Interview & Excerpt Book of Death by S. Evan Townsend

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Title: Book of Death
Author: S. Evan Townsend
Genres: Vampires/Paranormal Entities
Publisher:   World Castle Publishing


They live among us. We know they are there. No government can control them; no authority can stop them. Some are evil. Some are good. All are powerful. They inhabit our myths and fairy tales. But what if they were real, the witches, wizards, and fairy godmothers? What if they were called "adepts" and were organized into guilds for mutual protection and benefit? And what if some of them discovered a power that other adepts could not match. During the turbulent 1960s, when American adept Peter Branton agrees to go to Transylvania for the CIA, he suspects it's not about ball bearings as he was told. What he finds is a plot that could kill millions of people and plunge the world into eternal tyranny and bloodshed. Branton doesn't know it, but he's about to face the adept guilds' worst nightmare: practicing necromancers with a taste for human blood.

Hi Mr. Townsend I would like to WELCOME you to Read Between The Lines.

Thanks, it’s great to be here!

I always like to start with could you please tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m a writer living in Central Washington State.  I’ve been writing since I was about 12 (or for forty years).  After spending four years in the U.S. Army in the Military Intelligence branch, I returned to civilian life and college to earn a B.S. in Forest Resources from the University of Washington (Go Dawgs!).  In my spare time I enjoy reading, driving fast (sometimes on a racetrack), meeting people, and talking with friends. I am in a 12-step program for Starbucks addiction.  I live with my wife and have three grown sons.  I enjoy science fiction, fantasy, history, politics, cars, and travel.

1. Where do you get your ideas?

I wish I knew, I’d bottle it and sell it to fledgling writers.  Sometimes you can say, “Oh, that story/novel was inspired by a news story” or something else in the author’s life.  I’ve written things inspired by other fiction stories I read where I think “I can do better” or “the author should have explored this aspect.”  But the entire Adepts Series (of which Book of Death is the third novel) came about because I was typing a short science fiction story and suddenly I found I was putting fantasy elements into it, which I had never done before.  Then I took those elements into the past for the Adept Series, which runs from the Great Depression, World War II,  through 1968 in three novels.  Each novel is a stand-alone story although they share some characters and take place in the same “universe.”

2. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in anyway either growing up or as an adult?

When I decided to become a writer (about 1972) I did it the hard way.  I didn’t read.  I didn’t start really reading books (other than those assigned for school) until I was about 20 (that would be 1980).  I did read Lord of the Rings as a kid (and have read it three times since).  But when I started really reading I started with Larry Niven (Ringworld, to be exact).  Then I moved to Robert Heinlein and Poul Andersen.  I would have to say those three writers had the greatest influence on me, especially Heinlein.

3. How did you choose the genre you write in?

I’ve always loved science and science fiction.  When I was a kid, the NASA space program just amazed me and I remember reading about it and seeing the amazing pictures in National Geographic.  I watched “Star Trek” (the original series) in first run and then devoured the re-runs as a teenager.  So writing science fiction just came natural to me.  But fantasy sort of chose me.  When I wrote that short science fiction story about a man on the run, and he put a “secure spell” on his hotel door and was attacked by a Roc (a very big bird) I had no idea where that would lead me.

4. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

I’m still learning this marketing thing even though it’s been over a year since my first novel, Hammer of Thor, came out.  I tweet and blog (some) and have Facebook pages for all my books.  I try to use word of mouth locally (and had some book marks with my website on them printed up).  I have done book giveaways on Goodreads and while that gives you lots of people marking the book as “to read” it doesn’t seem a lot of them get around to reading it (one person I looked at had over 10,000 books marked “to read”).  I have sold more book face to face at book signings in book stores than on line.

5. Can you tell us about your upcoming book and/or books?

Book of Death is set in 1968 but the novel starts in 1476 with the death of Vlad the Impaler.  When the CIA asks Peter Branton to travel to Transylvania in communist Romania to investigate a ball bearings plant, Branton suspects that’s not what it’s about.  What he finds is a group of blood-thirsty necromancers who have found Vlad’s “Book of Death” and are using the spells in a scheme that would kill millions and enslave the world.

6. What was your favorite chapter (part) to write and why?

The action sequences are always the most fun to write.  When Branton is attacked by moving yet empty suits of armor and he can think of no way to defeat them, that was both challenging and fun.  I re-wrote that scene at least three times (the first time he escaped too easily).  The final climactic battle involving Soviet-doctrine military maneuvers (which I know about due to my military intelligence background) and magic was just very fun to write and I hope will be fun to read.

7. How did you come up with the title?

All the Adept Series books are titled “something of something” such as Agent of Artifice (the second book) and Hammer of Thor.  I was trying to come up with a title for Vlad’s book of necromancer spells and “Book of Death” hit me.  Then I realized I could use that as the title of the whole novel.

8. Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you would love to work with?

I would love to work with this villain again (I don’t want to give away who it is).  But they are dead.   (Or are they?  Hmmmmmmm.)

A lot of my writing, especially the Adept Series, have Heinleinian themes of freedom, liberty, and that governments can be dangerous things if given too much power.  I can’t imagine my future writing won’t have similar threads running through it.  Right now I’m writing a novel in a genre I’ve never tried before and finding it to be hard work.

9. How do you combat writers block?

For me, there are two forms of writers block.  Form one is my subconscious telling me I’m writing crap.  For example, I had writers block for two years (!) on Hammer of Thor.  Then I realized it was because what I had planned to do sucked.  When I came up with a better idea, I was able to finish the novel.  The other form of writers block I have is when I’m not sure how to go forward.  And I find if I step back from the work and let the ideas churn in my gray matter for a while, I can usually come up with an idea to keep the story going.  Usually while in the shower, it seems.

I think a lot of writers block is “I’m not good enough” fears and I finally overcame those years ago by telling myself I was going to write whether anyone other than my wife read my stuff because I love to write.  You might as well give up driving because you’re not Michael Schumacher (race car driver).  You don’t drive because you’re the best driver in the world, you drive because you have to and may enjoy it.  I write because I have to and I love it.

10. If you could ask yourself any interview question, what would you ask and how would you answer it?

“What is it you want your readers to come away from your books with?”

First of all, I want my readers to feel entertained.  I want them to feel as if they’ve met some interesting people who could be friends of theirs.  And I want them to think and perhaps learn something they didn’t know about their world or history.  They don’t have to agree with my ideas, but at least think about them.

Any parting words you would like to say to aspiring  writers and or your readers/fans? 

I read a quote recently (I don’t remember who by so I apologize for not being able to cite it) that was supposedly by an editor who said (and I paraphrase) “I’ve never printed a story that was in the bottom of someone’s desk drawer.”  If you want to write, you need to do one thing: write.  If you want to be J.K. Rowling and be rich, famous, and beloved, that’s probably not going to happen.  But you can write, you can sell books, and you can have hundreds if not thousands of adoring fans.  If you feel you’re not good enough, then hone your craft through more writing and reading (read what you want to write).

My fans and readers: if you liked my books, please leave reviews.  And please buy all your friends and relatives copies for Christmas.  And thank you for reading my books.

I thought somebody dropped a dish. I heard a tinkle of broken glass, but it was followed by what sounded like a distant gun shot. Anica made a yelping noise and I looked at her. Blood was flowing down the front of her dress, staining the tasteful blue to dark red. It seemed to take me ages, but in reality was probably less than a second, to realize she'd been shot and the bullet had come from the woods across the lake and had broken through the window.
I dove over and knocked Anica to the floor as the window shattered, letting in frigid air and the sound of more gunfire.
Vojir rushed into the room. "What's happening?" she cried.
"Get down!" I yelled. "Put up a protection spell."
She dropped to the floor and her hand was on her necklace as she invoked the spell.
I couldn't put a spell around Anica. She touched herself and the bleeding stopped, but she passed out from the effort. At least she is breathing, I thought. She was alive, for now.
I raised my head to look out the window, hoping I wouldn't lose it. Two men were stalking across the ice. They were dressed in loose white clothes that made them nearly impossible to see. At first I didn't notice any weapons, but then I realized they, too, were camouflaged with white cloth. They were long guns, and even I knew they were rifles designed for shooting long distances. I don't know how they missed Anica's head, which was the logical place to shoot an adept so they couldn’t heal themselves. The men had stopped firing as they moved across the ice. There was just enough snow on the ice that they were leaving tracks from the woods from which they had emerged.
"Damn," I spat. Anica was going to be no help, even though it appeared she was the target. "How powerful are you?" I asked Vojir, looking into her wide brown eyes.
"Not as powerful as Anica," she whispered, as if that would keep the men from seeing her. I could tell she was on the verge of crying.
"Of course not. Can you go invisible?"
She shook her head emphatically. Invisibility was an AMA specialty, I remembered.
I looked out the window again. Invisibility wouldn't help much out in the snow, anyway: you'd leave footprints.
The men were about half-way across the lake. I hoped that the ice would give and plunge them into the water, but no such luck. Besides, men like that probably wouldn't be walking on ice unless they knew it was safe. Their lives were dangerous enough.
Ice is made out of water, and our guild knew the secret to manipulating water.
"Keep your protection spell up and stay down," I whispered to the younger woman. I went invisible—Vojir gasped, and I wondered if she thought I'd teleported away—and I stood in the window and pointed with my right hand while gripping my talisman hard with my left. A young adept recently found the secret to making spells and staying invisible, something that was impossible before. It was sort of like walking and chewing gum and juggling cats all at the same time, but it was possible. The ice beneath the men's feet started to bulge. They scurried away from the moving ice, but that was my plan. The ice cracked and tilted before them and they ran right into it, sliding into the frigid waters with small splashes. One of them fired off a shot and I heard it impact the wall behind me. That was too close for comfort, I thought.
But still, that was pretty easy as the men fought to try and pull themselves back onto the ice. I watched their flailing get slower and clumsier as cold attacked them inexorably. I grimaced and let the invisibility spell dissipate. I looked down at Vojir as she watched, amazed, as I must have seemed to materialize in front of her. We exchanged a quick, nervous smile.
"It's okay now," I said softly.
That's when I heard more gunshots.

S. Evan Townsend has been called 'America's Unique Speculative Fiction Voice.' Evan is a writer living in central Washington State. After spending four years in the U.S. Army in the Military Intelligence branch, he returned to civilian life and college to earn a B.S. in Forest Resources from the University of Washington. In his spare time he enjoys reading, driving (sometimes on a racetrack), meeting people, and talking with friends. He is in a 12-step program for Starbucks addiction. Evan lives with his wife and has three grown sons. He enjoys science fiction, fantasy, history, politics, cars, and travel.

Places to find S. Evan Townsend


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