Pandragon Dan

Pandragon Dan

Author/Reviewer/Blogger

Pandragon Reviews - Underneath the Draconian Sky

When an author submits a book for review to me, the one thing that I ask is that they let me know if there is any strong sexual content. By that, I don’t mean a standard sex scene, or even an erotic sex scene, that I can handle. However, what I take issue with is the more, shall we say, extreme type of sexual content – such as torture, rape, bestiality and, um… scat. And no I’m not talking about the music genre – google it at your own risk.

 

I really just don’t enjoy this, it’s not for me. When I first started getting into Anime and Manga, a friend of mine showed me some hentai stories and personally I found a lot of disgusting (let’s just say I’ll never look at an octopus the same way). For me, rape and torture should be put across as a despicable act to horrify the readers, not be put across as a sexual fetish.

 

So when I was reading Underneath the Draconian Sky, I was a little dubious about it if I was being honest. But I did promise a review – and the author, Dale M. Chatwin was a reasonable enough guy when we talked via email, so I gave it the benefit of the doubt. So today here is my review of Underneath the Draconian Sky, a Steampunk/Fantasy/Horror novel that delves into the depths of insanity and depravity. Those with a weak stomach may want to look away now!

 

 

About The Author

 

Dale M. Chatwin was born in Warwickshire in 1988 and grew up in a small town called Sedgley located in the Black Country.  He part wrote his first novel at the age of 14 titled Destiny and Death, a vague pastiche of The Body and Dreamcatcher by Stephen King with elements of his own folded into the mix. But writing has been a passion and lifelong dream of his since before then. At 19 he moved to Southsea in Hampshire to gain some independent experience in life, and as a result of his time on that island (many short stories and poems later) he produced his first complete novel at the age of 24: Underneath the Draconian Sky which is available in paperback and eBook on Lulu and Amazon. Now after realising his dream of becoming a published author, Dale M. Chatwin is on a mission to expand and perfect his craft as a writer.

 

The link to his author central page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dale-M-Chatwin/e/B005Y4GT9S

 

 

 
 

Cover

 

For a novel that is so brutal in its content, this cover is surprisingly gentle. It almost leads the reader into a false sense of security – which I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but that’s an interesting technique if so.

 

 

Synopsis

 

When 1107 is hired by saloon proprietor Sylvester Claproot to exterminate a group of escaped residents from the Bachman Gardens Institute for the Criminally Insane, it all seems like a run of the mill extermination: capture, torture and kill. He soon finds himself plunged into a brutal world of sexual lust, unhindered violence and where the fringes of sanity are lost to the winds of time. At the heart of this dark tale is the story of one man's acceptance of his own demise and his journey into a chaotic world where he is forced to chase his death across a brutal dystopian landscape. It is a novel that will keep you reading until the Sun scars the horizon.

 

 

What I liked

 

1107, also known as The Guy is an interesting anti-hero – the kinda “shoot first, forget the questions” sort that Clint Eastwood made popular. He’s a brutal, no nonsense kind of mercenary that likes to get the job done however possible – and some of the stuff he does would make Jack Bauer cringe! Whilst I personally don’t enjoy these type of characters, the world he inhabits is a cruel and unforgiving one, so I could accept the brutal things that he did to an extent. That being said, he did show some signs of humanity every so often so he wasn’t completely a monster.

 

I also have to give particular praise to the world of Underneath a Draconian Sky. As previously mentioned, the world is a mix of Steampunk, Sci-fi and even Fantasy. Normally, if you mix in too many genres, it can sometimes make the world a little too over the top and unbelievable, a trap I myself have fallen into. But the elements mixed in here work well and create a nightmarish hell – with dusty deserts, rusted industrial areas, dirty streets and decedent, corrupted religious ideology. It is a place that has no place for kindness or meekness, ruled by alien creatures that are pretty much dictators. It builds a dark and creepy atmosphere that puts you at unease pretty much the entire novel.

 

The story is both straight forward, but also quite complex at the same time. We follow The Guy as he tries to track down the High Occultist, who is the “Big Bad” of the story. There is a lot of build up to this character prior to meeting him, which worked well. Along the way, we learn a little more about the history of the world and the characters. It was good that the book didn’t give too much away at once so that we only learned a bit at a time, this helped paint a gradual picture of the events and created an interesting story.

 

All in all the plot works and sets up a nightmare of a trip where the fragility of the human mind is explored in horrific detail. However, there were some issues I had with this that I will explain in the next section.

 

 

What I didn’t like

 

Now, I have no problems with stories being disturbing or having disturbing imagery – in fact I like it when a story leaves me in a disturbed state of mind. However, what I did find hard to take was the amount of strong sexual content involved. Practically every other chapter involved someone being raped, tortured or worse. As I’ve said in my intro, I am not a huge fan of stories that put across rape and torture as a sexual fetish. And whilst I’m not saying that Underneath a Draconian Sky is anything like that, I do felt there was too much of this.

 

The major problem I had was that a lot of it was unnecessary and just put in just for shock value. The plot had already set a disturbing element, but this extra content just seemed to detract from that in some way and make it feel more mean spirited then it needed to. Plus, most of it I found was out of context and didn’t really do anything to help the scene. A lot of it could have easily been cut out and it would have preserved the nightmarish themes and atmosphere. Not only this, but I think it could also put off a lot of potential readers. Which is a shame as there is a good story underneath, exploring the themes of insanity and the dark side of human nature – but it kinda gets lost in all the rape and torture. And that’s just the stuff I can tell you about!

 

As you probably guessed by now, this book is NOT suitable for young readers. Also, I don’t recommend reading this whilst you’re eating. I made that mistake when reading it at lunch and I couldn’t finish my sandwich!

 

 

PROS (Sky’s the limit):

  • Main character is pretty badass!
  • Disturbing atmosphere.
  • Mythos of the world nicely thought out.

 

CONS (Draconian tactics):

  • Overly sexual context undermines the otherwise good setting.
  • Relies too much on shock tactics.
  • Totally unsuitable for younger readers.

 

 

Summary

 

It’s a good story with some nightmarish themes and disturbing imagery – but the extreme sexual content and unnecessary torture undermines it somewhat and takes away from the tension. Not one I’d recommend to someone with a weak constitution, but if you like your stories dark and atmosphere tense then you’ll most find this one an interesting read.

 

FINAL SCORE: 3/5

 

 

 

-------------------------

PANDRAGON

 

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Why I Like HP Lovecraft

I gotta be honest with you guys, I was really stuck for a blog this week – mainly because I had a lot of other commitments during the week (work mainly) and struggling to get my Halloween blog up on time. But, I knew that I had to put something out today and wracked my brain for something to talk about.

 

Then I came across this little post that I originally posted on my Tumblr blog last year. As I no longer use Tumblr (had no cause to) I thought I’d bring this one back for another run. And seeing as Halloween has just passed us, this seemed a little appropriate – sorta like a “post-Halloween” blog.

 

It also is pretty cool to bring this back as it’s about an author that I was hugely inspired by, but never really talked about much. So, for today’s blog, I’d like to take a quick retrospective on one of my favourite authors. The Master of the Macabre, H.P. Lovecraft.

 

 

Chances are, many of you will know who H.P. Lovecraft is, given that a number of his works have been translated into films (although not always for the better), but some of you may not know so I’ll give you the gist. Lovecraft was a writer that wrote a series of short stories and novellas around the 1920’s era and a little beyond. His work was often printed in pulp magazines and “weird fiction” papers. A majority of his stories usually revolved around outer space beings that, in a frightening way, were responsible for the creation of humanity and their existence. Perhaps his most famous creations were The Great Old Ones, who were a race of alien entities that had existed since long before time.

 

Lovecraft created what was known to be called the “Cthullu Mythos”, a selection of stories that, whilst standalone in their own right, were all based around a shared universe where human beings would come into contact with cults dedicated to these beasts – or even, as in some cases, the beasts themselves. It’s named after the monster Cthullu, who was first introduced in the novella The Call of Cthullu, and he is arguably the most iconic of all his creations. He also created the now infamous Necromonicon, a fictionalised grimore containing all manner of strange magical rites (which was also the inspiration behind the Necromonicon in the Evil Dead series).

 

Whilst his work wasn’t really noticed much during his life, H.P. Lovecraft has inspired a number of legendary horror writers. Stephen King has repeatedly quoted Lovecraft as his favourite author, Clive Barker followed a similar theme in his books and Neil Gaiman has stated that ‘H.P. Lovercraft built the stage on which most of the last century’s horror fiction was performed.’ (taken from the insert of Eldritch Tales). There is even a role play game series based on his works and you can see a lot of his influences, not just in horror, but in fantasy and science fiction as well. One example of this is the Forgotten Ones in the Warcraft series. Cthullu (his most famous creation) has appeared in a number of works – Metallica have done two songs based on Cthullu called Call of Ktulu and The Thing That Should Not Be (on Ride the Lighting and Master of Puppets respectably). There’s even an episode of The Real Ghostbusters where they go up against Lovercraft's creations and have to fight Cthullu. That is awesome beyond belief!

 

I actually first got into Lovecraft after playing a video game called Prisoner of Ice, which was (loosely) based on the story At The Mountatins of Madness. One of the interesting things about Lovecraft’s writing that I find is the way he tells his stories. Most of the time, his works are told from the perspective of a narrator (who are usually explorers or those with an interest in history), who are caught up in the horror through circumstances – or sometimes even through their own sheer morbid curiosity. We see the stories through their eyes and experience their horror as, what usually starts out innocent enough, soon degenerates into a terrible struggle for survival where they are at the mercy of forces they cannot comprehend. As we are only seeing these events through the eyes of the narrator, we are never given a full and detailed explanation of what is happening. Given that the author is usually driven mad by the events, a lot of what they describe is often brought into question. It forces us to make up our own minds as to what they saw and what happened – which is what good Horror should be. Horror should let the reader use their imagination to create terror and not outright explain everything that’s going on. Because the best kind of fear comes from what we don’t understand.

 

And that is the major theme in Lovecraft’s work – fear of the unknown. Or more specifically, the unknowable. As I mentioned previously, many of the cosmic entities that Lovecraft created (be they Great Old One or some other race), are said to have come to Earth many millions of years ago, shaping the planet and creating life as part of some weird experiment. In fact, some of them still exist in the world, living deep beneath the surface. Lovecraft not just plays on our most basic fears, but also questions our existence. What if we, the human race, are just the by product of some weird experiment by a force greater than us? A lot of people like to question the meaning to life, but what if there is there is no meaning to our life? What if we are just insects waiting to be crushed by some crazed alien monster?

 

Speaking of monsters, H.P Lovecraft has to commended for creating some of the most frightening entities in Horror fiction. For example, the shuggoth is a shape changing blob that crushes everything in its path. The Deep Ones are a race of fish like monsters that mate with humans and turn them into deformed monsters. And then there are The Great Race of Yith – an alien species that have the power to switch bodies with other races and it’s hinted that they are responsible for granting humans much of the knowledge that they possess. And that’s just SOME of the creatures he created. And all of them defy explanation and appearance, utterly alien in their design and appearance. I’ll spare trying to explain them to you as I doubt I’d know where to start – but check out this link for a more detailed description of them by an amazing artist.

 

http://lovecraftbestiary.blogspot.co.uk/

 

Some of you may have heard the term “Lovecraftian Horror” and a lot of other writers have attempted this style of horror over the years. Usually in a horror story, the protagonist is placed in an inescapable situation; much like in Jamie Lee Curtis’s character in Halloween and the teenagers in Nightmare on Elm Street. However, whereas the protagonist eventually finds a way of defeating and/or escaping the horror, in Lovecraft’s work there is usually NO escape. Even if they do manage to overcome or survive an attack by a monster or enemy, the horror and the knowledge that they have accrued still stays with them. Sometimes they discover that their family bloodline is directly related to the cult or monster they were fighting, meaning that they can never be free of the terror that they encountered. In the most extreme of cases, there are some tales whereby the protagonist discovers something that will eventually affect the whole of humanity – thus meaning that humanity, as a race, will never be able to escape its fate and will eventually be obliterated by the very beings that created them.

 

Lovecraft’s stories tend to have a bleak and extremely depressing viewpoint that often has a twist that completely makes the main character snap and lose their sanity. Yes, there are one or two stories where the protagonist does find a way of stopping the monster – but it’s usually a Pyrrhic victory that requires a heavy cost. It could be argued that that these stories reflected Lovecraft’s rather bleak outlook on life in general, given that a lot of his characters are often punished for their own desire for knowledge. It’s almost like Lovecraft is trying to punish humanity for being naturally curious, thinking that they might discover something that will lead to their undoing – or, to put it another way, ‘curiosity killed the cat.’ Sometimes it feels like Lovecraft is questioning our very existence as a race and whether humans actually have any real point to them being here.

 

Of course, there are loads more themes to his books and what I touched on here is just a small part of that. If I was to touch on every single theme this would take too long and I really want you guys to experience his work yourself. If you’re willing to put conventional thought aside and lose yourself in the elaborate and macabre, then I strongly recommend checking his work out. The stories I’d recommend for beginners would be The Ousider, The Shadow over Innsmouth, At the Mountains of Madness, and of course, The Call of Cthullu. Once you read these, you’ll be able to see the influence he had on other writers of today.

 

 

Pandragon

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Pandragon Reviews - Devil's Hand

 

Happy Independence Day to all my US fans and friends. Rather appropriately, I’ll be doing a review today of a novel by an American author. Hope you enjoy it!

 

Now, I myself am not a fan of poker, but those of you who are into it, you’re in for a treat today! Today’s story is set around the colourful city of Las Vegas – the Entertainment Capital of the World and we follow our protagonist Trent as he takes in the sights and sounds of the wonderful city. Oh, and did I mention that he has to battle with angels, demons and the coming apocalypse?

 

So, like Lady Gaga, let’s get on our poker faces and dive into Devil’s Hand by M.E. Patterson.

 

 

About The Author (Info provided by the author)

 

M. E. Patterson spent his early years in the picturesque Shenandoah Valley of Virginia before finally heading south to Virginia Tech, where he majored in English with a focus on poetry and fiction writing. After college, he headed west, finally stopping in Central Texas, where he now lives with his wife and a bright orange dog. In addition to writing horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and speculative fiction, Mr. Patterson is also an accomplished Ruby programmer and has a blog where he discusses internet technologies, web software engineering, and writing.

 

Visit the author's Amazon page at http://bit.ly/mepatt

 

You can check out the latest about the Drawing Thin series at the official website, http://drawing-thin.com
And, feel free to catch up with Mr. Patterson on Twitter ( @mepatterson ) and Facebook ( http://facebook.com/devilshand.novel )

 

 

 
Cover
 
This is one spooky cover! We see our hero (Trent) heading towards Las Vegas, buffered by a powerful blizzard, whilst a scary face screams in the shadows. Simple, but effective. I also really like the spade sign in the A of the title and the juxtaposing of the lighted Las Vegas sign (which is known for begin bright and colourful) with the impending doom our hero is about to face.
 
 
Overview
 
Trent is supposedly the luckiest man alive – having survived a plane crash that killed many people.  From then on, Trent’s had a string of amazingly good luck – especially on the poker table, which gained him the hatred of many casinos. Returning back to Las Vegas to start afresh with his wife, he’s soon confronted with a horrifying blizzard, shadow demons, an absolutely terrifying supernatural serial killer and an army of angels that are hell bent on (what else) destroying mankind.
 
Maybe moving back wasn’t such a great idea!
 
Add to this a young teenager, Celia, who seems to possess magic of her own, and you got the recipe for a great novel. Trent also discovers that his “good luck” isn’t actually as easily explained as he thought.
 
First compliment I have to give is the characterisation. Trent is a likeable hero that has enough flaws to make him realistic and likeable. He does have a few crisis of faith moments but when the chips are down (no pun intended) he pulls himself back up to fight again. For some reason, as I was reading him, I actually imagined him looking a little like the wrestler James Storm – and if this was ever made into a film I think he’d be great to play that role. Celia is the secondary protagonist, a teenager who appears to have a strange allergy – but in actual fact possesses some extraordinary powers herself. She is by no means a damsel in distress (which is what I like) and actually gets to do a bit of ass-kicking herself. Salvatore is the villain of the piece, possessed by a demon named Zamagiel, who is trying to take Celia for himself and puts Trent through hell pretty much the entire book. Every so often, he switches back between the human Salvatore and the demon Zamagiel – I liked that. Added a lot of depth to his character as the two sides fought for control.
 
Second thing I liked was the genuine sense of urgency the book had. The city of Las Vegas is battled by snow and blizzards the whole way through the story, gradually getting worse and worse. This made the action really intense in places and I seriously could feel the fear that was going through Las Vegas during this time. I really did feel that Trent was racing against the clock in this one and that his time was numbered.
 
I think there were only a couple of places where the story slowed down a little. The first being where Trent plays poker with a few demons, whereby Trent learns a little more about the angels plans to bring about apocalypse. The other being where he meets the angel Ramon and learns the truth about his survival and everything else. This scene went on a bit too long for my liking and felt like more of a plot exposition – which I think can sometimes slow the story down a little.
 
But on the plus side, when it did go back to the action – boy did it go back with a bang! This doesn’t hold back on any of the violence and those who are a little squeamish might feel a little uncomfortable reading this. But on the whole I felt that it was fine as it was and nothing to majorly troubling. The ending sets it up nicely for a sequel – which I have to admit I wouldn’t mind reading in the future.
 
 
PROS (all in):
 
  • Excellent characterisation.
  • Dark plot works well.
  • Overall tone has a real sense of urgency and terror.

 

CONS (fold):

 

  • A couple of plot exposition scenes slow the pace somewhat.

 

 

Summary

 

Devil’s Hand ticks a lot of the boxes for me. Great characterisation, a feel of suspense, a dark plot involving demons and angels and the coming of the end of the world – which must be prevented. Even though it does slow down once or twice, it quickly picks up the pace to make it a joy to read. This is one of those books that NEEDS to be made into a film or TV mini-series as I think it would highly benefit from that.  All I can say to sum up is, to misquote Motorhead – if you like to gamble, you can bet on the Devil’s Hand!

 

 

FINAL SCORE: 5/5

 

 

Regards

Pandragon

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Author Interviews - De Kenyon

Up a day later than usually, but none the less I have today the last in my series of Author Interviews (for the time being) of authors whose books I have reviewed on Read2 Review. Today I have with me the wonderful De Kenyon.

Of all the interview's I've done, her's is by far the most entertaining and hirlarious. I love her sense of humour! De Kenyon is the author of the brilliant Tales Told Under Covers - a selection of Children's Horror stories. Featuring everything from zombies to wizards to giant sushi monsters (yes you heard that correctly), this book is a must read if you're looking for entertaining horror that's perfect for children. In fact I actually compared De Kenyon to H.P Lovecraft in some way, in the sense that her stories are so wild and imagitive it's hard not to be swept away by them!

Check out my review for the book HERE . In the meantime, let's see how De Kenyon decided to answer my questions. Enjoy!

 

1. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
No.  I refuse.  I refuse to tell you about my love of comic books, learning karate with my daughter, or living in Colorado with an awesome playhouse in the back yard.  You'll just have to live with your despair, which, I see, is making you cry  disconsolately.



2. Outside of writing, what would you say your favourite hobbies are?
Reading books.  I read a lot of books (and comics).  Cooking weird food that I don't know how to cook, just because I want to see how many ways I can mess it up.  Well, I suppose I also want to eat it, but mostly I want to see how far I can mess with things before I can't eat it anymore.  Playing online games with my family.  We usually end up on the bad guys' side.  They're just misunderstood, you know.



3. What made you want to get into writing?
I used to make up stories for people when they came to visit us. We lived on a farm, and my mom stayed home all day, so one or two of our cousins would stay with us every year and hang out and do chores and things.  And we'd play pretend--oh, for a very long time, probably until I was in sixth grade or so--and go on adventures and things.  I'd set up whatever the beginning was, and then we'd all play until everyone got mad at each other.  I got bored in school, and one of the teachers decided that I needed to be a writer, because that's what I'd do in class after I'd done all the homework: make up stuff.  I was sent to writer camp for a week...only I had to write a story before they'd let me in.  Does that make sense, I ask you?  First you teach me to write, and then I write the story.  But no.



4. Who would you say are your favourite authors and who inspires your writing the most?
I'm a huge Alice's Adventures in Wonderland fan, to the point where I know that the town where the author spent some of his vacations had a bunch of white rabbits running all over the parks.  LOTS of them, for some reason.  I find that Alice always inspires me.  I also love Terry Pratchett, Steven Brust, Spider Robinson, Robert Heinlein, Eoin Colfer, Carol Berg, Jonathan Stroud, Tamora Pierce, Diana Wynne Jones...oh, about a bajillion other authors, too.



5. Without giving away any spoilers, can you tell us a little about Tales Told Under The Covers?
It's a collection of short stories about a) defeating bullies, 2) getting in trouble, and d) a lot of other things.  I used to read a lot of horror stories as a kid, like the books with 101 spooky stories in them and stuff.  So all the stories are a little creepy in one way or another, and I can't think of any of the stories that doesn't have a fight in it.  But all of the stories have mostly happy endings.  Because I'm terrible at sad endings, really.



6. How did you get the ideas for the stories in the book?
I asked kids for ideas and then made them as weird as possible.  Like for "A Picture is Worth 1000 Chomps," I asked for an idea, any idea, and the girl told me she wanted a story about evil things coming out of mirrors or picture frames.  I just changed it to cameras and laptops, because nobody expects your tech stuff to be more or less haunted.



7. Do you prefer writing short stories over full length novels?
I like both, but short stories are harder for me.  The hardest part is coming up with the ideas for me, so short stories mean a lot of work for not all that much writing.



8. Which of the stories is your favourite?
It depends on my mood.  Usually I like "The Last Voyage of the Mermaid" the best, because my daughter, when she was younger, was always asking me what death was like, and I never knew what to say to her.  But when we go out for sushi, it's "Attack of the 50-Foot Sushi Monster," because that's where we came up with the idea.  Each of the stories has its own special moments where I'm like, "Oh, story.  I love you so."



9. Even though it’s aimed at children, do you worry that some of the content may be a bit too dark for them in places?
Yes and no.  Yes, because I know some kids are scared out of their wits by scary stories.  No, because the book kind of says, "Hey, there are some scary stories in here."  I think adults don't give kids credit for their bravery.  They see you be scared about one thing, like spiders, and think, "This kid's a chicken" for the rest of their childhoods.  And kids have to deal with scary things all the time--like divorce, parents who have job/money/drug or alcohol problems, not knowing whether you'll ever see your friends next school year, bullies, etc.  Why not talk about that?



10. I have to ask this – the story about the Sushi monster is one of the strangest, yet really entertaining stories I’ve read. Where did the inspiration for that one come from?
My daughter.  We were eating sushi, as we do, and sitting at the counter watching the chefs chop things up.  One of her favorite things to eat was octopus for a while; now it's two different kinds of fish eggs.  I told her I needed an idea for my next story.  When the rolls came out, we were messing around, and she kind of built a sushi figure from my roll.  "What if this was a sushi man and he ate everyone?"  I think that's how she put it.  I sometimes have to tone down her ideas a little; they're already pretty far out there.



11. Are there any current horror trends that get on your nerves?
The women who scream and get chopped to bits.  Really?  Really?  If I'm ever in a horror movie, I'm going for a cleaver.  Or a nice, heavy set of keys.  Even a pen.  I may die, but I'm taking at least a few bad guys with me.  Especially if there are kids to defend.  Hooh boy.  I'd just put down the chainsaw and run, if I were the bad guy.  Don't mess with ladies who are defending little kids.



12. What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Read.  If you want to write, you should be addicted to reading the stuff you want to write.  Don't watch mostly TV if you want to write books, for example.  And write. A lot.  Not just when you feel like it.  All the time.  Every day.  It doesn't matter if it's terrible; if you keep writing, it'll get better.  It just will, believe it or not.  But write a lot.



AUTHOR DETAILS

I blog at www.dekenyon.com and tweet at @writerde .  You can get my book in print at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or as an ebooks at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, Smashwords, and lots of other online bookstores.

 

Thanks again to De for the interview - I hope you all found it as entertaining as I did. More author interviews coming very soon!

Normal service should resume for blogging as from tomorrow! Until then, keep reading!

 

Kindest

Pandragon

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Author Interview - Benjamin X Wretlind

Today I'm interviewing the author of Castles: A Ficitonal Memoir of a Girl With Scissors, Benjamin X Wretlind. Castles was a book that I reviewed earlier in the year and found it a very disturbing - but at the same time well written novel. Told from the perspective of the central character, it is a horrific coming of age story that leaves a lasting impression on the reader and I highly recommend if for any fans of horror.

See my full review of the book HERE

Interviewing Benjamin was an interesting experience, as you'll see below, but I say that in a good way. He's a highly intelligent lad with a lot of good insights into writing and how to write. Without further ado, for your reading pleasue, I present to you, Mr Benjamin X Wretlind.

 

1. Can you tell us a little about yourself? 

I guess the best answer to “who am I” has always been “eclectic.”  However, if I had to elaborate I would say: I’ve lived all over this country and was raised under the hand of a minister who teaches dead Biblical languages.  This probably has nothing to do with who I’ve become, but I’m sure there’s a story in there someplace.  In my life, I have been—at different times, of course—a fry cook, a range boy, a greens maintenance technician, a reservations agent, a room service attendant, an editor, a banquet server, a meteorologist, an instructor, a quality control demon, a program manager for Internet applications and a curriculum developer.  I’m currently working as a simulation engineer for a chemical weapons destruction plant.  I also like llamas.



2. Outside of writing, what would you say your favourite hobbies are?

I read a lot, but my biggest joy lately has been painting things I see in my head with acrylic.  That mostly involves surreal landscapes, but I hope to improve enough this year to start painting characters and creatures.  I also love photography, but I can’t say the camera loves me.
 

3. What made you want to get into writing?

I’ve written most of my life. In fact, there’s a story buried somewhere in my files I wrote in 2nd grade that my mom saved for me.  The story is naturally childish, but when I read it a few years ago I was convinced it was one of the many stepping stones I used to get to where I am.  I always wanted to write and always did.  I wrote for school and I wrote for me.  I wrote because it’s a major part of who I am.  For a real answer to what makes me think I’m a writer, there’s an entry on my blog I wrote in 2006 that covers the two most pronounced events that pushed me in the direction I’m headed.  http://bxwretlind.com/blog/2011/05/23/the-obligatory-reflective-post-parts-i-ii/



4. Who would you say are your favourite authors and who inspires your writing the most?

My favourite current authors lately are Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.  Their novels, especially those revolving around FBI detective Aloysius Pendergast, always keep me entertained.  I’m also fond of Michael Ende, Ray Bradbury and Clive Barker.  Both Ende and Robert Holdstock were probably the most influential writers in my life.
 

5. Without giving away any spoilers, can you tell us a little about Castles?

Castles is a view into the mind of a woman who, throughout her life, is abused in more ways than one.  It's an emotional rollercoaster, told through the main character's voice, about what she sees, what she knows, and what she's been told.  There is violence and there is love, and there is violent love.  I like to think of Castles as a question: is madness really mad and is reality really real?



6. Of the books I’ve reviewed so far, I’d say that this one is probably the darkest. Do you tend to gravitate towards the darker side of fiction? 

I do, but not because I force myself in that direction.  At one point in my career, I thought I had to pick a genre and stick with it.  That’s when the original idea for Castles came about.  However, the latest project I’m working on includes elements of the paranormal (ghosts and witches), romance, family-oriented drama and a few thrills.  A novel I’m currently rewriting might be considered magical realism.  The next novel I’ve been outlining is actually a political thriller.  None of this is really dark, although my characters tend to have a depressing outlook on life, that’s for sure.



7. How would you describe the contents of the book?

If I had to use one word, I would say "disturbing."  If I could use another word, I would add "uncomfortable."



8. Do you think that the book, being written in a POV sense, gives it an edge over most other horror books?

Most certainly.  I think the style is what sets it apart from everything else out there.  Castles was told in the voice of the main character, Maggie, and it's that voice that really allows the reader to question madness.  I've told a few people that Castles wasn't written by me; it was dictated to me by a voice in my head.  That voice, Maggie, wouldn't shut up for seven years--the length of time it took to write to novel.



9. What gave you the idea for the story? Is it based on anything? 

The original short story was written in 2003 when I was part of a writing group.  The subject was "weather" and, as a meteorologist at the time, I thought I had an edge.  I picked dust storms and desert weather as the backdrop of the story because I grew up in Phoenix and love the weather during the monsoon season.  However, when I got my comments back from the group, there was one which stuck in my head: "what you've written is the outline of a great novel."  It took a few months for me to really start working on Castles, and then there was a long break (several years, actually), when Maggie wouldn't talk to me.  It was almost as if she felt I wasn't ready to hear her story.  When she did speak to me, I frantically wrote it all down and felt just as sick as most of my readers. I also felt I had to let the story loose, to let others hear what Maggie had to say.



10. If your book was made into a film, who would you get to star in it and why? 

I don't know.  Maggie has a slight Southern accent, but I don't know what she looks like.  She's in her early 20's, too, so if I had to pick someone, it would probably be Jennifer Lawrence, who starred in Winter's Bone.



11. What are your main ambitions for this book?

Maggie has something to say, and  I want the world to listen to her. In other words, I would really like people to give the book a chance.  There are several reviewers who have said they are very glad to have left their comfortable genre and tried something they normally wouldn't read.  I also would like the book to generate conversation, as it did when I wrote the original short story.  That conversation centered around women as victims and why some women remain victims.  It was strange to feel that something I'd written sparked a debate, and I'd like the full novel to do the same thing.



12. What advice would you give to aspiring authors? 

There is so much advice out there for aspiring authors, from "don't give up" to "learn the craft."  What I would say is this: Every thing and every one has a story; write it down and see what happens.



AUTHOR DETAILS

Website/blog: http://www.bxwretlind.com/
Facebook Author Page: http://www.facebook.com/bxwretlind
Twitter: @bxwretlind
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2900267.Benjamin_X_Wretlind

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Benjamin-X-Wretlind/e/B004X2O624/
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Benjamin-X-Wretlind

 

A big thanks to Benjamin X Wretlind for taking time out from his busy schedule to speak to me. I hope you guys enjoyed reading this and will be checking out his book sometime soon.

Next week, we will have the talented De Kenyon, talking about her short story anthology Tales Told Under Covers.

Until next time...

 

Pandragon

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