I have had quite a few awesome finds this past year for authors and series that are new to me. I would put Kim Falconer and her novel The Blood in the Beginning in this category. When the majority of authors focus on Vampire, Werewolves, Witches and (now) Zombies, Kim decided to go a completely different route with the Mar. I know I always like something new a refreshing in the Urban Fantasy genre and Kim delivers on this. Please Welcome to Blood Rose Books Today:
If there was one author you could co-write a novel with (they can be alive or dead) who
would you choose and why?
You start with a hard one! There are many writers I would be thrilled to collaborate with. Jules Vern, Voltaire, Homer, Jane Austen … but, for today, I’ll pick China Miéville, because I love his writing, the parallel narratives, the immersive world building, the weird characters, the absence of cliché yet presence of archetypes … the heart, the edge. He’s not afraid to take emotional risks with his writing, and his clout in the industry allows for the experimental. Plus, Miéville! What can I say?
With the release of your novel The Blood in the Beginning you decided to write in the Urban Fantasy/Dystopia. Other than the Mar, how do you think your books stand out in what has become a somewhat over-saturated genre?
The Blood in the Beginning stands out in UF for a few reasons. As you infer, there are no vamps, no werewolves or shape-shifters of any kind, no witches. No fay folk. Just one girl in a post-disaster city facing a race of humans whose DNA took a left turn. It still follows some of the genre tropes - the gritty, dark, kickass atmosphere, with a noir city and hardboiled feel, but it also normalizes things like organized crime, disabilities (her sight issues, her PTSD ) race, (UF is often read white but in my series, Ava is partly of Asian descent, her BFF African American). It deals with environmental issues, for example the results of Fukushima Daiichi half a century later, and Monsanto’s results on society.
I don’t shy away from the hard problems of our culture, yet it’s all “everyday” in the pages - nuclear spills, radiation, surveillance go with dinner dates, martial arts and studying for final exams. Ava has very real, hopefully relatable goals. She doesn’t lose the plot if a hot guy crosses her path. She’s definitely not trying to save the world. Her emotions are confronted by issues of belonging, acceptance, integrity and betrayal, just like any of us. It rings true because, in spite of her strength, abilities and endurance, she still has a very human heart.
Zombies, Vampires, Werewolves, and Witches tend to be the norm when it comes to the Urban Fantasy genre. Why did you decide to create the Mar?
My Mar obsession – and it is an obsession - was sparked initially by a John Waterhouse painting called The Siren. The image haunted me until I began to write the story. It continued to haunt me until the first book was complete. It’s still around me now! Mar make relentless Muses. Having said that, I would love to take credit for creating the Mar de novo, but these human-like beings who live in the sea stem from a rich mythology dating back thousands of years, from the Phoenician Atargatis, the Hindu Sucannamaccha, the Inuit’s Sedna, the Hawaiian Namaka, Caribbean’s Aycayia, to the European Melusines. They are archetypal. We find stories of Mer-folk or ‘Mar’ in every culture, place and time. I just took the core of the mythology, distilled and advanced it forward to cope with a dystopian, urban, hardcore world with environmental issues and upheaval, and themes of belonging, desire and accelerated evolution. The results were the Mar.
You have released a novel in Astrology and there were some hints at it in Blood in the Beginning. Are we going to see more Astrology aspects in this series? What about Astrology
appeals to you?
My first six novels, the Quantum Enchantment and Quantum Encryption series, have themes of astrology and astronomy relevant to the plot. Some of the characters are expert stargazers and rely on the symbol system to solve mysteries and make critical choices. Being an astrologer for over 40+ years, my father an astrologer before me, means it’s part of the way I perceive the world. It naturally seeps into the writing, unless I make an effort to keep it out. I’m sure we’ll have more astro-relevance in the future. It would be weird without it.
What do you think would be the hardest or most challenging genre to write a novel in and why?
My guess would be narrative non-fiction - a novel-like story about real-life people and events. Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood is the classic example; Into the Wild a more contemporary one. The research and ethical issues alone would be daunting, maybe even stifling, especially with a still-living subject. I have a lot of respect for authors who tackle this genre.
When Ava was not running for her life, she was trying to figure out her own blood disease, what type of research did you do and how much research did you do in order to make the information in these parts of the book sound extremely real?
I spent enormous amounts of time to achieve a believable condition, so it’s rewarding to know that mission was accomplished. It helps that I’ve worked as a veterinary haematologist and studied zoology, marine biology and microbiology. At least I knew where to begin with the research. I hit the textbooks, physical and electronic, in medical libraries and online. I also had face-to-face and email discussions with a medical science lecturer in my area and a retired pathologist. Without them, this key branch of the story would not ring true. As for most of my research, can I just say. “Thank the gods for the internet?”
Sex, Drug abuse, S&M, a serial killer are all strong dark themes throughout the books (some books only handle one of these), what appeals to you of the darker side of our culture? Are darker themes going to occur throughout this series?
I can’t say that the darkness appeals to me, not like chocolate or strawberry shortcake. I am drawn, though. Compelled. It’s like getting sucked into a black hole. Once there, the only way out is through. I don’t think you can write a hardcore Urban Fantasy and skim the surface. This isn’t about Persephone skipping across the meadow. It’s about Hades erupting from the underworld to grab her, and drag her down into the depths. The darkness goes with the genre. I feel it must be explored to do the work justice.
Holy Crap is Ava an amazing character, she basically has the perfect balance of badassness, smarts but also self-aware (plus she lacks the whiny or smugness that many female characters have in this genre), what went in to her creation? Was important to you to make sure she was balanced character? Do you train in MMA to help Ava learn all her skills?
I’m syked you think Ava is amazing. A lot went into her creation. She evolved organically, but I think, for one, the environment has shaped her. She develops what it takes to survive the Big One, CHI-Tech, being raised in the system … survive and thrive. If she was whiny, I don’t think she would have made it through her teens, living under the radar, in the streets. Ava’s character grows from the unseen past that moulded her to the current challenges she faces. It’s sink or swim. (LOL the pun) I also wanted to balance Ava’s badassness with heart. She’s defensive, at times. Cautious. Brutal. But she will do anything for those she loves, as we find out. To help write ‘real’ characters, I give them astrological charts, a horoscope just like anyone born in the future might have, only I get to pick the day, month and year to fit. It ends up being a character reference guide. If I am not sure how she might respond to a certain situation, I refer to her chart and ask, “What would a Virgo with Pluto rising and Moon in Gemini do?” Gets me unstuck every time. I’ve trained in martial arts and Iaido, (Japanese Sword) and I do pull on those experiences to choreograph fight scenes, but in this series, I collaborated with a Jujitsu and MMA fighter as well, to give that extra level of authenticity.
Do you have any information on upcoming works or events that you are able to share? (Hopefully when book 2 is coming out J)
I would love to announce the release date for book two (which I am writing as we speak) but I’ve not been given the go ahead to do so yet. Soon. I promise I’ll let you know.
What is one book (other than one of your own) that you think should be a must read for everyone?
This is a great question. I can’t pick just one, as I’m not sure a book I label must-read would apply to everyone, for example, a favourite, Julian James’ The Origins of Consciousness and the Breakdown of the Bi-cameral Mind may have limited appeal. With fiction readers in mind, I would say The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. Also, Tanith Lee’s White as Snow, Traci Harding’s The Storyteller’s Muse with it’s wonderful parallel narrative, Lee Child’s Jack Reacher Series, Jack London’s White Fang and Charlain Harris’s Southern Vampire Chronicles. You asked a Gemini to choose one book. Be happy I stopped at seven! :) Thank you so much for the chat, Blood Rose Books! It’s been such a pleasure. I’m happy to stick around and answer any questions, or share thoughts, in the comments too.
I want to say thank you once again to Kim for stopping by and taking the time to complete an interview. I know I am really looking forward to the next book in her Ava Sykes series. Kim has very nicely offered a few giveaway for her book The Blood in the Beginning, so I highly recommend you enter the rafflecopter app below. :)
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