Interview with Author David Hambling

Recently, I read The Elder Ice by David Hambling. It's a Lovecraftian weird fiction novella. You can check out my review here. The author was kind enough to answer a few questions about his work, and I'm pleased to share this interview with you today!

What inspired your world building process? 

Mainly it was a tree falling on the garden.

Our garden in suburban London backs on to some ancient woodland, which turns out to be an untouched remnant of the original Great North Wood which this area, Norwood, is named for. One night one of the great old oaks toppled over, with a prolonged, and most alarming tearing, rending sound as the roots were ripped out of the ground. The falling oak smashed down across most of the length of the garden, crushing some unfortunate fruit trees.

The cat, who was in the house with us, was completely freaked out for some time.

The fall did a certain amount of damage, but mainly I was awed by the size and age of the fallen tree. It set me to wondering why it had suddenly fallen over, what it has witnessed and what ancient things might dwell in its centuries-old roots.

That piece of forest is owned by the convent. Within a couple of days, before I had even contacted them, the entire fallen tree vanished from our garden as though it had never been. Without any word from the nuns. Which was weird. And maybe a little sinister.

Previously I had assumed that this part of London didn’t have much history; the castles, palaces and cathedrals are all in North London on the other side of the river. This event this started me looking into it. The more I found, the more I thought that Norwood’s little-known history would be a great setting for some Lovecraftian horror, with eldritch forces lurking beneath the everyday world. And so was born the Shadows From Norwood project, set largely in the 1920s melding local history with fantasy and a dash of hard science.

(1920s writer HP Lovecraft is known for ‘cosmic horror’ : the idea that human beings are pitiful specks in an uncaring universe filled with vast, powerful and incomprehensible beings. His ideas pop up everywhere from Alien to Stranger Things. He encouraged other writers to set stories in his shared universe, known as the Cthulhu Mythos.)

The main aspect is a series of novels following the adventures of Harry Stubbs, former heavyweight boxer and sometime debt-collector, in a series of encounters with the uncanny. In the opening story, The Elder Ice, set in 1925, he is on the trail of a legacy left by real-life polar explorer and local hero Sir Ernest Shackleton.

Who are you writing for and why?

Anyone who will read!

Mainly though, I’m writing for people who like a good story well-written. Plot is important, and there tends to be quite a lot of setting up to get all the elements in place, but it’s not enough. Memorable characters are important, and there’s a great craftsmanship involved, so that you want to keep reading wherever the story goes and whatever it is about. My aim is to be good enough to do that.

What do you do to recharge your creative energy?

I like walking, photography, birding — and nature in general — and travel. Which means a lot of trips to far-flung places to walk and take pictures of birds.

Even sitting at my desk though, I can look up and see quite a variety of bird life, including frequent visits by flocks of bright green parakeets which are now common in London.

What reactions do you hope to inspire in others?

I hope they are inspired to keep reading…and also to think about the world, and how much secret history there is all around us. Norwood may look mundane now, an unremarkable suburbia of chain shops and Victorian mass-built homes and churches but scratch the surface and you find it was the haunt of highwaymen, hermits and fortune-telling gypsies. The world is weird; we go to great trouble to avoid seeing the weirdness. Sometimes you need to lift the blinkers.

Where is your writing taking you?

Next Big Thing is “War of the God Queen”, an epic fantasy extension of Shadows From Norwood. Jessica is hurled back from the modern era into a past where fierce warriors are battling an incursion of monsters. She doesn’t speak the language, has no friends or fighting skills, and her education is in architecture – among a nomad people with no buildings. Fortunately, Jessica is smart, resourceful and extremely determined to find her way home – even if that means defeating alien invaders first. “War of the God Queen” is in a queue to be edited in October.

I’m also excited about a collaborative project involving time travel, which is currently under wraps.

And there’s a collection of Stubbs-related short stories in the pipeline, plus the fifth Harry Stubbs novel, which has the working title “Destroying Angels.”

I also write non-fiction, with the current work in process covering the future of underwater warfare: unmanned submarines, robot fish exotic sensors and swarming amphibious drones approaching.

More about David Hambling's books:
Shadows From Norwood Facebook page

Review: Seraphina's Lament by Sarah Chorn

The world is dying. 

The Sunset Lands are broken, torn apart by a war of ideology paid for with the lives of the peasants. Drought holds the east as famine ravages the farmlands. In the west, borders slam shut in the face of waves of refugees, dooming all of those trying to flee to slow starvation, or a future in forced labor camps. There is no salvation. 

In the city of Lord’s Reach, Seraphina, a slave with unique talents, sets in motion a series of events that will change everything. In a fight for the soul of the nation, everyone is a player. But something ominous is calling people to Lord’s Reach and the very nature of magic itself is changing. Paths will converge, the battle for the Sunset Lands has shifted, and now humanity itself is at stake. 

First, you must break before you can become.

5 of 5 stars!

Seraphina's Lament is unlike anything I have ever read. It's set in a communist state, which had recently been a monarchy, overthrown by the current premier.

Though it's named after Seraphina, the story belongs to several POV characters as much as it belongs to her. She is a slave of the premier, and her twin brother an escaped former slave, working with an underground resistance movement.

While this small group is fighting to help people flee and revolt against the premier, larger forces are at work, bringing about the end of civilization and the rise of a new age. It's a combination of an apocalypse and a creation myth. The varying forces at work against the characters is a unique experience.

The magic is based on controlling elements, different characters born with the ability to control a certain one. Seraphina is a fire talent, and her twin, Neryan a water talent. Watching their relationship change and unfold is an amazing, powerful component of the story.

I loved this book. It was easy to stay immersed in it. Chorn's beautiful style swept me up into an alternate state of mind that just lived for this world and stayed there. There's an otherworldly quality to much of the story, and Chorn's style is lyrical and poetic, full of emotion in a raw and beautiful way.

You can find it here on Amazon or here on Goodreads.

Review: Those Brave, Foolish Souls from the City of Swords by Benedict Patrick

Don't draw your blade in the City of Swords, unless you're willing to kill… or ready to die.

Young and filled with idealistic fervor, Arturo packs his blade and travels to the fabled City of Swords in the hopes of joining the dashing Bravadori. Yet upon arriving he discovers these masked vigilantes have more in common with brutal thugs than noble monster slayers. Disillusioned and mocked, he stubbornly refuses to give up his dreams. 

When an impending bandit attack threatens untold depravities upon a distant village, and no others will heed the call for help, Arturo joins forces with a worthless outcast and a walking legend to attempt the impossible, to traverse the demon-haunted wilderness and prove that in the City of Swords, true heroes can rise from the unlikeliest of places. 

Those Brave, Foolish Souls from the City of Swords is a gritty, action-packed standalone novel set in Benedict Patrick’s Yarnsworld, a land where folktales and fantasy mix, where the monsters from stories are real. 

5 of 5 stars! 

We follow the adventures of Arturo, a young warrior who wants to build a name for himself as a hero in Espadapan, the City of Swords. There's a long oral history of heroic, masked swordfighters and their impressive feats. Shortly after arriving, Arturo realizes he must find his own way to help others or succumb to a culture of bravado and greed.

When a villager from the Wildlands comes seeking help, Arturo decides the only way to make his own legend is to leave the City of Swords and genuinely seek to help others. He manages to draw a couple more warriors with him, and together they head out to save a small village and defeat the bandits harassing them.

Naturally, by the time they arrive at the village and scope out the nearby bandits, there's much more to the story. Their success seems hopeless, yet the fate of an entire village is at stake. Will this small, unlikely band of heroes find the courage to fight? Should they even try to live up to the old, legendary tales? At what point does bravery become foolishness? In between chapters we are given short folktales that flesh out the culture and add to the story in progress. It's a wonderful way to bring richness to the reading experience. The world building is based on Mexican history and legends, set partly in a city and partly in the wilderness. A juxtaposition of old and new religions also plays a part as the story unfolds.

I so enjoyed this book! It's fun, daring, and meaningful. If you like swashbuckling heroics mixed with original mythology, definitely check this one out!

You can find it here on Amazon and here on Goodreads.