The Reading Hour – 12 (un)easy questions for Primadonna Angela

Selamat datang!

Welcome back to The Reading Hour! Sorry guys for not posting anything new in this column for so long, but we were quite busy with other stuff, mostly traveling to fascinating places and attending various events. Today, we have  something truly sensational for you, and we really mean it.  As far as we are concerned, nobody has ever done this thing before us and we are absolutely proud of ourselves!

Firstly, if you have missed previous editions of The Reading Hour, please use the links below to read interviews with superb authors like Nathan P Butler – Star Wars Community guru, and Jana Oliver – one of the most successful authors of YA fiction out there!

Interview with Nathan P Butler:
https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/the-reading-hour-15-uneasy-questions-for-nathan-p-butler/

Interview with Jana Oliver:
https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/03/24/the-reading-hour-15-uneasy-questions-for-jana-oliver/

Today’s issue of The Reading Hour is a very special one. By the popular demand, we have decided to report on Helen Stringer again. Helen has been featured on our blog twice already and it seems our readers just cannot get enough! Lots of things have changed since we last spoken to the lovely British author –  Helen’s independently published book “Paradigm” has been given a Silver Benjamin Franklin Independent Book Award in Teen: Fiction (13–18 Years) category (http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2014/ibpa-announces-benjamin-franklin-independent-book-awards/), she is working on several new projects including an online series named The Gloaming and third book in the beloved Spellbinder series.

Talking about Belladonna Johnson, she is now a global citizen! She has left her native England and went on to become a true sensation in France, Germany, Italy and now in Indonesia! Yes, you have heard it correctly – “The Last Ghost” is now known as “Sang Pengikat Mantra (Spellbinder)”.  How fantastic is that!

Please read the previous articles about Helen:

Interview with Helen Stringer:
https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/the-reading-hour-helen-stringer/

A Day with Helen Stringer:
https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/a-day-with-helen-stringer/

Thanks to the kindness of  Indonesian publisher of the book, Gramedia Pustaka Utama, we have sat down with the esteemed translator, editor and popular writer in her own right, Primadonna Angela to have a little chat. It was an absolute pleasure to talk to her – she is witty, funny and fascinating, all at once. Talking to Donna (as she prefers to be called) opened our eyes to the thriving Indonesian book market. Millions of books sold, thousands of dedicated fans, countless online book clubs and  social media groups dedicated to the newly punished titles. Indonesia has many talented writers, yet only handful of books are being released in the western world. Let’s hope that Helen will lead the revolution! And we cannot wait for Primadonna’s books being translated into English. Common British publishers, that’s the perfect opportunity for you. Remember, the bloggers are always right – we can find true gems long before you can 🙂

Primadonna Angela  - official portrait

Primadonna Angela – official portrait

Official bio:

Call her Donna or Angela, she might respond with a smile. This Indonesian writer divides her time juggling to make ends meet, writing, balancing her attention between her partner (Isman H. Suryaman) and children, managing the household, and of course, occasionally sipping earl grey tea to keep her sane. She has written twenty books so far, popular fiction, in Gramedia Pustaka Utama (GPU). Her newest book, How to be a Writer, was published in March 2012. Her passion for new experiences propels her to seek new chances to meet more people. Enthused for fresh inspirations, she longs to join multicultural events, collecting data and broadening her horizon.  She claims to be unique, independent and strong. She dreams and imagines a lot. “But what is love, and what is life, if you do not let yourself live?”

Please enjoy the first ever English language interview conducted with this immensely talented writer! Primadonna is not only an author of excellent books for young adults and female readers, she has also translated numerous foreign books into Indonesian including Laini Taylor’s best selling series “Dari Asap dan Tulang” (“Daughter of Smoke & Bone” #1), “Series of Unfortunate Events” by Lemony Snicket, “Pesta Prom dari Neraka” (“Prom Nights from Hell”) by Stephanie Meyer and many many others.

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The Reading Hour – 12 (un)easy questions for Primadonna Angela 

Primadonna Angela

Primadonna Angela

Vanadian Avenue: Who is Primadonna Angela? Please introduce yourself to Vanadian Avenue readers.

Primadonna Angela: Hello. I am a full time mom and freelance writer/translator/editor from Indonesia. In my spare time (when I have any!) I like cooking, doing crafts, and traveling.

Vanadian Avenue: Tell us how did you become involved in translating Helen Stringer’s popular young adult novel?

Primadonna Angela: An editor in Gramedia Pustaka Utama (GPU) asked me whether I was interested in editing (the first four-five chapters) and translating the rest of this book. She was teasing me, I think. She knew I’d be interested. I love the cover and the premise. I agreed right away.

Vanadian Avenue: “Sang Pengikat Mantra (Spellbinder)” has been released by Gramedia Pustaka Utama and we need to admit that it looks simply beautiful. How long have you been working with them?

 

Helen Stringer's book was released in April 2014 in Indonesia! The full title is "Spellbinder Sang Pengikat Mantra"                                                                    You can purchase Indonesian version here: http://www.gramediaonline.com/moreinfo.cfm?Product_ID=876554 English version is available here: http://www.amazon.com/Spellbinder-Helen-Stringer/dp/B008D6Y450/

Helen Stringer’s book was released in April 2014 in Indonesia! The full title is “Spellbinder Sang Pengikat Mantra”
You can purchase Indonesian version here:
http://www.gramediaonline.com/moreinfo.cfm?Product_ID=876554
English version is available here:
http://www.amazon.com/Spellbinder-Helen-Stringer/dp/B008D6Y450/

Primadonna Angela: I’ve been working with GPU since 2005, when I published my first book. In 2007, I began translating and editing for them.

Vanadian Avenue: You have not only translated “Spellbinder” from English into Indonesian but also served as the book’s editor. Was it hard to translate a British book so it could be understood by Indonesian readers? Was there any particular part of the book that gave you a lot of trouble?

Primadonna Angela: I think the book was easy and fun enough to translate. I had some difficulties in translating Sibyl’s prophecy, because it should be poetic and yet include clues for Belladonna’s quest.

Vanadian Avenue:  Translators sometimes take liberty when approaching a book. This happens often to fantasy literature. French version of Harry Potter moved entire action to France. Some international translations of The Hobbit implied that Middle-earth was located in Ireland. Spellbinder takes place in the United Kingdom. Did you keep the original location or names? Wasn’t it tempting to give Belladonna an Indonesian passport and spice the story a bit with some local flavour?

Primadonna Angela: Definitely not. Indonesia and UK are very different. The location is still in UK, with original names. If Belladonna was Indonesian, the storyline would be changed dramatically. An Indonesian girl would behave and think differently.

Vanadian Avenue: The world of Bella is full of mystical creatures, magic spells and artifacts with strange names (like a sword called Rod of Gram). Some things will be lost in translation, especially when the public may not be familiar with British culture or folk tales. How did you solve this ultimate dilemma?

"Kotak Mimpi" released on 29th July 2013.  Meet Larissa Isabella, a singer/song writer extraordinaire.  Left at the altar years ago by her former fiance, Patrick, Larissa concentrated on her career with music producer Arya. But when Patrick  asks Larissa to write him a song for his new love, Noreen,  Larissa is dragged into the past she thought she left behind. And who is responsible for publishing online compromising pictures of her? Pictures she  doesn't recognize and  with a man she doesn't remember!  You can buy your copy here: http://www.amazon.com/Kotak-Indonesian-Edition-Primadonna-Angela/dp/9792297774

“Kotak Mimpi” released on 29th July 2013. Meet Larissa Isabella, a singer/song writer extraordinaire. Left at the altar years ago by her former fiance Patrick, Larissa concentrated on her career with music producer Arya. But when Patrick asks Larissa to write him a song for his new love Noreen, Larissa is dragged into the past she thought she left behind. And who is responsible for publishing online compromising pictures of her? Pictures she doesn’t recognize and with a man she doesn’t even remember! You can buy your copy here: http://www.amazon.com/Kotak-Indonesian-Edition-Primadonna-Angela/dp/9792297774

Primadonna Angela: I just translated it as is. I hope Indonesian readers, upon reading about Rod of Gram and other things, would be intrigued enough to at least Google some information about British culture and folk tales.

Vanadian Avenue:  Every reader (and every translator!) has a favourite character. Whose team are you on: Belladonna’s, Steve’s or maybe Doctor Ashe’s?

Primadonna Angela: Actually, I am Team Elsie. She might seem annoying and too perky, but I find her refreshing. You can say that perhaps I see a part of myself in her.

Vanadian Avenue: “Spellbinder” is the first book in Belladonna Johnson Adventure series. The second book is entitled “Midnight Gate” and Helen Stringer just recently started writing a third one. If the Indonesian edition proves to be successful, are you willing to translate others installments as well?

Primadonna Angela: Yes, of course. It would be fun to immerse myself in Belladonna’s universe again and again.

Vanadian Avenue: You are a popular writer yourself! Your official Good Reads profile mentions that you have published many young adult and girls novels to critical acclaim. Are your books available in English?

Primadonna Angela: Unfortunately, no. All of my stories are in Indonesian. However, I did put two or three English short stories in one of my short story collection.

"Pojok Lavender", published on April 22nd 2013.  Welcome to the Lavender Cafe! The best place in town for a hot chocolate, a slice of cake, new friendships, quarrels, heartbreak and romance.  Rosemary, Lavender, Cinnamon and Cherry - four young women, four stories, four lives entwined and one place, the Lavender Cafe.  Order your copy here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17623169-pojok-lavender

“Pojok Lavender”, published on April 22nd 2013. Welcome to the Lavender Cafe! The best place in town for a hot chocolate, a slice of cake, new friendships, quarrels, heartbreak and romance. Rosemary, Lavender, Cinnamon and Cherry – four young women, four stories, four lives entwined in a single place, the Lavender Cafe. Order your copy here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17623169-pojok-lavender

Vanadian Avenue: First love, compassion, fighting against the odds and finding one’s way in the world are recurring themes in your books. Where do you find inspiration for your novels?

Primadonna Angela: This might sound cliché, but it’s true. Inspirations might come from anything. And also from my own (and my friends’) personal struggles. Sometimes I had this dream and I wrote it down. Then once or twice I overheard a conversation that piqued my interest. Maybe I read a book or some news, and I thought, hey, what if… supposing this happened like that, what would happen? See, when you’re a writer, you develop this habit of filtering whatever you hear/taste/feel/see/smell into into ideas for your stories. I am lucky because I have a very trustworthy idea/writing buddy. His name is isman h. suryaman (he prefers his name to be written this way, like e.e. cummings) and he is my partner in life. He is also a writer and whenever we banter and exchange words, I am bound to get an inspiration or two. A bit about my reason to write. I was not a popular teenager. I considered myself a bit reclusive and melancholic. I had a difficult time growing up. I was different. When you are a teen, I guess you have this need to conform and be a part of the group. I never felt that I belonged anywhere. Books became my consolation. I read to escape, and to heal myself. I became a better person, more relaxed and fun, because of books. I believe in the cycle of life. I took, now is my turn to give. By writing for teenagers and young adults, I hope to humor and instill hope to them. This is just a phase, reach your dreams when you can, and believe me, things will be better if you strive for better future.

"Dunia Aradia", second edition. First Published in 2009 and published again on  May 26th 2014 by Grasindo. You can order copy here: http://www.amazon.com/Aradia-Indonesian-Edition-Primadonna-Angela/dp/602251519X

“Dunia Aradia”, second edition. First Published in 2009 and re-published again on May 26th 2014 by Grasindo. You can order copy here: http://www.amazon.com/Aradia-Indonesian-Edition-Primadonna-Angela/dp/602251519X

"Dunia Aradia" back cover. The title can be translated as  "Aradia's World".  This is a tale of a modern day witch who tries to maintain two separate lives: the one among humans where she works as a translator and the supernatural one as the Queen of the Witches. Soon she will have to make an ultimate sacrifice, but is she ready to do it?

“Dunia Aradia” back cover. The title can be translated as “Aradia’s World”. This is a tale of a modern day witch who tries to maintain two separate lives: the one among humans where she works as a translator and the supernatural one as the Queen of the Witches. Soon she will have to make an ultimate sacrifice, but is she ready to do it?

Vanadian Avenue: Indonesian book market seems to be huge. Internet groups dedicated to new releases have thousands of members yet only few Indonesian novels are available to Europeans readers. Can you name any authors that we should be on the look out for? What books in your opinions should be translated into English?

Primadonna Angela: I recommend reading books written by Ahmad Tohari. He writes about regular Indonesians and their dilemmas. His works are rich in local flavor. I believe Agustinus Wibowo’s books should be translated into English. He writes about his experiences abroad, in remote and difficult places like Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan. His books are about journey and self-discovery.

Vanadian Avenue: Any plans for the future? What are you working on now? Is there anything you’d like to tell your new European fans?

Primadonna Angela: My plan is to write more manuscripts! I have been planning to write books for children and perhaps a recipe book or two, but they are long-term projects. Right now, I am revising my newest manuscript (a fiction about friendship between an Indonesian and a Japanese), writing another book (marketed for adults), translating a book, editing a YA fantasy book, and reading proof for a YA fantasy book. I hope one day I’ll be able to write a book that European readers will enjoy!

Vanadian Avenue: Thank you very, very much for answering all those questions!

Primadonna Angela: Thank you as well 🙂

"QuertyPita" published in 2007, 2012 and recently on 15th of May 2014.  Two worlds collide: Querty is a world famous musician who wishes he was poor. Pita is a struggling young artist and she wishes to be rich. One fateful day to fall in love and a whole world of music and problems! Based on a real story (Donna's parents!)   Order your copy here: http://www.amazon.com/Query-Pita-Indonesian-Primadonna-Angela/dp/979223392X

“QuertyPita” first published in 2007, 2012 and recently re-published on 15th of May 2014. Two worlds collide: Querty is a world famous musician who wishes he was poor. Pita is a struggling young artist and she wishes to be rich. One fateful day to fall in love and a whole world of music and problems! Based on a true story (Donna’s parents!) Order your copy here: http://www.amazon.com/Query-Pita-Indonesian-Primadonna-Angela/dp/979223392X

 

Useful links:

Helen:

Official site: http://helenstringer.net/site.html
Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/hcstringer
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoQSE7pU1jrLmn93L1L8Smg
Twitter: https://twitter.com/hcstringer
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Helen-Stringer/e/B001JSFBY2
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1463193.Helen_Stringer

Primadonna:

Official Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/primadonnaangela
Official Twitter: https://twitter.com/cinnamoncherry
Official Twitter fan-club (aka “Angeliers”): https://twitter.com/angeliers_id 
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/621891.Primadonna_Angela
Wikipedia entry (in Indonesian): http://id.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primadonna_Angela
Donna’s official blog (in English): http://vervain.blogspot.co.uk/
Primadonna on Amazon! http://www.amazon.co.uk/Primadonna-Angela/e/B00J7TEK92

Writing is a family affair! Please also check out Donna’s partner, Isman H. Suryaman:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/600538.Isman_H__Suryaman
Official blog: http://the-fool-found-a.blogspot.co.uk/
Official Twitter: https://twitter.com/ismanhs

Gramedia Pustaka Utama (Publisher):

Official website: http://www.gramediapustakautama.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Gramedia
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GramediaPublisher
Spellbinder on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Gramedia/status/454177723577942016

Rita and Mal would like to thank to Gramedia Pustaka Utama for their support and assistance.
We would also like to thank Helen Stringer for her continuous hard work, and of course the lovely Primadonna Angela, the main heroine of this article – without you nothing of this would be possible.

If you’d like to contact Helen of Primadonna, please send us an email  to rdabrowicz@yahoo.com and we will pass all questions, inquiries, fan-mail and everything else to both wonderful ladies.

Have a good weekend folks,

Selamat tinggal!
xxx
Rita and Malicia Dabrowicz

The Reading Hour – 15 (un)easy questions for Jana Oliver

Greetings dear readers!

Welcome to the third edition of The Reading Hour! Yet again at the beginning, we wish to thank all viewers and readers. You are truly incredible! We seem to have more and more visitors each time we post and this is a fantastic thing. There are hundreds and hundreds of wonderful books in the world and we need to encourage more people to start reading. A good book could be a perfect medicine for wars, anger or hate. After all, it’s harder to concentrate on the negative feeling if you are in the middle of  fascinating book and you just can’t stop reading!  So book readers of the world unite and let’s spread some love for the written word, shall we?

If you have missed previous edition, please click on the links below:

Interview with Helen Stringer:
https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/the-reading-hour-helen-stringer/

Interview with Nathan P Butler:
https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/the-reading-hour-15-uneasy-questions-for-nathan-p-butler/

Our guest for today is incredible Jana Oliver, a woman of extraordinary imagination and skills. We have been reading her books for years and when she agreed to be interviewed for our blog, it felt like winning a lottery. We are sure many of our regular visitors are familiar with her books, but if you hear her name for the first time, please pay attention. Jana is one of the most popular writers in YA (young adult) category and you will be hearing a lot about her in the future!

The Demon Trappers series logo

The Demon Trappers series logo

Official bio:

Jana Oliver is an American author. Her books cross many genres, including romance/fantasy and historical mystery. An Iowa native, she currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Her Time Rovers Series is published by Dragon Moon Press, a Canadian speculative fiction publisher, and in e-book form by Nevermore Press. The series has been nominated for fifteen awards and has won twelve, including ForeWord Magazine’s Editor’s Choice Book of the Year, the first time a science fiction novel has received that honor.

Her young adult series (The Demon Trappers) is published in the US by St. Martin’s Press (THE DEMON TRAPPER’S DAUGHTER, SOUL THIEF and FORGIVEN). The series has also been published in the UK, Germany, France, Poland, Russia, Turkey and Brazil.
Jana’s happiest when she’s researching outlandish urban legends, wandering around old cemeteries and dreaming up new stories. Her latest book, Briar Rose, a dark and twisty re-telling of Sleeping Beauty, is now available in the UK and Australia.

Vanadian Avenue had a real pleasure to exchange several emails with Jana in early January 2014 . Mrs Oliver is not only funny and easy to talk to, but also very kind. We hope that you are going to enjoy reading this interview, we definitely had so much fun asking the questions!

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The Reading Hour – 15 (un)easy questions for Jana Oliver

A beautiful picture of Jana Oliver

A beautiful picture of Jana Oliver

Vanadian Avenue: At the beginning, can we ask for a short introduction for our readers. Who is Jana Oliver and how long have you been writing?

Jana Oliver: I am a multi-published author of young adult and adult fiction. I’ve been writing for sixteen years.

Vanadian Avenue: What motivates you to write? Do you have any method for avoiding writer’s blocks and retaining creativity?

Jana Oliver:I’m motivated to write because I have all these “voices” in my head and they need me to tell their stories.

I don’t usually have writer’s block because my deadlines don’t allow me that option. I do have moments where I’m not sure where the story is headed and that’s when I clean my cupboards or spend some time playing with my cat. That “downtime” often allows my brain to rethink the next scene and find the way forward.

Vanadian Avenue: What in your opinion constitutes a good book? What’s Jana’s recipe for success? Time Rovers trilogy (“Sojourn”, “Virtual Evil” and “Madman’s Dance”) has been nominated 15 times and won 12 awards. Have you ever imagined that this series would become so popular?

Jana Oliver: A good book is one that pulls the reader into a different world full of intriguing characters who need to do something to make things right. Be that a murder mystery where the bad guy has to be found before he kills again, or a fantasy novel where good and evil are at war. At the heart of the story are those characters. If you don’t feel for them, you won’t join them on their journey. That’s what makes a story you can’t put down. That’s what I aim for with every single book.

Frankly I’ve been surprised at how well my books have been received. I thought folks might like to read them, but WOW!

First book in the Demon Trappers saga entitled  Forsaken. You can buy a copy here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Demon-Trappers-Jana-Oliver/dp/0330519476

First book in the Demon Trappers saga entitled Forsaken. You can buy a copy here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Demon-Trappers-Jana-Oliver/dp/0330519476

The Demon Trappers Part Deux: Forbidden. You can purchase a copy at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Demon-Trappers-Jana-Oliver/dp/0330519484/

The Demon Trappers Part Deux: Forbidden. You can purchase a copy at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Demon-Trappers-Jana-Oliver/dp/0330519484/

Vanadian Avenue: Many authors admit that while they are usually very happy with the final versions of their books, there is always something they would like to correct. If you could change anything in any of your books, what would that be?

Jana Oliver: Not really. That doesn’t mean I don’t wish I could have written a scene better, but the stories themselves I’m good with.

Vanadian Avenue: Denver Beck and Riley Blackthorne, the main characters from The Demon Trappers series are our definitive favorites. Which one of the characters you have created is your favorite one?

Jana Oliver: I’m very fond of Grand Master Angus Stewart. He’s just such a neat guy. He’s wise, but not in a pompous way. And he’s seriously bad-ass in battle. Gotta love a dude like that.

Vanadian Avenue: Can you tell us more about “Briar Rose”? We heard it is a based on the popular Sleeping Beauty fairytale (but with a twist!)

Jana Oliver: “Briar Rose” is a twisty and dark version of Sleeping Beauty set in the South. It has vengeful Civil War ghosts, a nasty curse, clockwork wolves and a spunky heroine. I had a grand time writing that story.

Vanadian Avenue: Do you plan to write a sequel or is Briar Rose a stand-alone novel?

Jana Oliver: No sequel, it’s a standalone. That’s part of the reason it was so fun to write – I didn’t have to fret about what might be happening three books down the line.

Vanadian Avenue: Demon Trappers Series was set in Atlanta and Briar Rose is set in southeastern Georgia near Savannah. Do you find it easier to write about places you know from personal experience?

Jana Oliver: I like to visit the places where I set my books to get a feel for the area. I trudged around Atlanta to get it know it better (even though I live just outside the city). I did the same for the setting for “Briar Rose” and for my Time Rovers Books which were set in the East End of London. That personal knowledge helps make the writing easier.

Vanadian Avenue: We have to ask about the covers. They have always been visually stunning and beautifully designed. Who is responsible for them? Also, Elizabeth May, the girl featured on the covers for The Demon Trapper series, has just released her debut novel – “The Falconer”! Aren’t you afraid that the girl featured on the Briar Rose cover is going to become a writer as well? 🙂

Jana Oliver:  LOL. That would be kinda cool – my cover models go on to become successful authors. I agree, the covers have been stunning and I credit my UK publishing house (Macmillan Children’s Books) for that. My editor (Ms. Rachel) has a great eye for a striking cover and their graphic artists are really talented. The result is a really pretty book.

The Demon Trappers series part three entitled Forgiven. You can purchase a copy here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Demon-Trappers-Jana-Oliver/dp/0330519492/

The Demon Trappers series part three entitled Forgiven. You can purchase a copy here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Demon-Trappers-Jana-Oliver/dp/0330519492/

The last book in the series is called Foretold. Order your copy at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Demon-Trappers-Jana-Oliver/dp/1447216067/

The last book in the series is called Foretold. Order your copy at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Demon-Trappers-Jana-Oliver/dp/1447216067/

Elizabeth  May, the face of Riley Anora Blackthorne. More information about Elizabeth's book Falconer can be found at: www.elizabethmaywrites.com

Elizabeth May, the face of Riley Anora Blackthorne. More information about Elizabeth’s book Falconer can be found at: http://www.elizabethmaywrites.com

Vanadian Avenue:  It came as a bit of surprise for your readers, but recently you have published another book – “Tangled Souls”. You mentioned in a recent interview that it took you nearly 10 years to finish it.

Jana Oliver: “Tangled Souls” is an adult paranormal romance I wrote way back when. Over the years I’d fuss with it, then set it aside as other (paid) projects gained precedence. I finally decided to get it done and out there. I’m working on the companion book to it (the sister’s story, yet untitled) at the moment. It’s been in the works since 1998. Hopefully it’ll be published sometime this year.

Vanadian Avenue: Fantasy and paranormal elements play a big role in your books. However, your characters have to deal with everyday difficulties more often than with supernatural beings. Lack of prospects, family tragedies, economical crisis, unemployment – your vision of America is dark and scarily realistic!

Jana Oliver: One of the ways to have believable characters is to give them real problems. Even superheroes need personal issues, so my folks have financial concerns, dating dilemmas, big decisions to make. Sometimes they make the right decisions, sometimes not. Either way, they have to live with the consequences. I’m not fond of characters who seem to be able to handle everything thrown at them. That’s not the way it works. I want characters who screw up every now and then. Then I can relate to them. Big time.

Vanadian Avenue: Tell us about your future projects. What can we expect from you in 2014?

Jana Oliver: Besides that companion book I spoke of earlier, I’m looking forward to writing another YA novel or two. My editor and I are discussing that at present so I’m hoping to have some good news on that front very soon.

Vanadian Avenue: Famous last words – anything you’d like to tell your readers?

Jana Oliver: You guys rock. Thank you for reading my stories!

Vanadian Avenue: Thank you so much for answering our questions!

Jana Oliver: My pleasure. Thank you.

Front cover of Grave Matters - Demon Series novella. You can purchase it here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Grave-Matters-Demon-Trappers-Novella/dp/0970449089

Front cover of Grave Matters – Demon Series novella. You can purchase it here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Grave-Matters-Demon-Trappers-Novella/dp/0970449089

Great book with a great cover - Briar Rose can be ordered here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Briar-Rose-Jana-Oliver/dp/1447241096/

Great book with a great cover – Briar Rose can be ordered here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Briar-Rose-Jana-Oliver/dp/1447241096/

Useful links about Jana:

Official site: http://www.janaoliver.com
Official site for Demon Trapper series:
http://www.demontrappers.co.uk
http://www.demontrappers.com
Official site for Time Rovers series: http://www.timerovers.com
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jana_Oliver

Official Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JanaOliver
Jana’s personal profile: https://www.facebook.com/jana.oliver.754
Official Twitter: https://twitter.com/crazyauthorgirl

GoodReads:
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4105961.Jana_Oliver
Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jana-G.-Oliver/e/B001K7LIR6

Jana Oliver is represented by Meredith Bernstein. Please contact her at:
Meredith Bernstein Literary Agency
2095 Broadway, Suite 505
New York, NY 10023

St. Martin’s Press (Publisher): http://us.macmillan.com/author/janaoliver

Malicia and Rita would like to thank Jana and her assistant, Chris Jasper for their help and assistance. You are truly wonderful! Thank you very, very much.

If you have any questions regarding Jana’s interview, her plans or books, please drop us a line at rdabrowicz@yahoo.com
We will try to answer all fan mail or pass any information to the author.

Have a lovely day!
XXX
Rita and Mal

The Reading Hour – 15 (un)easy questions for Nathan P Butler

Good day book lovers!

Welcome again to The Reading Hour. We need to thank all of you who visited our blog and read theinterview with incredible Helen Stringer! We have received a lot of attention from s-f and Young Adults readers on both sides of the Atlantic and we are incredibly proud. If anybody tells you that dystopian or s-f literature is no longer popular, don’t believe  a single word they say. We know better and have excellent blog stats to prove that.

If you have missed our talk with Helen, please click on the link below:
https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2014/03/12/the-reading-hour-helen-stringer/

Today, our guest is Nathan P Butler, a popular s-f writer and a living legend in Star Wars fandom!

Official bio:

Nathan P. Butler is a high school teacher by profession. He graduated from University of Evansville in southern Indiana with a BS in Secondary Education in 2002 and soon began teaching in the Atlanta Metro area. In 2009, he completed graduate work through Walden University and earned a MS in Education with a specialization in Integrating Technology in the Classroom. He is also certified by the College Board to teach their Advanced Placement World History course. However, Butler is best known as the writer of the Star Wars story Equals and Opposites (2004) in Dark Horse Comics’ Star Wars Tales, which has been reprinted in collected form and also released with two action figures, based on the story, through Hasbro. He has also made other contributions to the Star Wars mythos, most notably including the development of in-universe dates for several historical maps in Star Wars: The Essential Atlas by Daniel Wallace and Jason Fry. In 2009, Butler joined Grail Quest Books to write two Earther faction novellas (Healers and Hunters and On Red Soil) for the WARS: The Battle of Phobos series, based on the Decipher, Inc. science fiction property. In 2006 and 2009, Butler self-published the original versions of his novella Echoes and the Greater Good novel. Beginning in 2011, new editions were developed for both, and they are now seeing professional release through Grail Quest Books. Originally from Evansville, Indiana, he now lives in the Atlanta area with his wife and a fellow sci-fi fan, Jodi and two cats. When not writing, he teaches Advanced Placement World History and regular World History at Creekside High School in Fairburn, Georgia.

We have interviewed Nathan especially for our blog in October 2013. Enjoy!

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The Reading Hour – 15 (un)easy questions for Nathan P Butler

Nathan P Butler looking very professional

Nathan P Butler looking very professional

Vanadian Avenue: Your name is known far and wide in the Galaxy Far Away but please introduce yourself to our readers.

Nathan P Butler:  I’m Nathan P. Butler. By profession, I’m a high school Social Studies teacher in the Atlanta area and a freelance science fiction writer, having published works through Dark Horse Comics and Grail Quest Books. I am also an avid Star Wars fan, having produced the Star Wars Timeline Project (now the Star Wars Timeline Gold) since 1997, having hosted (and currently hosting) Star Wars podcasts since 2002, and now moving into several new YouTube video series on the subject. I also run the Star Wars fan audio “hub” site StarWarsFanworks.com.

Vanadian Avenue: A question everybody wants to ask: How would someone become a Star Wars writer? What do you have to do for LucasArts to approach you with an offer to write a SW book?

Nathan P Butler:  I am probably not the best person to answer this because, frankly, my experience was a fluke. I had been working on my Star Wars timeline document online for about seven years and had been a Star Wars podcaster for two years or so when I had the chance to write for Star Wars Tales in 2004. It was one of the few times in the history of Star Wars publishing that a publication was given leeway to go with writers who were untested and not necessarily previously published. Jeremy Barlow, the Associate Editor of the Star Wars line for Dark Horse Comics at the time, had seen my timeline and either heard or heard of my podcast and fan-made Star Wars audio dramas and felt that I was a good fit to write a short tale for that anthology series. Probably the one part of my experience that is similar to most writers is that you have to be “invited to the party.” You cannot actively submit works or seek the opportunity to write for Star Wars; they have to come to you. That would also include my later chances to impact the saga, such as being asked to assist Jason Fry and Daniel Wallace on some material for the Star Wars Essential Atlas and the like. I was simply very lucky or blessed to be in the right place at the right time.

Star Wars Tales, Volume 6 (released on January 25th 2006), featuring Nathan's "Equals and Opposites," which pits Kyle Katarn and Jan Ors (in their first comic appearance) against the Yuuzhan Vong. This trade paperback includes issues 21 - 24 of the original series.

Star Wars Tales, Volume 6 released on January 25th 2006, featuring Nathan’s “Equals and Opposites,” which pits Kyle Katarn and Jan Ors (in their first comic appearance) against the Yuuzhan Vong. This trade paperback includes issues 21 – 24 of the original series.

Star Wars Tales Volume 6 promotional poster drawn by Tsueno Sanada.

Star Wars Tales Volume 6 promotional poster drawn by Tsueno Sanada.

Vanadian Avenue: How long did it take you to write “Equals & Opposites”? Was it hard to come up with a storyline?

Nathan P Butler: The story pitch was made in March 2004, and the final approved script with all Dark Horse and Lucasfilm edits and such worked in was ready about two months later. Granted, I believe that Jeremy had a bit more leeway with me, given my inexperience at the time, so I had more opportunities for feedback and a dialogue with Jeremy than I would imagine a more seasoned writer would have had. He definitely was there to make sure it was a smooth process. As for coming up with the story, there were actually a couple of different pitches that emerged. One that focused on the Yuuzhan Vong War and briefly included Kyle Katarn and Jan Ors eventually became, through discussions with Jeremy and feedback from Lucasfilm, a story that was more personal for Kyle and Jan. The real heart of the story for me, though, was based on some feedback that was received. I was not allowed to make Kyle and Jan a married couple in the story, which was a bit of a surprise, given how many longtime Star Wars partnerships become married couples. That quickly became the focus of the banter and character development for the pair in the story, with the Vong encounter surrounding it as its context, though not its core.

Vanadian Avenue: Having a Star Wars character named after yourself is a dream come true for every fan. What was your reaction when you learnt that Jeremy Barlow created Krono Relt to honor you?

Nathan P Butler:  I was quite excited, as one might expect. I actually had no idea that was the case until Jeremy told me and explained the name’s origins: “Krono” from ChronoRadio (my first podcast) and “Relt” from the last four letters of my surname spelled backward. I was even more stoked when, as a sort of congratulations for finishing the writing process, he sent me a signed copy of that issue (Empire #13), which was his own first Star Wars comic writing experience, I believe.

Vanadian Avenue: With such enormous universe, Star Wars has many plot (black) holes and non canon endings. Every writer has their own way to cover up mistakes in the storyline. What are your tricks to unified Star Wars history?

Nathan P Butler: That depends on what perspective we’re coming from. If the issue is how to consider it all to be one unified history without errors, then I’d have to say that I simply don’t consider it to be such a thing. There are certainly plenty of contradictions, intentional and unintentional, especially as Lucas re-entered the saga, circa 1999 – 2005 and 2008 – 2013. As for how to keep it all straight for my Star Wars Timeline Gold, I think the key is intellectual honesty. Take at face value what we are told is the case, work in the retcons as they are explained or released, ask questions when necessary, and just roll with the punches. If a contradiction exists, note it and move on. One thing that I feel strongly about is that fans should not just make up stuff as we go along to fit things together. That isn’t “canon” it’s “fanon” and it has no bearing on the official Star Wars universe.

Vanadian Avenue: Let’s play favorites: who is your favorite character in Star Wars and why? You can choose one character from the movies and one from the books.

Nathan P Butler: My personal favorite is Cade Skywalker, the protagonist of the first Star Wars: Legacy comic series by John Ostrander and Jan Duursema. Cade is a descendant of Luke Skywalker, who is an adult in an era over 130 years after Return of the Jedi. With a new Sith Order having again wiped out most of the Jedi Order and solidified an Empire over much of the galaxy, Cade is a Skywalker on the run from his past when we meet him. He is a bounty hunter, raised in part by Jedi but later by pirates, and he is a drug addict, using “deathsticks” to try to shut out the Force. His story is one about reclaiming one’s identity, truly choosing between Light and Dark when both seem viable options at times, and one of finding selflessness in a character who had fallen into selfishness. One of his most repeated lines, “We take what is given,” is a mantra that I think all of us could benefit from acknowledging in our everyday lives.

Nathan's original novel entitled "Greater Good"

Nathan’s original novel entitled “Greater Good”

Back of Greater Good novel. You can purchase a copy at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Greater-Good-Nathan-P-Butler/dp/0983548811

Back of Greater Good novel. You can purchase a copy at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Greater-Good-Nathan-P-Butler/dp/0983548811

Vanadian Avenue: Is there a Star Wars character you would never write about? The fan base is not particularly kind to Jar Jar Binks. Name one character you would love to have crossed – out of the Extended Universe once and for all.

Nathan P Butler: There are certainly plenty of characters that we’ve grown to dislike over the years. I would love to see Jar Jar toned down in the films, though he works as the “fool” character for The Clone Wars and in how he is manipulated in Attack of the Clones. If I had to choose one character, it would probably have to be Waru the “anti-Force being” from The Crystal Star. If I could choose a performance, it’d be B.J. Hughes voice acting as Jar Jar Binks before Ahmed Best returned to the role. If I could choose a group of characters, I’d love to see the characterizations of the Ewoks from the second season of that cartoon series entirely wiped from existence in favor of their personalities in the first season – before their souls were removed, so to speak.

Vanadian Avenue: Your expert knowledge about chronology and events within Star Wars Extended Universe is legendary. You have served as an advisor for many other writers and even developed in-universe digital calendar for “Star Wars: The Essential Atlas” written by Daniel Wallace and Jason Fry. Can you could give us some examples of the worst crimes against the canon chronology ever committed that you managed to find?

Nathan P Butler: In recent memory, the Coruscant Nights books come to mind. Repeatedly in that series, the author(s) managed to foul up the dates of Michael Reaves’ previous novel, Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter, and the dates of the prequels in relation to that novel. The entire climax of the third novel, Patterns of Force, relies on the idea that a substance carried around since the Clone Wars has basically spoiled in the decade(s) since the conflict. But . . . it hasn’t been decades, or even years. It has been a matter of months instead. The co-author of the latter books in that line has also continued to claim in interviews that a character that was gravely injured in a Coruscant Nights book did, in fact, die, despite that character showing up later in Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor, very much alive. Usually, though, the biggest continuity headaches come from Lucas himself. He played his cards close to the chest before creating the Prequel Trilogy, so things like Jedi not being able to marry, Greedo’s Prequel-era appearances, and such were things that contradicted previous Expanded Universe materials that had been created before knowing about these ideas from Lucas. The biggest issue of this kind came with the recent The Clone Wars cartoon series. Lucas let Dark Horse, Del Rey, LucasArts, and others fill in the era of the Clone Wars in a very intricate, often week-to-week, storyline, only to come back three years later and say, “Oh, I’m going to create a new TV show that takes place in this era, so move aside!” The continuity chaos created by The Clone Wars has created some irreconcilable issues in that era, and, at present, there are apparently no plans to try to fully integrate the 2002 – 2007 and 2008+ versions of that era into one coherent timeline. Granted, Lucas has every right to re-enter and expand upon his own saga, and it is the peril of any licensed work author to know that their stories could be wiped out at any time if the power behind it all were to exert itself again, but however we look at it, it is the biggest continuity train wreck the saga has ever seen.

Front cover of Wars: The Battle of Phobos (Vol.1) - Preludes

Front cover of Wars: The Battle of Phobos (Vol.1) – Preludes

Back cover of Wars: The Battle of Phobos (Vol.1) - Preludes . You can purchase a copy at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wars-Battle-Phobos-Vol-1-Preludes/dp/0983548803

Back cover of Wars: The Battle of Phobos (Vol.1) – Preludes . You can purchase a copy at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wars-Battle-Phobos-Vol-1-Preludes/dp/0983548803

Vanadian Avenue: Star Wars is not just another complete universe – it’s a pop cultural phenomenon. We suppose there is a pressure on writers regarding new story lines. If you have ever experienced it either from publishers or the fans, would you like to speak about it?

Nathan P Butler: Personally, I did not feel it much, other than knowing that fans had been wanting the Yuuzhan Vong and Kyle Katarn in comics for a while, and I’d be the one bringing them into that arena with the story. In a lot of ways, though, I’d imagine that writing a Star Wars story is both a blessing and a curse for a novelist or someone embarking on a full comic series. On the one hand, your name becomes instantly known, and you sell quite a lot of copies based on the Star Wars name alone. On the other hand, your work will be fodder for snarky reviewers out in the fandom community like me, which is not always a pretty sight.

Vanadian Avenue: You are the driving force and the main writer behind Star Wars Timeline Gold. Can you tell us more about this project?

Nathan P Butler: The SWT-G is a massive Star Wars chronology document (or set of documents, as it is now four PDF files) that chronicles the saga in the most comprehensive format currently available anywhere. It began as a small document for my own use, started to be released online in late 1997, and has grown by leaps and bounds since. The last edition (August 2013) came in at 2,459 pages between the four documents. If you’re looking for Star Wars chronological information or a comprehensive history of that universe, it’s where to look.

Vanadian Avenue: Outside of your work for Star Wars, you have also released an original novel entitled “Greater Good” and WARS: The Battle of Phobos novella through Grail Quest Books. Where can we buy them?

Nathan P Butler: Greater Good, my sci-fi thriller of time travel and telepaths/telekinetic can be found in paperback through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, though the best place (if you want to support Grail Quest Books and me directly) is to order through MiddleEarthShop.com. Greater Good is also in ebook format for Kindle and Nook. WARS: The Battle of Phobos is a nine-novella series that is still ongoing, for which I wrote two novellas: Healers and Hunters, then On Red Soil. Both are available as an ebook for Nook and Kindle, and they are each one of three collected novellas in the paperback WARS: The Battle of Phobos, Vol. 1: Preludes and Vol. 2: Stretti, respectively. These are also available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, though more supportive if picked up through MiddleEarthShop.com.

Vanadian Avenue: Audio dramas seem to be another hobby of yours. You have produced many Star Wars related dramas as well as original ones since 2002. What’s so fascinating about them?

Nathan P Butler: I personally enjoy the freedom that the medium provides. While you are limited by being in an audio-only medium, you are also not limited by things like special effects budgets or the kind of considerations necessary in trying to produce film projects. With good voice actors and a nice library of music and sound effects, you can create an engaging audio drama with team members all over the world. In fact, it was the desire to produce an unpredictable, high-end fan film script that led to the production of my first (and the first in online Star Wars fandom) audio drama, Star Wars: Second Strike.

Front cover of WARS: The Battle of Phobos (Vol.2) - Stretti

Front cover of WARS: The Battle of Phobos (Vol.2) – Stretti

Back cover of WARS: The Battle of Phobos (Vol.2) - Stretti You can purchase a copy at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/WARS-Battle-Phobos-Vol-2-Stretti/dp/0615798543

Back cover of WARS: The Battle of Phobos (Vol.2) – Stretti You can purchase a copy at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/WARS-Battle-Phobos-Vol-2-Stretti/dp/0615798543

Vanadian Avenue: What exactly is www.starwarsfanworks.com? How varied and well organized is the audiodrama community on the internet?

Nathan P Butler: It started as a sort of go-to directory and feature site for the Star Wars fan audio community when it was just getting off the ground in 2003. Today, it acts as a directory page to help people find Star Wars podcasts, past and present, small and large, along with audio dramas and audio parodies (that is, parody stories, not musical parodies). Originally, the community based around Star Wars fan audio was fairly cohesive, but as podcasting has become a much bigger part of our culture, it has expanded and integrated into that broader podcasting community to the extent that it isn’t often a cohesive whole so much as just a lot of networking between people interested in the same general subjects and franchises.

Vanadian Avenue: Nathan, you are also a teacher and author of educational podcasts for students in Economics, United States History and World History. Does your experience as a writer and producer come handy in the class room?

Nathan P Butler: I’m not sure that the writing and producing has very often, but the podcasting has come in handy. I have created podcast study guides for World History, Economics, and United States History, based on the Georgia Performance Standards that are now used across the state. I also find that podcasting has helped me as a communicator, which I’d like to think makes me more engaging and clear in classroom lessons.

Vanadian Avenue: Any plans for the future? What can we expect from you in the next months to come?

Nathan P Butler:  Writing-wise, I am not really in a position to do much at the moment, as I’m teaching three different kinds of classes every day, recently married, and juggling a lot of work and financial responsibilities at the moment. What remain on my plate right now is the fandom projects, which are stress relief to me. So, fans that are following my YouTube channel will see more of my From the Star Wars Library video series and its spinoff, From the Star Wars Home Video Library. New editions of the Star Wars Timeline Gold will continue to be released each year. More often than either of those, fans can keep up with my podcasting. I continue to host Star Wars Beyond the Films at StarWarsReport.com with Mark Hurliman with new episodes each week, and we are awaiting an upcoming release of our The Clone Wars film retrospective review on Republic Forces Radio Network to announce the future of that team in relation to the potential of covering Star Wars: Rebels in the future. Big announcements are coming in that regard, but nothing I can reveal prior to that episode’s release. It’s all good things, I’m inclined to say, but I’m biased on the subject, of course.

Vanadian Avenue: We are much obliged! Thank you for your time.

Nathan P Butler:  My pleasure. Thank you.

Cover of Healers and Hunters (WARS: The Battle of Phobos - Earthers, Part 1 of 3) You can purchase a copy at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Healers-Hunters-WARS-Battle-Earthers-ebook/dp/B004MPRAJ8

Cover of Healers and Hunters (WARS: The Battle of Phobos – Earthers, Part 1 of 3) You can purchase a copy at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Healers-Hunters-WARS-Battle-Earthers-ebook/dp/B004MPRAJ8

Cover of On Red Soil (WARS: The Battle of Phobos - Earthers, Part 2 of 3) You can purchase a copy  at:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/On-Red-Soil-WARS-Earthers-ebook/dp/B0078JDDF0

Cover of On Red Soil (WARS: The Battle of Phobos – Earthers, Part 2 of 3) You can purchase a copy at: http://www.amazon.co.uk/On-Red-Soil-WARS-Earthers-ebook/dp/B0078JDDF0

Useful links about Nathan:

Official site: http://www.nathanpbutler.com/
Official Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nathanpbutlerauthor
Star Wars Fan Works: http://www.starwarsfanworks.com/
Official Twitter:  https://twitter.com/swfanworks

Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2885637.Nathan_P_Butler

Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Greater-Good-Nathan-P-Butler/dp/0983548811/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1395250670&sr=8-1&keywords=greater+good+nathan+p.+butler

Grail Quest Books (Publisher):
http://grailquestbooks.mymiddleearth.com/2011/06/01/wars-the-battle-of-phobos-volume-1-preludes/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WARSUniverse

Wookiepedia bio: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Nathan_Butler

ATTENTION PLEASE!
Dear Readers.  If you are  Star Wars fans and have enjoyed Nathan contribution to the Extended Universe and  SW Fandom, would you kindly consider helping him out in really difficult times? Nathan’s beloved wife, Jodi is very ill and they need financial assistance. Living in Europe, we have access to free  state health care and we consider it not a benefit but our constitutional right. However, things are different in America. The statistics say that nearly 50 million of people have no medical insurance of any kind and are forced to pay horrendous amounts of money for scans or tests.  This is what happened to Jodi.  Vanadian Avenue crew, Nathan and Jodi will be forever grateful for your kindness. Every little helps, guys – if you are not able to donate, please order a book or just pass the word around. A big thank you for your assistance. Jodi’s medical fund link can be found here:

http://www.gofundme.com/6cz5l4

Have a lovely day and please return shortly as The Reading Hour will be back sooner than you think!
XXX
Rita and Mal

****** 24.03.2014******

We have something über – cool to announce! Our friends at Malta Comic Con featured interview with Nathan on their website and linked back to us. This story is now featured promptly on Comic Con website in the news section. You can check the screenshots below:

Malta Comic Con website as seen on March 24, 2014

Malta Comic Con website as seen on March 24, 2014

 

Malta Comic Con website feature  as seen on March 24, 2014

Malta Comic Con website feature as seen on March 24, 2014

 

 

or follow the direct URL here:

http://maltacomic-con.com/post/640/an-interview-with-star-wars-writer-nathan-p-butler

You can also follow Malta Comic Con on their Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Malta-Comic-Con/193667083985578

We don’t have to tell you how excited and happy we are! Thank you guys and comics lovers of the world unite!

Mal+Rita

 

The Reading Hour – Helen Stringer

Welcome again everybody!

Have you noticed that Vanadian Avenue is changing rapidly? Our blog is maturing and we are not afraid to introduce more and more new topic to our readers. Last month, we have created a new section dedicated to our travel and playfully named it ” One castle  a day”.  Today, we would like to invite  you  to take a look at yet another column: The Reading Hour.

The Reading Hour  will be dedicated to books and writing. As we have mentioned many times on our blog, Mal and Rita have been writing professionally for years, having our articles published in magazines, on CD’s and online. What we have failed to tell you, is that we also have been creating our own stories, writing novels and novellas since the first grade. Sadly, we have never found an agent and  never published anything in traditional form, but who knows, things might change next year! There are some works in progress, one fantasy themed, one dystopian and maybe, just maybe, if we are lucky enough, you may find something written by us in Barnes and Noble 🙂

Since we are addicted to books and have several published writers as close friends, we thought that interviewing them would be a perfect start for The Reading Hour.  Helen Stringer, a popular YA author, became  our first victim and  she was forced to answer 14 very strange questions we gave her.

We have written about Helen nearly two years ago when she visited UK during her book tour promoting “The Midnight Gate”. Helen has been extremely busy in the last 24 months: she has released another book entitled “Paradigm”, got involved in the making of the supernatural drama “The Gloaming” and currently works on her third book in Belladonna Johnson Adventures series.

You can find  the review from her book tour  here: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/a-day-with-helen-stringer

Now ladies and gents, have fun reading!

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The Reading Hour: 14 (un) easy questions for Helen Stringer

Helen Stringer and  the American cover of the "Spellbinder" novel (aka The Last Ghost in the UK)

Helen Stringer and the American cover of the “Spellbinder” novel (aka The Last Ghost in the UK)

Vanadian Avenue:  Do you remember your first short story or book you have ever written? What was it about and how old were you?

Helen Stringer: I can’t remember the first ones. I was always telling stories to my sister. She’s only 15 months younger than me and we shared a room. I also had a vast collection of Barbie dolls whose sole function was to act out my stories (they were usually hair-raising adventures that involved a high body count). I do remember telling my sister that there was an evil genie that lived in the toilet, and if you didn’t get out fast enough after you flushed, it would jump out and pull you down. Scared the living daylights out of her.

Vanadian Avenue: Paranormal, s-f, fantasy, ghost stories, young adult – your books are not easy to qualify. This is your chance to tell us what literary label is the correct one.

Helen Stringer: It really depends on the book. Spellbinder, Midnight Gate and The Blood Binding were middle-grade fantasy (the US term “middle-grade” refers to readers from about 10-13). Paradigm is science fiction aimed at the teen market, which would make it YA, although lots of adults seem to enjoy it too.

Vanadian Avenue:  Imagine your home library is on fire and you only have time to save three books. Which books would you choose and why?

Helen Stringer: What a dreadful thought! I would definitely save Pride and Prejudice. I never tire of reading it, it’s just so well-written and such a great observation of human behaviour. When books continue to enchant generations of readers hundreds of years after they were originally written, it’s generally because there is something universal in the characters. I’d also save Macbeth for the same reason. It’s my favourite Shakespeare play, by far. The final one would probably be Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep. A lot of people think his books are just pulp detective tales, but there is so much more to them than that.

Vanadian Avenue: You made your official debut with “The Last Ghost” (also known as “The Spellbinder”), the first book in Belladonna Johnson Adventures series. Belladonna is not your typical heroine: she not only talks to ghosts but also lives with them…

British cover of  The Last Ghost

British cover of The Last Ghost

British cover of The Midnight Gate

British cover of The Midnight Gate

Helen Stringer: Yes. I wanted to do something different with the ghost story – create a character for whom they were not only real, but comforting. Belladonna’s parents died in a car crash a year before the action of the first book begins. But what could have been a tragedy is just a re-adjustment for Belladonna because her parents are still there, at home, looking after her. The only difference is that they can’t leave the house (ghosts have to choose a place to haunt), which forces Belladonna to be more independent. She’s also shy and somewhat introverted, never quite sure who is alive and who is a ghost. The kind of girl who keeps her head down and tries not to attract attention. When the ghosts all disappear and she realizes that she is the Spellbinder, she discovers a strength in herself that she didn’t realize was there. Of course, the fact that she is forced to work with Steve Evans, her opposite in almost every way, helps her find the confidence that she needs to defeat Dr. Ashe.

Vanadian Avenue:  Both “The Last ghost” and “The Midnight Gate” received wonderful reviews. Is there going to be a book three in the series? Will Belladonna ever find an arch enemy, somebody like Draco Malfoy to Harry Potter?

Helen Stringer: There is going to be a third book. It’s tentatively titled “The Lost Lands,” but that will probably change.  I’m three chapters in, so there’s a way to go yet! Belladonna does have an archenemy, but she doesn’t know it yet. (It’s not Sophie Warren, though.)

Vanadian Avenue: Your books are often mentioned alongside Jana Oliver (“Demon Trappers” saga), Holy Black (“Spiderwick Chronicles”), Tony Diterlizzi (“Wondla” saga), Frederic S Durbin (“Dragonfly”) and Jasper Fforde (The Dragonslayer series), as prime examples of literature that mixes magic with modern times. Did you expect this form of fantasy story telling to gather so much following and fanbase?

Helen Stringer: Fantasy stories have been a staple of children’s literature for well over 100 years, but we do seem to be in the middle of a “golden age.” I read lots of them when I was young. My favourite author back then was Alan Garner. His stories were darker and had more of an air of menace than many others. Most of them were set in and around Manchester as well, so he was writing about a world I recognized. I try to do the same with the Spellbinder books, which are also set in the north west of England.

Vanadian Avenue:  Let us mention two other great writers – Y S Lee (“The Agency” series) and Trenton Lee Steward (“Mysterious Benedict Society”) who base their novels around strong female characters. Belladonna, Elsie, Alma, Carolyn – your female characters are equally smart and self-reliant despite being young or adult, good or bad. How important is it for you to have strong female characters in a book?

Helen Stringer: It’s very important. When I was growing up, there were very few strong female characters in children’s fiction. The girls in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe series spent an awful lot of time crying and being nurturing. Alan Garner’s heroines had a bit more spunk, but it’s only relatively recently that really strong female characters appeared, who drove the story, rather than followed it. When I was young, my heroine was Elizabeth I – a woman who was fearsome indeed!

Vanadian Avenue: We have to admit that your newest book came as a huge surprise to your fans. “Paradigm” is completely different from everything else you have written so far – it is much more complex, darker and self published!

Helen Stringer: I wanted to go somewhere else for a while. Away from children and more towards the adults they might become. I’m also very interested in things like climate change, fracking, oil exploration, and all the other things that are affecting our planet. In most dystopian worlds, the collapse is the result of a single event, but I’ve always thought that our self-destruction would be slow and many-faceted. The result of negligence more than anything else. It is self-published, not because of any of those things, but because the traditional publishing industry is locked into the idea that “boys over the age of 12 don’t read” (that’s in quotation marks because that is exactly the way one agent put it to me in an email). As a result, they don’t want male protagonists in books aimed at older kids. It was even suggested that I turn Sam into Samantha! I was gobsmacked, really – an industry that is already struggling just giving up on an entire gender! Apart from the fact that if Sam became Samantha, then Alma would have to become a guy, and we’d have that same-old-same-old relationship dynamic that we’ve seen a thousand times before.

Paradigm cover

Paradigm cover

Stack of books - do you have a copy yet?

Stack of books – do you have a copy yet?

Vanadian Avenue: Tell us more about Sam – you gave him very unique talents and a classic car! Was writing about a male leading character any different or harder than before?

Helen Stringer: Not really. I was in rock bands when I was younger and then went to film school, both things that are dominated by guys. So I’ve not only been around them, I’ve also been a genuine friend (as opposed to interacting only in a sexual/attraction situation). I’ve seen how they behave together, how they often conceal their real thoughts and feelings, and what lengths they’ll go to in an effort to maintain an outward bravado while dying inside, particularly when they’re younger.

Vanadian Avenue: Is it true that you filmed a live action book trailer for “Paradigm” with entire filming crew and actors in California? Is so, where can we see it?

Helen Stringer: Yes. I want the trailer to be more like a movie trailer, so we spent three days in LA shooting entire scenes from the book, then an additional day back up in the Bay Area shooting the fabulous ’68 Pontiac GTO. It belongs to a guy who restored it from the ground up and the result is just gorgeous. I haven’t finished editing the trailer yet, but I’ll let know as soon as it is available.

Paradigm trailer clapperboard - picture by Katie Ferguson

Paradigm trailer clapperboard – picture by Katie Ferguson

Paradigm trailer being shot in the California desert - we love the red GTO!

Paradigm trailer being shot in the California desert – we love the red GTO!

Greg Albanetti as Sam and camera. Helen's favourite picture taken by wonderful photographer Katie Ferguson

Greg Albanetti as Sam and camera. Helen’s favourite picture taken by wonderful photographer Katie Ferguson

Vanadian Avenue: “Paradigm” is an excellent stand alone publication but it could also be the beginning of a new series for young adults. Are we going to see Sam again? Do you plan on creating a sequel?

Helen Stringer: It was supposed to be stand-alone, but a lot of people have been telling me they want to know what happens to Sam next. I’m thinking of taking him to the East Coast…which will be largely underwater and raining almost constantly.

Vanadian Avenue: Your next project is entitled “The Gloaming” but it is not a book. Can you tell us more?

Helen Stringer: The Gloaming is another ghost story, but the audience is adults not children, and I’ve decided to produce it as a six-episode web series, instead of as a book. The reason for that is that the more I thought about the story, the more I saw it playing out in my head like a movie. The story is about a man who has been in a coma for over 30 years. He’s in a long term care hospital, but no one ever visits. The only other person in the room is his ghost, Alex, who looks the same age he was when he had the accident. Alex can’t move on until the man in the bed dies. But he doesn’t die. He is suddenly occupied by something that has broken through the dimensional barrier and wakes up. A side effect of this is that the young ghost becomes corporeal again – so now there are two of him, an old version and a young version, only the old version isn’t really him. Alex runs and discovers that even though he’s alive again, he can still see all the ghosts. Now he has to learn to live in a world that’s changed almost beyond recognition from the one he knew, as well as discover what has taken his old body.

Vanadian Avenue: For Kickstarter campaign, you managed to gather an impressive group of collaborators including actress Tinkabell Lovelace, Josef Richardson (FX specialist) and writer David Jackson. Can you explain our readers how the campaign works and what the final product will be like?

Helen Stringer: The first thing we had to do was break down the script and create a realistic budget for the series. Then we had to shoot a video of me explaining what we’re trying to achieve, and anything else that would help people understand the story. That included the lead actor, Greg Albanetti, reading the opening chapter of The Gloaming that I wrote when I was still considering writing it as a book, and a mock-up of the title sequence. Once we’d done that we had to come up with rewards for people who pledge money.

The way that Kickstarter works is that when people are interested in being a part of a project, they pledge money toward the total budget. The money is not charged – it’s held by Amazon Bank until the full amount is raised. If we fail to raise the full amount by November 17th, the production doesn’t get any money and nobody’s card is charged. This system was designed to give the backers confidence that projects they back will actually get produced. Then there are the rewards! There are all kinds of thank you gifts for people who pledge $5 or more, including bookmarks, autographed scripts and books, a personalized ghoulish screensaver, visits to the set while we’re shooting, and even a dinner and séance at LA’s legendary Magic Castle. We were recently able to add an extra reward for everyone who pledges $25 or more: a limited edition Gloaming poster created by Marvel and DC illustrator, Bob Wakelin.

Logo used For Gloaming Kickstarter Campaign. The project is now being rewritten and  being prepared for re-launch

Logo used For Gloaming Kickstarter Campaign. The project is now being rewritten and  prepared for re-launch

The Gloaming series photo-shoot: Tinkabell Lovelace (as Veronica)  and Greg Albanetti (as Alex). Picture by Eric Staniford

The Gloaming series photo-shoot: Tinkabell Lovelace (as Veronica) and Greg Albanetti (as Alex). Picture by Eric Staniford

Vanadian Avenue: Is there anything you’d like to tell to your readers and fans? Any other plans for the future?

Helen Stringer: I think I should let all the fans of the Spellbinder books that Belladonna and Steve will be having another adventure soon – I’ve started the third book in the series: “The Lost Lands.” This one was inspired by British legends about mysterious islands that appear and disappear off the coast, and we’ll discover more about Belladonna’s Aunt, the Wild Hunt, Steve’s real mother, and what effect that little piece of Darkness will have on Belladonna.

Vanadian Avenue: Thank you so much for answering our questions and good luck!

Helen Stringer: Thank you!

Useful links about Helen:

HELEN:

Official site: http://www.helenstringer.net/Official Blog: http://helenstringer.net/blog/
Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/hcstringer
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Helen-Stringer/21494907202081
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoQSE7pU1jrLmn93L1L8Smg
Twitter: https://twitter.com/hcstringer

WRITING:
MacMillan (publisher): http://us.macmillan.com/spellbinder-1/HelenStringer
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1463193.Helen_
Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Helen-Stringer/e/B001JSFBY2/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

PARADIGM:
Official website:
http://helenstringer.net/paradigm/trailer.html
Article about Paradigm:
  http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/02/prweb11540909.htm

If you have any questions about Helen her projects or books, please drop us a line and we will arrange her to contact you.Helen is known for taking a great care of her fans  so don’t be afraid and contact us at rdabrowicz at yahoo dot com.
No spam, you have been warned 🙂

As a good friend of ours said “Helen’s writing is the best thing since the invention of the wheel and French sliced bread”
Who can argue with such a recommendation?

xxxx
See you soon,
Rita and Mal

A day with Helen Stringer

Close your eyes.
Think of something you are truly afraid of.
Now, think of one, single thing you need to overcome your fear.
Do you know what it is? Yes? Good.
When you open your eyes again, that thing will be right in front of you.
But it will be nothing you have thought it would be!

This is not a beginning of a scary novel, don’t worry. It is actually something that had happened to me. But let me explain from the very beginning. What am I truly afraid of? Lots of things: dark, small rooms without doors, elevators, tight spaces that you cannot get out of… You guessed right. I’m a claustrophobic. And it is a real pain when you are a claustrophobic stuck at the airport in the middle of winter. It gets even worse when it’s dark and a blizzard is roaring outside. And you are just about to board the plane…

Spellbinder audiobook with the first cover, that Helen is not very found of 🙂

I was on my way home from the UK at the beginning of January 2011 and the plane has been delayed because of the bad weather. After an hour and a half of a nervous waiting, the flight attendant informed us that we finally received the permission to take off and we will be allowed to board the plane in 10 minutes. When the happy news was announced, most of my co passengers rushed to the check in counter. I went the other direction, frantically looking for a duty free store and a big bottle of booze. I planned to drink myself into stupor and to lose consciousness before the plane would hit the ground. I didn’t find the booze. I found Waterstone’s. And right before me, there was a book. I grabbed it, paid 6 pounds and returned as my name was called through megaphones. I started reading it seconds after finding my seat and fastening my belt. The next thing I remember was the captain asking me to leave. We reached our destination. But all I wanted to do was to keep on reading!

“The Midnight gate” audio book cover, much better than the last one!

“The Last ghost” (released in the US under the title “Spellbinder”) is a contemporary young adult book written by English author Helen Stringer. Belladonna, the 12 year old main character not only sees ghosts (a family talent she shares with her grandmother and aunt) but also lives with them. Her parents might be dead but they still occupy the same house, cook dinners, watch TV and read newspapers. Belladonna’s unusual home life suddenly ends when her parents disappear along with every other ghost in the world. Teamed up with her classmate, a bad-boy named Steve and Elsie – the last remaining ghost of an Edwardian-era girl killed in a freak accident, Belladonna sets on a adventure to save her parents and the whole mortal realm.

British cover of “The Last Ghost”

American cover with title changed to “Spellbinder”

The book is surprisingly dark yet extremely well written. A quick search online offers lots of enthusiastic reviews: from published authors, readers, book magazines and newspapers. Most Amazon clients gave the book 5 stars – the highest rating possible. But if somebody expects another “Harry Potter”, will be severely disappointed. Belladonna’s world is nothing like the universe created by JK Rowling. It is still fantasy: ghosts, wizards, sprites, magic and the Wild Hunt (you have to read book to learn more!) make a presence, but at the same time everything still feels normal. Familiar. Well-known. It could take place in your home town, just around the corner from you. Almost too real sometimes. There is humour in the book as well. Steve is a master of short, sarcastic remarks that make you laugh out loud. In short – “The last ghost” is a must have if you love literature with plot full of twists and turns, great characters and thrilling atmosphere that will make you forget about the time and the world around you.

Cover of the second book “The Midnight gate”. We are now awaiting book three!

“The Midnight gate” poster Enjoy!

But you may ask, why do we review a book here? To answer that, I must return to the said captain, who as I was leaving the plane with my suitcase and the book in my hand, said: “Tell the author that he just delayed a flight!”. I said that I would tell HER. Ten months later I have kept my promise. Personally. In November 2011, Helen Stringer arrived to The UK to promote the second instalment in Belladonna Johnson adventures entitled “The Midnight Gate”. By that time, I was a permanent West Midland resident and happily engaged (no need to fly anymore!). Thanks to my friend, Nicola Gilbert, the director of Westfield School in Leominster, who organized Helen’s visit to Hereford schools, I was given an opportunity to spend a truly magical day with a fantasy writer.

A professional picture of Helen taken by her agent, used in promotion of her books. Please visit her website: www.helenstringer.net

Another professional picture of Helen taken by Diana Brown

Helen turned out to be not only an amazing writer but also a very friendly and kind person. She was born and raised in Liverpool and later moved to US to study film. As a student, Helen received several awards for her works and was chosen to be a Directing Fellow at the American Film Institute Center for Advanced Filmand Television Studies. After working several years for the film industry, Helen decided to become a writer, strongly encouraged by her employers and colleagues. “The Last ghost” success allowed Helen to tour America and the UK. We met in the middle of her UK book tour that was tightly packed. In Herefordshire, Helen visited several schools including the prestigious Cathedral School and The Weobley High School (www.weobleyhigh.co.uk) located in the picturesque village of Weobley on the trail of black and white villages.

Helen and Dean Williams engaged in conversation. Picture by Rita Dabrowicz

Nicola and I arrived after the morning lessons just in time for the official meeting with Weobley school board and the teachers. Helen had a long discussion with Dean Williams the head teacher and I managed to take a picture of them both. For the rest of the day, I have followed Helen closely as a shadow, taking many shots during her lectures and book signings.

Helen during her lecture at Weobley High School, picture by Rita Dabrowicz

Another picture of Helen walking around the classroom, picture by Rita Dabrowicz

There were 4 lectures for the kids between 11 and 13 years old. To my surprise many students already read both books and they literally had hundreds of questions. Not only about what will happen next in the series, but also about living in the US, old cars, family run Beer Company, how to become a writer and even cats. Helen admitted that she owns several felines herself and that the local racoons developed a taste for cat food!

Helen and Jo Gilbert posing together. Picture by Rita Dabrowicz

The most exciting part of the day was the discussion about Helen’s future projects: MTV series based on “Spellbinder” and the new book that she is putting finishing touches to. The new book already has a title “Paradigm” and will be taking place in the post apocalyptic America. Helen is currently in talks with agents and publishers and should announce the publishing date very soon.

Helen in the front of a screen showing slides to her listeners.
You can see an alternative cover to “The Midnight Gate”. Picture by Rita Dabrowicz

Alternative cover for “The Midnight gate” By David Wyatt. Helen’s favourite.

On our way back to Hereford, Helen and Nicola had a very interesting discussion about music, creative writing and the typical English weather (it was raining very hard!). We had to stop three times: once to let a flock of sheep to reach other side of the country road, second because a huge spotted sow stopped in the middle of the street to take a look at the car (it was the biggest and fattest sow I have ever seen!) and third when a tractor driver lost his way and took an illegal U-turn. All the fun when you are living in the rural parts of the UK 😀

“The Midnight gate” sketches by the incredible David Wyatt. Please visit his site:
http://www.david.wyatt.btinternet.co.uk/

I need to mention that Helen was kind enough to present me with signed copies of her books and audio books for me and Mal. Thank you very much Helen. Hope to see you some time again! Also big thank you goes to Nicola who made the trip possible.

Several links you might find useful:

http://us.macmillan.com/author/helenstringer  – Helen’s UK Publisher
http://www.helenstringer.net  – Helen’s official site
http://us.macmillan.com/FeiwelAndFriends.aspx  – US Publisher

All right guys, check in soon, we are going to publish a report from our trip to the Forge World in Nottingham!

xxxxxx
Rita (alive and kicking Herefordian style)

*********

Edit 14/01/2013

This is very hard not to love Belladonna and her adventures. We have fantastic news for all those who can’t wait for the Book 3. Helen has prepared a novelette that gives us a glimpse into Bella`s (extra) ordinary life. This time the task is not to save the world, but to take care of one ancient ghost. But it wouldn’t be Spellbinder’s luck if Belladonna and her paladin Steve had to face something lesser than powerful magic and demons that not even the Queen of The Abyss heard of.

The Blood Binding takes place during Halloween and if you plan to pick up the story, prepare yourselves for some real treat. It is short but leaves you on the edge of the seat and you just can’t put it down. Helen, just like JK Rowling, created incredible environment and you want to re- read Belladonna’s adventures over and over again.

The novelette

The novelette

You can find the novelette here:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-blood-binding-helen-stringer/1113778556

or

http://www.amazon.com/The-Blood-Binding-Belladonna-Johnson/dp/1480195448

Go on, spoil yourself. It is completely worth it 🙂

Malicia

The Appointment

I didn’t have the foggiest notion of an idea what kind of man Dr Kaoume Truth personally was. One thing was certain however: As a practitioner he was equally loved and hated. His followers called him a genius, while others branded him as evil and insane. My instincts were telling me that if there was no room for balanced opinions, the person would usually incorporate both extremes. I was just about to find out anyway, having my appointment in 14 minutes and 37 seconds.

You must know it borders on the impossible to meet Dr. Truth. You have to by dying of an incredibly rare disease, be mutated beyond recognition or be other wisely unique in a medical sense of the word. You can’t just get in using connections or a social status. Dr. Truth never cared for riches, fame or anything so awfully material to keep him off his work. He voluntarily and wholeheartedly dedicated his efforts to research the curiosum of his time.

Study case # 1

Luckily for me, in my thirty three years, no doctor, shaman or charlatan (they are quite a recognized profession these days) was able to diagnose my ailment. No one was even close to form a hypothesis. That fact was instrumental for my lawyers to reach a deal with the doctors’ representatives to have my case shortlisted for further examination. It took seven hundred thirty two days and seven hours to be granted an appointment. Exceedingly fast considering the amount of work Dr. Truth was said to be involved in.

This morning when I took the bullet train to the Centre, I promised myself I would not get my hopes up. There was no guarantee that Dr. Truth would be able to tell me what my illness was. Most likely I was to age and die never knowing. No need for being over-emotional then. Truth was the last resort, but I felt that even if this attempt would fail, I did my utmost. So, I shouldn’t be expecting anything, but at the same time still be proud of going so far in my quest.

My time was approaching. The doors to the Office opened revealing a weeping female of unknown species. Her face was misshaped artistically. A nurse ran attentively beside her with a box of tissues. I could see she was wearing thick surgical gloves.

“We understand your discomfort, Madame Khan” – spoke the nurse softly – “But you must leave the Reactor for the time being. Your cancer is eating into your brain and further mutations are not advised”.

In response Madame Khan made a couple of inhuman growls.

Curious as it was to observe, I could not delay my own appointment. I entered the room. It was sterile and filled with all sorts of apparatus and computers from floor to ceiling. Dr. Truth was sitting in the corner and appeared to be organizing files on his hologra-screen. He was wearing old fashioned sunglasses, his greenish skin seemed to sparkle in the white light of his Office. 

Study case # 2

He turned to face me and smiled.

“Ah, finally the opportunity to meet you Miss M-add.” He pointed towards an empty chair next to his desk. “I was reading a lot about your case”.

I was told by the Staff  Nurse prior to the appointment that the Doctor studied each case extremely carefully before possibly accepting it. It was not uncommon that he had an answer before even seeing his patient. I remarked that I was grateful he took interest in me. All I ever wanted was to know the diagnosis.

He nodded; “I suspect that I may know what ails you, but even to me this is too revolutionary. It is – from medical point of view – a complete and unexpected case study. A miracle, indeed.”

I wanted to say something but Doctor silenced me as he continued.

“When I first heard about your case I was sceptical,” he continued, “how come no doctor could find a cause? Even with our advanced medicine and, so to say, the whole spectrum of diseases we deal with.”

“As you know, Miss M-add, last century offered two nuclear winters and everyone is suffering from something. Doctors, bio-engineers, scientists spent decades researching and studying new aliments that came to life with the use of chemical and nuclear weapons. We know many things but not everything. So in the beginning I was thinking you developed some new and undocumented disease. You may only think of the amount of work and tests we performed”.

I was listening, politely agreeing with his words. I knew very little about medical procedures. He must have realized my ignorance as he started to explain.

 “We have gathered over 50.000 items of classified data on you and your relatives. From all possible sources, even those less than legal. We ran detailed DNA and molecular tests on four generations from both sides of your family. You don’t seem to share any structural changes to your genome with any close relatives. No cancer, no mitochondrial mutations. Dead end.”

Before I could respond he raised his hand indicating he wasn’t done.

Study case # 3

“Then I thought that maybe I made an error in judgement. Perhaps it wasn’t a new illness at all, but an old one that was no longer considered.” He sounded very passionate about his work. “So I have arranged another series of tests in the old laboratory that we have here at the Center. Blood, urine, skins and allergy tests. I had to go through another 10.000 pieces of data to determine your body performance. Again I failed. You seem not to have even a common flu”.

I remembered my grandmother mentioning the flu at some point when she still could talk. Apparently a human seasonal virus from time to time would be fused with its animal counterpart and cause a deadly outbreak. It was however nothing that could affect my health at present, as flu was eliminated during second nuclear winter alongside with other bacteria.

My heart began to sink, could it be that even famous Doctor Truth was not going to deliver me from my fate?

The Doctor noticed my frown and quickly added:

“At this point, Miss M-add, I also became desperate. But let me continue. I approached the government and asked for permission to operate on one of your replicas that they keep for transplants. Things got a little messy as it fought back saying that it didn’t want to be killed. The results weren’t conclusive either. You simply have no signs of any illness in both, your body and mind”.

I haven’t expected to hear that.

“I am confused Doctor”, I admitted.

“It is only natural”, he replied with smile, “You see, all this time, as a medical man and a doctor I was looking for something I presumed existed. That was my mistake. Medicine is a wonderful thing, because you may also find something that does not exist”.

“I don’t think I understand…,” I said.

“I want to tell you Miss M-add,” Truth looked me in the eyes, “That you are perfectly healthy. You do not suffer from anything. You must be the only person of this sort I ever encountered, perhaps the only one in this world of illness”.

I left the Center not knowing what to think. On one hand I was relieved because after so many years I was finally diagnosed and that would put a lot of stress off my mothers back, since she grew a second head she tended to worry more than ever. On the other hand in the world where everyone was ill, I was now a freak of nature.

News spread quickly. Before I got to my parents’ place, I encountered at least a dozen journalists already camping outside. I had to talk to my family about the whole mess. I decided to concentrate on the good news first.  I would explain my new found celebrity status after the dinner. For now I was starving.

 

 

With love to Gary Numan,  for soundtrack and inspiration.
Story: Malicia Dabrowicz
Art: Rita Dabrowicz

 

Of Valentines and cyber punk

Another day, another update at the blog.

Today we want to share two series of digital polaroids with you. One was created for an office party. The other is not yet finished, it will be growing a bit in the coming days but we want to present it anyway. The series is called Attica.

Both Rita and I hate boredom. The routine is creative minds` biggest enemy. Thats why, we are always trying to change our surroundings, we look for something new, we don`t wait for things to come our way – we make them happen. It is maybe unusual but believe us, life is so much better that way. It is the good time and good memories that count.

Photo by Mal

Disturbing office life in a posivite manner is one of the things that we do. Mal works for Igaming company, people come to the same place everyday, spend their nine hours there and head home. Nothing wrong with that but it doesn`t take that much to actually have a really wonderful atmosphere at the workplace. You need a proof? On Chinese New Year, Mal brought real dumplings and shared with her colleagues. She made them with a help of her friend Lily. Just a small plate of dumplings and suddenly everybody felt different. Sometime later another colleague came with home made pancakes while somebody else bought pizzas for everybody on the shift.

Photo by Mal

This Valentine`s Mal decided to bring a party to the office. After all it is really sad to be working on such an important day. Plus in February two years have passed since Mal joined the company. So there was a reason to celebrate.

To have a real tea party, we needed teas and cakes. And good ones! Thankfully, we know exactly where to get the most amazing sweets on the island. Busy Bee in Msida is known as one of the oldest coffe houses in Malta and they produce quality cakes, sweets, chocolates. So we visited the shop and agreed that we would get two gateaux: almond cake with amaretto and pavlova and dark chocolate with profiterols. Sounds heavenly? We told you that Busy Bee produces amazing things and they taste just as they look. We couldnt help ourselves and we took a shot of each cake as a memento. They now illustrate this blog entry.

Photo by Mal

 

To go with the cakes, we needed a good selection of teas. Things got a little complicated here because tastes are diifferent. We did a brainstorming session and settled on fair trade herbal teas. We decided to have three different types: Jasmine/Green Tea, Bluberry and Oolong and White Tea with Pomegranate.

Impressive menu one must admit. Mal took the cakes to the office on 14th of February and watched her colleagues amazement. Obviously the cakes got eaten immediately, while teas lasted for a while. The day ended on a really nice note with people joking, recalling stories of their past Valentines and being simply happy. Many people actually mentioned that it was the best Valentines Day they had in a while. And Mal agrees. It was just perfect.

Photo by Mal

And as any artist Mal celebrated Valentines preparing a digital polaroid for the ocassion.

***

We know how to party, but our usual day is not cakes and suprises. It`s rather hard work on two fronts. We both have our day time jobs and we try to balance it with our creative projects. Sometimes you have so little time for working on something artistic that you keep the ideas written in a notebook and you can only do some partial illustration to it.

 
 

Photo by Mal, concept by Rita

 

This is a case with Attica. Memorial Attica is a building and a very important place in a large universe that Rita and I created some ten years ago. It is a classical cyber punk environment set in the years 2050 – 2090 in Tokyo. We have so many plots inside this universe that it would be impossible to mention them all here. Hopefully with time we will be able to close this saga and perhaps release it in a form of books or online comics.

Photo by Mal, concept by Rita

Within the cyber punk universe,  Memorial Attica is the control center run by Peter Boyle – very influencial and resourceful business man/politician/innovator. It is a fortress that holds both offices for Boyle`s Research Network Foundation and his living quarters. It towers over the Tokyo skyline.

Photo by Mal, concept by Rita

If we have a spare while, we return to this universe and try to close the loop holes. Recently Mal realized that she had taken many shots of the Portomaso Tower and tried turn them into polaroids. Just to visualize how Memorial Attica would look like. It was the best choice for reference, as we dont have that many modern skyscrappers. For those who dont know, Portomaso Tower is based in St. Julians in Malta and is the highest building on the island at 22 floors. Memorial Attica as we see it, would be much taller with some 120 floors (yes it is in the far future and it is a part of a futuristic metropolis) but we did those polaroids to see how Attica`s character would be. We think Portomaso Tower did a great job at pretending to be something its not. But please judge for yourself.

Photo by Mal, concept by Rita

Attica series is in progress so in the future we may return to it to present some more reference/character ideas. But so far we are quite content. Those polaroids are both dark and futuristic. They have this sense of danger and fear and mystery about them. And that is exactly what cyber punk is all about.

We`ll see you later.

Mal+R.