Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Into The Light - Blog Tour

A big thank you to author Caroline T.Patti for answering my Q&A as part of the Into The Light blog tour!

1. What inspired you to write Into The Light?
Into the Light is the follow-up to Into the Dark. I wanted Mercy’s story to come to a satisfying end because I knew this would be the last in the “series.” I’m not sure if you can consider two books an entire series, but for lack of a better word, that’s what I’ll call it. At the close of Into the Dark Mercy made a pact with Isadora, aka the villain, in an effort to protect her family and friends. Into the Light certainly had to address this conflict, but I also wanted a great deal of the story to be about Nathaniel. To me, he became the most interesting and complex character. He’s certain not very likable in Into the Dark, though he is quite delicious at times. I wanted the readers to be able to fully understand his motivation, to know the reasons for why he is the way he is. I focused on that while writing Into the Light and Mercy’s story came together and, in a way, overlapped with Nathaniel’s.

2. Have any elements of your life made it in to the story?
I don’t include huge aspects of my life into my writing. What I do like to include are Easter eggs, if you will, for those who know me personally. Lyla’s last name is McCrimons, which is the same last name of one of my closest friends. When I was a kid and my dad made pancakes, he always cut it into little squares and then ate the middle piece himself. I included this in Into the Dark when Jay and Mercy in Lyla’s body make pancakes. When picturing Mercy’s high school, I did picture my own, which I’ve never done before, so the layout is exactly the same.

3. If you could go back in time and give yourself one bit of advice before you started writing Into The Light, what would it be?
There is so much pressure for sequels. Way more pressure than a first book! Readers are engaged, they have expectations, and the idea that I could somehow fall short of those expectations is really scary. What happens, though, when I let those thoughts into my head is I start thinking too much about the reader and I question every single word. I made things way too difficult for myself in the early stages of writing. At some point I had to resign myself to the fact that it’s impossible to make everyone happy. Readers of Into the Dark will end up #TeamGage or #TeamNathaniel, and they might never be okay with the choice Mercy makes in Into the Light. I have to be okay with that. When an author publishes a book there’s this odd change of ownership and the characters belong to the readers and therefore they feel they should control the outcome. Of course their outcome might not match up with mine, and for that they may end up disappointed. And while I feel for them, I have to remember that this is my story with my characters and so long as I’m proud of my craft, that’s all that really matters.

4. Which books/authors inspired you to start writing?
I wanted to be a writer before I truly understood what an author is. I knew I wanted to write books, to tell stories from the time I was five, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t quite grasp the concept of authors just yet. Once I did, however, Lois Duncan had a huge influence on me. I gobbled up her books when I was young, and when I set out to be a “real writer” I sent her an email. She was so kind to reply and to wish me well on my journey.

5. Who's in the fantasy movie cast for Into The Light?
I hope you don’t hate my answer. The truth is, I’ve given it no thought. This is not to say that I don’t want my books turned into film. I would be honored. But I’ve never thought of who might play the characters because right now they only exist in my imagination and no one is going to resemble them enough. I’d much rather have someone else’s vision when it comes to casting because I think their argument could persuade me. I’d love to know who readers would want to cast, and then I’m sure I
could get behind their choice.

6. Sum Into The Light up in five words.
The real enemy is revealed.

7. Do you have any writing rituals?
I’m kind of a neat freak, so I try to make sure my house is clean first. Of course, if I’m on deadline, I have to forgo this ritual because I simply don’t have time. But for the most part, I like to know things are taken care of around the house so that I can devote all of my attention to the story. I will listen to the same two or three CDs on repeat until I’m finished with a book. It’s amazing that I don’t get sick of the music, but I honestly don’t. As soon as I’m plugged in, and the notes are playing, I’m transported right into the story and the rest of the world melts away. When I’m in the thick of it, I write every day, and I try to get out at least 1700 words. I do not write every day. I’m a wife and a mom to teenage daughters—there’s just no way to write every day. While editing Into the Light I watched a lot of That 70s Show. I don’t know why; it sort of became like a soundtrack. It was awesome.

8. Who was your favourite character to write?
Nathaniel. By far. I love a good complex character. I love the idea that it’s possible to love someone and hate someone at the same time. He’s tortured and he’s very hardened when we first meet him in Into the Dark. Originally, he was going to be the villain, but then his story unfolded and my heart went out to him. All he wanted was to be in love, and when he was denied that opportunity because loving a human was against the rules, he changed completely. I wanted to give him the chance to change back. I can’t promise that he does, but I at least wanted him to make the effort. And I wanted him to think of someone else besides himself.

9. How different is this version to the one you sat down to write?
Night and day. Seriously. The first version only moderately resembles the completed version. This happens to me a lot. I tend to dump a first draft knowing that I’m going to go back and revise. Maybe some writers think of this as a waste of time, but it’s part of my process. I get it all out, sort of verbal vomit style, and then I hone and tighten the story until it’s the way I want it. In early drafts I tend to make things too complicated. So during revisions I try to find the simplest, most direct way to tell the story. And I always keep Quentin Tarantino with me when I’m revising. I like to follow his format of jumping right into the action, and going back and explaining later. This means that during the revision process I might flip the entire book if necessary. I’m better at the back half then I am the start, so sometimes I’ll make the back part the beginning part and go back in time if necessary. Now that I’ve typed this all out, I realize it sounds a bit nuts, but what can I do? It is what it is.

10. How did Into The Light make the journey from your head to print?
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I had an agent. And I pitched that agent the idea of Into the Dark, which was then called Seven Days. She loved the idea, but my writing wasn’t where it needed to be. We ended up going round and round for years. YEARS. And then I “met” Georgia McBride through Twitter. She ran #yalitchat, and she did freelance editing. I begged her to please help me pull Seven Days out of the depths of despair. And she did. But not without listening to a lot of whining from me about how I should just give up the whole thing and write something else first. Eventually, my agent dropped me, as happens to lots of folks and Georgia founded Month9Books. I remember being so nervous to ask her if she might consider publishing what was now called Into the Dark. She gave me the green light to submit, and Into the Dark went through the same process as any other submission. Into the Dark was published in August 2015, and I finished writing Into the Light by December 2015.

Into The Light
Mercy’s family is back together and the threat of danger appears to have passed. But any relief she feels is short lived as she is ripped from her body and thrown in jail. Gage and Nathaniel’s plans to break Mercy out won’t exactly be easy. Stuffed full of a chemical binding agent, Mercy is trapped inside the body of a convict without the ability to breach and set herself free. Unfortunately for Mercy, being trapped in jail becomes the least of her problems when she meets her evil twin, Justice.

BAM | Chapters | Amazon | B&N | TBD

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Friday, 26 August 2016


In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family. Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic—the Red Church. If she bests her fellow students in contests of steel, poison and the subtle arts, she’ll be inducted among the Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the vengeance she desires. But a killer is loose within the Church’s halls, the bloody secrets of Mia’s past return to haunt her, and a plot to bring down the entire congregation is unfolding in the shadows she so loves.

Will she even survive to initiation, let alone have her revenge?

Where to start with Nevernight?

The blurb for this book is slightly deceptive. It sells it as something of a cliched "teenage assassin seeks revenge for the death of her family", but it's so much more than that! It actually follows through on its talk of death and murder, rather than glossing over it or, worse in my opinion, romanticising assassination. It certainly delivers on the gory goods, and isn't afraid to show the consequences of its violence.

I don't think this book is correctly categorised as YA (although I'm not precious about labels, so call it what you will). There's plenty of gore, no sunshines and rainbows, and a couple of pretty graphic sex scenes with a good few pages devoted to both male and female oral sex - although props to Jay Kristoff for some incredibly well-written heat and a refreshingly healthy and realistic attitude towards sex.

Mia's introduction to the Red Church and the lessons and tests that she and the other acolytes face are suitably cruel and lethal. Think Hogwarts if the Potions teacher actually poisoned the class and whatever Defence Against The Dark Arts professor Harry had that year actually chopped off limbs. The line between bloodlust and the regular kind is blurred, the powerful intimacy of both sex and death intertwined . Many an F-bomb is dropped, and a few C-bombs too (although Mia and Tric's discussion on why she'd rather be called said C-bomb than an insult named for the male anatomy is absolute writing gold!). This book certainly isn't one for the faint-hearted.

Mia was a bit of an odd one as a character. She alternates between ruthless killer and scared little girl (albeit not very often!), a little bit of who she was occasionally bleeding through into who she is. There's a lot left to be explored with her backstory, and I loved her creepy power over shadows (think Ephemera from Bloodrayne 2 for my fellow gaming nerds). I was a little bit disappointed that the author went down the route of having her beautified as part of her indoctrination into the Red Church. It made sense in the grand scheme of the story, but it was a bit of a shame that our unique and badass protagonist veered a little bit towards cookie-cutter. I'm not sure how I felt about her admiring her new boobs either, it had a little bit of a "taking off the bandages after plastic surgery" vibe to it which I wasn't feeling. The supporting characters were brilliant too, so well written that I could read another book just telling their backstories! Mia's father-figure/trainer Mercurio was great, his attacks of conscience over the path he was setting her on betraying how much he cared about his little Crow. The sadistic teachers, from the poison-weilding Spiderkiller to the limb-chopping Solis, were Harry Potter turned up to 11, and the fellow students vying for a place as Blades of the Lady of Blessed Murder were wonderful - if a little thinly sketched. Ash was my favourite, her banter with Mia was fantastic and the dialogue crackled with energy whenever they were together!

Oh Tric! My poor, beloved Tric! His peversely sweet relationship with Mia was one of my favourite parts of the book. I'm not entirely sure Mia deserved him, but whether they were cursing each other, slicing each other up, having sex or having a rare but very sweet cute moment, I adored this pair. Although it's pretty obvious there's no future for them, and Jay Kristoff never attempts to hide this for a single second, I kind of hoped they'd get a happily ever after. I mean, come on man! Way to rip out my heart and stomp on it!

I've heard a few people say they couldn't click with the writing style and found the book too hard to get into. It's certainly not a light read, but my god, it's so worth it! The asterisks found on most pages that offer supplementary info on the world and characters can be skipped without harming the story itself, but I urge you to read them! The history lessons and narrator interludes alternate between incredible attention to detail and being incredibly funny. Kristoff's brutal takedowns of the standard teenage assassin tropes had me laughing out loud! My personal favourite was the mentions of a man who went by the name "Pigfiddler" or something similar. The asterisk beside his name led to a note from the narrator to tell me to grow up and stopp giggling.

At the risk of paraphrasing Kanye West, this book is a beautiful, dark, twisted fantasy. From the lyrical writing to the lush descriptions and not one, but two gorgeous world maps, Nevernight was a joy to read from start to finish. Jay Kristoff's writing is wonderful and be TBR list now includes everything he's ever written. 

Nevernight is easily one of the best books I've read this year. It's a gripping, captivating, ambitious read. It's as dark as it is beautiful, and as brutal as it is heart-wrenching. It's as quotable as a Tarantino film, with world building to die for and a cast of absolutely magnificent bastards. If you're looking for clean-cut "assassins" who don't spill a drop of blood throughout the entire book, happy endings or a light, easy read, then you should probably look elsewhere. But otherwise, for the love of all things bookish, read Nevernight!

Sunday, 14 August 2016

How far will a book take you?

My big loves are books and travel. But short of reading abroad or reading travel book, the two have remained separate entities in my life. Most of the books I read are set in fantasy lands, which is great and makes for some beautiful world maps, but it's not like you can pack your bags and pay them a visit (as much as you sometimes want to).

I loved Kate Mosse’s Languedoc trilogy; Labyrinth, Sepulchre and Citadel. They’re worldwide bestsellers, and with good reason. Set in Carcassonne, the mix of fiction and history, along with engaging heroines and a sprinkling of the supernatural, this series is an instant win in for me, and I’ve read them time and again over the last ten years or so. And when I was browsing SkyScanner the other day, I suddenly had an idea. Why not go to Carcassone?
So when it came to choosing the next destination for the next Gray mother-daughter trip abroad, I actually came to the table with a suggestion as opposed to our usual method of selection – putting a bunch of ideas in a jar and picking one at random. My suggestion was Carcassonne.

Mosse’s books have been such an inspiration, that I felt I owed it to the stories I've loved so much to see the place where they were born. That, plus the fact that France is a mere hop, skip and a jump from the UK and there are an abundance of cheap flights (thanks Easyjet!) and Air B&B deals made this one a no brainer. Plus, after the UK's questionnable decision to leave the EU, I feel like I should get all the hassle-free eurotravel in while I can still swan through immigration under the European freedom of movement law.

This is one of those wonderful times in my life where I can actually use the phrase "the book made me do it". Handily, Mosse’s books also come with a mini tour guide in the back of them, highlighting the spots where key scenes take place.

You're a better woman than me if you can resist this!
I'm so excited to finally see this beauty in real life! It's going to be a patchwork of flights, train transfers and remembering to drive on the right-hand side of the road whilst trying to not crash the hire car, but I can't wait! How I will fit three large, hardback books in my backpack remains to be seen...