Saturday, April 16, 2016

Phoenix Rising - A Look At New World Rising by Jennifer Wilson.

There has been a consistent "kicked up a notch" evolution in young adult fiction occurring ever since the advent of the Twilight series (the books - not the films) back in 2005. Where it began with a focus on the paranormal - vampires and werewolves, angels and demons, zombies and the undead; all of which borrowing heavily from classic mythology - this evolution has steadily moved towards much grittier and original style of story telling with a decidedly more dystopian take on the world. Hence we've seen the like of The Hunger Games, The Divergent series and, more recently The 100.

I've long been drawn to these dystopian visions of a near future world that have their roots in the psychedelic fiction of authors like Phillip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, A Scanner Darkly) Cormac McCarthy (The Road) and their celluloid counterparts George Miller (Mad Max) and Ridley Scott (Bladerunner). I think I have an attraction to anarchy and the resourcefulness of ordinary people who are given the chance to prevail when orthodox society fails.

This vision of a possible future is no better illustrated in a 2014 dystopian young adult thriller called New World: Rising by author Jennifer Wilson.

(image credit: JK Wilson.)

From the liner notes:

Since witnessing her parents' murders at the age of eleven, Phoenix's only purpose in life has been to uphold her mother's dying words- to be strong and survive. But surviving outside of The Walls- outside of The Sanctuary- is more like a drawn-out death sentence. A cruel and ruthless city, Tartarus is run by the Tribes whose motto is simple, "Join or die." 

Refusing to join and determined to live, Phoenix fights to survive in this savage world. But who can she trust, when no one can be trusted? Not even herself.

With an atmosphere that calls back to those classic works of dystopian fiction, Wilson's New World: Rising is an electrifying first salvo in what promises to be a series that exemplifies all the great things about the genre. From the get go, we are introduced to a broken world in an undefined period of the near future. Society has broken down and reorganized itself into a set of Tribes - each of which possesses a different view of humanity from the virtuous to the animalistic. For the majority of these Tribes, the object of survival is merely to exist, rather than to advance or recapture the notion of enlightened society and, as such, the New World exists in a state of chaos. 

We enter this New World through the eyes of Phoenix, a enigmatic young woman who deliberately isolates herself and moves through the world a loner. While her background is unclear from the outset, she clings to the notion of a civilization that once was that was impressed upon her by her long dead parents. She is a voracious reader, gathering the discarded books of a long forgotten city library - partly for use as currency as she moves through the shattered city known only as Tartarus - and partly for her own education. She is also resourceful, intelligent and nimble - essential ingredients for survival in the chaos. She is a survivor and while it seems that Phoenix sees the world as hopeless, she does hold within her a spark of hope. 

When Phoenix intervenes to save an 10 year old girl from a band of animalistic Ravegers, she is captured by agents of a mysterious underground conclave. Known as The Subversive, Phoenix finds herself introduced to a Tribe whose existence owes itself to being a splinter of the only remaining 'enlightened' society - known as The Sanctuary. The Subversive have a vendetta against The Sanctuary and Phoenix quickly finds herself propelled into a conflict where her family legacy will become a bargaining chip in a full scale battle for survival. 

Wilson's novel crackles with energy and atmosphere from the get go and her skill with world building is among the best I've read. The world of the future is a devastated, gritty and depressing morass that totally sucks you in. When you find yourself presented with fragments of our civilized past, they evoke an emotional response that keeps you invested. 

Wilson's use of the first person narrative is absorbing, allowing for a immediate psychological experience of a young woman who is trying to survive in a post apocalyptic wasteland. When we are introduced to the conclave of The Subversive, Wilson presents a complex Tribe trying to retain a semblance of organized society that values nurturing, education and advancement while offsetting that with a dangerous sense of justice that does not tolerate infractions of any kind. The Subversive can be as brutal as it is enlightened.

The supporting cast that Phoenix encounters are as equally appealing. Triven, the nominal leader of The Subversive, acts as guide to Phoenix in her initiation into the Tribe as well as a romantic interest who awakens in her feelings and a humanity that she thought she didn't possess, There is the outwardly cold and unfeeling Arstid, who is a much more complex character than we are lead to see, driven by an agenda couched in tragedy and a desire for absolution. And there is Mouse, the mute child Phoenix rescues at the outset, who awakens a maternal sense in Phoenix that adds further weight to her nascent humanity. Mouse's importance to the story is satisfyingly obscure in this first entry but Wilson hints that her importance will be explored further in subsequent entries. 

The efficiency of Jennifer Wilson's writing is outstanding and she does not labor too long in anyone place before moving the narrative forward. Her action scenes are cinematic, breathtaking and surgical in their precision and I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in Wilson's study as she was mapping these out. Her grasp of post apocalyptic politics is a joy to read and to ponder upon and I found myself thinking about this aspect of the story long after I had finished.

And New World: Rising is as entertaining as hell, keeping the reader locked into their seat for a thrilling ride that culminates in crackling climax, leaving the door open for a highly anticipated follow up. 

A thoroughly deserved 5 Stars. 

(image credit: JK Wilson.)

As a child Jennifer loved getting lost in the stories of others, but struggled greatly with reading. A notoriously slow reader who stumbled with words and spelling, Jennifer shied away from books, leaning heavily on musical theater and movies to get her inspirational fix.

It was not until in her mid-teens, when a persistent friend convinced her to read the Harry Potter series, that Jennifer found her love for the written word. J.K. Rowling’s books opened doors not only to the fascinating world of a young wizard, but to a life filled with a multitude of literary friends and fantastical worlds. Once a timid reader, Jennifer now devours books and loves getting lost in a new series.

Jennifer had wanted to write her own novel since her early twenties, but unfortunately inspiration doesn’t always strike on command. Her first book, The Chosen, was completed in 2013. But as most first attempts go, it was a flop. While looking through a multitude of rejection letters, inspiration struck again, putting Grace’s story got on hold as Phoenix’s began.

New World: Rising began to fill Jennifer’s brain, flowing like a fully opened valve from her fingertips. What was once such a struggle in her early years suddenly became a passion.

When Jennifer is not writing, she is enjoying life in Colorado, rock climbing, camping, exploring new foods, playing with her golden retriever, Duke, and sharing her life with her handsome and wonderful husband.

Purchase New World: Rising here.

Visit Jennifer Wilson here.

Connect with Jennifer Wilson here.

Tweet with Jennifer Wilson here


On May 1st - You Will Meet The Recipient.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Talking The Recipient With Jogcast Radio.

Recently I sat down with broadcaster Alan R. Ryan from Jogcast Radio and together we had a wide ranging discussion about my writing career to date and how it has culminated in the much anticipated release of my new novel The Recipient.

Over about an hour we talked about where my creative impulse came from, how a certain pop culture franchise influenced my desire to tell stories and how I have refined what I now call "The Method" that I use in my own writing journey.

DOWNLOAD MP3 (Right Click then "Save As...").


Pre-Order The Recipient Now.

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Recipient - Music That Inspired A Novel.

For those of you who know me, I have been described as a very musical writer and indeed, music is an integral part of my writing process. They are sources of inspiration that help me to conjure mood, create and refine scenes and lend an atmosphere to my work. 

During the writing of The Recipient, I drew upon my love of music once again and though it doesn't feature as prominently in this story as it did in my previous novels "The Hambledown Dream" and "Gifts of the Peramangk", there is a strong musical undercurrent that informs The Recipient. 

In that vein, I'd like to present a playlist of songs that were influential in the journey of The Recipient and a little bit of the story behind their contribution.

When I came to putting together the teaser trailer for The Recipient, I approached Aberdeen based rock band ElevenEleven to seek permission to use a track off their 2010 EP "Memoirs - Part One". Titled simply "Prologue" - this instrumental piece provided the perfect atmospherics I was looking for in creating a teaser that would draw the reader into the world of The Recipient. It's rumbling bass intro combined with frenetic guitar licks from Eliot Leonard and powerful drum riffs from Ross Senkbeil underpin the foreboding visuals in the 84 second trailer and I'm really pleased that the band allowed me to use the track. 

You can find more of ElevenEleven's music at their official Bandcamp page.

I've long been a fan of the Foo Fighters and when I was writing some of the very first scenes of The Recipient, I was listening their 2008 album "Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace". I eventually incorporated the first track off that album into one of the introductory scenes where we meet Casey Schillinge, 3 years after her life saving heart transplant. I was particularly drawn to these lyrics in the song - I'm the voice inside your head / You refuse to hear / I'm the face that you have to face / Mirrored in your stare. They fit with the battle that Casey Schillinge is waging inside her own head with the nightmares that plague her. Though she doesn't yet know why those nightmares are there, she has a sense that they are not her but, rather, someone else's. 

Visit the Foo Fighters at their official site.

Right the way back at the very beginning of The Recipient - even before I knew what this novel was going to be about, I was listening to Kate Miller-Heidke's 2012 album Night Flight. Whilst I was holidaying on Kangaroo Island, I became really drawn to two tracks off that album - "Ride This Feeling" and "Sarah'.

Last year, as I was approaching the completion of the first draft of the manuscript, I returned to Kate's album and became captivated by these lines from the song "Ride This Feeling";

"And I'm gonna ride this feeling / As far as it goes / I'm gonna ride this feeling / I don't know, I don't know / Whether I'm flying or falling / I'm gonna ride this feeling..."

These lines came to represent Casey Schillinge's determination to find out why she is experiencing her horrible nightmares. As she propels herself further into the mystery, Casey becomes single minded, she follows her gut - she 'rides her feeling' until she discovers the truth of her circumstance. 

I approached Kate's management team and Kate herself to ask permission to reproduce those lyrics as a quote at the beginning of the book and, to my utter delight, they kindly allowed me to do so. 

It was Miller-Heidke's track "Sarah" that really helped me to shape the tragic back story that would eventually underpin the entire novel. "Sarah" is about a girl who goes missing at a music festival and turns up much later having no recollection of where she went. I took that idea and re-purposed it and it became a critical element in The Recipient. 

Visit Kate Miller-Heidke at her official site

During the writing of the latter part of The Recipient, when I was clear about the direction it was going to go, I was introduced to Melbourne based rock outfit Heaven the Axe by my brother. Fronted by quite possibly the most powerful rock chick I've ever heard in Phoebe Pinnock, their track "Enemy" became anthemic for the emerging battle Casey Schillinge wages within herself and without - against the unfolding conspiracy surrouding her donor and her tragic fate. Dark forces are disturbed by Casey's persistence and an Enemy will emerge that will threatens her life all over again. 

Visit Heaven the Axe at their official site.

Nashville based folk-rock band Swear & Shake have occupied a special place in my heart and my music playlist since I discovered them back in 2012. They are a sublime musical outfit who explore wondrous places and states of mind - in no small part due to the hypnotic vocal talent of Kari Spieler and Adam McHeffey. 

Their track "The Light", off their 2012 LP "Maple Ridge" offers a sense of reflection that informs the conclusion of the journey of my protagonist Casey Schillinge and I was really inspired by the soulful - almost hymnal - quality of this particular song.

Visit Swear & Shake at their official site.  

The Recipient will be out in stores everywhere from May 1st, 2016. Pre-Order you copy now from Amazon, The Book Depository, Boomerang Books (Australia) and where ever good books are sold.

For your chance to Win a Copy of The Recipient, a $25 Amazon gift card and a donation in your name to Amnesty International - Enter the exclusive The Recipient Competition NOW.