Sunday, November 14, 2010

Tea with Sonya Clark

Welcome to urban fantasy author Sonya Clark, who graces Toad's Corner this week. Sonya's debut novella, Bring on the Night, introduces readers to her world of vampires in werewolves, but Mojo Queen is coming soon, bringing an intriguing glimpse into the doings of magic practitioners in a contemporary Southern setting. This is an author who pushes all of Toad's buttons, in all the right places. **grins**

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Tell us a bit more about your setting for your debut novella, Bring on the Night, and does this tie in with your novel Mojo Queen in any way?

Bring on the Night is set in a fictional town called Concord. Most of the action takes place in the rougher part of town on the waterfront. What I envisioned was a sort of semi-abandoned industrial area like what you’d find in a city with a failing economy. All the blue-collar middle class jobs are gone, and what’s left is poverty and predators. The setting, along with many other aspects of the story, was very noir-inspired.

Bring on the Night and Mojo Queen are unrelated stories, but they do have something in common: people living outside the bounds of normal society, trying to do the right thing and help others.

Obviously you love vampires. How are yours different from the standard vampiric themes gadding about in the media today?

In Bring on the Night vampire Jessie is not afraid to drink straight from the tap, so to speak. She’s sexy and flirty but she’s there to break heads, not fall in love. With vampire Daniel in Mojo Queen, I made him basically a sidekick just because I wanted a vampire that wasn’t a main character. Usually vamps get the headlining role. Neither of them are broody, love-obsessed, or at all interested in passing themselves off as high school kids. I want to write vampire-free stories too but at some point I know I have to write something where the vampires are evil. Sometimes you just have to let monsters be monsters.

Which one of your characters do you resonate with the most, and why?

In Bring on the Night it would probably be Brandon, the curious journalist who discovers vampires are real and at one point asks Jessie to show him her fangs. I’d probably do something really stupid like that in a similar situation, let curiosity overrule fear and good sense. In Mojo Queen it’s the main character, Roxanne Mathis. Without really thinking it through I gave her my love of music and it changed the character. You look at the world through the lens of what you’re passionate about, because that’s what you’ve studied, even if informally. With a love of music being so much a part of who I am, it’s almost impossible to keep it out of anything I write. So far she’s the character that has been the most informed by that.

What are the top three movies you'd have in your collection and what is it about them that makes you revisit them?

I love Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies – love the intensity of them, love how they took what is really a crazy ridiculous idea (vigilante in a bat suit!) and made it fit with the world we live in now. Especially Dark Knight – the metaphors at work in that movie alone are dissertation-worthy.

The Princess Bride is like an old friend. There are few situations in life that a quote from that movie would not be relevant to.

There’s not been a movie vampire I really loved yet, but I have high hopes for Dark Shadows. I’ve been waiting for Johnny Depp to play a vampire since I was fifteen!

Who is your all-time favourite villain, and why?

I’m having a hard time thinking of a villain that didn’t go through some sort of redemptive story arc. If I can count villains like that, I have to go with Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I always loved how he thoroughly embraced being a vampire, even after he changed from villain to anti-hero.

Care to spill the beans with regard to your works in progress?

My next novel-length work will be a sequel to Mojo Queen, tentatively titled Red House. MQ is set in Nashville, which was hit by catastrophic flooding this past May. In deciding whether or not I wanted to deal with that in a fictional setting, I thought about what it might do to have that kind of energy unleashed through the spiritual plane. People are uprooted when a natural disaster strikes. What happens to the spirits that haunt a place when that place has been smashed by the enormous energy of a flood? I’ve got some ideas about that, and I’m doing some research about ghost stories from this area as well as other major floods, plus some other things.

I always have other projects going on, too, for fun or to experiment. I’ve found that when I challenge myself, even if I fail it somehow manages to push my writing forward. So that’s cool.

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Whispering Bones: an excerpt

Today Toad welcomes horror author Rita Vetere to her corner, to share an excerpt from her recently released Whispering Bones (Lyrical Press). Rita's writing offers the classic retro horror feel evident in such classics as The Omen, Rosemary's Baby and their ilk. Her characters are real, three-dimensional people who go through harrowing experiences. I'm happy to say this is not a book you read late at night when it's storming outside. Or you could... **grins**

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“Let’s get on with it. It’s the last load. I want to get back.”

The men began emptying the cart of its gruesome cargo, jostling her. Terrified, she listened to the sickening thuds as corpses were thrown into the pit, colliding with the bodies already there. Suddenly, shockingly, Isabella was lifted up. “No... No!” She felt herself falling. Then, the blinding pain of impact as she landed among the dead.

The stench, the slimy feel of rotten flesh... Death surrounded her. More bodies landed beside her, on top of her. Panicked, she screamed, “Take me to the Lazaretto... please! It cannot be far, I beg you.”

The cloaked and masked monster towering above the pit said as he grabbed a shovel, “There is no place at the Lazaretto for the sick any longer. It already overflows with the dead and dying. You have been brought to Poveglia.”

Isabella moaned in despair. Poveglia was a disposal site, nothing more.

The other man spoke. “Tomaso... We could try on our way back to the mainland. Perhaps the Lazaretto will take her. She is but a child—”

“Shut up. I’ve no intention of stopping there, only to be turned away. Then what? Return here to do what we should have done in the first place? No. Look at her. She is already dead.”

The cruel words struck Isabella like stones. Although close to death, a smouldering rage began to build inside her. She looked up at the pizzicamorti, leaning on their shovels at the pit’s edge. Her gaze slid back and forth between the two men and came to rest on the dark form of the man who had refused to help her.

In that moment, something happened.

Her delirious mind cleared. For a split second, Isabella perceived her situation with complete lucidity. She could surrender herself to God’s will. Accept her fate, knowing her immortal soul would soon be reunited with Mamma and Papa in the afterlife. Or she could choose another, darker path—one which had opened before her as a result of this outrage. Isabella heard a sinister whisper. Take revenge. The callous man showed no mercy, no remorse for what he was about to do. She could go unforgiving into the darkness, her soul be damned.

Perhaps if the evil man had not chosen that exact moment to fill his spade and send a shower of dirt over her; perhaps if he had not acted at that precise second, Isabella might have followed the path of light. Perhaps. But the man made his choice and Isabella made hers. She opened and allowed the dark entity which had spoken to her to slither inside.

When the earth struck her open sores, Isabella’s rage exploded. A powerful force surged in her, a roiling, dark energy that breathed life into her once again. Lifting her head, she spoke directly to the man, the one called Tomaso, who had condemned her to be buried alive.

“A curse on you...and on your house... You will be made to pay for this deed... With a death worse than that which you have decreed for me... All of you. Until the very last...perishes.”

Isabella fell back onto her deathbed. The knowledge dawned that she had only been a vessel for the dark power which had risen in her, causing her to speak the words. She found she did not care. A cold satisfaction took hold of her when she saw the masked man hesitate before lifting his spade again. For a moment, instead of the stink of corpses surrounding her, she smelled only his fear. Suddenly, spade after spade of earth rained down on her as the man began to rapidly shovel. He carried out his execution, cursing as he buried Isabella alive.

Isabella could no longer move. Layer after layer of dirt covered her. It entered her nostrils when she tried to breath. It covered her open eyes, blinding her. Earth filled her mouth. It tasted like death, but her heart was cold now and she welcomed it.

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