10 Quick Questions with Me, by G.R. Matthews

Exile AMZN-EPUBFellow author, #SPFBO contestant, and Fantasy Faction staff writer extraordinaire G.R. Matthews graciously interviewed me for his blog feature 10 Quick Questions with Indie Authors.  Go check it out.  You won’t be disappointed.  It’s full of jewels like

GMA:To steal (paraphrase) from Rod Stewart, what do you wish that you know now, you knew when you started the journey to a finished and published book.

I wish I knew that the only way to do your best writing is to free yourself from self-doubt, imagined readers’ expectations, and any personal rules about what you “should” be writing.

Good luck with that, by the way. Let me know if you figure it out. Drinking seems to help.

and

I should point out that I’m something of an unreliable narrator when it comes to this type of question.  My answer is entirely true—today.  Tomorrow it might be something entirely different.  But these three are undoubtedly on my all-time top ten.

I also realize that two of these (all three, really, since I view the Sprawl trilogy as one big novel) are in fact trilogies, not single books, and thus my answer is somewhat non-responsive.  But this is my island, and I am claiming it and declaring myself its sovereign, and I’ll be damned if I can’t bend the rules a bit.

The Stone Road by G.R. MatthewsAlso do check out Geoff’s own novel, The Stone Road, available in paperback and Kindle formats.

It’s national #readabookday, so go read a book.  Either of ours will do.

‘Exile: The Book of Ever’ Is Coming To Wattpad

Exile AMZN-EPUB

Starting Friday, January 29, 2016, I will begin posting my first novel, Exile: The Book of Ever (#1) to Wattpad.  Over the course of about a month, I will post a chapter every day.  This means you can either follow along serially or wait a month and read the whole thing all at once.

Exile will still be for sale as an ebook and a paperback in the same places you’ve always been able to find it, but this means it will also be entirely free to read for those who want to.

Why am I doing this?  Two reasons.  First and foremost, Exile is a YA novel, and Wattpad has a lot of young readers.  Second, and relatedly, I want to see if I can develop a wider audience.  Exile has been well reviewed, but hasn’t seen as much commercial success as I’d like: I’m hoping bringing it to Wattpad will get it into the hands of readers who might otherwise not find it.

Exile is a post-apocalyptic fantasy with dystopian and sci-fi elements.  I’ve often described it (and heard it described) as X-Men meets The Walking Dead.  Here’s the blurb:

Centuries after the Fall, the United States has been wiped away. The crumbling remains of the great American empire are home now only to savage, lawless tribes and packs of ravening Damned—the twisted children of the apocalypse. Most of those few who survived humanity’s destruction spend their short lives in a violent struggle for survival. But some light still flickers in the darkness: the Blessed of Bountiful live in seclusion, relying on walls both physical and spiritual to protect them from the Desolation that their world has become. Among them are the Saints, those few men and women born with superhuman abilities that the Blessed see as gifts from God.

The violent apostate tribes of the Northeast Kingdom have always been a danger, but up until recently its small size and the vigilance of its people have made Bountiful an unappealing target. As attacks on the community grow harsher and more frequent, however, even the steadfast Blessed are forced to start preparing for the worst.

With her home’s very existence threatened, seventeen year old Ever Oaks, a Saint with the power to heal, is forced to make a difficult choice, one that may come to define her people’s future…

I have high hopes for Exile over the long term.  It’s a gripping, entertaining story, but one that also challenges the reader in unexpected ways.  And it’s got a kickass female protagonist who I think young women might like.  If you haven’t taken a look yet, you’ll have the chance to read along on January 29th.  Mark your calendars!

Interview with Gabrielle de Cuir

36439d9Last week, the audiobook edition of Exile: The Book of Ever (#1) came out, narrated by the wonderful Gabrielle de Cuir and produced by Skyboat Media, the production company behind the Hugo Award-winning Lightspeed magazine podcast and many other wonderful books in the genre and out of it.

Gabrielle was kind enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer a few interview questions about herself and the recording process.  She also sent along a great clip of her recording a piece of Exile, which you can watch below!

Tell us a little about yourself and your background. 

I’m a native Californian, but grew up in Rome and have travelled extensively because my father was an Oscar-winning film designer and he always took the family with him on his cinematic adventures. I currently live and thrive in Los Angeles. I attended UCLA and received my degree there in Theatre Arts.

How did you get started narrating audiobooks?

I started in this business as an abridger; when I started doing this a decade ago, most books had to be cut down to fit onto four cassettes. Editing Anna Karenina down to four cassettes was quite a challenge! It also was an invaluable learning process as to what is essential in a story and what is fluff. Then, the company I worked for went out of business, and I hung out a shingle as a narrator. I couldn’t afford to pay anyone else! (The truth is I have a tremendously strong acting and performing background in theatre.) 

How do you choose your projects?

I need to connect at some emotional or intellectual level with the material. And my tastes are varied. I look for books with poetic flow, sharp humor or a variety of accents and characters. Some books have all of these; some just have one quality or another. Exile attracted me because of Ever’s personality and point of view. Stories with a strong point of view are acting gold.

Does your own interest in the subject matter of the book in question matter?

Not really. My job as an effective narrator is to channel author intent; to “midwife” the book, supporting it where I can and being a catalyst between the author and the listener, without getting in the way. 

Tell us a little bit about the recording process itself.  Where do you start? What’s your studio like?  Do you record all the way through and worry about errors in postproduction, or do you do a lot of stopping and starting?

I start by doing a thorough scan of the book. I know that sounds contradictory, but there are not enough hours of the day for me to read and rehearse every word of the book. I look for the story arc; whether the book is going to need a lot of pronunciation research. I determine who the main characters are; whether there are particular accents indicated. When recording begins, we at Skyboat Studios work with a director, for accuracy and also to allow the narrator to fully “perform” the audiobook. Industry demands have forced many actors to work alone in their studios, doing both the narration and the editing as they go. This can be fine for some books, but not, in my opinion for novels with many characters. If a book is estimated at ten hours finished, for example, it will usually take twice that long to record in the studio (i.e., twenty hours).

Audiobook narrators generally don’t record more than four or five hours a day, because the vocal chords can only stand so much stress. So, a ten-hour book might take up to a week to record. So, I start reading. The director stops me when he/she hears an error.

I take tea breaks every hour or so to keep hydrated. The director marks the script for my editor. When we have finished recording the book, we send the director’s pages and the audiofiles to the editor. He does his magic by editing out all the flubs and noises.

Were there any memorable moments recording Exile?  What was it like living with the book in so much detail for so long?

I loved all the instances where Ever’s power made itself apparent; I would try to actually feel the tingling she felt as I narrated it. (I know that sounds a bit New Agey, but, hey, I’m all alone in the booth; I’m allowed!) I found the dialogue scenes between Jared and Ever to flow very easily; I truly felt they made a great pair in the adventures.

Creating Thayne was the most challenging with his “inner voice” and his transformations. It’s heaven living in a whole world., so different from our own. James has created a complete universe, and it was a joy spending time there every day of the recordings!

Thanks so much to Gabrielle and the crew at Skyboat Media!

The audiobook of Exile: The Book of Ever (#1) is available now at Audible.com.

‘Exile: The Book of Ever (#1)’ Now Available in Audiobook!

Exile Audio Cover

I’m thrilled to announce that my first novel, Exile: The Book of Ever (Part 1) is now available in audiobook format, narrated by the wonderful Gabrielle de Cuir and produced by Skyboat Media.

You can download Exile from Audible.com, Amazon, or iTunes.

Thanks to Ms. de Cuir and Skyboat Media for doing a fantastic job; they really make the characters come to life.  I’ll be posting an interview with Gabrielle sometime next week, getting into the process of creating an audiobook and how she found working on Exile.

If you’re an audiobook reviewer and would like an audio review copy of Exile, please contact me at jamesdcormier@gmail.com.

‘Exile’ Is Free for Kindle Tuesday through Thursday

I’m doing a free promotion for Amazon Kindle starting this Tuesday (tomorrow), August 18th and continuing through Thursday, August 20th.

Now’s your chance to start the The Book of Ever for the low, low price of absolutely free.

Exile is currently in the running for Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (#SPFBO).  Fantasy-Faction called it “well thought out and well executed,” and “extremely cool.”

Exile AMZN-EPUBCenturies after the Fall, the United States has been wiped away. The crumbling remains of the great American empire are home now only to savage, lawless tribes and packs of ravening Damned—the twisted children of the apocalypse. Most of those few who survived humanity’s destruction spend their short lives in a violent struggle for survival. But some light still flickers in the darkness: the Blessed of Bountiful live in seclusion, relying on walls both physical and spiritual to protect them from the Desolation that their world has become. Among them are the Saints, those few men and women born with superhuman abilities that the Blessed see as gifts from God.

The violent apostate tribes of the Northeast Kingdom have always been a danger, but up until recently its small size and the vigilance of its people have made Bountiful an unappealing target. As attacks on the community grow harsher and more frequent, however, even the steadfast Blessed are forced to start preparing for the worst.

With her home’s very existence threatened, seventeen year old Ever Oaks, a Saint with the power to heal, is forced to make a difficult choice, one that may come to define her people’s future…

Fantasy-Faction Reviews ‘Exile: The Book of Ever’

Exile AMZN-EPUBThe award-winning fantasy website Fantasy-Faction reviewed Exile: The Book of Ever Part 1 and liked it!  The review was part of Mark Lawrence’s Great Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (#SPFBO), an ongoing tournament-style competition where a number of well-known genre websites review and choose the best of a long list of self-published fantasy novels.  Sonia Grace of Fantasy-Faction gave Exile 3.5 out of 5 stars, and had this, among other things, to say:

James Cormier’s Exile pleasantly surprised me…Cormier’s story grabbed my attention right away, and within a chapter I realized that I’d be reading the whole thing without putting it down.

The writing was solid and the characters had distinct voices and personalities. I loved the post-apocalyptic setting in particular; it was well thought out and well executed. I hope that in future books we learn more about the history of what actually caused the collapse of the world, because the bits of knowledge we got were extremely cool.

Read the full review at Fantasy-Faction.com.

You can find Exile on Amazon in ebook and paperback formats.  It’s also available free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

You can find Mark Lawrence’s work anywhere books are sold.  Follow the hashtag #SPFBO on Twitter for up-to-the-moment information on the contest and the front-runners.

‘Exile’ Featured on Benjamin of Tomes

Booktuber Benjaminoftomes recently read and reviewed Exile: Part 1 of the Book of Ever on his YouTube channel.  Check it out below:

Religion in ‘The Book of Ever’

Richard Wright, the author of Native Sononce said:

The more closely the author thinks of why he wrote, the more he comes to regard his imagination as a kind of self-generating cement which glued his facts together, and his emotions as a kind of dark and obscure designer of those facts. Reluctantly, he comes to the conclusion that to account for his book is to account for his life.

Where does the writer end and the writing begin?  To some extent every artist puts some of himself, of his or her own life, into his work.  Sometimes this is intentional.  More often, it is an unavoidable side effect of living and being an artist.  It’s certainly true for me.  I’ve discovered that writing is an intensely personal process for me: my ability to write successfully, such as it is, is intimately tied to my own life experience.  As Wright says, imagination serves as a glue and emotion as a designer, but the stuff of writing is memory and observation.  I suspect this is true of most writers.

It goes without saying, therefore, that there is much of me in my first novel, Exile: The Book of Ever.  In some ways, that reflection is literal: the book is set in New England, where I grew up and still live.  In other ways–in most ways, really–that reflection is thematic.  And one of the major themes of the novel is the question of faith.

The main character, Ever, is a young woman who grew up in a deeply religious community, one who managed to survive the apocalypse by remaining insular and holding true to a firm set of beliefs.  During her journey through the story, she often relies heavily on her faith in God to make decisions and maintain hope and determination.

More than a few readers of Exile have commented (with uniform courtesy and general acceptance) that they were surprised by the religious elements of the novel.  The simple presence of a religious theme seemed unexpected to them.  This isn’t surprising to me, and in fact is comforting in a way: I didn’t write the book for a religious audience, and as I’m currently not religious myself, I wouldn’t want to be pigeon-holed as a Christian writer.  I was pleased and flattered to see that my intent had, for the most part, succeeded: readers seem to see Ever’s faith as a part of her character, a driving force and a motivation.

Another theme of the book, and one I hope I conveyed adequately, is that all is not as it seems: that our reality is, in the end, defined primarily by our current perception and understanding, and that these things naturally change as we go through life.  Ever has faith, but by the end of the novel, hopefully it is clear that her exposure to the larger world and her experiences in it have begun to change her.

Faith is a journey that has no end except death, at which point, hopefully, our questions are answered one way or the other.  I was raised Roman Catholic.  I went to Catholic school for 13 years.  For most of my young adult life, I identified as an atheist.  Over the last few years, that atheism grew into something I like to call, tongue firmly in cheek, spiritual agnosticism.

I’m in the process of writing up an account of my long, strange, spiritual trip, but here’s the punchline: about a year and a half ago, for a variety of reasons, I decided to join the Mormon Church (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints).  I was baptized, attended for over a year, and went through their temple ordinances.

I am no longer a Mormon (thank all of the many, many Mormon gods, thank Krishna, thank Christ).

Why?  The short answer is because, at the end of the day, I couldn’t force myself to knowingly participate in a cultish church whose doctrines are not only intolerant but batshit insane.

Religious belief for me is a bit like an electron: hard to pin down, and changed innately by the act of observation.  If you asked me what my religious beliefs were, I’d say that the most accurate description of me would probably be that I’m an atheist.  But it’s a bit more complicated than that, and as soon as I define it the questions return to swirling around in their cloud.  Suffice it to say for now, however, that my long-held, shortly-retired, recently-reacquired viewpoint on organized religion is generally negative.

I think my readers are going to be very surprised by the direction Ever’s spiritual journey takes in The Book of Ever.

Bookish Lifestyle Calls ‘Exile’ ‘A Journey and an Experience’

buttonTiffany from Bookish Lifestyle recently reviewed Exile: The Book of Ever Part 1 and gave it four out of five mustaches.  Here are some of her thoughts:

The main character Ever was wonderful and you could tell from the start that she was different and followed her own heart, but she also let on that she believed a higher power was willing it.
  The characters themselves were extremely well written.  There was not one person that I did not feel I couldn’t envision.  Ever was spectacular and original, crafted to gain the readers attention.  Ever is strong willed and is the kind of girl that you want on your side.  Not because she is fearless, but because she is afraid and still moves forward.  This is something that the other POV that you occasionally get, sees when most others do not.  Jared came in a little quick and seemed like her could possibly be a problem (love triangle), but he doesn’t come out that way once you know him.  Beyond these two there are still many characters that stand out, but to even give short details would consume this review.

‘Exile’ Around the Web

Exile: The Book of Ever (Vol. 1) has gotten some attention around the old interwebs lately.

River at Cherry Blossoms & Maple Syrup wrote a review and gave it five out of five stars, saying: “The unexpected twists were SO good. I thought that this was going to be a journey book (which is part of why I picked it up, because I’m a HUGE fan of survival and journey stories) and while it was, it wasn’t in the way I thought it was going to be. I thought I had it pegged and then there were two twists that made me SO happy that this WASN’T predictable and made me love it even more.”  Read the full review here.

Bestselling author Jackson Dean Chase also featured Exile on his blog at JacksonDeanChase.com, where you can also read a brief excerpt of one of the book’s later chapters.

My thanks to all!