It's Friday, time for a new Apocalypse Weird author interview! Today my guest is Lesley Smith, author of The Changing of the Sun and The Whispers in the Desert. Lesley is a freelance journalist turned into full time writer and she is here today to tell us about her story set in the Apocalypse Weird world, a one of a kind project started by a guild of independent authors who got together and decided to make their own brand world (more info on AW at the end of the post).
EEG: What did you use to write when you were working as a freelance journalist?
LS: I had quite a varied collection of topics (diversifying is the best way to make sure you can get work) but I specialised in Japan and technology. I wrote about anime and manga, cultural stuff and video games mostly. I also had a stint proofing English language translations of manga and light novels for an American publisher and attending various events around the world for magazines and online outlets.
EEG: How did you get involved in the AW project?
LS: I wish I had a more nefarious answer involving blackmail, world domination etc, the truth of rather boring. I met Michael Bunker online while I was Kickstarting my first novel. We shared the same crowd within the indie author circuit and got talking. He became something of a mentor to me and I was invited to write for his Pennsylvania anthology (edited by Christ Pourteau, David Gatewood and Michael). After that I got wind (because Michael is incapable of keeping anything secret for more than ten seconds) of this big shared metaverse in mind and I’d already put him in touch with my editor Ellen Campbell (who serves as EiC of the project) and I told him I wanted in, that I had ideas to destroy Japan. I pitched him and Nick Cole and that was it.
EEG: Hehe, sorry, I had to smile at the candid "I had ideas to destroy Japan." So, now you have to tell us more about your AW story and its premise.
LS: I called shotgun on Japan as it’s a country I’ve had a fascination with. I made my living on it as a journalist and finally visited in 2010. I spent a month exploring the county and visited as many places off the tourist trail as possible. For me AW allowed me a chance to utilise Japan’s rich mythologies and spirituality as well as it’s neon-lite learnings toward technology. The premise is, basically, that centuries ago a demon was imprisoned under Mount Fuji. The nefarious Black Hand infiltrated the Council which advises the Imperial Household and engineered a schism which saw the Himiko, a line of empresses, continue to rule over the western land of Yamatai while the Emperor moved his capital to Tokyo and embraced modernity, denying the magic-rich history and putting his energy into modernisation. It’s a great opportunity to put kitsune and ancient magicians in the same space as Gojira, zombies and magical girls.
I have three books currently planned, the first The Fractured Mirror is set in Kyoto/Heiankyo, the second Blood, Steel and Stone runs parallel but is set in the modern skyscrapered capital of Tokyo while the third is called The Crimson Sea and involves mermaids and the island of Miyajima, known for it’s floating torii gate. I’m half way through the first book ahead of it’s release in February and it’s a lot of work but fun as well. There are a lot of stories to be told about this version of Japan and I’m really quite excited by the scope of the project.
EEG: That sounds really intriguing. What about your project City of Dragons?
LS: I wasn’t expecting that question but there we go, there’s some of the fun. I loved to Norfolk, a rather rural county in the UK when I was 14 and once you move there, it’s really hard to escape. Customs is a nightmare. Anyway I fell in love with the city of Norwich and I came up with this idea of a ten-book urban fantasy series set in the city. Now a UNESCO City of Literature, Norwich has this obsession with dragons and it seemed the perfect place to populate with magical beings like Djinn, kitsune, mages, sylphs and vampires. The first book is done and I hope to start the series in 2015, it follows a Djinn journalist named Jenna Bishop who has been living in hiding since the nineties and after a series of murders she starts to realise she’s more use as part of the supernatural community than she is hiding from it. I’ve plotted the entire series out and it’s a nice chance to bind the real-life City of Dragons (one of Norwich’s lesser-known nicknames) with a whole host of magical creatures and storylines such as selkies, non-virgin eating unicorns, djinni and an actual dragon. Dragons are cool.
EEG: They really are! :-) What else are you currently working on, besides the above projects?
LS: I’m in the middle of my first trilogy set in my Ashteraiverse. I Kickstarted the first and second books this year and they’re taking up the rest of my time. This series is my magnum opus, covering various genres from fantasy and sci fi to urban political thrillers. The basic premise is that the universe is massive and there are various species and beings. The Ashterai fall into the ‘cosmic’ bracket and are the guardians of reality, able to manipulate time and space to their liking. The series is overarching (and there are easter eggs/cameos relating to it in much of the other stuff I write); I’m currently writing the Contact novel The Parting of the Waters, which serves as the middle book in my Changing of the Sun trilogy (all the books are set on a world called Coronis), an anthology of stories called Beyond the Stars Beneath the Sea which is designed to introduce the wider universe, and a short novel called A Star-Filled Sea which is, basically, my take on The Murder on the Orient Express in space. Josh, an aspergic Ashterai translator stuck in human form on an alien ship has less than a day to find why a monstrous creature is picking off members of the human Ambassador’s staff with only his reptilian boss and an empathic teenager to help him. I’m planning on launching a Kickstarter to fund it in January and I really hope it succeeds as it was a lot of fun to write.
EEG: Wow, you sure have a lot of projects on the burner! Best of luck with everything and thanks so much for chatting with us today.
To find out more about Lesley's books, visit her blog and her Amazon page.
Intrigued by Apocalypse Weird? Then read the first book, The Red King, by Nick Cole, which is completely free and sets the world of Apocalypse Weird. You can also sign up for our mailing list to make sure you don't miss the big launch on february 23rd. And you can join us on Facebook, too.
Michael Bunker also has a great post about Apocalypse Weird on his blog.
Author Hank Garner is also doing a series of podcasts on Apocalypse Weird: last week he interviewed Nick Cole, and this week Hank just posted a new podcast in which Michael Bunker talks about his AW book, Digger, the first in his Texocalypse world.
And if you are a writer and you would like to take part in the Apocalypse Weird project, Nick has a wonderful post where he explains how to apply.
Apocalypse Weird Authors:
Ellen Campbell (editor)