Indie Book Reviews (6)

This week, allonymbooks novelist Evie Woolmore reviews three novels that show how broad the definition ‘magical realism’ can be.

Dark Night of the Soul by E. M. Havens (Amazon UK and Amazon US)

This is one of the most accomplished novels I have read in a long while and it is well worth a read, whether you are YA or adult. Don’t let the synopsis put you off: it is a novel about death, about suicide in particular. But it is also a creative, imaginative, thought-provoking but thoroughly readable novel in an incredibly well-imagined world. It draws very cleverly on our own environment, reflecting familiar aspects that bring lightness to what otherwise might seem dark subject matter (the Wal-Mart section is particularly good in that respect), but it also does what the very best magical realism should do, which is to make you feel that this other world is just around the corner, if only you could learn how to see it. Continue reading

Interview with Leigh Podgorski, author of Desert Chimera

38d73-bloghopbuttonsmallAs the third and final contribution from allonymbooks to the Magical Realism Blog Hop, Evie Woolmore interviews fellow magical realist and spiritual author Leigh Podgorski about her influences and how her experiences have shaped her writing.

Evie Woolmore: Readers of Desert Chimera may not realize that it was originally created as a play. Indeed, they may not appreciate how prolific and talented an artist you are across a range of art forms. Why do you work in different media and how do those different outputs influence each other?

Leigh Podgorski

Leigh Podgorski: Though I have written short stories and dabbled in some poetry, the main media I have worked in is screenplays, stage plays, and novels. Different media demand different discipline. There is nothing like crafting a screenplay to teach the craft of economy, the art of lasering in to the high point or the very “kernel” of every scene you create. In a good screenplay there is no fat. Stage plays teach you how to craft dialogue and character behavior. If you cannot tell your story through behavior and dialogue you have no play. Both of these formats have rather strict rules and time limitations. I trained in the theatre and spent many years practicing the craft as an actress, writer, director and producer. I love the American master playwrights: Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neill, Clifford Odets, and Arthur Miller. The theatre is a community, collaboration. There is no discipline on earth that can duplicate the thrill of performing or having your words performed before a live audience. Of the three disciplines, however, novels are the freest of all forms. With the novel, there are no rules, no set format, and unless you are co-writing, no collaboration. There is you and your universe, as you populate it, as you create it. You can zoom inside your protagonist’s head, and turn around and zoom into your antagonists’; you can lead your audience back a thousand years or forward 10,000; you can create a whole new planet, a new country, a new county or city; you can even kill and resurrect if, and this is a very big if, you take your reader along for the ride, if you create a universe your readers believe in. In the theatre, if an actor breaks the fourth wall, that is the imaginary wall that separates the actor from the audience, the magic is broken and the audience is lost.  In a novel, if the author is unfaithful to her universe, if she writes something that causes her reader to no longer believe in the world she has created, the author has broken the magic, she has shattered the illusion, and the reader is lost.  In the end, whatever discipline I have worked in, I have learned that it is all story.  I am a storyteller.  Will my readers come along with me for the ride? Having worked in different mediums has enabled me to call on a variety of different skills to build my story universe and to check it for resonance and stability. If I am false, if I break the magic, my audience will tell me. My audience will be lost to me.

EW: That diversity also reveals itself in your fiction, for Desert Chimera and The Women Debrowska are extremely different books. Many have argued that publishing directly to Kindle and other e-book formats frees authors from the tyranny of having to stick to one genre, so I’m interested in how indie publishing has helped you as a writer?

LP: I have spent a lifetime as an artist; as an actress, writer, director, and producer. Most of that time has been spent in the theatre, and save for some extremely bad video recordings of plays, there is no lasting record of my theatre productions in any of the disciplines above except for typed manuscripts of my plays. I do have a film I wrote, directed, and produced that I adapted from my play entitled We Are Still Here about Cahuilla Elder Katherine Siva Saubel. From the time I began writing, and this includes stage play writing and screenplay writing, I remember hearing the argument: Do you write what you love, or write what sells? And of course there was the companion argument that an author must establish his or her “brand” in order to be able to market oneself. We have all heard the stories of well-known authors who write under pseudonyms when writing outside their genres. What the advent of Indie Publishing has done for me addresses many of these issues. First, Indie Publishing has enabled me to create a lasting record and product, for I am publishing not only e-books but print books as well. However, even as a Kindle and e-book publisher, Indie Publishing has enabled me to establish a growing Internet presence. With the technology available to us today, e-books can be quite stunning in design, as can Author’s pages. Marketing one’s work is not easy; it is often as consuming, if not more so, than writing, and writing is far more fulfilling and fun. When I am writing—as I am doing right now—I am in the midst of completing the third book in my Stone Quest series – I am able to accomplish very little if any marketing and vice versa, especially as I teach as well. There are only so many hours in the day. My goal is to make my presence so visible and my books so lucrative that I can become a fulltime writer with no need for any other job. Indie Publishing has given that dream hope. As for the question of what to write— what you love or what sells? Sometimes what you love becomes what sells. Sometimes what sells becomes what you love. Sometimes—none of it happens. “Hope is the thing with feathers” Emily Dickinson wrote. Indie Publishing has given me lots and lots of feathers. And that is a very very good thing

Desert Chimera by Leigh PodgorskiEW: Desert Chimera draws on a wide range of spiritual themes across several cultures. What inspired you to bring these together, first in the play and then the book?

LP: I have been fascinated with the metaphysical as long as I can remember. My favorite authors as a child were Poe and Asimov, and then, when I got a little older, Jung. I conducted research for a book Ouray’s Peak, about the Ute Indians. Their lives are so connected with the Earth and with nature in a way that non-native modern man is not.  I’ve also read a good deal of Tom Brown and his Tracker series; his influence can be seen in the characters of Luke and Grandfather. Armand Jacobi is an amalgamation of Anton LeVay, the creator of the Church of Satan, and L Ron Hubbard, the creator of Scientology. Both LeVay and Hubbard are fascinating men who created vast followings. Their spirituality, especially LeVay’s is dark, but they are charismatic, beguiling characters. I researched Satanism for some film scripts I was writing for a company that was producing horror films, and had read Messiah or Madman the book L Ron Hubbard’s son Ron deWolf wrote about him.  Eppie Falco is drawn from my work with Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross whom I interviewed for another play, Windstorm. Dr. Ross was a celebrated doctor who saw visions, communicated with the dead, and who, through her visions, taught us more about, as she said, not how to die, but how to live.  The play Desert Wolf was written about fifteen years ago. I was a member of a theatre company here in Los Angeles, and I developed it specifically for members of the company, one of whom is my husband, actor/director Dave Florek. Going from the play to the novel was very interesting. I had the opportunity to widen the scope and explore the spirituality of the characters far more intimately and deeply. This was especially true for Luke and Armand’s relationship while Luke lived with Armand and the lost boys in New York.

EW: What did writing the book offer you, in terms of exploring that huge range of material, that you couldn’t cover in the play?

LP: One of the largest frustrations I had with the play was the final showdown, the final duel between Armand and Luke in the Desert Wolf Café. No matter how brilliantly choreographed as a stage fight this scene could be, it could only remain a stage fight. Even if one could imagine all the wizardry of a high tech production of Wicked, and Desert Wolf had no hope of ever receiving anything close to a fraction of that budget, if it were to even be graced with a full production at all, when producing for the stage, one is, at the end of the day, limited by reality. What are the limits in a novel? Credulity, solely. Create your illusions sufficiently to entice your readers to believe in your magic, and you can take them anywhere.

EW: Finally, what one piece of advice would you share with other indie authors that you wish you’d known sooner?

LP: Write. Do not despair. Do not give up. It really does not matter if your book is # 2,987,342 on Amazon. It really does not matter if you never get to give up your day job. It really does not matter if nobody knows your name. Write because the only thing that really matters is your voice. Write because, besides breathing, eating, drinking, and sleeping, it is the only thing in all the world that you really have to do.

That’s a great piece of advice, Leigh, thank you! And thank you so much for giving up your time to talk to allonymbooks. 

You can learn more about Leigh and her work at her web site: www.violethillsproductions.com; or visit her Author’s Central Page @http://amzn.to/YomRl1Leigh can also be contacted via Facebook @ facebook/leigh.podgorski, @ twitter @ twitter/leighpod52.
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To read other blogs on the Magic Realism Blog Hop, please visit the other participating writers:

Zoe Brooks (and this one) – Kirsty Fox – Karen Wyld (and this one) – Leigh Podgorski – Tad Crawford

Lynne Cantwell – Murielle Cyr (and this one )- Joel Seath – Edie Ramer – Laura at Curated Bookshelves

Christine Locke – Susan Bishop Crispell – Jordan Rosenfeld – Eilis Phillips – Cadell Blackstock

and Evie Woolmore’s first blog hop blog

Evie reviewed Leigh’s novel Desert Chimera a few weeks ago. To find out about Evie’s own magical realist novels, please visit her page.

Magical Realism for Men? No swords or flowing beards here…

allonymbooks author Cadell Blackstock chips in with a few words of his own about magical realism.

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Reading fellow allonymbooks author Evie Woolmore‘s blog for the Magical Realism Blog Hop this week, and surveying the other intelligent and fruitful discussion on the subject, I was struck by two things. One, that the majority of participants in this blog hop are female authors. And two, that when I talk about magical realism to other men they tend to think – rightly or wrongly – of fantasy and magic, more than the realism. Even the guy who cuts my hair – a 30 year old new dad with a serious devotion to beer – has abandoned his customary delight in sharing his favourite zombie movies to tell me about his latest enthusiasm: Game of Thrones. ‘I’ve never read the book – I don’t read books, me,’ he informed me with great pride, ‘but the telly series is magic.’

Crash Cole in 'The Rake Spared' coverWhen I wrote Crash Cole in ‘The Rake Spared’, I didn’t want just to write about a failing TV star, ensnared quite literally in the trappings of his own celebrity. I wanted to blast down the walls of privacy that tenuously protect us as individuals. I wanted to push the idea of loving fans to a new level. I wanted to take an actual situation that was covered very prominently in the media (British TV personality Richard Hammond’s high speed dragster crash in 2006) and explore it from a different point of view – the subject, not the observers. In my novel Crash Cole, a motorcycling TV actor (no resemblance to Mr Hammond is intended whatsoever (nor even believable), let me be Absolutely Clear), has a serious accident and wakes up to find that all his fans have literally loved him back from the brink of death. But there’s a price. He can hear every one of their voices in his head.

But there’s no magic wand here. I don’t think it’s a huge leap in imagination to appreciate the pressure that a figure in the public eye must feel at times. Even this very morning, with the birth of the Prince of Cambridge, third in line to the British throne, questions are already being asked about what it will be like for him to grow up in a world of unprecedented public interest. All I did in Crash Cole was to manifest that interest as real, to make the pressure physical, identifiable, tangible.

Some of the bloggers on the blog hop have talked about alternative realism, rather than magical realism. That seems like a good label for what I’ve written. Crash Cole is a contemporary satire on celebrity, sex and scandal. I’ve said elsewhere it has a supernatural twist. Which I suppose it does, if hearing voices counts as supernatural. But for men who would be put off by flowing beards and long swords, I think alternative realism is a good way of describing a funky twist on the world we know.

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To find out more about Cadell Blackstock and Crash Cole, visit Cadell’s page.

Crash Cole in ‘The Rake Spared’ is available on all Amazon sites, including UK and US.

To read the other excellent blogs in the Magical Realism Blog Hop, visit these links:

Zoe Brooks (and Zoe’s second post and this one) – Kirsty Fox – Karen Wyld (and this one)

Leigh Podgorski – Tad Crawford Lynne Cantwell – Murielle Cyr (and this one )- Joel Seath

Edie Ramer – Laura at Curated Bookshelves Christine Locke – Susan Bishop Crispell

Jordan Rosenfeld – Eilis Phillips – and Evie Woolmore’s first blog hop blog

Facts and fiction: Historical Magical Realism – Evie Woolmore’s blog for the Magic Realism Blog Hop

As part of the Magic Realism Blog Hop, running 22-24 July, allonymbooks author Evie Woolmore discusses her use of historical settings for her magical realist novels.

Almost a year ago, I responded to Robert Harris‘s lack of enthusiasm for magical realism. He said, “I enjoy recreating the concrete details of a society or a city or a country or a structure and then playing around with it. I’ve no taste at all for fantasy, or for magic realism. That’s garlic to a vampire as far as I’m concerned.”  I observed that Mr Harris seems to position his works as directly opposite to magical realism, “as if facts are somehow literally fatal to the genre or vice versa.” And yet, as I went on to say, “if one is to consider Mr Harris’s Fatherland or Pompeii, has he not merely done as I and other magical realist authors do: to take a position in our familiar world, and simply consider a new perspective on what we know? He calls it “playing around”. I call it a “what if?””

I recently published my third magical realist novel, The Salt Factory, and like its companions Equilibrium and Rising Up, it embraces a historical setting, this time England and Colorado in the early 1890s. And as my thoughts turned to what I am going to write next, I wondered whether there is something implicit in the historical setting that makes it an effective home for magical realism.

Zoe Brooks, host of this fabulous Magic Realism Blog Hop, defines magical realism on her website as “a literary genre that incorporates fantastic or mythical elements into otherwise realistic fiction.” Like most historical novelists, I strive for accuracy in my books, and spend hours researching the period, the geography, the vocabulary and so on to enable me to create as authentic a setting as possible, a setting that is, as Zoe describes, “realistic”. Yet why do I go to so much trouble to create an authentic historical setting when I’m going to be challenging the reader to think of that same world in a different way, because of the magical realist themes I introduce? Will you care that Thelonia Jones is wearing the correct Victorian knickerbockers when I’m going to introduce her (and you) to a little girl who can bring dead things back to life?

The Salt Factory by Evie Woolmore

I wonder if there is a veil of otherness and separation that falls over a novel when its setting is removed from us in time as well as in possibility, a veil that actually helps us believe more in the book’s magical qualities? In other words, if I set this story in a land far, far away in distance and time, isn’t it much more possible that the things I’m going to tell you happened actually did happen? Isn’t that far more likely than if I tell you this happened yesterday in a house around the corner from where you live, which might make you start thinking of reasons why it can’t possibly have occurred? It’s a wonderful paradox, typical of what makes fiction so fascinating, that while I strive to make you believe in the authenticity of the Victorian England I am painting in my novel, I am doing so just so you will feel more comfortable when I show you something very extraordinary in that world.

My motivation for writing has never been to find out how far I can stretch the boundaries of your imagination. I am not a creator of marvellous ‘worlds through secret doors’ like Tahlia Newland’s Diamond Peak or John Dutton’s Temple of Truth. The magical realist aspects in my novels do not exist in parallel to our world, they are right here in it. They are discoveries like electro-magnetism and radiation in the nineteenth century and the Higgs-Boson particle in the twenty-first, they are part of the fabric of this all-too-real world, visible all along if only you would just tilt your head a little further to one side and set yourself free of some of your pre-conceptions.

So perhaps I also like using a historical setting because it’s a way of lessening the shock. If I make you comfortable in a world by making it feel authentic, then you will be less disturbed when I reveal some of the hidden truths about that world. There is something very safe about historical fiction. We are escaping from this time and this world to one which seems less complicated, and through which the author leads us like an experienced tour guide. And so perhaps we are less troubled when unusual things happen there, for we can learn the lessons of that world, understand its characters, appreciate its themes, admire its vision, because it is a foundation for our world, and yet still safely separate from it.

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To find out more about Evie Woolmore and her magical realist novels, please visit her page. You can read an extract from The Salt Factory here.

allonymbooks has also published a contemporary satire with a magical realist twist by Cadell Blackstock. Cadell has now blogged about ‘Magical Realism for Men’ as part of the blog hop. To find out more about Crash Cole in ‘The Rake Spared’, visit his page.

To enter the fabulous giveaway of magical realist books, including Evie’s novel Equilibrium, and a Franz Kafka bookmark, follow this link!

For Evie’s reviews of some other magical realist books, check out those listed on indie book reviews.

To read other blogs from allonymbooks on magical realism, try this tag.

To read other blogs on the Magic Realism Blog Hop, please visit the other participating writers:

Zoe Brooks (and Zoe’s second post and this one) – Kirsty Fox – Karen Wyld (and this one)

Leigh Podgorski – Tad Crawford – Lynne Cantwell – Murielle Cyr (and this one )- Joel Seath

Edie Ramer – Laura at Curated Bookshelves – Christine Locke – Susan Bishop Crispell

Jordan Rosenfeld – Eilis Phillips – Cadell Blackstock – and Evie Woolmore’s third blog for the blog hop

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The right to a pseudonym

A lot has been written about the revelation that JK Rowling published a crime novel earlier this year under another pseudonym. The secret would have been safe were it not for an error of judgement by a partner at her law firm who shared the news with a friend who was not as discreet as he hoped she would be. Indeed it is remarkable in the internet-dominated world where nothing seems to be a secret for long that the secret remained one for so long.

The irony is that on the internet, no-one is who they seem. Our avatars, gravatars, handles, IDs, usernames and profiles rarely represent us either fully or entirely accurately. We can be as selective as we like about how much we share with others. So why is it so remarkable that someone would publish a book under a name other than their own? Why is it so extraordinary that they might want to conceal one aspect of their personality in order to reveal another? Metaphorically speaking, JK Rowling is not the first person to have removed their wedding ring while on a night out in a bar. Given the perpetual eagerness of print publishers and their marketing teams to put books and authors in pigeonholes, any writer who is trying to move across genres or, perish the thought, write in more than one genre is going to find that unless they obscure their existing identity they will always be dragging their past work with them. And with that, multiple perceptions and expectations – of editors, critics and readers. Whether it’s JD Robb or Iain M Banks, many established writers have used other names to distinguish their books, and to separate them from their stablemates.

But there is also the issue of a right to privacy. Writing is a deeply personal, private thing. The battles that go on in a writer’s imagination during the process of creation are characterised by daring, risk, challenge, autonomy and identity, as much as they are by creativity, inspiration and innovation. Furthermore, writing is generally done alone, and much of the work and the battles exist in the solitude within the writer’s mind. Even successful writers who have dominated a genre and spoken publicly about their writing process have a right to the privacy of that process.

And perhaps in some respect, that is what JK Rowling was trying to reclaim. The right to write in private, even when the book is published.

 

The Salt Factory by Evie Woolmore: Exclusive Extract

To coincide with the recent publication of Evie Woolmore’s new novel The Salt Factory, this week’s blog is an extract from Chapter 1. To read the prologue and the rest of the novel, please visit Amazon UK, US or any other Amazon site.

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   Lymington, July 1891 

I don’t want to look at the dead bird for a moment longer than I have to.

At least, I think it is dead. It has been lying very still for several minutes but now, as the little girl beside me reaches out for it, its cloud-white breast surely twitches. The horse shies and whinnies, tugging at the harness I hold, its head jerking and rolling as if witnessing the most violent decay.

I must have imagined the fluttering of the bird’s heart. Its eyes are glassy, and from the horrible angle of its head, twisted almost back on itself against the wet sand, I guess its neck is broken. If it isn’t dead now, it will be soon.

My revolver hangs against my leg, in the folds of my skirt. It would be easy to put the wretched bird out of its misery. It would make a mess on the beach, but the sea would wash it away. The little girl would have to leave first, of course, and that might take some talking.

Talking which I don’t feel like doing.

How the bird could have come to such a fate, I can’t imagine. It isn’t as though it could have fallen off a rock, because there aren’t any. Nor could it have flown into something, unless it mistook the hot glossy shimmer of the wet beach for the clear summer sky faintly reflected in it.

The day is hot and oppressive. If I close my eyes, I might be back home in Colorado but for the vinegary sweet smell of seaweed harvested by the low tide and the mourning cries of other seagulls. My damned corset grips stiff and damp to my ribs, the bustle hangs like a canary cage off my behind, and the petticoat drags like a wet blanket, weighed down even more by the revolver. I long for the loose poplin shirts and trousers I wore on the ranch, for the simplicity of my holster. But first impressions are first impressions. And if the Magnus I remember from my childhood is anything like the Magnus I am about to see again, he would never permit such a breach of ladylike disposition. It will be shock enough for him to see me again. Best not make it worse. Continue reading

Magic Realism Blog Hop: 22-24 July 2013

Magic Realism Blog Hop

allonymbooks author Evie Woolmore is delighted to be joining Zoe Brooks’ Magic Realism Blog Hop which will take place later in July. Zoe writes a terrific blog about her own books and writing, but also regularly reviews a wide range of magical realism books from around the globe. If you’re looking to try your first magical realist book, or don’t quite know what the genre really is, then do check out her reviews for some excellent recommendations.

Among the other adult and YA authors already signed up to the Blog Hop are Awesome Indies’ Tahlia NewlandKirsty Fox, author of Dogtooth Chronicals (reviewed by Evie earlier this year); Eilis PhillipsJordan Rosenfeld  and  Chaunce Stanton. If you are a magical realist author and want to join the Blog Hop then visit Zoe Brooks’ website, and if you are a fan of reading then watch out for some book giveaways too!