, actually required a lot of thought. In one scene, the handsome testing official Joshua comes to the classroom door, and at first I just had the girls perk up, because yeah, he’s nice to look at. I realized that was pretty heterosexist (I of all people should know better), so I changed it in a way that would include those with same-sex attractions–but in such a way that trans people in the class were excluded. So I wrote a super long, super inclusive sentence that was utterly cumbersome. It was a huge struggle to fix it, until I asked myself, what am I really trying to say here? It came down to this: when the hot guy comes to the door, “Anyone who’s into boys sits up straighter in their chairs.” It was that simple. I aimed for those kinds of simple fixes throughout, as best I could.
Main character Caitlin goes on rather a journey throughout, including going to some very dark places that I feel go slightly beyond that we’ve seen in other YA novels that explore a similar genre. It’s shocking, but also feels somewhat more realistic, especially Caitlin’s reactions to the situations she finds herself in. Was finding a slightly more real voice for your character important to you? And how did you get yourself in the mindset of a teenage girl?
I don’t know if her voice is more real than characters in other YA novels, but I appreciate the compliment! Thank you. One thing I played around with was how her friendship with Normand developed. It was important to me that she find him really annoying at the beginning because he’s very quirky and socially awkward. Then after they become friends, their relationship is challenged as she suddenly finds herself excelling socially, and he’s holding her back. I think those are real things that we all face at some point in our lives, and I wanted to see her selfish side win, at least for a while.
In terms of putting myself into the mindset of a teenage girl, as a gay man there’s lots of stuff that I think I identify with (maybe too much), from angst to an appreciation of strong female role models, and yeah, cute guys. Beyond that, although high school was a long time ago for me, as a closeted kid, it left lots of deep imprints on my psyche, which I’m drawing on now.
“I Want Superpowers” seems ripe for adaptation – do you have any actors in mind should it ever hit the small or silver screen?
Many, many, many! And I prefer to say WHEN it hits the big or small screen :). For Caitlin, someone like Alexandra Schipp (Storm, X-Men Apocalypse), Eliza Jane Taylor-Cotter (The 100), or Shelly Henig (Teen Wolf). Someone who can do angst, but knows how to kick ass.
For Brady, I imagine a young Zac Effron, a guy who has that boyish innocence, but a devilish twinkle to his eyes. For his brother Trenton, someone like Bob Morley (Bellamy in the 100), Fady Elsayed (of the Dr. Who spinoff Class), or Ryan Kelley (the hot police officer/hellhound) from Teen Wolf. It’s essential that whoever it is that he look good with his shirt off
Normand was inspired by characters Sheldon Cooper (Big Bang) and Neville Longbottom (Harry Potter). I love what JK Rowling did with Neville. Neville was basically a nothing character, but Rowling found brilliant ways to make him shine. For Normand, a young version of Jeffrey Wright (Hunger Games, Westworld) perhaps?
And for Caitlin’s nemesis, Lilianne, I’m seeing a young Lucy Liu. Maybe Arden Cho? She plays sweet on Teen Wolf, but I feel like she could crank up the bitch, yet still pull at our heartstrings when the time comes.
The world of “I Want Superpowers” is an incredibly complex one – with a backstory waiting to be explored and perilous futures ahead for many of the lead characters. Is this world one you’d like to come back to in the future?
Yes, I would LOVE to more fully explore this world, and the characters. I have several ideas bouncing around in my head. For it to happen, “I Want Superpowers” needs to be a financial win. I need fans on board, posting on social media, encouraging friends to read (and buy the book, posting positive reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, Instagram, and other sites (hint hint :). Any other book bloggers, reviewers, and bookstagramers interested in reviewing/interviewing, please contact me firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally – what’s next for Steven Bereznai, and do you have any other books the readers should check out if they enjoy (as I most definitely did) “I Want Superpowers”?
I’ve got a Zombie book that I hope to release next year. I won’t say too much, except that it’s definitely inspired by a lot of my own dating insecurities (I wouldn’t call it a love story though). It revolves around the bromanship between the straight main character and his gay best friend. I will leave it at that. And for those who enjoyed “I Want Superpowers,” I’d love them to check out my book “Queeroes”, about gay teens with superpowers. It’s very Buffy inspired, and a lot of fun.
Author of the fantastic Heartsnare (reviewed here), author Steven B Williams dropped in for a chat to discuss fantasy, Yorkshire, magic and future plans.
Firstly – please tell us a little about yourself. Who is Steven B. Williams?
I’m a thirty year-old Bradford-born queer lad. I like tea and cats and books. When I’m not concocting dark fantasy stories I tend to be writing poetry or scripts. I also play the flute and draw a little. I’m a massive TV addict, and Orphan Black is my drug. Seriously, I think I’m thinking of suing Netflix. They’re ruining my life.
Heartsnare could be described as a Dark Urban Fantasy – it blends the mundane with the mystical in a fantastic fashion. What influenced you to write “Heartsnare”?
I’ve always loved supernatural horror and fantasy. During my early years I was obsessed with Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour, as well as YA fiction like the Night World series, and more close to home the Hound of the Baskervilles. I also have a deep and abiding passion for anime. I often say Heartsnare is soap opera meets anime without the ridiculous boobs (sorry Hollyoaks). I’m talking of things like Mushishi and Full Metal Alchemist.
In terms of the mundane aspects to the book, people going about their jobs and day-to-day lives, that really comes from a desire to see people like me in fantastical fiction. It also posed an interesting question: How would people from the North deal with monsters and supernatural powers? Well, they’d probably start by putting the kettle on and having a good old natter about it. That really gave the book a kick-start and I built it from there.
The town of “Willingsley” is brought to life in fairly vivid fashion – I know it felt very, very familiar to me having grown up near a similar town full of straight-shooting gobby northern folk! Did you have anywhere in mind when you created it or was it an amalgam of places?
I grew up just within Bradford’s bounds (in a place called Oakenshaw) and now live a little further out in Wakefield. Willingsley is supposed to be a kind of amalgam of that Leeds/Bradford area where you have a strong contingent of younger educated working class, as well as older generations who still have coal dust and steel in their veins, and a strong immigrant community who add an abundance of riches in terms of language, food and culture. Yorkshire is a heady mix of different people and I really sought to capture that with Willingsley.
The main characters are refreshingly real – Eric, Tim, and Jhardine in particular. As normal people thrust into bizarre circumstances, it was very easy for me as a reader to relate to them and feel huge amounts of empathy towards them, and I think one aspect of this was that, visually, they’re all pretty regular people – not the bizarrely good looking folk that you often find in Fantasy stories. Was this something you thought a lot about?
As someone with big ears, horse teeth and no chin to speak of, I can honestly say I am not among the beautiful people. Very few people I know are. But there’s good looking and then there’s interesting looking, and I find the latter much more appealing. Beauty fades, but a craggy forehead only deepens. More seriously though, a main goal in writing Heartsnare was to avoid rose-tinting the place I grew up in and instead give something that is authentic to the reader. There are a lot of good looking folk in Yorkshire, but to fill the place with models would have been untruthful. It would also be frightfully dull.
The secondary characters in “Heartsnare” were a particular highlight for me – I always find it satisfying to read a book where secondary characters are built up enough that you can fully imagine them leaving the pages and going about their lives independently. Did you have any favourites out of these (jobcentre Dee was mine, I think!)
I also love Dee, and I will say that we’re definitely not done with her yet as she faced a terrible fate toward the end of the novel and that will have repercussions for her and for Eric through to the next book.
Jhardine’s work-colleague Tania is also a quiet favourite of mine. Everyone has one friend who is always eating something.
Sexuality plays a part in the book – Eric is gay, and his experiences of growing up gay in a Northern town really struck a chord with me – some aspects uncannily mirrored my experiences. His story, combined with that of his mother as a middle aged Woman still interested in sex (something that seems regularly forgotten about in the media) made for a refreshing change. Was this planned?
All of that was intensely deliberate. I didn’t want to write a coming out story for Eric because I rather liked the idea that his general demeanour simply announced the fact very early on in life and his mum Jhardine would have ensured that anyone who did have a problem with it was dealt with swiftly and with appropriate volume.You also see the characters making little jokes about Eric’s sexuality in a way that isn’t mean-spirited but is in fact showing affection–they all rib each other about lots of things, and this is a way of ensuring Eric’s queer identity isn’t a defining trait but it isn’t erased either.
Writing Jhardine as being a woman who remains sexually active into her mid-life was important for me, too. Often, and as you said, women in their 40s aren’t even seen on television and in books, and if they are it is usually as an accessory to younger people and family life. Jhardine’s relationship is about giving herself permission to be vulnerable when she has had to be strong for so long, particularly after Eric’s dad left them. I knew that, given the trajectory of Jhardine’s story she would need a community around her, so her being open sexually as well as emotionally was a key part of that. It is something that will continue to be explored in future books as well.
The system of powers in “Heartsnare” is a complex and fascinating one – there are clear limits and boundaries to powers, and various groups and factions are mentioned. Was this a complex thing to draw up?
Hi, my name’s Steve and I have a planning addiction. Seriously. The power system went through rigorous flowcharts and diagrams and extensive note making. I’d originally planned an entirely different system that involved the umbras or monsters in the book being used in a way where they would bond with a shadow heart and their powers would manifest through a form of possession. I went away from that by about draft four because I realised that the hearts as devices themselves were quite interesting, so I began mapping out all the different hearts that there might be and the powers they might exhibit. In terms of the levels of powers, I knew that there would be have to be some hearts that were more devastating than others, but as Marishka makes clear in the book a lot of times it is down to the bearer of the heart and if they have ingenuity enough to use their powers well.
I’m currently working on a little project to bring more information about the hearts and a few surprises with that too, but we’ll definitely explore the hearts in more detail in future books, and in particular the nature of Eric’s heart which may not be all that it seems.
It’s clear from the end of the book that there could be plenty more to come for the characters. How much do more do you have planned in “The Umbraverse” and how are you progressing with it?
Interestingly enough I drafted this book many times, and the first few attempts saw me trying to resolve most of the stories that begin in Heartsnare. I don’t know what I was thinking; that book would have been huge. So, I had to split it up, tidy it up, and give a sense of completion while leaving room for more. As such, I actually know what happens for the complete shape of Eric’s storyline and many of the characters in Heartsnare.
More immediately, I have the next book completely mapped out and well on its way. I will be writing a draft for NaNoWriMo in November and documenting the journey on my social media. People are welcome to follow along.
In terms of the broader Umbraverse, there’s still so much to explore. I have a series of other stories planned relating to the history of the shadow hearts and where they were first discovered, and I’ll be revealing more about that shortly. There will also be some side-stories about the ensemble cast, because Marishka in particular is too good to leave alone.
Lastly, the characters in “Heartsnare” felt very vivid to me – the descriptions in the book led me to easily imagine them in my minds eye. If there was ever an adaption of your work into film or TV, who would be your ideal casting for the lead characters?
As Eric has some of my own peculiarities I’m going to refrain from naming an actor for him. Maybe Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany–she can play all those clones, I don’t imagine this would be much of a stretch
Ruth Negga, I think, would make a wonderful Jhardine. She’s slightly too young for the book version of the character but I imagine she’d capture Jhardine’s warmth but steeliness marvelously on screen, so artistic license is hereby granted.
For Alistair, Luke Macfarlane of Brother’s and Sisters and, more recently, Killjoys. That’s horribly miscast, but I’d put Macfarlane in anything. [Insert joke here.]
Also, if Laverne Cox would like to come on board I would certainly love for her to play Marishka. She’s a powerhouse.
Many thanks to Steve for taking the time to drop in for a chat - Heartsnare is out now, and reviewed here:
James Fahy is a British Writer – Isle of Winds, the first in The Changeling series is out now (and we’ve reviewed here). He’s also the author of a horror/paranormal series called The Phoebe Harkness books
Tell us about yourself:
I’m a British writer, currently based in the wild, hilly, and remarkably cold North of England, I live adjacent to a moorland windfarm, which partly inspired a scene in Isle of Winds. Some of my other writing is set in Oxford, a city for which I have a great love an passion, and also where my Literary Agency, Ampersand is based. In my opinion it’s second only to Florence for its wealth of history and art.
Outside of the curious profession of making up stories to tell anyone who will listen, I enjoy photography (I must take fifty or so photos a day), Astronomy (I’m a card-carrying member of the astronomical society, though the conditions in England are not always perfect to say the least). I’m a big music lover, and the owner of a violin with which I can torture my enemies when required. (I also just bought a piano, and am eternally grateful that my neighbours are so patient). I’ve been sporadically trying to learn Japanese for a while, and so far I think I’d get by asking if people are ill and saying goodnight, but practice makes perfect.
Other than that, you can usually find me binge-watching Anime or my guilty pleasure of extremely poor horror movies.
When did you start writing?
I really can’t remember a time when I didn’t write. I’ve always wanted to be a writer as far back as I can remember, and though other ambitions came and went (I was a terrible but enthusiastic on-stage scarecrow at the theatre workshop), storytelling is something that’s always stuck with me. The very first story I remember actually writing down was about a young vampire girl who moved into a normal suburban street, and she was called Nasus Cabel.
Gripping stuff for a seven year old!
What were you major inspirations in writing “Isle of Winds”?
Isle of Winds, and the Changeling series as a whole, has been bouncing around inside my head in one form or another for years. I was greatly influenced when younger by Alan Garner, and his book the Weirdstone of Brisingamen. My parent’s read it to me as a child, and I remember being stunned when they followed this up with a day trip to Alderley Edge (where the book is set), and I got the chance to go hunting in the woods for the wizard-stone. That sense of wonder that books and real life could overlap is something that has always stuck with me, and I wanted to try and recapture that feeling myself – to make my own little slice of fantasy with some real places mixed in too. (Even today, I walk my dog at Alderley on the wizard-walk path)
Which character in “Isle of Winds” would you say is your favourite?
It completely depends on what mood I’m in. I have to admit, Aunt Irene writes herself. She comes out with some sentences that please me a lot, and in a book with a lot of misfits I think she provides a stable centre. Woad is always fun, although a little exhausting, but, if I’m honest, Karya is my favourite. She’s how I’d like to be – blunt, tactless, and ruthlessly efficient. Plus, I have interesting plans for her.
Is there a character you think you’re most like?
That’s a difficult one. As a writer, I think all characters are some facet of ourselves. They have to come from somewhere after all. But that’s not to say I’m like Strife, which would be a little worrying. (Though again, I love writing him – bad guys are such fun). I suppose if I had to align myself with anyone in the book, I’d probably be Henry. I’m fairly laid back, a little single-minded and oblivious, messy and forgetful, and it takes quite a bit to get me riled up
Any clues for where you see “The Changeling” series heading?
The Changeling Series is all already planned out, start to finish, with arcs, pie charts and scribbled spider diagrams, so Yes! I know exactly where the story is heading and what lies ahead for Robin and his companions – (Trouble)
I wouldn’t want to give anything away, but I hope its a fun journey for readers. All the main players have backstories which will come to light, and I’ve tried to lay a few small Easter eggs in the first installment. Hopefully there will be some surprising turns on the road ahead.
What else have you written – is there anything else in the pipeline?
The Changeling Series is an ongoing project, with book two “The Drowned Tomb” due out later this year, so that keeps me busy on the fantasy side. I’m also writing a horror/paranormal series, “The Phoebe Harkness” books, as wel at the moment. Book one of that series, “Hell’s Teeth” is out to preorder now,and will be released at the end of March 2016. It’s a very different style to Changeling. Dystopian sci-fi, with vampires in the mix – and unlike the Changeling series, which I wrote for anyone age 6 to 60, the Harkness books are definitely not child friendly, with murders, blood, and cuss-words galore. It’s nice to wear different hats and write in two genres.
What other books have you enjoyed recently?
I just finished the Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. It’s a fantastic piece of escapist steampunk fantasy. Dragons, giant metal centipedes, magic using dimension hopping librarians – what more could you ask for really?
How can readers purchase your books, and how can they get in touch?
Both book one of The Changeling series and book one of the Phoebe Harkness series are available on Amazon worldwide (either Kindle or paperback versions). You can also get at them through Goodreads. As for contacting me, I’m all over the internet. I tweet as @j_r_fahy_tweets, you can find me on Goodreads (I always want to know what other folk are reading), or you can hit up my blog at jamesfahyauthor.wordpress.com for a collection of my ramblings and pictures.
I’m also taking part in the annual Chiplitfest literary festival in Oxfordshire next month, giving a workshop/talk, which should be tremendous fun. There’s more details about that on the Chiplitfest website.
James Fahy – thank you very much! “Isle of Winds”, the first book in “The Changeling” series is out now, and is reviewed here: