Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Another interview with CM Gray

Today I'll be interviewing 'a regular' to my corner of the internet: CM Gray. He has a new book called The Flight of the Griffin and is earmarked for release in early 2013.

Hi Stephen, great to be here, thanks so much for having me!

The Flight of the Griffin
Since the last time I interviewed you, how has life being a writer changed for you?
Well, I think I’m getting the hang of book promoting a little better. I’ve tried a few things and given up on several others but along the way I’ve discovered some good ways to bring traffic to my books on Amazon in particular. I’ve been spending too much time trying to draw attention to my books this year and not enough time writing, which is crazy, so I’m on a slightly different path for 2013.

One of the main changes since I was last here are the number of great reviews I’ve been getting for my first book Shadowland as a result of my marketing efforts. On Amazon US I now have 41 reviews and still an average of over 4 stars. I’m now on to The Flight of the Griffin, which is also getting some good reviews and I have nearly finished the sequel, Chaos Storm.

Give me an elevator pitch of your new book: "The Flight of the Griffin"
Okay ... bunch of kids, living on a boat, stumble on a magic book and its rather cool female guardian. The book sets them a task of seeking out three crystal skulls, lost in different locations, which must be united to complete an ancient spell. Once the skulls are brought together the spell will stop the world being thrown into chaos. However, there just happens to be some evil people and a whole bunch of demons that are trying to stop them!

I love the premise; your book appears to hearken back to my childhood loves of Enid Blyton, CS Lewis and Piers Anthony. Who or what inspired your story?
Oh I’m sure a whole lot of those kinds of books influence me in some form. I’ve been reading from an early age and have always loved the myth, legend and wild fantasy. I wanted to tell a fantasy questing adventure a little along the lines of a writer like C.S.Lewis but then with a few modern twists that are more David Gemmel. What I did try to do, despite having read so many books from all those great authors, was to be original. I don’t want to write like someone else and I hope you will see that I only write like me!

Is the Griffin (the Ship) as much a character as the children of this story?
Oh, it most certainly is. I won’t give one of the major twists away but there is a whole lot of magic in this book. The boat is very much a character in its own right and one that most readers love!

What inspired you to use Crystal Skulls as the pieces leading to 'the great spell'?
I wanted something mysterious yet something that people may be able to relate to living in our ‘real’ world. There is an ancient Mayan Legend that magical crystal skulls were placed by the ‘old people’ from a time before our records began. If you Google crystal skulls you can see pictures and read stories of skulls that have been supposedly found in different parts of the world. Many believe they are magical. I liked the idea that my characters would have something like this to focus on.

Your book seems so refreshingly unpretentious: clear goals, no love triangles and no angsty teenage ruminations. What was your goal when writing this story?
Well, don’t laugh... but the reason I started writing this was after reading J.K.Rowling’s Harry Potter books. I thought, ‘I can write like that!’ Well, I couldn't and realised that I wouldn't actually want to just write like her. She did the wizard school thing so well there was no point trying to go down that path, so I went for a pure fantasy quest. What I took from Rowling was the idea of writing a story that could be enjoyed by older kids, teens and adults alike, just like she did. So no, there is no sex, no swearing and no gratuitous violence... although there are a few gruesome moments and some rather unsavoury characters to keep everyone entertained!  

I'll do a little word association. Choose one and give me a reason:
    Has to be The Voyage of the Dawn Treader because I have no idea what Firefly is [hang your head in shame :)] ... am I showing my age or some huge gap in my reading list? Anyhow, loved C.S.Lewis when I was younger. I watch the films with my kids now and will be encouraging them to read them as well.

    Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls or Uncharted (PS3)
    Indiana Jones, not because of the Crystal Skulls... just love an Indiana Jones story... another questing adventure, love em!

    The Far Away Tree (Enid Blyton) or Lord of the Rings (JRR Tolkien)
    Lord of the Rings. I’ve read it three times. Tolkien is the father of fantasy. He took all the great legends and wrapped them into one of the best stories ever written. To be a fantasy writer these days we all have to realise we owe a debt to Tolkien... or perhaps we should be upset that he took all the best bits and left us all scrambling around to find the rest!
Do you have any parting words for your fans?
If you have read my books and enjoyed them, I thank you for sharing my dreams. If you haven’t yet read my books, then come dream with me! The sequel to The Flight of the Griffin will be out early 2013, my beta readers are saying wonderful things about it so get ready for another ride!

Thanks Stephen I appreciate the time we have spent together today, good luck with your own writing and have a great Christmas!

Always a pleasure ... and hope you have a great Christmas too :)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The sky is falling

I must be the last line of defense. I watched Skyfall (the new James Bond) a few days ago and even though it was masterfully directed by Sam Mendes and brilliantly filmed and slickly produced, where it counted, it fails.

It's all about the story, stupid.

This film went against the trope: with no discernible bond girl and a different spin on the plot other than 'just' saving the world from mass destruction. This story was a more personal mission that I appreciated but in the end felt like they cheated. Bond films have never been particularly cerebral and have always managed to play out every action scene with an asterisk that states "it's because he's James Bond." At the point where they attempt to put weight into this caricature of a human being (like Dark Knight) is the point where my eyes start to glaze over.

I won't ruin any punchlines other than to say that the film concludes in a cute but unsatisfactory way in which the entirety of the film feels like an old man rambling aimlessly about the origin of present day MI6. Other films have done the 'let me introduce you to a new version of this film's universe' better (Star Trek) whereas others have faltered (Tron). The more I reflect on the film, the more I don't like it. I feel like the second half is quite comic book while the story attempts to provide grounding and weight to the final scenes. This is the inverse of what was intended by the film maker and makes this a far more bitter pill to swallow ... and yet people will still enjoy this.

And so, to summarise, you will enjoy the 'splosions, the action and the presence of Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem ... but only if you don't fall into the plot chasms and prefer your Bond more grounded in reality while still, disturbingly, defying all laws of probability in his pursuit of justice.

Parting shot: I'm getting tired of the producers of these films overreacting to the pressures to convey equal opportunity. I'm pretty sure that Ian Fleming always viewed Ms Moneypenny to be a white woman, correct? The fact that she was a failed field agent that shot 007 and still remained on the payroll says more for reverse racism than it does for her competence or actual worth.