book reviews, spoiler free

One Word Kill

onewordkill.jpgOne Word Kill by Mark Lawrence

Rating: XXX

Published: May 1st 2019 by 47North

“Fear is a strange thing. Along with its close friend, pain, fear is a vital part of the kit that evolution has furnished us with for keeping alive. Part of its effectiveness comes down to how hard it can be to overcome.”

In January 1986, fifteen-year-old boy-genius Nick Hayes discovers he’s dying. And it isn’t even the strangest thing to happen to him that week.

Nick and his Dungeons & Dragons-playing friends are used to living in their imaginations. But when a new girl, Mia, joins the group and reality becomes weirder than the fantasy world they visit in their weekly games, none of them are prepared for what comes next. A strange—yet curiously familiar—man is following Nick, with abilities that just shouldn’t exist. And this man bears a cryptic message: Mia’s in grave danger, though she doesn’t know it yet. She needs Nick’s help—now.

He finds himself in a race against time to unravel an impossible mystery and save the girl. And all that stands in his way is a probably terminal disease, a knife-wielding maniac and the laws of physics.

Challenge accepted.

I decided to check this out after (enter blogger name) reviewed it on her blog (check it out here) and discovered it wasn’t quite out yet but luckily as I have an Amazon Prime account I was able to download a kindle copy early for free! I’m assuming this is some new way to help authors drum up reviews for their books just before/when they’re released which is pretty cool, I’ll have to look further in it, it as about time my poor kindle got some love.

This was a short book and I think the shorter format really suited it and kept it moving at a good pace without feeling too clunky, there weren’t too many parts that were especially boring and I almost always wanted to keep reading or pick it back up when I had to stop. Some readers who aren’t very much into dungeons and dragons might find those scenes a little boring but as an avid D&D player I really enjoyed them and some parts talking about the game really spoke to me.

“The rules weren’t even called rules; they were guidebooks, handbooks, manuals. It was all there to give just enough structure to our shared imagination that we could vanish into it for hours, unwinding a story as we went. A story unique to us, filled with our own wonders, ingenuity, and proxy bravery. And it was something that carried on week after week, building over years even, creating a shared history, bonds that weren’t ever going to appear across a Monopoly board or game of cards.”

There were some parts that irked me, mainly about “girls” which sadly seems to pop up in a lot of the cis male written/fronted MG I’ve read (which isn’t a lot so it may just be my bad luck) that girls are almost considered this other species at times or lesser and weaker because of their gender, for example:

I blinked back my surprise. One visit to the D&D table was unusual for any girl. Coming back for seconds was unheard of in my limited experience.”

Now an argument could be made for the “in my limited experience” part of that quote as yes, the main character doesn’t seem to have had many interactions with many other females at this point, let alone any interested in playing D&D, I feel like maybe the author is thinking this is the late 80’s and the gaming system didn’t really become hugely popular again until recently but honestly I know women who have played since first edition, my mum and her friends used to play before I was born and I’ve played on and off for years. There’s a lot of gatekeeping happening in the D&D community right now and this just really irked me and added fuel to that fire. I wasn’t a fan of the main character constantly mentioning just how fat, clumsy and unfit one of his friends were and that he was surprised that said friend could move quite dextrously when needed. There were more parts throughout that just really rubbed me the wrong way but I will admit I was happy that we had some queer and POC rep that was handled a little bit better I think.

Overall the story was good, I enjoyed a few of the twists and turns even with a good number of them being fairly predictable I was still fairly shocked at points, especially towards the end which I love. I did find some of the time travel stuff a little confusing, to begin with, but by the end I had (I think) almost a good grasp on it and it wasn’t a bad system. I’ve always found time travel to be confusing, to be honest so I think a good grasp is better than average for me, it did help that a tv show I love and a very popular film has just come out with similar time travel ideas which actually really helped me to understand each of them a little better.

Despite some of the problems I had with One-word kill, overall I definitely enjoyed it. There were some great moments, a good amount of tension at times and most of the characters I found interesting. I have only given it a XXX rating however because it had some issues I just couldn’t look past. There are two more sequels due out over the next year or so and I’m interested in seeing where the story goes from here.

 

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spoiler free, Tags

Aurora Rising – Squad 312 Book Tag

So last year when the cover was revealed for Aurora Rising I wrote a post discussing the artwork and synopsis we were given as well as creating a book tag for the occasion. Now that I’ve had the chance to read the book itself and as it’s been officially out for a few days now I figured I would update it and give create a single post for it to make it easier to read and take part in. If you read the previous edition you’ll notice that I’ve changed a few of the questions to fit more in line with the characters and some of my answers will have changed as it’s been about six months since I initially posted the first one.

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch…

They’re not the heroes we deserve. They’re just the ones we could find. Nobody panic.

Let’s meet the Squad. Awesome artwork by @kiranight_art

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Tyler Jones – The Alpha. Your favourite main character.

I find I’m usually a bigger fan of supporting characters but I pretty much kind of adore Lazlo Strange from the Strange the Dreamer books. He’s a massive book nerd, gets lost in his imagination and creates beautiful dreams. I love that he believes and loves with his whole being. Not to mention that he sounds pretty gorgeous and thanks to Steve West he sounds like a slightly huskier Orlando Bloom circa the Legolas Years.

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Scarlet Jones – The Face. Which character could talk themselves out of anything?

Not only can Loki from Joanne Harris’s Loki books talk himself into a corner he has an uncanny knack of managing to talk his way out as well. I love that he always has a 50/50 chance of making things worse even if he eventually makes it out in the end.

 

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Zila Marden – The Brain. A super smart character who would probably kill you.

Most of them to be honest. I love that we’re beginning to lose that stereotypical ‘nerd’ outlook and more often than not the smartest are the most kick-ass and could almost certainly kill or maim you in multiple ways. I hate to say it but my favourite is A.I.D.A.N from The Illuminae Files, it’s crazy but damn I love that insane murderous A.I.

 

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Finian de Karren de Seel – The Gearhead. Favourite piece of fictional technology.

I mean I didn’t realise artificial gravity from almost any sci-fi book set in space ever, wasn’t already a thing that existed yet so that would be my boring answer. My better answer would probably be M-Bot from Skyward. The smart, sassy, fungi loving Artifical Intelligence inside a ship is fantastic and was my favourite part of Sanderson’s newest series out last year.

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Kallis “Kal” Gilwraeth – The Tank. A book that made you angry. 

The Island by M.A Bennett, I had to stop reading a few times because I was just so damn mad at some of the things Link did and/or got away with. Just thinking about it now is making me mad.

 

 

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Catherine “Cat” Brannock – The Ace. Fictional Crush you’re still not over. 

Okay so there’s a few but I think the oldest one would probably be Damon from The Vampire Diaries books (and later the show) but other front runners would be Jace from the Mortal Instruments, Lucien from the ACOTAR books, Jude AND Cardan from The Folk of the Air books by Holly Black.

 

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Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley – Girl out of Time. If you had to pick just one book or series to read for the rest of your life what would it be? 

I feel like I should pick a really long series to keep it interesting but honestly, it would probably be The Illuminae Files. I am forever re-reading these books. Sometimes I’ll just pick one up on a whim and suddenly I’ve read half the damned thing or quite often I listen to the Gemina Audio Book if I can’t sleep at night.
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I hope you enjoyed the slightly updated Aurora Rising: Squad 312 book tag! I’ll tag a few people via twitter but if you want to take part, tagged by me or not feel free to have a go! I’d really love it if you could link back to this post if you do so and let me know in the comments so I can check out your answers.

book reviews, spoiler free

A Good Girls Guide To Murder…

cover145858-medium.pngA Good Girls Guide To Murder by Holly Jackson

Rating; XXXXX

Published: May 2nd 2019 by Electric Monkey

“This project is no longer the hopeful conjecture is started life as…An innocent life was taken and everyone in this town turned it ugly in their mouths…”

The case is closed. Five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell was murdered by Sal Singh. The police know he did it. Everyone in town knows he did it. Almost everyone. Having grown up in the small town that was consumed by the crime, Pippa Fitz-Amobi chooses the case as the topic for her final project. But when Pip starts uncovering secrets that someone in town desperately wants to stay hidden, what starts out as a project begins to become Pip’s dangerous reality . . .

I want to start by saying thank you. Thank you to Electronic Monkey who gave me the opportunity to win an advanced copy of this book at YALC (which I won on the last day), even if you monsters did tear out the last few chapters from the ARCs (I actually thought this was a fun and clever way to get more people talking about this debut book as well as being able to tell just how many people read the arcs). Thank you to Charlotte and Hannah for telling me all about this book and introducing me to Holly! Thank you to Holly Jackson for many things! For taking the time to talk to me and my friends at YALC, for meticulously signing my book etc and for writing said absolute rollercoaster ride of a book.

A Good Girls Guide to Murder is set up fantastically as part narrative, part school report where main character Pippa talks to us directly about her findings and theories giving the reader a real sense of closeness and inclusion into what’s happening and where Pips train of thought is going. Not only is the format well chosen but the writing style chosen to accompany it feels spot on, it drips with mystery and unanswered questions. Holly is very good at feeding us just the right amount of information so that it feels like we a good level of understanding without being bogged down with too many uninteresting info dumps. Of course, then she artfully pulls the floor out from under you leaving you to wonder which way is up and question everything you think you know while you piece together every single scrap of evidence you can get your hands on.

As Pip investigates the narrative is pleasingly organic, nothing feels especially twee or too much of a coincidence, I love that Pippa is resourceful, determined, loves to study and sticks up for what she believes in. I also realised while waiting for the last few chapters to arrive (as mentioned previously, they had been ripped out and a ransom note of sorts left with a contact email for the publisher to receive access to the last few chapters), that none of the things Pip does are particularly out of the realms of possibility for an ordinary teenager which I really liked.

One of my favourite things about this twisty book is that everyone feels untrustworthy at one point or another as things change and different pieces of information and evidence come to light, I think throughout this book I’ve suspected almost everyone at least once. A Good Girls Guide to Murder as a brilliantly realised, deliciously tense tale of whodunnit wrapped in danger and betrayal.

 

 

#SixforSunday, spoiler free

S4S – Books Covers

Happy Sunday and welcome to the last Six for Sunday before returning to the scheduled prompts by Steph from A Little but a Lot! This week I decided to head back to the bookish prompts and picked an older prompt that I hadn’t done before, this one is Book Covers! Although I do agree with the age old saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” I’m insanely guilty of doing just this. A cover is often the first thing we see and even if not on purpose we tend to form an opinion at that moment even if it isn’t always a deciding factor. For me personally, a cover will usually draw me in, I’ll then check out the synopsis and if I’m still interested I tend to read the first page where possible or if online I check out spoiler-free reviews. Although no the be all and end all sign of a good book I do love a good cover and now you can check out six of my all time favourites.

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James
This cover is one of the most gorgeous things I’ve ever seen, Laurens books have such beautiful covers and for me, this is the book that started it all.

Vicious (Special collectors edition) by V.E Schwab
I held up from starting this series because I wanted this version so badly. It’s beautiful, features a built-in fabric bookmark, foiling under the dust jacket and is that perfect smaller hardback size that I adore. Not to mention that the art on the cover itself is a reference to Victor and his habit of defacing books, I love that if you look at it one way its just lines made with marker pens but at the right angle they are bones.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
I don’t think I know anyone out there who doesn’t love this cover or the sought after blue sprayed edges. The gold foiling and detail on the moth are astounding but for me, it’s the gorgeous galaxy like blue with what looks like stars and constellations running through them, it looks truly magical.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Screenplay by J.K Rowling
I adore a lot of Mina Lima’s graphic design work for the Harry Potter films and the artwork for the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Screenplay is no exception. There are so many little hidden details and flourishes over this cover it really draws you in while also capturing the style of the era well at the same time.

Lady Midnight (Waterstones special edition) by Cassandra Clare
Another harder to find one and although Waterstones have done special edition covers like this one for the rest of the Dark Artifices series and now the Red scrolls of Magic series too this first one will always be my favourite. The colour is a lovely shade of blue and the gold foil angelic runes are perfection.

Caraval by Stephanie Meyer
I love so many different aspects of Caraval. The shiny gold foiling (this seems to be a running theme with my favourites I’ve noticed) of the starburst kind of effect around the book title is eye-catching all on its own but pair it with the spine spilt into half black and half white and then the different hidden cover editions we got in the UK where under the dust jacket you would find one of a few different gold illustrations was just the icing on the top of the cake.

Do you have any particular book covers you like? Do you have anything that endears a cover to you like my (apparent) obsession with gold foiling? Tell me all about it!

 

book reviews, spoiler free, Uncategorized

The Devouring Gray

Devouring Gray.pngThe Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

Rating: XXXXX

“Being invisible when you used to be seen…it’s like being dead, but no one mourns you.” 

Branches and stones, daggers and bones,
They locked the Beast away.

After the death of her sister, seventeen-year-old Violet Saunders finds herself dragged to Four Paths, New York. Violet may be a newcomer, but she soon learns her mother isn’t: They belong to one of the revered founding families of the town, where stone bells hang above every doorway and danger lurks in the depths of the woods.

Justin Hawthorne’s bloodline has protected Four Paths for generations from the Gray—a lifeless dimension that imprisons a brutal monster. After Justin fails to inherit his family’s powers, his mother is determined to keep this humiliation a secret. But Justin can’t let go of the future he was promised and the town he swore to protect.

Ever since Harper Carlisle lost her hand to an accident that left her stranded in the Gray for days, she has vowed revenge on the person who abandoned her: Justin Hawthorne. There are ripples of dissent in Four Paths, and Harper seizes an opportunity to take down the Hawthornes and change her destiny-to what extent, even she doesn’t yet know.

The Gray is growing stronger every day, and its victims are piling up. When Violet accidentally unleashes the monster, all three must band together with the other Founders to unearth the dark truths behind their families’ abilities—before the Gray devours them all.

After hearing about this book going around Twitter I became quickly intrigued by the creepy aesthetic and almost political intrigue based in a small town where four founding families are primarily in power, respected and revered. A lot of people referred to it as a mix of Riverdale and Stranger things, of which I have seen neither but had heard good things about. I was gifted this book by Titan in exchange for an honest review and I was so excited when it arrived, the UK paperback as a chilling cover design alongside hot pink sprayed edge pages! Not to mention as an extra spooky treat there were four tarot cards including at important parts to do with each card already placed inside the book which I kept in place and collected as I read through to give the book an extra dimension.

The Devouring Gray is aptly named because I absolutely devoured this book. I was slowed down a little by the fact I didn’t read it much at night because it was mega spooky in places but I found any spare time I could to read it during the day. There were just so many great aspects to this book I had trouble putting it down.

One thing I got excited about early on is all the fantastic rep in this book. There were not one but two bisexual characters who both mention attractions to same and different genders with one such character not having even experienced an actual relationship with anyone before and all of this is an absolute breath of fresh air in my queer lungs because both happen so rarely in books, let alone together and it is a GIFT. Speaking of gifts, arguably my favourite character, Harper Carlisle is also representing with some disability rep by being amazing with a sword and still managing to kick butt all while being her awesome self and missing one arm from the elbow down. I could honestly talk about her forever.

I don’t say this a lot but, I LOVED all of the romance spread throughout the book too. It’s not super obvious and although it’s threaded through the plot in places it doesn’t take it over and I find all the different dynamics interesting enough that I’m always interested in more and I enjoy the little moments we get here and there whereas often in a lot of books I can’t wait for said moments to end. I’m fully invested enough now that I would read a sequel to find out what happens with who for that alone at this point (although I am looking forward to the second book for other reasons as well of course).

The plot is twisty and I found myself constantly second-guessing myself and being unsure who to trust and/or believe thanks to four different POV’s not all of which are clued up on events or what I could call, particularly reliable narrators and that all just adds a whole other twisty angle to it that really got me turning pages like my life depended on it. The Devouring Gray is a familiar kind of story but author Christine makes it her own. This will be a book I don’t think I’ll be shutting up about for a while and now desperately await its sequel!

 

 

 

 

book reviews

Sky in the Deep

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Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

Rating: XXX

Published: March 26th 2019 by Titan Books (First published April 24th 2018)

“We find things, just as we lose things. If you’ve lost your honor, you’ll find it again.”

Seventeen-year-old Eelyn’s world is war. Raised to fight alongside her Aska clansmen in a generations-old blood feud against the Riki, her life is brutal but simple: fight and survive. Until the day she sees the impossible on the battlefield—her brother, fighting with the enemy—the brother she watched die five years ago.

Faced with her brother’s betrayal, she must survive the winter in the mountains with the Riki if she wants to make it back to the fjord after the thaw. But when she begins to see herself in the people she’s been taught to hate, the world Eelyn once knew begins to crumble. And after the village is raided by a ruthless clan many believe to be a myth, Eelyn is given no choice but to trust Fiske, her brother’s friend who has tried more than once to kill her. Together, they must end the blood feud between their clans or watch their people be slaughtered.

A lush, Viking-age inspired fantasy about loyalty, forgiveness, and the definition of family.

I was gifted this early finished copy in exchange for an honest review by Titan Books. I had decided to take a bit of a break from fantasy books lately it seemed to be more of a fantasy-style book with historical fiction elements, not to mention that I was lured in by the axe-wielding heroine, the promise of an action-packed start and a possibility for mystery.

I really enjoyed pretty much all of the fight scenes throughout this book, particularly as an opening scene. The battles are interesting and I love the description of different fighting tactics, especially when Eelyn fights alongside her best friend. The middle of the book felt a little dry to me in comparison and unfortunately fairly predictable. I think the predictability, however,  might be more to do with the large number of fantasy books I’ve read in the past year that all follow quite similar storylines more than there being anything hugely wrong with the book itself.

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Despite the writing feeling a little clunky I think some of the relationships were fairly well written, especially the conflicted way Eeyln feel about her brother which I felt was a particularly strong point as well as some of the other more complicated relationships that become established over time. That being said I found the couldn’t stand the romance element. I’m not sure if this stems from how predictable it felt for me in that as soon as these two characters met I knew they would be the “love interests” or if the slow burn that I usually love, especially when compared to a lot of the “insta-love” in YA was just too slow and lacked the emotional depth or intensity that I usually attribute to a enemies to lovers situation (which is usually my favourite trope). Whatever the case, it just didn’t click for me on an emotional level and the love interest was probably one of my least favourite characters.

This has been a tough book to try and review because although it’s something I personally didn’t enjoy hugely I know there are a lot of people out there who, maybe coming into this a little fresher and possibly with different expectations who would really enjoy this book and looking at all of the great reviews its had since it’s original non-UK release it is a book well loved by many, I just feel this one wasn’t for me but am still grateful to have read it none the less.

Have you read Sky in the Deep? If so how did you find it? If you’ve been reading my blog for some time you’ll know that I love a good bookish discussion!

Author, Adrienne Young has another book coming out September 3rd called, “The Girl the Sea gave back” that I will certainly be trying out after my big ole sci-fi binge coming up.

 

 

Bookish Discuussions, q&a, spoiler free

James Lovegrove Q&A

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It’s been two days since the release of Firefly: The Magnificent Nine by James Lovegrove, (you can check out my spoiler free review here) and today I’m excited to share with you a Q&A I did with the main himself about his experiences writing his newest release.

First off let me say, I absolutely loved The Magnificent Nine, it completely took me back to the days of watching Firefly on SyFy, the show had such a particular feel and quality to it that I think you’ve really managed to capture. One of the things that, I think really helped was your use of language, a really unique aspect in the show and one that I think you’ve managed to embody brilliantly in your writing for this book. How did you find getting into that particular style? Not just the use of signature words from the show such as ruttin, shiny and gorram but the inclusion of the chinese phrases and the way the words flow in such a way that makes it instantly recognisable to a lot of fans.

Thanks. I’m glad you enjoyed the book so much .At the risk of sounding cocky, I found
it fairly easy getting into the Firefly idiom. That’s because I’ve watched every episode
and the movie at least three times, and because I love the show. The dialogue is this
delightful mix of the florid and the earthy. I was already used to writing Victorian-style
dialogue from my Sherlock Holmes pastiches, so all I had to do was add some Western-
movie grit to that. It all flowed from there. Honestly, The Magnificent Nine was perhaps
the most fun I’ve ever had with a novel. I polished off the first draft in about four
weeks. It was paid fan-fiction, basically.

Do you have a favourite Chinese curse word or phrase from the series or that you used in your book and did you get to make up any of your own?

While writing the book I put out a distress call on social media, and luckily a Chinese-
speaking Facebook friend, Yen Ooi, came to my rescue. She gamely helped me with
translating several fairly obscene phrases that I came up with, most memorably “beat
me with a wet and soft sheep cock”. From the existing Firefly pinyin lexicon, I think my
favourite is “Holy mother of God and all her wacky nephews”, which crops up in “Our
Mrs Reynolds”.

Although the language is a big help in giving your book the same feel as the show on which its based another thing that struck me was just how well you captured the feel of each of the characters, did you do anything in particular to find the actions and voices of these characters and their rhythm among themselves and each other?

The characters were so well-sketched and clearly defined in the show that it wasn’t hard
re-creating them on the page. The trick was staying true to the way the writers and
actors portrayed them, while at the same time using the techniques of the novel, such as
interior monologue, to flesh them out that little bit more. The one person I was least
certain about, to begin with, was River. Over the course of the series she changes a great
deal, swinging between wide-eyed moon-calf and hyper-intelligent kill bot, and I found
her hard to get a fix on. I was completely unsure about writing her, and I couldn’t quite
believe it when my editor told me I’d actually got her nailed. Hell of a relief.

Is there a particular member of the crew of Serenity you relate to the most?

Probably Wash. He wisecracks to hide his insecurities, like I do, but when it’s called for,
he gets down to the job and is utterly competent, as I hope I am. He’s also got a
gorgeous, tough-as-nails wife who takes no bullshit, and so do I.

Did having the opportunity to write The Magnificent Nine and it’s predecessor Big Damn Hero change the way you felt about any of the characters?

I’d always looked at Mal as a good guy to the core, but when I was re-watching the
show in preparation for writing the novels, I realised he’s pretty hardcore ruthless. He’s
more embittered than he lets on, which emerges in flashes here and there, such as in
“Ariel” when he nearly throws Jayne out of the airlock. You threaten what’s his, and no
matter who you are, you’d better expect reprisals. I think it’s Nathan Fillion’s charm
that’s deceptive here. He makes Mal wonderfully easy-going and you might think that’s
all there is to him, but there are moments when Fillion allows glimmers of the steeliness
beneath to show through. It’s a terrifically well-rounded performance.

In this book you really dig down into Jaynes emotions which are often only hinted at in the show and personally I enjoyed this closer look into a character that at first glance could have easily been written off someone who doesn’t really give much of a care about anyone but himself, your story really highlights what we see glimpses of in the show, how did it feel really getting down into all of that and what made you decide to do so?

I think Jayne gets stereotyped as the big dumb guy who likes to shoot guns. I thought
it’d be fun to up the stakes for him and give him something to care about, so in The
Magnificent Nine he reconnects with an old flame and discovers that their affair may
have had unintended consequences. Perhaps against his own better judgement, Jayne
learns to step up and do the right thing, even though this comes at a cost. Can’t say any
more than that because of, y’know, spoilers.

You’ve written over a number of genres over the years and for different age groups, how does writing a tie in novel for a series like Firefly differ from that and how did you get into it?

About four years ago I told my then-editor at Titan, Miranda Jewess, that I’d be
interested in tie-in work but only if it was Firefly. Titan didn’t even have the licence
then, but a couple of years later they did, and Miranda remembered what I’d said and
got in touch. I jumped at the chance. I like a challenge, and I also like to get things right,
so I re-immersed myself in the ’Verse and got reacquainted with the characters and the
tech, and then decided I would really lean into the Western-movie elements of the show.
I was excited because I’d never done anything like this before, neither a tie-in nor a
Western (other than a Western-inflected short story, “The Black Rider”, in the
anthology Gutshot). I had, however, had some experience with writing in other authors’
voices through my Conan Doyle and H.P. Lovecraft pastiches. It was really just a case of letting my love for Firefly show through and giving my fellow Browncoats what they
want.

Were there any particular rules of guidelines aside from the obvious when you were creating the story? If so could you tell me a little about these? Did they restrict you very much? Did you have to change anything in particular to accommodate them?

I submitted three story outlines for consideration, and Titan and the licensor together
decided which one they would like to see as a novel. So, from the outset, I was writing to
order, but still the guidelines were fairly loose. Once I’d written the book, it was up to
editorial to say what they thought worked and what didn’t, and I rewrote accordingly.
There wasn’t too much of that, in the event. Mostly it was a case of a line of dialogue
here and there not sounding quite right and needing to be honed, or a few instances of
character interaction which didn’t ring true. Any changes were minor. I felt that, even
if it wasn’t expressly stated, I was being asked just to have fun in this fictional world
and do the best job I could.

Thank you for your answers, as a last question I would love to know if you have a favourite episode of the Firefly and why?

It’s not so much a favourite episode as a favourite moment. It’s in “War Stories” when
Niska is torturing Mal and Wash at his skyplex. Zoë strides in, and Niska thinks he’s
being terribly clever and mean by inviting her to choose one of them to save, and before
he’s even finished talking, Zoë just points at Wash and goes “Him”. It’s perfect. You’re
expecting her to agonise over the choice. So’s Niska. But she doesn’t. She rescues her
husband because (a) he’s her husband and (b) she knows Mal can hold up better under
torture than Wash can. It’s both emotionally and logically the correct choice, and it
shows both how pragmatic and at the same time how loving Zoë is.

James Lovegrove is the author of several acclaimed novels and books for children.

James was born on Christmas Eve 1965 and, having dabbled in writing at school, first took to it seriously while at university. A short story of his won a college competition. The prize was £15, and it had cost £18 to get the story professionally typed. This taught him a hard but necessary lesson in the harsh economic realities of a literary career.

Straight after graduating from Oxford with a degree in English Literature, James set himself the goal of getting a novel written and sold within two years. In the event, it took two months. The Hope was completed in six weeks and accepted by Macmillan a fortnight later. The seed for the idea for the novel — a world in microcosm on an ocean liner — was planted during a cross-Channel ferry journey.

James blew his modest advance for The Hope on a round-the-world trip which took him to, among other places, Thailand. His experiences there, particularly what he witnessed of the sex industry in Bangkok, provided much of the inspiration for The Foreigners.

Subsequent works have all been published to great acclaim. These include Untied Kingdom, Worldstorm, Provender Gleed and the back-to-back double-novella Gig.  Many of his early books are being reissued by Solaris Books in a series of compendium volumes entitled The James Lovegrove Collection, beginning in late 2014.  United Kingdom was shortlisted for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, while “Carry The Moon In My Pocket”, a short story, won Japan’s Seiun Award in 2011 for Best Foreign Short Story.  It and other stories by James, more than 40 in total, have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies over the years, and most have been gathered in two collections, Imagined Slights and Diversifications.

More recently, James has moved into the Firefly ‘Verse, writing tie-in fiction based on the much-missed TV series (and its follow-up movie). His first Firefly novel is Big Damn Hero (based on a story outline by Nancy Holder). His second is The Magnificent Nine.

In addition, James reviews fiction for the Financial Times, specialising in the children’s, science fiction, fantasy, horror and graphic novel genres, and was a regular and prolific contributor to Comic Heroes, a glossy magazine devoted to all things comics-related, until its regrettable demise in 2014.