Friday, September 25, 2009

Interview with Dacre Stoker

On Wednesday 30th of September at 2.30pm we are delighted to have Dacre Stoker, great-grandnephew of Bram Stoker, in Chapters to sign copies of his book Dracula: The Un-Dead, the first official sequel to Dracula itself. I took this opportunity to ask him a few questions about himself and the book.

Pádraig Ó Méalóid: What is Dracula: the Un-Dead about?

Dacre Stoker: Dracula: the Un-Dead is our way of reconnecting with original Dracula fans. We have picked up the story 25 years after Bram's novel ends. We have tried as best we can to utilize Bram's original characters in a similar manner as Bram would have with appropriate modernization.

From our website:

Written with the blessing and cooperation of Stoker family members, Dracula The Un-Dead begins in 1912, twenty-five years after Dracula "crumbled into dust." Van Helsing's protégé, Dr. Jack Seward, is now a disgraced morphine addict obsessed with stamping out evil across Europe. Meanwhile, an unknowing Quincey Harker, the grown son of Jonathan and Mina, leaves law school for the London stage, only to stumble upon the troubled production of "Dracula," directed and produced by Bram Stoker himself.

The play plunges Quincey into the world of his parents' terrible secrets, but before he can confront them he experiences evil in a way he had never imagined. One by one, the band of heroes that defeated Dracula a quarter-century ago is being hunted down. Could it be that Dracula somehow survived their attack and is seeking revenge? Or is there another force at work whose relentless purpose is to destroy anything and anyone associated with Dracula?

PÓM: Am I right in thinking that Dacre is an old Stoker family name? And how should we be pronouncing it?

DS: That is easy, Dacre is an old Stoker family name. I am named after a famous Irish cousin, who was my god father: Commander H H G Dacre Stoker, the first submariner to take his sub AE2 up the Dardanelles in WW1. It was fateful as it happened during the ill-fated campaign of Gallipoli. Once in the Sea of Marmara, the tiny sub was attacked and crippled, and instead of being taken by the enemy, the crew scuttled the sub, and were captured. Many more interesting Stories about H H G Dacre Stoker exist; Irish Croquet champion at age seventy-seven etc etc!

To remember the pronunciation, try ‘Acre’ like an acre of land and put a D in front. Or Day-Ker.

PÓM: Did you have to do a lot of research for the book?

DS: The research for the book was done in a few different ways. I personally went to the Rosnebach Museum in Philadelphia with my wife and spent a day carefully reading through all of Bram's hand written research notes that he compiled for writing Dracula. We were looking for things that he had known about and maybe intended to use in Dracula but were left out for some reason. This helped us decide upon the use of Inspector Cotford as a character in our book. Ian Holt and I also hired Alexander Galant, to do research into street maps, and other important details pertaining to historical accuracy of the period.

PÓM: Have you had the usual list of strange jobs that authors always seem to have had?

DS: I have been a school teacher and athletics coach for most of my life. Since I then I owned and managed an outdoor clothing and gear shop for 4 years. Presently I am the director of a land conservation organization, I also teach CPR, First Aid, and Blood-borne pathogens.

PÓM: Is there any interest in filming the book, or is it too early to say?

DS: That is something we are involved in at the moment, we have two routes to go, the independent and studio route. Right now we have significant interest from a few studios and a group putting together financing for an independent project.

PÓM: Dacre Stoker, thank you very much for your time.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

5 Questions with... Juliet E McKenna

This week, our ‘Five Questions with...’ features British writer Juliet E McKenna, author of the fantasy series The Tales of Einarinn and The Aldabreshin Compass, and no stranger to us here in Chapters, due to her regular visits to Dublin-based SF Conventions. We always have a ready supply of signed copies of Juliet’s books on our shelves!

1. What are you working on at the moment?

I’m putting the final touches to Banners in the Wind, the concluding book of the Chronicles of the Lescari Revolution trilogy. Those exiles and rebels who decided it was time to put an end to their quarreling dukes’ tyranny in Irons in the Fire are dealing with no end of unforeseen consequences after taking the battle to their enemies in Blood in the Water – and I’m expecting the page proofs of that book any day too.

Since I deliver the Banners manuscript in October, I’m already thinking ahead to some other projects that could take me in interesting new directions.

2. Who's the best new writer you've come across recently?

New to me personally or new to publishing? If it’s the former, I’m loving Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano detective novels, set in Sicily. As for debut novels, Kari Sperring’s Living with Ghosts is a fantastic read, showing just how far from formulaic fantasy fiction can be these days.

3. Do you have any peculiar rituals you do before you start writing?

Not that I’m aware of. On a typical morning, I’ll wave the teenage sons off to school and make a cup of tea while ignoring any outstanding housework or washing up. That can wait till the lads get home and do their share. Then I head upstairs to my study. Dealing with email limbers up my typing fingers, and then I’m off into the current chapter.

4. Who's your favourite literary character?

How am I supposed to answer that? I’ve been reading books by the shelf-full for the past forty years! I can’t even decide on a favourite among my own characters, never mind anyone else’s. If you really must have an answer? At the moment, Sam Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings; loyal, brave, whose heroism comes from innate strengths, never mind external appearances. Ask me again next month and it may well be someone entirely different, depending on what I’m reading or thinking. Like, say, Steven Maturin. Oh, or Elvis Cole. Or…

5. If you could be anything else in the world, except a writer, what would it be?

That’s an interesting one. If my life hadn’t taken the turn that ended up with me being a writer, I’d most likely be a Personnel Director by now, and I reckon I’d still enjoy that kind of work.

But anything else in the world? I would be an actor; middling-successful, please, so doing a bit of film work to take me to exotic places, some quality telly so I’d meet the great Sir and Dame thespians and observe their skills, interspersed with the different challenges and thrills of live theatre every few seasons. But without all that paparazzi nonsense, thanks.


Friday, September 11, 2009

"Of what import are brief, nameless lives... to Galactus?"

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

I fell in love with Junot Díaz after the first few minutes reading this book. Simple as that. I actually ran to get his collection of short-stories, that's how much in awe of his writing I was.

And why was that?

It's, in a word, fresh. A mix of street-hardened spanglish (not bastardized, mind you, just an abundance of Latin-American Spanish expressions) with nerdcore galore (it's not every book that manages to compare Trujillo with Darkseid, I'll tell you that much!), it just leaps from the page, at times sounding like something that shouldn't be read but lived, if that makes sense.

The main character (for this book deals not only with Oscar but with his family and his people) is, well, a big fat nerd. No two ways around it, Oscar is a gamer, a comic book nerd, a sci-fi geek that simply does not function well within the real world.

And don't we all know someone like that (trust me, I used to work in a comic book shop)?

We are swept in by his family, his problematic sister, his larger than life mother, the saintly grannie (you might call it a cliche, but heck, she reminds me of my grandmother, it's a very Latin trait in a way!), his quasi-brother-in-law but, in the background (the soul of the book itself), there are always the Dominicanos. Their culture, their history, their curses.Díaz makes a point of filling you in on episodes of the Trujillato so that you'll have an idea of how the Dominican soul was broken and how it still affects its descendants to this day, even when they ran away to far off Nueva York.Fukú weights heavily in Oscar and Lola's shoulders. And there's no running away from curses.

This book is undoubtedly a joy to read, although I wonder how other readers will take its usage of Spanish slang and the many, many, MANY nerd references* that more than temper the book marinate it.

A worthy Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winner and a solid 5 stars for me!

*And "Grodd" is spelt with two Ds, Díaz, TWO Ds!!


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sumo by Helmut Newton

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the publication of SUMO by Hemut Newton Taschen have published a new edition of this record breaking book.

Originally published in an edition of 10,000 signed and numbered copies, it quickly sold out despite its €7500 price tag. The book which weighed in at a massive 35.4 Kilos came with its own display stand designed by Philippe Stark. In 2000 the book broke the record for the most expensive book published in the 20th century, when Sumo copy number one, which was autographed by over 100 of the book’s featured celebrities, sold at auction in Berlin for €320,000.

This new edition, while smaller in dimensions and weight is still a big book, and features over 400 pictures covering every aspect of Helmut Newton’s career from his fashion photographs to his nudes and celebrity portraits. A must have for all art and photography fans the book comes with its own display stand and a special “Making of” Booklet and is much more affordable than the original edition

Sumo by Helmut Newton

Published by Taschen

Available in store, priced at €124.99.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Preview - The Left Hand of God

We wouldn’t normally do this, but I’ve just read a proof for Paul Hoffman’s forthcoming fantasy debut The Left Hand of God, due in January 2010 and a word is definitely required. All things being equal this new piece of “imaginative fiction” should prove to be one of next years big titles on the fantasy market and probably the cross-over market as well. International rights sold in a heartbeat after it appeared at the Frankfurt book fair and Penguin Michael Joseph are planning to heavily market what they consider to be a very important new author.

Being touted as a blend of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose and Harry Potter, the novel follows the adventures of Thomas Cale, a Redeemer Acolyte raised from toodlerhood in a sort of brutal preparatory academy for fanatical warrior priests. I’m not going to give a single plot point away but trust me; this is riveting stuff, artfully crafted and a joy to read. It grabbed me from the first page and it’s incredibly well developed world and dark sheen of danger, adventure and intrigue kept me hanging on until the end.

So be sure that come January next year you get your hands on what might well prove to be the biggest new name in fantasy.


Monday, September 7, 2009

World War Z

It does seem like Zombiemania has taken over the bookstores, but amongst all the new offerings, lets not forget what its probably the best zombie book ever written (sure, in MY opinion, but hey).

World War Z, by Max Brooks (Mel Brooks son, for those cinematically inclined) is an oral history of the zombie war, in which Max takes it upon himself to chronicle the events that lead to the war with the undead, the desperate battles and the aftermath of the biggest threat Mankind ever faced.
And it is simply one of the best, tensest, smartest and most humane books Ive ever read.
Composed of interviews with key-pieces of the action or sometimes just unlucky people that happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, its breathtakingly detailed and vivid and, clich as it sounds, you will feel like you were there.
World War Z Audiobook
And that is even more impacting in the audiobook version, even in its abridged form. Now bear in mind that I'm not one for audiobooks since I have the attention span of a gnat and I forget everything in 5 seconds, but when the characters are being played by actors like Alan Alda, Carl Reiner, Jurgen Prochnow, Mark Hamill, John Turturro or Henry Rollins you WILL sit up and take notice.

Both versions are incredible and absolutely essential, not just for zombie fans but also for fans of good books, simple as that.
World War Z and World War Z Audiobook are currently in stock and waiting for you to take them home.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

5 Questions with... Suzanne McLeod

This week, our ‘Five Questions with...’ features British writer Suzanne McLeod, author of the series of urban fantasy books, which so far includes The Sweet Scent of Blood and The Cold Kiss of Death. Besides her website, Suzanne also regularly writes on her blog.

1: What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on The Bitter Seed of Magic, Book 3 in my urban fantasy series. Genny Taylor, the main character, has got an eighty-year-old curse to crack; a couple of relatives who turn up and present her with a challenging (and blood-splattered) problem; and at least one murder to solve. My books are set in London, and some of the most fun I have when writing (apart from devising interesting, magical ways to kill people, and putting my characters in difficult and horrific situations) is choosing which parts of the city to set my stories in. Of course, then I have to have a day out in London to do the research – my next trip will be to the Tower of London, with maybe a detour via the shops... It’s a hard life being a writer sometimes :- ).

2: Who’s the best new writer you’ve come across recently?

Sadly, I’m not reading a lot of new authors just now, as most of my free time is given over to my own writing. And when I do read, I tend to choose authors I love and am familiar with – I have quite a long list – and catch up with their newest books. But the one book which hooked me recently is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. By about two thirds of the way in, I ended up desperate to know how the main character was going to get out of the problem she was in. I’m eagerly waiting to find out what happens next in Catching Fire.

3: Do you have any peculiar rituals you do before you start writing?

I make a cup of tea, bow down before the writing gods and ask for inspiration, and plug my brain directly into the computer... OK, no just kidding. I do start with a cup of tea, then I have a tweak and edit of the previous session’s writing to get me back into the story, and then slowly make more words. I work either on the computer or the laptop, depending on where I am – I’ve written on trains and in airports from necessity – but I prefer to do most of my writing at home, where it’s quiet, and the kettle’s handy for more cups of tea. But if anyone knows where I can get that direct brain/computer link, please get in touch.

4: Who’s your favourite literary character?

I think it’s a close call between Bram Stoker’s Dracula (as if you couldn’t guess that from someone who writes about vampires) and the Phouka – a shapeshifting faerie – from Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks. He’s a wonderful character full of contradictions and internal conflicts who grows and changes along with a great fantasy story.

5: If you could be anything else in the world, besides a writer, what would it be?

I’d love to be able to play the saxophone and sing. Unfortunately, I never got to grips with music, and I can’t carry a tune. Luckily for everyone else, I know it, so no one will ever be subjected to my – really embarrassing – musical attempts.