Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Heart That Bleeds - Xavier Saer & Bleeding Heart.

Every once in a while, an artist emerges from the crowds of people before you and, through their sheer natural magnetism, you are drawn to them. 

Xavier Saer is one such artist - a man who has accumulated a treasure chest of life experience through his bountiful experience of living and it seems that his capacity to draw an audience to him - whether it be through his passionate photographers eye, his voice and his musician's fingers or through his fertile story teller's mind - is limitless. 

Xavier Saer was born in Peru where his passion for composing and performing started quite early. Saer himself describes his artistic genesis as such - "Living among such culture, history and political turmoil… it wasn't hard to be inspired." Peru is a country of contrasts - at once starkly beautiful in the arms of the Andes mountains, with architecture and culture that one can fall deeply in love with.

Xavier Saer.

Though his destiny lay in artistic endeavors, Saer's first vocation was rather removed from the musicality and imagery that he would eventually become synonymous with. He graduated with a degree in Economics - something that, in his own words, he could present to his parents. But Saer's destiny lay elsewhere. "I had fate to follow. Music chose me, and I knew I couldn't fight against my destiny".

And so the journeyman artist within Xavier Saer emerged and he embarked on something of a quest to mold and shape art and music into his own creation. From Spain, where he studied flamenco, to the bars and clubs of London where he shared his passion, to his homeland of Peru where he signed with renowned producer Pepe Ortega and birthed his debut sellout album "Ser Asi", to Africa where a series of adventures and experiences informed the tone and tenor of his follow up recording, titled "Saer".

Saer's progression from musician, song writer and recording artist to author, therefore, is a natural one and it is already capturing the attention of an audience well beyond that which has followed him thus far.  

Bleeding Heart, Xavier Saer's debut novel, is described as a timeless fable about living life with passion. The guff on the novel is thus;

In a grey, permanently overcast city in South America, a child is born with a gap in his chest; a heart that is open to the world. To most, it appears to be a weakness. It is in fact a gift. 

Sole heir to a wealthy sugar plantation, his totalitarian father tries to force him to follow the family tradition of administering their slave-run empire. Paco refuses, opting to follow his dream of singing. Driven from his home by his father's ultimatum, Paco is lured into a world of political deception where his musical abilities land him on the wrong side of the law... and deeply in love. Having to run for his life and freedom. Escaping to the Andes, fate leads him to a mystical Inca shaman, who teaches him how to follow his heart and his inner voice. 

He is confronted with the decision; to have a heart that bleeds forever, or choose the path where there's no more bleeding - even if it means death. He discovers that nothing is impossible, and that living with an open heart is not weakness, but a gift to the world.

Cover Art for "Bleeding Heart".

Xavier the songwriter has become a story teller and he has done so with an outstanding literary work. In Bleeding Heart, Xavier Saer's words are not just words that exist in state on the page, they are exquisite lyrics of a literary kind, imbued with strength, romance, tension and passion.

Bleeding Heart is not a story that has been merely written. It has been lovingly handcrafted, sculpted from the collected experiences Saer has brought with him on his journey and it has been done so with a care and devotion that I have not witnessed from an author in a long time.

Saer brings to this story, his considerable talent as a song writer and lyricist crafting his tome in such a way that the entire book, arguably, becomes a song in and of itself. His words are poetic, picturesque, dramatic and inspirational.

Saer has an astute sense of romance and emotion - both in imbuing his characters with it as well as eliciting an emotional response from us, his readers. We feel for his characters, not the least of which, the unassuming hero in Paco who is rendered so vividly the we live through his experience. 

I've said before that I am drawn to writers who are able to write visually, allowing us to unlock the story-scape in our imagination. Here, Xavier Saer is no exception, presenting an accessible visual palette to his story that draws very much upon his Peruvian homeland, the beauty and the terror of its cities, the Andes Mountains and the contrasting people he populates his story with.

Bleeding Heart represents a high water mark in the inspirational fiction genre. Fans of Bryce Courtney's The Power Of One will find textural parallels with Bleeding Heart but Xavier Saer's work stands as a highly original piece that delivers on its own terms.

This is, hands down, an important work that will enchant you.

Purchase Bleeding Heart here.

Connect with Xavier Saer here

Facebook with Xavier Saer here


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Queen of the Vampires - Conversations with Author Jodie Pierce.

A big determiner of the success or failure of genre fiction is the commitment and the enthusiasm lent to it by its author. Not only does the author have to offer something unique and original but they should be willing to take risks that draw readers in. If the author can deliver a passion into his or her stories that captures the readers attention and keeps them invested, success will follow. 

Jodie Pierce is one such author who has committed herself to a genre that is often considered over populated by content, however Pierce has succeeded in contributing a lively and engaging new facet to Vampire fiction - one that takes risks and challenges its readers.

Informed in part by her love for Anne Rice's Lestat series, Jodie Pierce has invested heavily into her own Vampire odyssey, committing herself to infusing her own series with a meticulous attention to detail - often employing dense historical research in order to bring a sense of authenticity to her stories. She has, as a result, achieved a body of work in Vampire fiction that transcends the genre and offers something surprisingly unique. 

Pierce began her Vampire Queen series with the appropriately titled "The Vampire Queen" in 2011 for Eternal Press and quickly amassed a dedicated following which has remained with her through her subsequent releases - The Vampire Chronicles and The Demise Of The Vampire Queen. Jodie has added to her portfolio with the novellas Condemned By A Vampire, The Reluctant Vampire, Midnight Thirsts and Once Sanguist, Twice Bi.

In the debut to the series - The Vampire Queen - we are introduced to a young woman - Paulina de Lordes - who awakens to discover that, not only is she an important Countess, but she is also the very first or "Ancient One" of a mysterious order that is adhered to by many of her subjects. Her memories of a prior existence as a vampire as well as memories of anyone from that former existence are gone when the story opens, so she must relearn everything from that other life from the people around her, but can they be trusted? She also learns her role as the former Countess was a quest to purify the vampire race thus, when Paulina begins to realize her destiny, her desire to complete it becomes a focal point for the novel. 

She is challenged in her quest by The 'Others', a group of powerful and evil vampires that attempt to use her memory loss to their advantage. The presence of the 'Others' reveal a centuries old battle between two opposing forces to covet the "Ancient One" as their leader. Struggling to remember her past, battling the 'Others' and coping with her new life keep the Countess busy throughout this spellbinding and thrilling saga. Will she succeed in her goals or will the 'Others' win her over to their side this time around?

In exploring the series, I asked Jodie how she began to map out what has become such a sprawling yet complex and often epic saga.

JP: I have to say that I didn't really do any significant "mapping" per se but rather, the story flowed from me organically. The first book in the series - The Vampire Queen - was my first and favorite manuscript. In it, I set out to introduce a fully realized protagonist in Countess Paulina de Lourdes who is somewhat of a mystery to the reader in the beginning. By reuniting her with her lover (whom she has no memory of initially), and throwing them into an epic adventure from the outset, the reader is invited to peel back the layers of the Countess in an interactive sort of way. I realized the potential was there to expand across multiple titles. When I came to write the second book - The Vampire Chronicles - I deliberately left it open for a third book. I then decided I wanted to tie up the events so I wrote the final book, Demise of the Vampire to achieve that.

Pierce counts a unique experience, living and studying in Brazil, as one that has shaped herself as an author and how the observation of people factor into her writing style.

JP: I lived in Brazil for six months when I was 16. Breaking down the language barrier was a significant milestone for me during my time there. I learnt Portuguese, having had no experience with the language before and I became fluent by the time I left. Brazil is so beautiful and the people are kind, generous, friendly and non judgmental. Though it is a third world country and I saw a lot of poverty, I found that generosity of spirit ran right through the populace, regardless of their circumstance and the experience imprinted on me significantly. Likewise, the country itself is physically beautiful. I lived two blocks from the beach and I found it an invigorating place.

I have often set my stories in Brazil or have used it as a location for other things. I've also created characters that are Brazilian or of Brazilian descent. In terms of the Vampire Queen trilogy, it was less influential  but it did make me a better writer. I wrote for the school newspaper while there and that was a valuable learning experience I will never forget. Brazil had a profound effect on me. I've even considered a tattoo of a Brazilian flag. It was my favorite place to live and would go back there and live there for forever if given the opportunity.

One of the appeals of The Vampire Queen series is the extent to which Pierce challenges the reader through her characters. Her protagonists and antagonists are not merely culled from the traditional archetypes found throughout the vampire fiction genre. Rather, Pierce has drawn them vividly from her observations of people and her own self examination. She has thus imbued them with complexity and potency. Her exploration of sexuality - in particular bi-sexuality - throughout the trilogy was one of the more attractive features of The Vampire Queen series and one that was handled convincingly and with maturity. I asked Jodie what influenced her portrayal of sexual themes in the books.

JP: I am bi-sexual myself so it wasn't difficult for me to transpose my own life experiences, my wants and fantasies into the stories. I have also written erotica with vampires and lesbians (Once Sanguist, Twice Bi) which were kind of proving grounds for exploring sexuality and combining the things that I love. I found these stories easy to write. My husband is accepting of my bi-sexuality (he loves it actually). Many of the situations the Queen is involved in throughout the books, have been drawn from personal experience and I won't deny that I enjoyed that aspect of the story telling. I had a full time girlfriend before I met my husband which changed my life in the best way possible. It has opened my mind to the full potential of sexual experience in a really positive way and it has benefited my marriage for sure. I still enjoy romps with my husband and another woman and, for us, they are positive and invigorating experiences. I'm a very open person and believe that people should be more open to exploring their sexuality and being comfortable with their sexuality.

Jodie Pierce knows her genre well and has a gift for constructing mythology and complex characters that populate her stories. Additionally, Pierce is not averse to challenging both herself and her readers by exploring themes of sexuality, relationships and love in a fully realized and refreshing way. It is clear that she is an astute observationalist - both of people around her and of herself. The result is honest story telling that doesn't take the reader for granted and allows them to be an active participant in the worlds she creates.

In a genre that has been wanting for some time, Jodie Pierce represents a new kind of quality in the world of vampire fiction.

Connect with Jodie Pierce here.

Purchase Jodie Pierce's Vampire Queen series here.

Tweet with Jodie Pierce here.

Facebook Jodie Pierce here

Post Script - Pierce has recently kicked off an initiative with other vampire fiction authors that will see them collaborate on a project that will benefit the St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. She is looking for authors to add to the project so if you think this is something you might be interested, do get in touch with her.  


Download Deans' Interview With Radio Adelaide's Breakfast program with Angas Randall.

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