I’m thrilled to welcome British urban fantasy author Mike Shevdon to the blog today. By way of a mutual friend (waves at Lauri), I “met” Mike in a virtual sense two or three years ago when I had just sold Royal Street and he was getting ready to launch Sixty-One Nails, the first in his Courts of the Feyre series. So it’s great to have him here today just after the launch of book three in the series, Strangeness and Charm.
I love this series because I find the fey so fascinating. Like elves (except maybe even more so), the fey are not so entrenched into a mythos that one can’t play around with them, and they are often both good and evil at the same time. So the Feyre world Mike creates in his series is rich and complex and engrossing. His main character, Niall, is a guy we can all pull for, driven by the need to protect his family (well, and sometimes, just to survive).
So, join me in welcoming Mike to the blog. He’s generously offered a signed ARC of Strangeness and Charmto one commenter or, if you’re new to the series, I’ll send you a copy of book one, Sixty-One Nails. Just tell us your favorite fae/fey book, if you have one. In additions to Mike’s books, I’ve enjoyed the fae of Jim Butcher’s Dresden series and in Jenna Black’s YA Faeriewalker series.
Welcome, Mike! Give us the “elevator pitch” for the Courts of the Feyre series (Sixty-One Nails, The Road to Bedlam, and Strangeness and Charm):
After a heart attack, Niall Petersen is revived on the London Underground by an old lady who tells him he’s not entirely human. The old lady turns out to be much older than she appears, and explains that he has inherited the bloodlines of the Feyre, creatures of myth and folklore. Now one of those creatures is hunting him and he must find a way for him and his daughter to survive. To succeed he must discover the secret of the Sixty-One Nails.
His daughter carries those genes too, and is kidnapped by a shadowy organisation, from which Niall must rescue her. His search is interrupted by the return of the Seventh Court, but is their arrival a coincidence? To find his daughter, Niall must enter an alliance with his most dangerous foe. How long will that alliance last on The Road to Bedlam?
In freeing Alex from Bedlam, Niall releases her tortured and abused brethren into the world—individuals with strange and uncertain powers. Now he is tasked with bringing these fey-humans back into the fey courts for the sake of peace and stability—but what if they have their own plans, born out of torture and formed from a distillation of bitterness, resentment, Strangeness and Charm?
How would you describe Niall? How has he changed as the series has progressed from the stressed-out guy who has a heart attack in the Tube station at the beginning of Sixty-One Nails to now?
Having a heart attack and nearly dying tends to focus the mind, and in that moment of almost-death Niall realises that he really wants to live. Even so, divorced wage-slave to fey-human bodyguard is a big leap, and he’s found himself unable to let the past just drop away, not least because of his responsibilities to his daughter. He is changing.
What he’s seen and done has shifted his moral compass and freed him from some of his reticence. He’s coming into his own as a person, and as a Warder. His boundaries are being challenged in ways he never thought possible—he’s done things he would never have dreamt of, but in his heart he’s still a man who tries to do what’s right. And yet, he’s not finding right answers, just a choice of wrongs. He’s having to navigate the shoals of uncertainty and ambiguity. He’s learning fast. Let’s hope it’s fast enough.
What is your favorite scene from Strangeness and Charm?
It’s hard to choose just one. The scene with Alex and the ravens is one favourite, and the moment Niall discovers how Andy is evading him is another. As a stand-alone, though, the final scene in Strangeness and Charm is probably my personal favourite. It came to me unexpectedly, but helped to throw the whole book into perspective. It’s a reprise on events that happened earlier, with a minor character, in a place Niall doesn’t know. It’s self-contained and complete.
Hardest scene you’ve ever written:
Undoubtedly, the hardest scene to write was the memorial service after the death of Alex in The Road to Bedlam. The death of a child is one of the hardest things to bear, and I took a long time to work up to portraying that in a way that was real and meaningful. Writing it was incredibly intense and difficult—challenging in ways I had not previously imagined. I had to write it alone—having anyone else there meant I just locked up. It was written from the heart, and I poured myself into it. Hopefully it reads that way.
What’s on your nightstand or top of your TBR pile?
At the moment there is Mark Morris on The Norman Conquest, which is a treasure because I heard him speak at EasterCon and got him to sign it for me. I’m also reading The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, which I have heard much about and only just started—I’m really enjoying it.
Favorite book when you were a child:
The Stainless Steel Ratby Harry Harrison was certainly one of my favourites. I loved the adventures of James Bolivar diGriz and the wonderful light touch of the author; funny, entertaining – mapping out the limits of the suspension of disbelief while maintaining the roller-coaster ride. Great fun, and it stands re-reading as an adult.
Your five favorite authors:
Today? Right this minute? My favourites vary depending on mood, weather, sunspots….In no particular order: Barbara Hambly, Robert Crais, Alan Moore, Mike Carey, Sir Terry Pratchett.
Book you’ve faked reading:
All the accounting books for my master’s degree. I’d done enough accounting in my professional life to get away with it, so I just winged it. I got a good mark for that module too.
Book you’re an evangelist for:
The Master and Margaritaby Mikhail Bulgakov. The Devil comes to Moscow during the height of Soviet power, but no one believes in him. A many-layered story of fantasy, politics, religion, love and power. You can read it again and again – each time you get something different.
Book you’ve bought for the cover:
Snake Agent, by Liz Williams, about a detective in New Singapore charged with policing the borders between earth and the underworld. Absolutely stunning and evocative artwork which draws you in, inviting you to inspect every detail. A great book too.
Book that changed your life:
Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein. This was the first book I read that showed me there were people who could think entirely differently from me – different values, culture, beliefs, perspective, but entirely reasonable and rational. I plan to return to it at some point and see if it still has the same punch.
Favorite line from a book:
“The question is the answer, Rudy” –From The Darwath Trilogy, Barbara Hambly. It is Ingold’s way of instructing his student, Rudy, and explaining that by forming the right question he already knows the answer.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
One for the Money, by Janet Evanovich. The first of the Stephanie Plum novels (we’re now up to seventeen?) it is probably the one with the best mix of humour and tension. We come to know the characters better later, but in book one we get introduced the Trenton and the ‘burbs in a way that just leaves you wanting more.
Most horrifying moment while reading a book:
This was in a Phil Rickman book – I can’t remember precisely which one, maybe Midwinter of the Spirit or The Lamp of the Wicked. The protagonist, Merrily Gently, who is a female vicar, is in a hospital for a death vigil for a member of her parish she doesn’t particularly like. At the moment of his death, something happens that leaves you feeling almost violated – it is quite awful. Stunning writing, and unforgettable. It follows you long after you close the page.
Favorite book about books or writing:
I was lucky enough to go to Robert McKee’s Story Seminar, for which the notes are in his book, Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting. I know it’s about screenwriting and not novel-writing, but the elements of story are all there, regardless of format. It’s a manual on how to plot a book out and make it work. The man himself is cantankerous, difficult and prejudiced. He’s also brilliant, knowledgeable and funny. It’s a great read, and its advice should be followed.
What’s next? How far do you see the Feyre series going (I know a fourth book is coming next year), and are you working on other projects?
What next? Everything. I want to do it all. My problem is focusing down on the things I have time to do. The Eighth Courtwill be finished this year and out next year, with edits and proofing. That completes this series about those characters. Whether I will do more in that universe depends on what happens later.
After that I have at least three projects I want to work on; a modern ghost story about possession set in the present, a science fiction novel about water, and an alternate universe project with giant squid. Oh, and I want to teach myself to touch type properly, and shoot competitive archery again, and sail around the Mediterranean, and visit America, and stay with friends in Greece, and perfect my fish curry, and…and…
Ah, too much to do and too little time. I know that song. Thanks, Mike, for being here. If you’d like to know more about Mike and his books, you can visit his website HERE. In the meantime, leave a comment about your favorite fey/fae and be entered for either the signed ARC of Strangeness and Charm or a copy of the first Courts of the Feyre novel, Sixty-One Nails. You know the routine: one entry for a comment, extra entries if you follow the blog, follow on Twitter or Facebook, and Tweet or Share the link. Now…go!