Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Born By Fire - Conversations With Ashleigh Galvin.

“Shar ran. Just kept running, unaware of where her feet were taking her. 
She kept shaking her head, trying to erase what she’d heard…she just couldn’t believe it. Memories started to spin in her mind, memories of Greg swinging on her swing when she came home from school. 

Birthdays, Christmases, all lies. Every single day of her life was a lie. Deceit, every word he’d ever said. Tears blinded Shar as she ran deeper into the woods. She was numb to the pain of 
branches pulling her hair, raking across bare her skin. 

The pain from inside blocked everything out.”

from "Birth By Fire's Embrace" by Ashleigh Galvin (SPMG Ltd.)

Continuing my look at rising Australian authors this week, I'm pleased to introduce an exciting young scribe from Queensland - Ashleigh Galvin, whose debut novel "Birth By Fire's Embrace" from Spectacle Publishing Media Group launched across all the major etailers back on May 9th - with a print release scheduled for quarter 2 this year. 

A rich mix of fantasy, action adventure that treads a line between our own modern world and a fantastical realm filled with classical archetypes, "Birth By Fire's Embrace" marks the first in an intended 8 book cycle from Ashleigh under the heading of the Amethyst Series.

The guff on this first entry is thus;

A taut fantasy for all ages, Birth by Fire’s Embrace explores how drastically things can change when the world that lies just beyond our senses begins to surface. Sharrlette Moore is an ordinary young woman on the cusp of academic success, happy and satisfied in her relationship with the best guy in the world and looking forward to all that life has to offer. When all that is familiar vanishes from Sharrlette's life, she begins to look inside and find the strength and courage to carry on in a harsh world, and look towards another world that lies ahead.

The further away modern, popular literature moves from the Twilight series, it seems that the better and more original those literary offerings become. I've made no secret of the fact that I have struggled with the fantasy genre in the past, simply because there has been so much of it and not all of it has been very good. Where the genre does work, however, is in those stories where the author has clearly stepped out of the genre's comfort zone by offering an original element that immediately piques curiosity and promises an tantalizing alternate take. 

And Birth By Fire's Embrace is no exception, proving that there is life in the fantasy genre yet. Ashleigh Galvin brings to the table a dense and nuanced world which she juxtaposes skilfully with a modern real world setting. This kind of world creation, to me, is an appealing and important aspect of this kind of writing. It takes a kind of artistic flair to pull it off well. Galvin's balancing act between the real and the other worldly are visually accessible, keeping you invested in the environments and situations. 

Galvin's characters, lead by the fully realized heroine in Sharrlette rise from the page vividly and with an attention to their individual details that make them convincing. I especially found Sharrlette's arc engrossing. She represents the "every person" really well, allowing us as the reader to access the story through her eyes in such a way that we feel her reactions to what is taking place. Again, because Sharrlette is grounded in our own real world to begin with, this device makes for a much more compelling story.

As a work whose design is to set up a series, this first entry succeeds really well in introducing us to the universe Galvin has created and she has achieved the two important functions such a entry has to satisfy. It offers a contained story that sits on it's own while offering enough tangible threads that will entice the reader to invest in further instalments the eventual series.

Ashleigh Galvin has written an exciting tale that refreshes the genre and offers an accessible journey with classic elements worthy of exploration and contemplation.

Having had the opportunity to take an early glimpse of the novel, one of the things that impressed me about it was the relative youth of Ashleigh herself. She writes in a voice that, to me, seemed so worldly and -  *ahem* - mature, that I knew that I wanted to delve a little further into the voice behind this accomplished work.

I started by asking Ashleigh a little about her herself and where she's at now. Ashleigh has an impressive resume to her credit both in business and modelling, while she also dabbles in digital art.  

A.G. - I live with my fiancée, Michael in a little unit in Brisbane, Australia. While I’d love to be a full time writer, eventually, I currently work at HBM Lawyers as an IT/Admin Assistant. I've been working there for roughly 3 years.  I've been doing Modelling on the side for roughly 4 years. It’s great fun. Particularly the themed shoots. It lets you step away from reality for a little while. I also draw in my free time. Mostly digitally now days. I normally draw Manga style characters. It’s great fun and, if being an author doesn't work out, I’d like to be an illustrator. But I have a lot more practise ahead of me before that.     

DFA - As an author, you've made an impressive splash into that pool. Where did your journey as an author begin and how did it progress?

A.G. - I started writing when I was still in primary school. I was going to write ‘the best novel ever’. It was called ‘The Scar of Athens’ and, needless to say, when I read it now, it’s extremely boring and lacks structure. But it inspired me to continue writing and refining my skills.

DFA - I was really taken by the visual quality of your writing. Where does the inspiration for your vivid story telling come from?

A.G. - My usual reply is daydreaming - (laughs here) - I daydream a lot! I like to call them epic daydreams because I can have one daydream that will last a week or longer. Whenever my mind is idle, I just pick up where the story left off. I get most of my novel ideas this way. 

DFA - You've created a compelling set of characters for the novel. How do you arrive at your characters and what elements do you infuse into them?

A.G. - I don’t actually base most of my characters on people I know. I don’t like to do that because I feel it can make the characters too predictable. I create most of my character from the ground up. Sharrlette is probably the exception. She was based mostly on myself, with a dash of my sister thrown in. My fiancée Michael also provides a lot of inspiration and ideals. He is a Games Designer so we are both very creative. 

DFA - It's clear that the work which has gone into your debut novel has been considerable. With the release of Birth By Fire's Embrace, how do you feel about the achievement and what are your hopes for the future?

A.G. - I'm very proud that I've actually written a book worth publishing. I know very few people get published at my age so I'm happy about that too. I'm very happy with the universe I've created for this series. It’s a great place that I can set many different stories in. It’s just bursting with potential.

As Ashleigh Galvin works towards more stories in the series, expect the Amethyst Series to attract a lot of attention. Her skill as a story teller is considerable and her relative youth affords her a particular edge in the production of future stories that crackle with everything that is great about talented indie authors. 

Purchase "Birth By Fire's Embrace" here (Amazon) and here (B and N).

Connect with Ashleigh here

Tweet with Ashleigh here

Visit Spectacle Publishing Media Group here

The Regenesis Cluster - the stunning new novella from Dean Mayes - out now.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Artist's First Radio features Australian Author Dean Mayes.

Artist's First Radio, an affiliate of CBS Media in the United States, welcomed Australian author Dean Mayes (The Hambledown Dream, Gifts of the Peramangk, The Regenesis Cluster) to it's May 19th broadcast where he talked at length with Ashley Fontainne about his latest novel, his writing journey up to now and he discusses the challenges of being a working author and Intensive Care Nurse. Dean also hints at a couple of exciting new projects he has in the works.

Ashley and Dean explored the challenges of writing an indigenous story from the perspective of a non indigenous Australian and the steps Dean took to ensure that his novel respected a culture and a people that are not his own. They also talked about book marketing in the new publishing paradigm, the benefits (and sometimes curses) of social media and the satisfaction of reaching a truly global audience through writing. 

Listen to this hour long feature interview with Dean and Ashley and discover even more great content at Ashley's Artist's First portal.



Catch up with episode 2 of Liz Miele's "Damaged" animated web series. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Bringing Life To The Undead - Conversations With Stephen Ormsby.

In the past year, I have been encouraged by the emerging ground swell of Australian indie authors onto the publishing land scape. When my novel The Hambledown Dream was first released in 2010, I have to admit that I simply was not aware of my fellow country men and women and I tended to market to a North American audience with a dash of European thrown in. It feels as though the tide has only really shifted in the past six or seven months and I have begun to interact with a whole lot more really talented Australian authors. 

Of all the people who have helped me to connect to this vibrant and growing band of story tellers, I count Victorian author Stephen Ormsby as the most important gate keeper in terms of connecting. 

I featured Stephen back in December, when he was doing the rounds for his novel "Long Lost Song" which has become a sleeper hit and has established Stephen as a stylish scribe whose ability to occupy multiple genres is considerable. Whether through scenes of full throttle action, moments of quiet introspection and reflection or words of tenderness and romance, Stephen Ormsby can step into those spaces, live and breathe them and deliver prose in a voice that completely suits that narrative. And indeed, people are sitting up and taking notice of Stephen's talents. 

With the launch of his much anticipated new release "Pendant: The Undead Hunters (Book One)" Stephen Ormsby enters into a realm that combines both medieval and modern day action, horror and romance into an incendiary mix.

The guff on Pendant is thus;

Varnok the Great Wizard wants revenge against the people who burnt him at the stake for murder three hundred years before. He has waited patiently in Hell for his opportunity. 

Now, the Pendant has come together, and the time to make the pay for their actions against him is here. He will release his power upon Earth. 

Maggie finds half a pendant in a sea-side market and Logan is given up his by family, forcing the two into a horrific world they had never imagined, and running for their lives. 

Will they learn the secret of the Pendant before it is too late? 

Will there new-found love be strong enough to stop Varnok, a three hundred year old Wizard from the pits of Hell? 

Pendant is the first book in The Undead Hunters series.

I took time out with Stephen this past weekend to discuss Pendant and I started by asking him what was the inspiration for the story and the motivation for entering the genre.

S.O. - After writing Long Lost Song, I wanted to challenge myself with something new (as you do).  My first targets were two loves for me – a horror novel and a fantasy novel.  Horror has been abused lately with sparkly vampires and other not-so-scary creatures.  I wanted to write a horror story that reminded me of the great old horror authors I loved to read in the 80’s and 90’s.  It needed to be scary and have a protagonist you would not want to meet in a dark alley.  In fact, I even used that concept in the book.

D.F.A. - You've introduced into this story, an protagonist/antagonist in Conrad that is a delectable mix of evil and charisma. Where did the seeds for Conrad germinate?

S.O. - Conrad is one bad-ass mother fucker that rides me to death and back – quite literally.  When I wrote that book, I was the nastiest piece of shit that I could be.  He was always there, demanding, prompting, poking at me.  I have never been so glad to kill a character as I was when I reached the end of that book.  As I was writing Pendant, I knew how he had come to me that way, and felt that I needed to write that story as well.  

D.F.A - Yes indeed! The prequel novella "The Road To Hell" sets up the character of Conrad/Varnok, explaining just how Conrad becomes Varnok. The prequel idea works very well as a accompanying piece but it also served in drawing audiences to the world of The Undead Hunters. You display a phenomenal work rate in both these pieces. Just how intense was the writing process for Pendant and Road To Hell?

S.O. - This book was FAST – yes, with capitals!  I wrote the first draft of 72,000 words in 22 days flat.  It burst from me, as did the alien from John Hurt’s stomach in Alien.  I could not slow it down, not that I wanted to really.  Writing that fast, whilst knowing that bad things are coming for everybody, adds an intensity that I enjoyed in the writing.  I think, though, some of it was due to the fact that I wanted to be rid of Varnok.

D.F.A. - The world you've created in dense both in scope and texture and nuance. Was there a research curve involved in bringing life to this world?

S.O. - Would you believe none!  This was the first book I've written that required or needed no research.  The continuing journeys of Varnok, Logan and Maggie will require a lot more research though, given where they are going next.

Stephen Ormsby's writing talent is considerable, as we've clearly established, but another strength of the overall package is the amazing cover art that Stephen commissioned for the project. Stephen's wife Marieke designed the striking artwork for both the novella and the novel. I asked Stephen what he was looking for in the cover design.

S.O. - For Road to Hell, I had a real idea of what I wanted.  The pyre both opens and closes the short, so I thought it was the only image that would really work.  Finding such an image is a tougher job!  Marieke puts in a huge amount of work on all of my covers.  Each one adds another element to the story I feel.

For Pendant, I had a different design in mind for Pendant - and for the pendant itself. It evolved into a much plainer pendant really.  Marieke took off with my concept and came back with the cover you see.  I had to work my way through the book to add details about the pedant after that.  Still, the result is brilliant and captures my head snapshot perfectly.

D.F.A. - It's clear to me that you and Marieke work closely together. Can you describe the process in designing the cover art?

S.O. - Marieke and I discuss the elements we want on each cover.  We see this part of the book creation process as integral to the overall package.  She works with my words and concept, and has always came back with something that has blown me away.  So far, I don’t think that we have disagreed to a cover.  I know Marieke has changed a couple with added details, but the initial concept and thoughts we had have always remained.

With the release of Pendant, Stephen has embarked on a marketing campaign that has seen him invited to the Australian Pop Culture Expo "Supanova". Through these events, Stephen has tapped into a readership that is enthusiastic for the genre he explores with the novella and the main novel. I asked Stephen how this wonderful opportunity came about.

S.O. - I was discovered by the Dymocks organiser, Sandra W.  Out of the blue, she asked if I’d liked to be involved. (my wife) Marieke had to keep me from falling off my chair.  When I could talk again, I quickly agreed to Melbourne, which was the first.  Soon enough, she asked me if I’d like to do the rest.  Such opportunities don’t come often, so I jumped on the bandwagon very quickly.

D.F.A. - And what was the experience like?

S.O. - Supanova is massive!!  It is incredibly weird to be on the other side of the desk, being stared at instead of staring.  The people that have passed and asked questions about my book just blow me away.  They buy and then ask ever so nicely if I’ll sign it too.  I sold a huge number in the first two conventions and it bolsters the ego to know and find your audience.

It’s a huge thrill to also meet so many other great authors, such as Hugh Howey, Tad Williams, Kylie Chan, Marianne de Pierres, K J Taylor, Jay Kristoff, Michael Pryor and I can’t forget good friends Colin Taber and Jason Fischer.

Once you get in and start talking to these people, you feel so validated as a writer.  They have all been through the same thing and they are so generous with their time.  I am already looking forward to Sydney and Perth with a new stack of books to sign and sell.

Stephen Ormsby has quickly established himself as an author whose work offers much. His clear love for the craft is evident in every word he writes and his enthusiasm shines best when he challenges himself to explore different genres and in many cases combine them. 

He's kind of like a mad scientist who struck genius rather than blew up the lab. With "Road To Hell" and "Pendant", Stephen Ormsby weaves a thrilling, horrific and mind bending tome that screams success. 

Visit Stephen Ormsby officially here.

Purchase "The Road To Hell (An Undead Hunters Novella)" here and "Pendant: The Undead Hunters (Book One)" here.

Connect with Stephen Ormsby here.

Tweet with Stephen Ormsby here


The Regenesis Cluster - the stunning new short story by Dean Mayes - Available Now.