You all know I’m an Italiophile and that one of my favourite cities in the whole world is Rome. Imagine my delight when Julia Kavan (if you like good horror check her out here) spotted a wonderful blog all about Italy. And now, thanks to the owner Jo Feliciani, my novel Diavolino – which is set in Italy for those new to my world – has been featured. The blog is called As The Romans Do and you can go straight there without the need for passports or plane tickets by clicking this link:
Today I have author Susan Roebuck with me. Sue sprang to fame over a year ago with the publication of Perfect Score. Now she’s joined the Etopia Press stable with her latest book, Hewhay Hall, which was published today.
Steve: Welcome, Sue, and thank you for fitting me in to your busy schedule. I guess with a new book coming out you are worked off your feet?
Sue: Hi Steve. Thank you so much for letting me visit you again. Yes, a book launch, as you know, is hard work, just trying to get the word out without being a pain in the you-know-what.
Steve: Hewhay Hall is something quite different to Perfect Score, isn’t it? Can you first of all tell us what drove you to write a gay love story for your first novel?
Sue: Well, I think I can answer both questions at the same time. I don’t think the basics of either book are all that different. That’s probably going to sound strange when you think that Perfect Score is a story of two gay men and set in the States in the 1960s, while Hewhay Hall is not a romance (it’s a dark thriller/horror) and it’s set in contemporary England. However, in both books, I maintain my writing voice; both have the elements of suspense, and I hope I convey the same depth of character that I had in Perfect Score. To show you what I mean, this is what reviewer Lena Grey from QMO books said(http://www.qmobooks.com/index.php/component/content/article/7169-perfect-score) about one of the protagonists of Perfect Score: “Sam influenced me the most. Life knocked him down so much that anyone of lesser moral quality would have given up, but not Sam. Not only did he overcome disparity, he rose like the Phoenix from the ashes. Sam was an amazing combination of strength, intelligence, gentleness and forthrightness; in the face of injustice, whether for a person or an animal, Sam was there… ready to do battle.”
Not only did she reach the core of Sam’s character but she also identified the theme: “The weak are far stronger than is apparent”.
And I think both these aspects show up in both my books.
Steve: And you weren’t tempted to carry on in the same genre, then? Will Perfect Score be your first and last gay story?
Sue: No. I never set out to be an m/m writer. I’m a bit of a chameleon and I think I might be able to write in all kinds of genres. I also read an awful lot of different genres so that probably helps. But I don’t say I’ll never write another m/m. I have a little niggle to write one set in Victorian London. So that might be a future book.
Steve: So, Hewhay Hall. Tell us something about it.
Sue: It’s all about the plight of the unsung hero. Those people behind the scenes who fight for what they believe to be right but never get any recognition for their brave acts. Until they die. And then they go to heaven. Right? Right. Except they don’t in “Hewhay Hall” because something is stopping them half-way along in their journey. Something evil. Something certain people call, The Prince of Envy. And the question is, can Jude Elliot, a below-the-knee amputee, release thousands of weakened and feeble – albeit feisty and courageous – inmates from Slater’s house of horrors?
Slater being the Prince of Envy.
Steve: Did you have it all in your head or did you have to research?
Sue: I had to research the fireman’s part – finding out the main character’s routine, the firemen’s hierarchy, the procedure they have to go through when there’s a bomb explosion. That kind of thing. I hope I’ve researched enough to represent the service, but the rest comes from pure imagination (and nightmares).
Steve: I love the cover. Who did that and how did it come about, you must have had some input?
Sue: Etopia Press produce the most amazing covers. And they’re so ready to listen to the authors. I described exactly what I wanted and what I didn’t want. Then wonderful Annie Melton and artist, Amanda Kelsey, produced the most perfect cover I could have imagined.
Steve: I know I’m dying to read Hewhay Hall (I’ve already bought it) but maybe my followers need convincing. They are hardened horror fans, so what can you say to persuade them?
Sue: This is maniacal demonic possession at its most cruel because the victims are fully aware of what’s going on. The Prince of Envy delights in torturing courageous souls because they suffer more keenly and their fear is so much tastier than mere ordinary mortals’. He (or she because it’s sometimes difficult to know) reels them in using their sexual fantasies (yes, even unsung heroes have them) as bait for eternity.
Steve: I know you are a very caring person. Are there any messages or themes in the story?
Sue: Thank you! I hope I am – caring, that is. The themes in my books do seem to run along the same old lines: stand by what you believe to be right and don’t let the “Big Boys” get you. Because they will if they can. In Perfect Score, it was the giant pharmaceutical company; in Hewhay Hall it’s a powerful demon straight out of hell; and in my next novel, it’ll be the greed of the super-powers. And greed makes people cruel.
Steve: So, after two quite different books, what’s next in the pipeline?
Sue: It’s called (at the moment), When the Moon Fails and it’s about fishermen. One is a feisty girl from Norfolk UK; another is a hunky but traumatised crab fisherman from Alaska USA. They converge on Portugal for their own reasons. It’s not a romance because they never meet up (I haven’t finished the novel yet, so jury’s still out on that aspect). Although they don’t realize they’re doing it together, they fight for the rights of the population of a unique Portuguese fishing village that is in danger of being used as a “cover” for a rather nasty joint US/UK project.
Steve: Can we have a little excerpt from Hewhay Hall? And please tell us where we can buy it.
Sue: Thank you! Here’s an excerpt:
Jude stared down the hill at the glint on the water and then across to the fields baked hard by weeks of sun. He’d followed the directions to the letter, so this was the right place. But where was Hewhay Hall?
A row of swallows balanced on a wire stretching overhead, each facing the same way as Jude, who rested against a five-bar gate. They too seemed to be eyeing the fallen tree trunks that littered the overgrown path down the rocky hillside. They were lucky—they could fly, but Jude had to hobble.
The air moved on the other side of the marshland. He didn’t imagine it. A definite ripple, the kind that alters your vision when a migraine’s about to start. Although the shift was fleeting, he had the idea something was down there after all, very faint and hard to describe. The outline of a building? Or maybe just heat haze. Whatever, he’d come this far—he’d go and investigate.
The latch and hinges on the gate were so rusted, Jude couldn’t open it. Nothing for it, then, but to climb over. He propped his crutches against the wooden bars, placed his hands on the top, and hauled himself up so his right leg got a footing on a lower rung. Now he could sit on the top. He bent down, picked up what was left of his other leg, and maneuvered it over until he straddled the gate. It creaked under his weight. As he swung his right leg over, he teetered, tried to grab the top bar but lost his balance and fell headlong into a bramble patch.
Prickles stabbed him as he lay on his back, his whirling gaze locked on a wiggly jet trail in the cloudless sky. Once the world righted itself, he pushed himself up on his elbows and extracted some of the more painful brambles before rolling onto his right knee. His bum in the air, he hoped no one was looking and that he retained a shred of dignity as he balanced on his right leg and wobbled his way upright. As he tried to stand, his knee locked. He was a second away from landing back on the ground but he grabbed an oak tree trunk for support.
Bloody hell. Wasn’t it about time they gave him a prosthesis? He bent to rub his stump, still raw after all this time. Why wasn’t he healing?
Steve: Thanks again, Sue. And good luck. Before you go, just remind everyone where they can find you.
Author Julia Kavan roped me in – sorry, tagged me – to this and thus it would be more than my life is worth to ignore her. She has been known to unleash demons. The instructions are:
Go to page 7 or 77 in your current manuscript
Go to line 7
Post on your blog the next 7 lines or sentences exactly as they are (no cheating)
Press gang – sorry, tag – 7 other authors to do the same
Well, this is something new to me because I never, ever reveal anything of a work in progress. Here goes. Page 7…
“How much does it cost to exorcise a demon? Tell me, I’m interested.”
Father Ryan’s face went pale, his lips clamped tight together in a line. “Well,” he said after a pause, “we don’t…um…charge as such. If we succeed and the person is able, we hope they might make a donation.”
I held his gaze and leaned against the centre armrest. “Don’t be coy, Father. What’s the going rate to rid someone of a minor demon? Fifty bucks? A hundred? A thousand?”
He leaned back towards the fuselage, putting what distance he could between us.
Oskar and Eli. In very different ways, they were both victims. Which is why, against the odds, they became friends. And how they came to depend on one another, for life itself. Oskar is a 12 year old boy living with his mother on a dreary housing estate at the city’s edge. He dreams about his absentee father, gets bullied at school, and wets himself when he’s frightened. Eli is the young girl who moves in next door. She doesn’t go to school and never leaves the flat by day. She is a 200 year old vampire, forever frozen in childhood, and condemned to live on a diet of fresh blood. John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel, a huge bestseller in his native Sweden, is a unique and brilliant fusion of social novel and vampire legend. And a deeply moving fable about rejection, friendship and loyalty.
I should have read Let The Right One In before I read Little Star (see my review) but only because this was Lindqvist’s first novel. Fortunately, the two are stand alone and in terms of the stories can be read in any order, but I think writers who read them chronologically will appreciate the evident development of Linqvist’s style and technique. There is much to be learned.
I have to confess I am now a firm fan of this Scandinavian author, albeit late to the party. I saw the film of this book and enjoyed it, and even if it’s a cliche I have to say that the book is better – far, far better – than the film. I wish someone would make a film and keep the whole story, sod the running time – it would be the best horror flick in history.
Yes, it’s a vampire story – but if you think you’ve had it up to the neck with vampires I urge you to think again. Let The Right One In is as much about the woes of social exclusion, loneliness, dejection, family dysfunction, bullying, alcoholism and coming of age as it is about blood sucking. As a divorced father there were times it pulled me up short and made me review my life. At the same time, Linqvist creates wonderfully round and weird characters but all of them totally believable. The pages are filled with pure horror of the multi-layered kind not seen since the early works of Clive Barker. And after all of this, I defy you not to feel sorry for the vampire.