I am ridiculously excited to have Astrid Amara here at It’s About The Book. I’ve been a fan of hers for a long time. As she’s got a new release, Song of the Navigator, I wanted to not only ask her some questions about that, but about things in general. Thanks for being here!
The first books of yours I read were A Policy of Lies and the stories in the Hell Cop anthologies. I had an image of your books in my head as being dark speculative fiction. Then people were talking about the Bellski books, and how Astrid Amara writes such great holiday stories. What is coming at us in Song of the Navigator? Will your characters have to stiffen their spines and admit they have strong feelings, or will they have to dodge an obsidian bladed ax?
Ha! Yeah I definitely swing from one style of writing to another, don’t I? I think it’s because I’m easily bored. And if I write a happy holiday story, I have to immediately counter it by writing about angsty explosions and characters riddled with guilt.
Song of the Navigator is DEFINITELY in the latter category. This is probably my most serious work, even more so than the Devil Lancer in which I killed countless innocent horses. So lots of life-on-the-line scenes, AND some admission of strong feelings too.
Do you feel you have two different fanbases? Speculative fiction fans and contemporary romance fans? Have you had shocked responses when someone picked up the “wrong” type of book?
Absolutely. Like I said, I get bored writing the same genre over and over. I like to read science fiction AND contemporary AND fantasy, so why not write in all genres? But I know there are people who love the Bellski stories and would be appalled at The Devil Lancer. So. Not. Funny. But it makes it more interesting for me as a writer, and I hope that people can forgive me for having such varied tastes.
What are you more likely to read, a happy holiday story, or dark speculative fiction? Do you read romance at all?
The truth is, I love angsty hurt comfort reads. I love speculative fiction, and I prefer writing it as well. That said, sometimes you are in the mood to read a light hearted contemporary fic, so I’m not exclusive in what I read.
I do read m/m romance, as well as mystery and some popular thrillers. At the moment I’m reading Moon Over Soho from Ben Aaronovitch, the second in a series of mysteries following a police constable who is also an apprentice wizard, and I’m LOVING these books. I also just finished a contemporary humor m/m romance book Shattered Glass by Dani Alexander which I absolutely adored.
I really loved The Devil Lancer and I’ve got you here, so I’m going to ask you about it. What drew you to the Crimean War? Why did you decide to add a paranormal aspect to it? How long did it take to write? Feel free to answer in great detail. Please and thank you.
Well, I’m really into horses. And I was reading this book about cavalry warfare by a guy who was actually in the Charge of the Light Brigade, and the first one killed right at the beginning of the charge (Captain Nolan). At the same time, I was reading one of my guilty pleasures on holiday – a Sharpe novel from Bernard Cornwell (I love the whole series). Cornwell writes amazing fight scenes, set during the Napoleonic wars.
I got to thinking how much I would like to write a cavalry battle scene. But I didn’t know much about cavalry battles. I decided to research the most famous cavalry battle of all, The Charge of the Light Brigade.
That set off an entire year of research. I read everything I could on the Crimean War, and was immediately drawn in by the horror and bravery of this war. I thought my story would focus on the battle alone, but the more I read, the more I was like “I have to put this in a novel, it’s too awful!”
But I love spec fiction, so I wanted to add a magical element to my retelling of the war. That was really fun. It started off with this idea of the czar creating demons that slowly took over a person’s body, like a skin, so by the end they were no longer human. From there it evolved to something internal, like a parasite, that both sides of the war wanted access to. When I read about the ruins at Chersonesos in Sevastopol the idea of linking it to Greek gods evolved, and a quick study into the Goddess Eris and her children gave me the idea for the magical elements.
All in all, I researched the book for a year and took about 14 months to write the first draft, and another good six months after that to edit it. It was a long process but definitely a labor of love, and is my favorite book I’ve written because of how much effort it took.
You’ve written a sequel for the Hell Cop anthology, and the Bellski books are a series. A series of two, but still a series. Do you have plans to write any other sequels, or maybe possibly a third Bellski book? Might there be a sequel to “No Life but This” from The Irregulars or to Half Pass?
I’m sort of a hypocrite – while I like to read sequels, I’m less excited about writing them. Mostly this is because part of the joy for me in writing is coming up with new characters and new settings.
That said, I do love Seth and Lars and will write a third Bellski book one of these days. And I just wrote a short book that will come out later this year that has been written with the possibility of a sequel and prequel in mind.
As far as Hell Cop and Irregulars? Those are harder to do because there are other authors involved. Ginn, Nicole and I always talked about a third Hell Cop to sort of finish up the larger story arc of tension between the demonic characters, the wizards, and the normal folk in Parmas City, but coordinating our writing schedules to pull it off has been really hard. So lets just say it’s not a dead idea, just waiting for the right time.
Will there be a Hanukkah book in 2015? What other books or projects do you have for the rest of the coming year?
I’m working on it now! This year I have a novella called “The Trouble With Hexes” which has been written to be part of an anthology project with a bunch of amazing other m/m authors. I don’t know when its being released, but sometime in 2015. I’m also writing a contemporary romance starring a private investigator and his subject surviving a plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness. These two characters will also have a novella at Hanukkah to take their relationship to the next level. I’m excited about the two-part nature of that project – a slow building romance followed by a Hanukkah story.
In 2016 I have a science fiction title I’m writing set in the same universe as A Policy of Lies, and a few other ideas that need a little more fleshing out, including a horse barn romance (must have!). Now if I only didn’t also have a full time job and a million needy animals to take care of!
Once again, thank you so much for answering my questions and visiting It’s About The Book.
Thanks so much for the opportunity! I love this site.
BLURB FROM SONG OF THE NAVIGATOR:
Worst Possible Birthday: Being sold into slavery by none other than your lover.
Tover Duke’s rare ability to move anything instantly across light-years of space makes him a powerful, valuable asset to the Harmony Corporation, and a rock star among the people of the colonies. His life is luxurious. Safe. Routine.
He has his pick of casual hookups passing through Dadelus-Kaku Station. His one brush with danger of any kind — the only bright spot in his otherwise boring life — is Cruz Arcadio, a dark-haired, hard-bodied engineer whose physical prowess hints he’s something much more.
When a terrorist abducts Tover, hurling him into a world of torture, exploitation and betrayal, it’s with shattering disbelief that he realizes his kidnapper is none other than Cruz. As Tover struggles to find the courage to escape his bondage, he begins to understand the only way to free his body, his mind—and his heart—is to trust the one man who showed him that everything about his once-perfect life was a lie.
Available for pre-order from Samhain Publishing and Amazon.
Astrid is giving away a digital copy of The Devil Lancer AND a cool Song of the Navigator magnet! Please comment and make sure to leave your email address!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Astrid Amara has lived in Maidenhead, England, Jerusalem, Israel, and Bukhara, Uzbekistan, but settled in Bellingham, Washington in the United States because she distrusts the sun. She is a former Peace Corps Volunteer and an advocate for animal rights. By day she is a bureaucrat working for The Man. At night, however, she’s either writing, riding her horse, or spending her time with her husband, two goats, and three dogs. She is the author of over sixteen gay speculative or contemporary romance novels, including The Archer’s Heart, which was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. More details and contact information are on her website: http://www.astridamara.com.