On the 29th January DEMAIN will be releasing the first two books in a new series called: Weird. Wonderful. Other Worlds. The first title is The Raven King by Liz Tuckwell who is already part of the DEMAIN family with two Short Sharp Shocks! to her name. The covers and general branding for the series is by Adrian Baldwin. A couple of days into the new year Dean and Liz spoke about this new book and exciting venture.
DEMAIN PUBLISHING: Happy New Year Liz! Welcome back to DEMAIN and congrats to you – kicking off the new WWW! series in style. For those that don’t yet know the Weird. Wonderful. Other Worlds. titles will have a very broad brief covering a bit of fantasy, a bit of sci-fi, a bit of weird…more on that as we talk, let’s first remind our readers a little about yourself and why you became a writer.
LIZ TUCKWELL: Happy New Year! Yes, I’m Liz Tuckwell, I’ve only started writing seriously since 2011. I’ve always been interested in writing and wrote a very bad children’s novel when I was thirteen. English was my best subject at school. But life and work took over for a long time and I stopped writing. Then in 2011, I went to a seminar where the speaker was talking about doing what you loved. In her case, it led her to starting a smoked kipper business (each to their own). That had a big impact on me – what did I really want to do? The answer - of course - was write, so I started writing again and attended writing courses. I went part time at work then which helped to get me started again. I do regret getting distracted and giving up writing but tell myself the old cliché – better late than never!
DP: Dead right. What’s your background Liz and has that influenced you as a writer?
LT: I grew up in South East London/North West Kent, so I think London has had a big influence on me plus having airport and ports close by to fly away to other countries. I realised that London wasn’t the centre of the universe when I studied for my degree in Manchester. I’m very much a city person. My feeling about the countryside is that “it’s a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there”. That’s why urban fantasy is one of my favourite sub genres. I actually did my dissertation on science fiction, it was called “Images of Women in Science Fiction” and featured Ursula K Le Guin, Joanna Russ, Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein.
DP: Really? I never knew that, I’d love to read it…mine was about the Salem Witches and I’ve always wanted to revisit it and completely rewrite the conclusion…anyway, so your first introduction to the fantasy…
LT:…fantasy/sci fi genre was through my dad who liked to read science fiction. I read the books he had lying around. These were mainly what you’d call classic science fiction, I suppose, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov etc. I remember going to the adult library to pick out books for him. Librarians were more relaxed in those days about children going into the adult sections. So, I got to know the science fiction shelves of my local library very well. There used to be a Woolworths near the library that had a stall full of remaindered paperbacks from the USA. I was first introduced to Fritz Leiber’s Gray Mouser and Fafhrd and other sword and sorcery authors through those and some other great SF novels such as the Greenwich Village Trilogy.
DP: That’s amazing – I need to check those books out as I’ve definitely not read any Leiber before…and your WWW! Book, The Raven King, let’s talk about that…
LT: It’s the second story I’ve written about [characters] DI Lis Liszt and DC Jaz Sharma although it’s the story of how DI Lis Liszt and DC Jaz Sharma met and the start of the Supernatural Crimes Squad. The first story was called A Dead Mermaid on Eel Pie Island and appears in the MCSI: Magical Crime Scene Investigations anthology. It’s set in a world a few years after the ‘Great Unveiling’. This was when supernatural creatures revealed themselves to the world after centuries of hiding. The world is still getting used to the fact that they and magic really do exist. I thought that the Tower of London would make a great setting for a story and once I learnt more about the ravens, well, they had to be in it as well. The ravens disappear from the Tower of London and the fledgling Supernatural Crimes Squad has to work out what is going on and who is behind this.
DP: Yes I think that was a particularly clever angle…I’ll have to check out the first story (as I’m sure a lot of your readers will once they’ve read The Raven King). Did you have to do much research before writing?
LT: I had to do a fair amount of research. I researched the ravens, Welsh mythology, Welsh, and the Tower of London. Ravens are amazing creatures. I hadn’t realised that they really can talk. Google is my best friend for finding useful and interesting websites. I visited the Tower of London to get a feel for the layout, the buildings and the sense of the place. Looking at maps was not enough. It’s a fascinating palace (and it is a palace not just a fortress as I learnt during my research). There was a documentary series about the Tower on TV at the time, which I watched purely for research purposes of course. Luckily, the ravens featured a lot in the programmes.
DP: I will admit that there is a plot line / character in your story which has affected me profoundly since I read it about a certain period of history I’m really into and I’ve been thinking about it a lot now – I won’t say what as I don’t want to ruin it for anybody else but I’ve made a connection between two points / episodes in history which as far as I know have never been linked before so I’m going to do some more research on that…thank you very much! Um, anyway, did you find The Raven King particularly difficult to write?
LT: I found it difficult to write as it’s a prequel and I was trying to keep it as realistic as possible while being a fantasy story. I found a prequel much harder to write than starting from scratch because you have to make sure that you don’t contradict what you’ve already written and there aren’t any discrepancies. I regretted a couple of the decisions I’d made in the first story but too late now! It’s very tempting to stop and spend ages looking up a query rather than getting on with the story.
DP: That’s so true! Can you tell us about books / authors who influence you?
LT: I love Ben Aaronvitch’s Rivers of London series, that’s obviously been an influence on this novella. His sense of place and the interesting characters he creates is inspirational. I also like Charlaine Harris, China Mieville and Jasper Fforde. Charlaine Harris was one of the earlier writers about vampires and I loved her take on them. I think China Mieville’s The City and the City is a great book about the amazing capacity of human beings to see what they want to see. Jasper Fforde has such a fantastic imagination and he makes the impossible seem plausible and logical especially in his later novels such Shades of Grey (I bet he wishes he’d chosen a different title for that one), Early Rising and The Constant Rabbit.
DP: I wonder how many customers have picked up Jasper’s Grey rather than the slightly more famous one and then got to the end and thought “hang on, what the hell is this?!” ha ha…do you have a favourite ‘weird’ author / book / film?
LT: I’m not sure that I do. I really like China Mieville as I mentioned before. I read the ‘classics’ by H P Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith when I was younger. Some of the authors I like who can be considered ‘weird’ are Neil Gaiman, Shirley Jackson, Angela Carter, and Tanith Lee. One author who’s not normally associated with ‘weird’ is Daphne Du Maurier but I think her story, The Birds, is brilliant and memorable, and much better than Hitchcock’s film.
DP: That’s a great call. It is a cracking story and I’ll have to find some time to read that again. What does ‘weird’ mean to you?
LT: To me, ‘weird’ means old weird like H P Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith although I realise there’s a lot more variety in weird fiction than that. China Mieville described it as ‘tentacle fiction’ which does sum it up for me. It’s a crossover between horror and fantasy with a dash of science fiction. I think it’s fair to say that some horror fantasy is also weird fiction but not all weird fiction is horror fantasy. One sub-genre of ‘weird’ fiction I like very much is occult detective. I love the nineteenth century occult detective stories and modern ones like Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files and Randal Garrett’s Lord Darcy stories. I especially like the Lord Darcy ones because they’re also alternate history. I think my Lis and Jaz stories fit into that although I haven’t written a story involving tentacles yet.
DP: Personally I’m not into alternate history too much but a few years ago I did read and enjoy a great deal Richard Dreyfuss / Harry Turtledove’s The Two Georges and when I moved to France a friend gave me a book by Ben Elton called Time And Time Again which really captivated me and had a cracking twist…what do you think draws readers into the genre…are they looking for something specific?
LT: I think readers are looking for stories about non-traditional monsters in a universe where the protagonists are pretty insignificant and sometimes powerless against malign creatures and forces they don’t understand. That’s certainly a mood for our current times. I feel there’s a surfeit of vampires, werewolves and zombies at the moment, so to have other monsters is refreshing.
That’s so true Liz!
Thanks a million for your time.
The best of luck with your WWW! And congrats again for being the author to launch the series.
If you would like to connect with Liz direct: