Published March 25, 2015 | By Shawna
Q. Thanks for stopping by! Tell us a bit about your novel.
A. It’s called Stone and a Hard Place, and it’s the first book in my urban fantasy series, The Alastair Stone Chronicles. Stone is a thirty-one-year-old professor of Occult Studies who’s recently arrived in the United States from his native Britain. He’s smart, snarky and, unknown to almost everyone, a powerful magical practitioner.
The story takes place a little earlier in Stone’s history, about four years before the next book in the series, and serves as an introduction to the character and his world. He has just taken on a new and unexpected apprentice, and shortly afterward agrees to help out a fellow professor who has an elderly, wealthy relative who thinks her big old house is haunted. The plan is to just go there and tell her, counting on his authority as a professor to make him believable, that everything is fine—but since Stone is a real mage, he quickly sees that not only is there really something there, but it’s potentially quite dangerous. So he has to deal with it while keeping secret the fact that he truly does have magical powers, and fighting off the group of black-magic practitioners who have less-than-wholesome plans for the house’s entity (and for Stone’s apprentice).
Q. That sounds fascinating. I just read the beginning, and you have me hooked. Can’t wait ‘till I can clear my schedule to finish it. You have quite the compelling protagonist. How did the idea of him develop?
A. Stone has been around in one form or another since the early ‘90s. The basic template of his personality started out with a Shadowrun character of mine named Winterhawk, but I eventually decided I wanted to do a series in an original setting, so I just transplanted him from the 2060s into (mostly) modern time and filed all the Shadowrun serial numbers off. The only things that remained from that character were the personality, the magic, and his status as an academic.
Aside from that, I have a thing for smart, sarcastic, cynical Brits (or people who really should be Brits ) I can trace bits of Stone’s personality to characters ranging from Willy Wonka to the Tenth Doctor.
Q. What drew you to urban fantasy as a genre?
A. Mostly the fact that I like books set in the “real” world, but I also like magic and some of the other aspects of more traditional fantasy. I think I can blame Shadowrun for this again, since they were one of the first (certainly the first I encountered, back in 1989) that combined fantasy tropes with a modern-day setting. I’m not really that big a fan of classic medieval fantasy, to be honest, unless it’s got something really different to recommend it. Also, when I was growing up my mom was fascinated by anything “witchy” and paranormal, and she was a psychic (I’m a huge skeptic about that sort of thing, but I saw enough of her in action to believe that it can exist). Her love of things that go bump in the night rubbed off on me in a big way.
It’s funny, but when I started writing my series, I’d never read any of the Dresden Files books. My beta reader asked me if I had, and when I said no, he told me I had to read them and assured me that, given what I was writing, I’d love them. He was right!
Q. What prompted your decision to go indie?
A. Impatience, mostly, and a control-freak streak a mile wide. I write because I love to write, and because I have characters who want their stories told and won’t shut up until I indulge them. I’m not in it for the money (though of course it would be nice to at least make enough to pay my editor and art bills!) and I’m getting to the age where I’m not willing to wait for many months or years to see my work available—and that assumes a publisher would want to buy it in the first place, which is a big assumption. I like to have control over things like my cover and the design of my book, which you lose in most cases when you go with a trade publisher.
Now, that’s not to say that if some publisher noticed me and wanted to publish my books (yes, I know, stop laughing!) I would turn them down. But primarily I just want to get my stories out there in front of readers who I hope will enjoy them, in a reasonable timeframe.
Q. You don’t hear me laughing. From what I’ve read so far, you are quite publishable. I know what you mean about the control freak thing, though. I do both indie and legacy myself, and it’s. . .interesting going back and forth.
Now, I notice you also have a Shadowrun novel coming out. Would you like to talk a bit about what it’s like to write in a pre-set universe?
A. It’s a lot of fun when you love the universe you’re writing in. As I mentioned, I’ve been involved with Shadowrun as a fan since the game’s start in 1989, and also as a freelancer since 2001 (including a brief stint as assistant line developer). This game world is pretty much in my DNA at this point, so writing in the universe is easy for me. The only hard part is that Shadowrun is a very gear-intensive game, and it has a lot of fans who really love it for that. They love to argue over which gun is right for which application, or how the specific rules would go for a decking job or a running firefight. I’m much more cinematic—I just want the story to be good and fun and fast-paced, and essentially character based. So the “gun fu” part of the whole thing was hard for me.
I’m not sure I’d want to write in a universe I was less familiar with, because I’d be terrified of getting it wrong and disappointing the fans.
Q. What is one assumption people make about you that is wrong?
A. A lot of people who are only familiar with my online presence think I’m male. I’ve been a tomboy all my life, and apparently my writing style (both in stories and in online communication) comes across as at least somewhat masculine. I don’t make a secret of my gender to people who know me, but as an online presence I can honestly say that I have never experienced any of the sexist/misogynist garbage that many women online unfortunately have had to deal with, and I suspect that’s part of the reason for it.
Q. I have been fortunate in not having been exposed to anything like that in the geek world, too. (The ‘real’ world is another story.) And to my knowledge no one has mistaken me as a man. I think in general there is more good than bad in geekdom. It’s just that the jerks are louder.
So now for a fun question: Choose one form of transport, real or fictional (steam train, horseback, sternwheeler, spaceship, pirate ship, TARDIS, anything you can think of). Choose twelve companions, alive or dead, real or fictional. (We will assume your transport also has a full complement of whatever crew it needs to make it viable.) Choose one destination. Where are you going, with whom and why?
A. Well, okay, of course I’m going to pick the TARDIS. As a Whovian, I’d be silly not to! For companions…I’m not big on historical figures, so most of them will be fictional. Off the top of my head:
1. The Tenth Doctor 2. The Twelfth Doctor 3. My own protagonist, Dr. Alastair Stone 4. Sherlock Holmes (the Robert Downey Jr. version) 5. Dr. Stephen Strange 6. Steve Jobs 7. Alice Cooper 8. Dr. Gregory House 9. Willy Wonka (the Gene Wilder version) 10. Harry Dresden 11. Dunkelzahn the dragon from Shadowrun 12. J.K. Rowling
Honorable Mentions: Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Dr. Ian Malcolm from the film Jurassic Park Wow, that’s kind of a sausage fest, isn’t it? But I think that group would certainly make for some interesting conversation, don’t you? Either that or their egos would combine together, gain independent sentience, and take over the universe…
As for where we’d go, how about Milliway’s, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe?
Q. Some interesting choices. I’d be afraid Hannibal Lector would eat everyone else. I prefer the Gene Wilder version of Willy Wonka, too, but I would have gone with the Jeremy Brett version of Holmes. Now this is from Samhain-kitty: Your bio says you have a small herd of cats. Obviously you are a person of fine taste and sterling character. How did you come to be jointly owned by so many cats, and what are you doing to repay them for the great privilege?
A. I’ve loved cats since I was a tiny kid, and always had them growing up. Then I went off to college and lived in a succession of apartments that didn’t allow pets. I vowed that when I had my own house, I would have cats. There was the slight hurdle of the spouse being allergic, but he wanted cats too so he agreed to get the shots (this was a huge sacrifice for him since he hates needles, and I definitely appreciate it).
We started out with one, and unfortunately he didn’t work out (we weren’t ready and he was too young—we found him another home and he thrived with his new owner; also, the shots hadn’t worked right yet and the spouse ended up in the emergency room). After that we waited a few years until we had a house (and more shots) and got a pair of kittens: a Singapura named Tenshi and a Russian Blue named Meep. Then we got another Singapura kitten named Ozzy a couple of years later. Sadly, Meep succumbed to lymphoma at only five (I still miss her terribly). We got a couple of Russian Blue kittens (Grace and Sonata, aka Boo and Fred), and our vet had some rescue kittens who were looking for homes, so we took Clarice, a lovely tabby girl. Then, a few years after that, we took Ozzy to the vet and I fell in love with another rescue tabby boy (Nabbytabby, named after Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov) when I picked him up and he stuck his tongue up my nose. I called the spouse and told him we were taking this kitten home, expecting him to object. He came down to meet the kitten—and promptly fell in love with his sister, an adorable tabby girl (Tessa, aka Bug). So of course they both had to come home with us (by this point the vet doesn’t even charge us the adoption fee—they basically assume any kitten adopted by us has hit the lottery). So now we live with our four “purebloods” and our three “Muggle-borns” and we’re all very happy together. But definitely no more additions to the herd!
You know you just jinxed yourself by saying ‘no more additions’! Seriously, that’s quite a lot of cats. And kudos to your husband. I’m not sure I would have been up for another round after a trip to the emergency room!
Thanks for stopping by, and best of luck with your new novel!
Readers: Ms. King’s novel can be found on Amazon.