Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Author Interview: R.A. McCandless, author of Hell Becomes Her

I'm delighted to have R.A. McCandless on the blog today as I love his Flames Of Perdition books. I can happily recommend them to anyone who enjoys Urban Fantasy. 

Tell us about the book you want to talk about today.

Hell Becomes Her

Angels should be a human’s worst nightmare. Del didn’t think there was anything worse than angels, or their fallen kin, demons. She and her partner Marrin helped to keep the world safe from the horrors of escaped demons for generations. But when Del’s daughter is kidnapped by a shadowy group, Del will find that the world is even more dangerous than she suspected.

There are worse things than angels and demons.

Give us an insight into your main character.

In the past, the children of angels and humans, the Nephilim, were allowed to lead their lives as they willed.  But they proved too strong, too ambitious, and too cunning for their own good.  They became warlords, conquerors and emperors, causing war and strife until the Throne stepped in and forced them to submit to Its will, or die.  Unlike most of her fellows, Del, one of the first Nephilim, had no interest in conquest and domination.  Del unwillingly works for the Throne, obeying the commands of the angel Ahadiel.  She helps to keep the world safe from the horrors of escaped demons.  At the same time, she keeps herself in the Throne’s good graces.  Whenever a rogue demon breaks free from Hell, she and her partner, Marrin, another Nephilim, work together to banish it.

What genre are your books?

Urban fantasy

Did you self-publish or publish traditionally and why?

I’m a small press author with Wild Child Publishing.  Wild Child picked me up and dusted me off, they saw something special in what I was doing, and provided me with a guide.  My editor is great, and I’m so glad to work with her on a near daily basis.  I’ve become such a better author from the first book Tears of Heaven to this book Hell Becomes Her.

What do you consider the most important part of a good story?

Telling a good story well and hitting some epic high note moments. It’s hard to not to get carried away from the reality of, say, a sword fight or a battle scene, and into the unrealistic. Keeping the physics of actions and reactions on target is something I really strive for and enjoy. This is especially enjoyable when readers catch the effort that went into making a fight scene exciting, but still within the realm of the real. I have to say that my favorite is when a reader comes to me and says, “You bastard, I can’t believe you killed this character. He was my favorite.” They really aren’t mad at me, but it means that I connected with them through that character, and I achieved a realism of life between their mind and the book with that character. That’s magic right there.

How long have you been writing?

I’d like to say that I started writing when I was born, but that would have made for a difficult and unusual delivery, and is flatly untrue—but somewhere shortly after that.  In grade school, I’d turn sentence and vocabulary exercises into stories.  I told my mother I wanted to write plays and movies for a living.  I thought it was just another kind of job that people did.  I had no idea you needed “talent”!

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

If I can get away with it, I won’t even wear pants—they just catch on fire when a plot concept comes along.

What is your writing process?

Scotch, Scotch and more Scotch.  Scene concepts and plot turns seem to be the easiest for me.  The big picture of where we’re going and how we get there.  I understand how to get from A to B to C on down the alphabet like a boss kindergartner.  It’s the little details that I get bogged down in, and those my mind has to chew on like pitbull with a femur.  I’ve learned to not fight with a chapter or a scene too much, but get up, walk away, and let my head mill it down until it’s fine grain.  Then, somewhere, mostly the shower or the middle of the night for some reason, it will click into place, and I’ll have to bolt to my composition pad and write until my wrists are sore.

What part of the writing process is the hardest for you?

I really can’t speak for anyone else.  At least, that’s what the judge told me.  And my friends.  And my wife.  For me, if I’m not writing, it’s because I’m being lazy.  I don’t get blocked by a story, where to take it, or what to do with it, but I will get tired of the grind of writing.  Writing is definitely a job, the same way sculpting or painting is—you have to do the physical work before you live the jet-set, lavish, playboy lifestyle!

What advice would you give an author just starting out?

Drink heavily.  Also, get an editor who knows what she is doing.  Not just someone who will find your misspelled words and your redundant commas—someone who will help you find your voice, make certain your characters and story flow, and that you aren’t head-hopping or switching narrators.  This isn’t about becoming a homogenized, generic, corporate storyteller.  It’s about getting past the basic mistakes and really writing some good stories.  Don’t let the language get in the way of your vision.

What tips can you give on how to get through writers block?

I can’t speak for others, but I generally don’t have writer’s block.  Maybe the Scotch kills it?  Probably it’s best to understand that fiction and fantasy are really reflections of our world, only better. Even dark fiction or dystopias tend to hand us heroes that rise up above the blackness and are able to make choices that sort out the good guys from the bad guys—they can decipher good and evil, right from wrong. That’s not always true in our own world, and so it’s quite a relief to sit back and be transported to place where considerations over extremism, and Ebola and politics aren’t realities. Or, if they are realities, they’re going to be handled, in one way or another, by the characters.  Once you grasp that the characters are dealing with something, and need to deal with it, then you should be able to move forward.

What kind of music do you like to listen to while you write?

Anything without words, otherwise I’ll start to sing and that’s not good for anyone.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Fighting sprinklers, mostly.  They’re a vile evil conjured up from the darkest depths of the Underworld.  I also play with my three boys, although that should probably be “try to keep up while they get bigger, stronger and faster.”  I’m a pretty big runner—not physically big, but just how much I love to run.  I like to listen to fantasy/fiction podcasts when I go running, and that was something that didn’t even exists five or ten years ago. Now, you can get them for free, and they’re wonderful, imaginative, innovative and amazing. The storytelling is more intimate, too.  If my health is up to par, I’m generally running.  Reading almost always. 

Who is your favorite author?

Patrick Rothfuss is easily one of my favorites.  He should be the king of the hill, if only he would release his third novel (and then keep writing).  I would love to strike up a hate-hate relationship with him that had him gnashing his teeth and pulling his hair about my superior talent.  Patrick, if you’re listening, this is my first shot over your bow, feel free to respond in kind.

Bernard Cornwell is excellent historic fiction.  The guy knows his stuff.  I like my historical fiction and fantasy to have dirt in the pages, with contemporary heroes who have legitimate flaws of time and place.

What is your favorite book?

Tolkien’s The Hobbit was given to me as a gift and really opened the castle gates of fantasy to me.  Suddenly, there was a whole world of swords, magic and fantastical creatures to meet.  Immediately after I finished, I took all the money I had and biked down to the bookstore to buy everything else Tolkien had written.  I had no idea I was getting the seminal fantasy series: The Lord of the Rings.

Who is your favorite character from a book?

Just one?  That’s like trying to pick a favorite Scotch, or a favorite Scotch!

Read anything good lately?

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.  This was recommended by a friend in order to help tide me over until Patrick Rothfuss deigns to provide us with the third installment of his Kingkiller Chronicles.  Respect the Rothfuss!

Have you had anything else published?

I’m the author of the urban fantasy Tears of Heaven winner of the 2014 Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Preditors & Editors Reader’s Poll and a 2015 EPIC eBook finalist, and Hell Becomes Her.  My shorts have appeared in In Shambles (with Kevin J. Anderson) Nine Heroes, and Gears, Gadgets and Steam.

What's your next project?

Del gets at least one more book, so another in the Flames of Perdition series.  I’m sitting on a couple of completed works, a steampunk detective and a full fantasy epic.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I’m compelled by any world where dragons can make an appearance. They don’t have to show up, but the idea that they can? Please and thank you. I also like any world where a woman is as strong or stronger that most of the men around. Personally, I prefer a woman who can go toe-to-toe and sword-to-sword with anyone else. So my preferred genre is fantasy, but I’ll take urban fantasy, science fiction and even historic fiction off the shelves for those reasons.

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