Interview with Author Philip Bencel

Check out my latest #authorinterview with Philip Bencel, author of Freedom City, a dystopian novel set in a world way too similar to our own… #interview #bookblog

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

I’ve been a private investigator in Washington, D.C. for almost twenty years. I’ve written stories since I was a kid, but I didn’t publish my first books until I was in my mid-thirties: Introduction to Conducting Private Investigations and Principles of Investigative Documentation. I returned to writing fiction last year, when I took a sabbatical from my investigations company to write a novel.

2) What inspired you to write your book?

The book I aspired to write last year was called Order of Damaged Souls, set around the 14th century Flemish peasant revolt. I finished that book, but I ultimately decided it was too dark for mainstream consumption. While bemoaning all the time that I “wasted” on Damaged Souls, I had an epiphany about just how demoralized I was about the American disaster marked by Donald Trump’s presidency. This soul-searching led me to re-read The Monkey Wrench Gang, a campy novel written by Edward Abbey about a band of misfits who sabotage stuff to protect the environment. I thought, ‘I should write something like that, but set in post-Trump America!’ Thus inspired, I wrote Freedom City in about three months, rushing to get it out before Trump’s impeachment. [Laughter].

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I don’t know if I can curse on your blog—but fucking hell, what we’re living through right now is the resurgence of fascism, plain and simple. I know the left is often too loose with the word ‘fascist,’ and that’s regrettable, but there is nothing else to call attacks on the press, on the judiciary, and outright distain for the rule of law by the so-called President of the United States. So, Freedom City is a serious book about a very serious topic, but I really tried to bring it down to a level where I’m not just screaming incoherently out the window. The thing is that, when you take a deep breath, Trump and his enablers are evil in an almost inept-comic-book-villain sort of way, so there is actually a lot to laugh about in the situation. The one thing I hope people get from my book is that we must kill them with laughter. That’s their biggest weakness, which is why the right has been so up in arms the past few days about Michelle Wolf’s scathing comedy routine at the WHCD.

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

Well, my first novel was historical fiction, which is what I often like to read. Freedom City, I suppose, is contemporary literary fiction, but I’ve really struggled with whether to call it satire or dystopian fiction. It’s a little of both, actually, more like a tragicomedy. Like I said, I didn’t really set out to write it, but as a longtime private detective who lives in D.C.—I can literally see the fucking U.S. Capitol out of my window—I was probably the person best situated to write a novel like Freedom City.

5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

I admit that I struggled a bit with Clare Swan, the main female protagonist. Some female readers have pointed out her promiscuity, and that’s certainly a fair critique. But while my book might not pass the Bechdel test, nobody (so far) has accused me of being anti-feminist. Actually, I’m a diehard feminist. It’s just that I have an active imagination, so when I write female characters I sometimes imagine ways I might sleep with them. [Laugher]. Ultimately, I think Clare turned out to be a delightfully complex human being and a righteous warrior. But if I could talk to her I’d ask if she feels I did her justice.

6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

That’s a great question. I had already developed this public persona as a private investigator, and by far the biggest platforms for that are LinkedIn and Twitter. Because of that professional following I already had from my non-fiction books, I’ve gotten the most traction so far from those sites. However, I’m super excited about Instagram—which I confess I wasn’t even on until a few months ago. As I’m someone who loves readings and events, it really gives me a chance to chronicle the “buzz” around my book and hopefully help it, one day, take off.

7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

So much of the advice aspiring writers get is to clichéd. I mean, I could say ‘don’t be afraid to suck’ or ‘join a writing group’—both sage pieces of advice—but instead I’ll say this: Write about the things buried deep in your soul that you think might scare your friends to know about you. Just do it. They won’t scare, and you’ll be writing honest shit.

8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

I’ve got a couple irons in the fire, including a continuation (sort of) of Freedom City. Lately, however, I’m back to doing investigations, so I don’t have all the time to write I had last year. That’s okay though, because now that I recognize impeachment isn’t happening anytime soon I can take the time to make the next book longer and even more snarky.

 

freedom

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Never, Never and Never Again by K.M. Breakey

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Be prepared guys: this book was a very intense and emotionally charged book that made me get philosophical and political in my review. You’ve been warned…

A chilling story that blends fiction with history brings the horrors of South Africa to a brutal light in author K.M. Breakey’s novel Never, Never and Never Again. Here’s the synopsis:

Audrey is a starry-eyed Brit, Pieter a tenth-generation Afrikaner. At the height of Apartheid, they fall in love. A life of splendour awaits, but the country is shifting underfoot. The winds of change fan revolution, and Michael Manzulu’s rage boils. He is hungry, and will risk everything to destroy his oppressor. 

When white rule gives way, trepidation is tempered by precarious optimism. Mandela will make the miracle happen. Or not. Twenty-three years on, South Africa has suffered unprecedented decline. The country unravels and fear is pervasive. Fear of persecution, land seizure, slaughter. Pieter and Audrey march on. They navigate the perpetual threat. They pray the wrath will not strike their home. 

Recently, voices of protest cry out, none louder than the bombastic scholar, Kaspar Coetzer. World leaders cautiously take note, but will they take action? More importantly, can they? 

“Never, Never and Never Again” is a story of vengeance, greed and corruption. A story the world ignores, but a story that must be told…before it’s too late. 

I must admit to you guys this was a tough one to read. I don’t talk about it all the time, but I am very much a liberal. My moral viewpoints tend to line up with liberal democrats in the United States. I am not religious, I support the LGBTQ community, am a proud feminist and hope to see a world where everyone is equal in both mind and law. Yet reading this novel showed me that evil and violence can come in many forms, and the issues we face are so much more than black and white (no pun intended).

The story itself was very interesting. It explored a family’s struggles in South Africa over a few decades. It shows the racially charged environment and the hatred that brews between both the black and white communities of this nation.

One of the hardest things for me to write about are race relations. I myself am half Hispanic and half white. I do not and will not ever understand the hatred and discrimination faced by the black community not just in my own country but around the world. I fully support equality for all, and support causes like Black Lives Matter, which despite what some people claim is about telling the world that all lives matter including black lives, not just white ones. It’s about equality for all, not discrimination against one or the other.

This book delved into something that really spoke to me. While the book showed both the hatred and violence that brewed within the black community of South Africa for years thanks to the horrors of Apartheid, it also showcases the corruption and power hungry politicians who utilize each side’s fears and mistrusts with the other to further their own needs. Now I had very little knowledge personally going into this story about South Africa and it’s history both in the past and presently. After reading this book I did my research and was saddened to see that while the author did an excellent job of using fictitious characters and events to further the story, some of that fiction was based in reality.

Innocent men and women and children are being killed every day in South Africa. Many of them are white farmers who make up over 70% of the farming community in the country, and are subject to blackmail and assault from criminals. However I also read accounts from unnamed white farmers who say the black community is also subject to these violent crimes, not just white people. It shows that the issue isn’t about white vs black, but rather good vs evil. I saw this a lot through the side character of Mosegi, an employee of the Van Zyl family that spent his entire life with the family. He was the subject of violence from criminals who called themselves revolutionaries, being beaten nearly to death for being loyal to the family. However he was more than an employee but a part of the family. Despite the family’s flawed mentality at times, he still loved them and dedicated his life to them. He was a black man who found a path to be part of both communities and tried to find a way to have peace between the white family he worked for and the black community he was a part of.

The story was well written, and told in great detail. The author did a wonderful job of blending our current political climate with the horrors of the past, and focused on bringing to light the suffering of a nation that hardly get’s recognized by the international community. However I will say it was difficult for me to identify with the formerly powerful white characters who were now victims of a corrupt government and criminals. The horrors they endured were awful and I too condemn the real victims of these horrors. However the misguided notion that this is a result of the black community of South Africa as a whole taking over and the white community losing control of the country was not something I could support. Instead I saw between the lines of what the author wrote and saw instead a common thread between both sides: neither the white or black communities could learn from the past.

Instead of looking to a future where everyone was equal and they could tackle the issues of a low economy, poor housing and out of control corruption and criminals, instead the white community focused on all of the black community being unable to run the country while the black community members portrayed couldn’t move on from the past and instead harbored the same level of hatred and violence their ancestors endured from white people. Moving forward as a people is not about living in the past and having everyone in present day pay for the sins of their fathers (in a manner of speaking). Instead it’s about acknowledging the mistakes of our fathers and ourselves and finding a common ground to move forward. So long as everyone continues to hate one another and keep this “us vs them” mentality, violence and corruption will never end. I fully oppose the mentality and actions of people like current President Donald Trump and his administration, but I also condemn the violent actions of the criminals in South Africa. The answer is not to return to the days of Apartheid or to violently seize and assault farm owners land, but to find a way to stabilize and improve the nation and bring the harmony Nelson Mandela promised and hoped for all those years ago.

Overall this book was incredibly well written, powerful and gave a unique perspective from both sides of a long conflict on the African continent. I think that this is the kind of book that could help bring some perspective to the highly unrecognized conflicts that still plague both the black and white communities of the country, and show us all that there are still a lot of steps that need to be taken before we can live in peaceful coexistence. Thank you to author K.M Breakey for providing me such a thought provoking and realistic read. If you haven’t yet be sure to check out Never, Never and Never Again by K.M Breakey today!

Rating: 8/10

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B078TLJW2R

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37836016-never-never-and-never-again

 

About K.M. Breakey

bio-picture-about-page

I was born in Toronto & educated at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. I received a degree in Mathematics & Computing Science in 1992, and commenced a 25-year career in Information Technology. In 2016, I turned full attention to writing with the success of my 3rd novel. Johnny and Jamaalfearlessly explores racial dysfunction in America, from perspectives you won’t hear in mainstream media.

My latest, Never, Never and Never Again, tackles South Africa’s complicated history, from Apartheid, through Transformation, and into the chaos currently laying waste to this once-prosperous nation. In an age of mass media distortion and rapid erosion of free speech, I see fiction as a powerful vehicle to disseminate truth and expose lies.

NNANA is my fourth novel and I’ve caught the bug. Currently dreaming up scenarios for my fifth, and always working hard to find new readers 🙂 When not writing, I enjoy business pursuits, political debate, hockey, tennis and skiing.

Interview with Author Caspar Vega

Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

I’ve been writing in one form or another since I was a kid. My first attempts were dirty rap songs that I wrote on A4 paper and illustrated – I must have been around eight years old then. My mother might still have them stored somewhere. Some angsty teenage poetry followed, then a few short stories that I thought were decent at the time.

I started taking it seriously when I turned 18 in February 2009. That’s when I wrote the first pages of what would eventually become my debut novella The Eclectic Prince that I self-published in 2012. It took me a long time to finish because I didn’t have any writing habits developed but in my mind, I knew I was pursuing something.

What inspired you to write your book?

Different influences inspired the vignettes in Southern Dust. Gretchen’s story is more of an introduction to the Governor. The Governor’s part explores similar themes I had already covered in my earlier novel Hayfoot but something still felt unfinished there and I took it a bit further with Nightingale’s story.

Roger Conaway’s story is a mash-up of several things. Captain America is one of my favorite heroes and I always liked the idea of a super soldier experiment. This was exacerbated when I watched The Guest for the third time – the best movie of 2014 by far.

I was also watching Game of Thrones for the first time a few months before I started outlining and Theon Greyjoy’s arc was so tragic and disturbing. Also Nightmare Alley with Tyrone Power. It made me want to tell a story where we see the complete rise and fall of a character. Someone who becomes truly monstrous and unrecognizable by the end of it.

Dominic White is about one third myself, one third Oberyn Martell – one of the greatest characters to ever be on TV – and one third something else.

Plotting this book was a lot of fun because I felt like I was writing a prologue and three separate mini-books. I think they tie together neatly in the end.

What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

None whatsoever – I only hope they’re entertained.

What drew you into this particular genre?

I think I bend several genres together in this one but as far as a black magic adventure story, this is my version of a Dennis Wheatley book. Now to replicate his sales numbers.

If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

Dominic’s the most like me but he’s very anti-social, I don’t think he’d agree to a meeting.

What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

I used to be on Gab which gave me a few interesting acquaintances but I’ve gotten rid of everything except Instagram now. Something about being able to send out condensed little messages on a big platform brings out the worst in some people, myself included.

What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

Force yourself to write until it comes to you naturally. I spent three years on my first book – a 20,000 word novella – because I only wrote when I felt “inspired” which is a copout. If you have a rough outline, set yourself some simple goals and get writing. I’m very proud of my first book and I wouldn’t change a thing about it but I was definitely making excuses and stalling for a while.

What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

I’m working on a new novella now that’s a parody of the modern thriller genre entitled The Gone Girl On the Train Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. I’m also working on a few TV pilots because let’s face it, that’s where the real money is for writers. Wish me luck.

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/princeofpulp/.

Interview with Author Young-Im Lee

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. Tell us about what inspired your novel?
Having spent about 20 years outside of my passport country, I identify as a third culture kid. My parents are Korean and our entire family relocated to Manila, Philippines when I was about one. I spent much of my childhood on the outskirts of Manila where poverty and affluence could be seen side by side. Thinking back, I had an amazing childhood, and certainly a lively one–something I subconsciously missed when I got to Seoul, the big concrete jungle that felt oddly foreign, despite Korea being my “home” country. This novel stems from this sudden change in my life. I have had the chance to live with my grandmother, as well as become part of Korean society and over the past 7 years or so, I have been able to process my childhood and my life as an adult. A major theme in my book is about feeling trapped in our adult lives, as compared to how we imagine our childhood or even the previous generation we often view as having lived in the “good old days.” I channeled these feelings and perhaps even some of my discontent and also my gratitude into this novel that I hoped will be an accurate emotional depiction of modern-day Korea as contrasted with the Korea my grandmother experienced during the Korean War (1950-1953). 
2) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?
As much as this book is about South and North Korea, I wrote the novel mainly to highlight the universal human experience of coming-of-age–of war and of love in this fast-changing world we live in. I hope that readers will be able to see past the foreign landscape into the hearts of people who were living each day as it came at a very difficult time in history and understand that despite the passing of time, we live much in the same way and ultimately have very similar desires in life. 
3) What drew you into this particular genre?
Historical Fiction hasn’t always been my favorite genre. I’ve spent a large portion of my adult life reading so-called “classical works’ for university that I must admit, I haven’t had a whole lot of time reading various genres in popular fiction. I have always enjoyed books and films that bring the past and present together and that employ elements of magical realism such as Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. 
4) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?
Dae-Gun is a lively and often humorous character with seemingly simple motives. But there were moments while writing this story that showed great depth to his character. As an orphan boy who often finds kinship with people who are not related (and with people who may not find his company appealing), he seems to be a person too keen on making friends and on finding the next meal. However, the sacrifices he is willing to make and the genuine way he treats the people around him is certainly something I aspire to. There is a moment near the end of the story where Dae-Gun is given the chance to run away from the battle-torn Korea (and from the country that has left him an orphan) to follow his friend, Richard, to America. Yet, he doesn’t think twice about staying in Korea. I would love to sit down and ask him what made him decide to stay. I wonder if he ever regretted his decision. I have a feeling it has something to do with a girl; he is, after all, a simple boy. Yet, something tells me he would have given me a surprising answer. 
5) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
There are many formulas out there and advice about how to write the best story and these are all helpful. But my advice is to live your life and do what inspires you. Channel this inspiration into concrete moments (or scenes) that feel real to you. If the moment doesn’t feel real, how can we expect the story in its entirety to feel real to our readers? Keep at it!
6) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
I am very excited about what the future holds and this book has been a huge blessing in my life. While I have no immediate plans to publish another novel, this particular novel has opened up opportunities to study postcolonialism in an academic context. I will soon be heading to the States to continue my graduate studies. 

Forgotten Reflections: A War Story by Young-Im Lee Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A tragic, emotional and powerful story about the reality of war and its impact on both a nation and the everyday people living through that war takes center stage in author Young-Im Lee’s Forgotten Reflections: A War Story. Here’s the synopsis:

In the current international climate where North Korea takes center stage, “Forgotten Reflections” weaves an inspirational tale of family, lost memories, folklore and an unforgotten history, spanning three generations as South Korea rises from the ashes.

DARE TO DREAM IN THE MIDST OF WAR.

1945. Rice fields seem endless in a quaint farming village of South Korea, yet Iseul the villagers have been starving for as long as they can remember. Their Japanese colonizers have taken every last grain with them as they are finally forced out of the Peninsula. In the newly independent Korea, Iseul and Jung-Soo dream of what their future might bring. Yet, war is on the horizon, and Iseul has fallen for an alleged North Korean communist spy.

Men are conscripted and rice is taken to feed the growing army as the Peninsula is thrust into an international war that would determine if the strategic region will become communist or democratic. With nothing but the news of death and hunger awaiting the village of women, children and the aged, Iseul musters up whatever hope she has left to bring the village together to make paper. Soon, the village once known for its rice, becomes famous for its paper, becoming a beacon of hope for their battle-worn soldiers awaiting letters from their loved ones.

Yet spies and communists continue to roam South Korea, turning neighbors and families against one another. For years, Jung-Soo has been suspicious of his father’s allegiances. With a series of mysterious revelations about his father, Jung-Soo is forced to choose between his tainted communist past, and the future he hopes to have with Iseul after the war.

I have to say, this was one of the most emotional stories I’ve read in recent years. The true heartbreak of the impact of war is felt throughout each and every page of this story. Never has a book been more relevant, as the struggle between North and Souther Korea (and the rest of the world) continues to be a constant focus in our world today. The struggle of those innocent soldiers and simple villagers looking to survive made this story have an incredibly huge impact. The relationship between Iseul and Jung-Soo is the emotional core of this tale, and the modern day mystery of what happened to the two friends and romantic partners keeps the reader hanging by every page.

The writing was beautifully done. While the book is a long one, (nearly 600 pages), the story is so enrapturing that you find yourself drawn further and further in. The most impactful thing about this book however is while the setting is incredibly vivid and highlights the struggle of both North and South Korean citizens back during the war, but it shows the affects of war in general. The heartbreak, the tragedy and the impact the constant death and struggle has on both soldiers and citizens alike.

Overall this was an incredible read. Filled with emotional connections you don’t always find in historical fiction and with a lesson on love and trust, this is a must read for any historical fiction fans out there. If you haven’t yet, be sure to read author Young-Im Lee’s Forgotten Reflections: A War Story today!

Rating: 9/10

Interview with Author George Bachman

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

Writing started out as an extension of reading for me, continuing the same activity. I’ve been doing it for as long as I could write my name, even if it took a long time for the scribbles to mean something.

2) What inspired you to write your book?

My interests in fin de siecle England, when social attitudes among the aristocracy were changing as wealthy Americans penetrated their ranks, and the occultism practiced during that period.

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

How both good and bad people can be driven to do horrible things through no fault of their own, because of social pressures in no way designed to inflict the pain that they do.

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

My love of fantasy novels I grew up reading, in particular the Alice books (the best in the genre), John Crowley’s great Little, Big, Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast books, Peter Straub’s underappreciated Shadowland, Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale and Swan Lake trilogy, Hope Mirrlees’s Lud-in-the-Mist, and many others.

5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

I would ask my lead character Christine if she believes she could ever earn Allie’s forgiveness.

6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

Facebook. It’s the easiest way to reach like-minded readers and to keep them engaged.

7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

Read, read, read. Read the current market, read the classics, absorb as much as you can.

8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

I’m just finishing another historical fantasy, this one centered on Renaissance Europe.

@OfficialBachman

Spellcaster by George Bachman Review

I received a free copy of this book for a fair and unbiased review. All opinions are my own.

If a hybrid of Harry Potter and Pride and Prejudice were to have it’s own shown on the History Channel, then you’d get author George Bachman’s Spellcaster. A breathtaking blend of fantasy and historical fiction (with a bit of steampunk mixed in for good measure), this book brings to life a fantastic blend of action, character growth and a plot filled with twists and turns you won’t soon forget. Here’s the synopsis:

In a turn-of-the century England steeped in steampunk and magic, sixteen year-old Christine Daniel learns her life-threatening illness stems from her paranormal visions. During the London Season, Allie, her beloved sister and the family heir, seeks a noble match while she searches the occult underground for answers. But the only witch who can help will not do so unless Allie marries her beau, an impoverished aristocrat, so that the illicit pair can share Allie’s wealth.

This is such an incredible read. Full of classical humor, a rich handle on historical culture in several different eras, and a phenomenal tapestry of deep characters, Spellcaster does just that; it casts a spell on the reader throughout the entire journey. The protagonist Christine delights and draws you into this world of high society and dark magic. The plot brings the reader through the era of history where magic, superstition and religious persecution were at it’s height. The book does an excellent job of bringing the time periods to life, and the story itself flowed evenly throughout.

Overall this was a great read you fantasy and historical fiction fans will not want to miss. Filled to the brim with adventure, wit and a whole lot of magic, this is a book worth reading. If you haven’t yet be sure to get your copy of George Bachman’s Spellcaster today!

Rating: 9/10