With how busy the holidays were, I completely forgot to organize a January Author and Blogger alert, but we’re back! Today and tomorrow I have two great people for you.
Today, I bring forth to you, a man. But not just any man, a writer man. And not just any writer man, a post-apocalyptic, blood sucker creator, writer man. Today I give you, Steven Montano.
Accountant by day and armed with a calculator, he punishes numbers into the dark abyss of a cubical. But by night, with only a keyboard, screen, and imagination, Steven works within the vast creation of a different world. A world damaged by an arcane storm that left Earth merged with a distant realm full of dark evils and visceral creatures. The monsters that once stalked only our nightmares have built an army, and they’re fighting back. Unless Eric Cross, a member of an Elite task force, can capture a traitorous witch who holds the secret to humanities survival, the vampires will win.
In this world, vampires don’t sparkle. They are feared, ruthless killers. In this world, characters learn the true meaning of sacrifice. In this world…the end isn’t coming—it’s already here.
Steven Montano has been a self-published author since 2011, and I’ve invited him today to stand in the spotlight. I’ve got 11 questions that I need to ask, and today we’re going to learn what makes Steven giggle like a school girl, rage like the hulk, and inspires him to create horrifying worlds that challenge the sanity of its inhabitants.
1. What inspired you to write this series?
A dream. Cheesy, yes, but there you have it. I’d faded out of writing for a few years after unsuccessfully trying to market an epic fantasy novel (see below), but eventually the prospect of Nanowrimo enticed me to jump back in the proverbial writing saddle once more. A month or two before Nanowrimo 2008 I had a very vivid, very strange dream about black unicorns hunting down fair maidens in the shadow of a black mountain. I woke up feeling not so much like I’d had a really jacked-up dream (which, clearly, I had), but more like I’d seen something I was meant to see, and I knew right away I had to work this into a story. The trick was figuring out who those women were, and why the unicorns were trying to kill them. (Read my books to find the answer. ;D)
In the process of getting ready for Nanowrimo I somehow arrived at the notion of a post-apocalyptic setting triggered not by nuclear war, but by magic. It was an idea I’d toyed with before, but in order to keep things fresh this time I decided to make it a bit more modern, so instead of a post-apocalyptic high fantasy setting (which I still think would be sweet), I decided to make the setting a mish-mash of all the things I enjoy reading: dark fantasy, adventure, sci-fi action and horror, with some conventions from the Western thrown in just for good fun. I toyed with the idea of making the main antagonists a race of aliens or something to that effect, but vampires were hot at the time…and frankly I was sick of the image they’d garnered. Rather than avoid the de-fanged versions of creatures I’d once held a great fondness for, I thought I’d go the “30 Days of Night” route and help the vamps get their teeth back.
So “Blood Skies” is, at its roots, a tale of dark fantasy, but there are elements of epic and paranormal fantasy, military sci-fi, and lots of action and adventure, all told in what I’ve tried to make a completely unique world filled with bizarre landscapes and strange creatures.
2. Blood Skies currently has 5 installments. The latest book, The Witch’s Eye (badass cover by the way), was just released on January 18th. Is this the end of the series, is there more planned? And what’s next after Blood Skies has seen its final chapter?
Thanks for the cover kudos! Barry Currey (barrymonster.com) is the genius behind my last few covers, and he’s great at taking my pea-brained ideas and making them something presentable.
At present, I have plans for either 9 or 10 books in the series. Plotting Book 6 has turned into something of a pain, but 10 books would be the “worst case” scenario (not a worst case at all,
because I love writing them). I’ve recently gotten back to work on my old epic-fantasy series, and I’ll be releasing volumes of the Skullborn Trilogy in between installments of Blood Skies to shake things up. I’ve also released a horror novella (something black…), and I have another short horror novel (Blood Angel Rising) in the works and hopefully primed for release this year, as well.
3. Hypothetical #1 – You’ve woken from a terrible dr
eam of man-molesting lobsters who will stop at nothing to tear off your clothes and touch your man-chest, only to find your house has been ransacked by vampiric socks. Yeah, all those socks that disappeared in the dryer? They’re back. Your bedroom door is closed, but you can hear them softly padding outside your door, ready to strike with lint-filled anger. You can’t break out the windows and escape. You have no choice but to face them. In one paragraph or less, how do you do it.
Luckily for me, I have a machete in my closet. Wrapping myself in protective wool (my wife is a knitter, and her stash is mighty) and making sure the family is all up on the bed (not sure why the kids would be in my bedroom, but never mind that), I ready myself and release a barbaric, William Wallace-esque RAWR before I kick open the door and mow those l
ittle suckers down. (But dammit…that means I’ll have to buy new socks…)
4. You write a darker style Fantasy. Is this the genre you like to read or are your reading tastes diverse in subject matter?
I’m actually fan of most fantasy/sci-fi, including paranormal and urban fantasy, and some YA (though my exposure there is admittedly limited outside of J.K. Rowling and some of China Mieville’s works). My absolute favorite genre to read is epic fantasy with a darker flavor (see J.V. Jones or C.S. Friedman) or fantasy-horror (like Clive Bark
er’s older works).
5. You’ve been in the self-publishing game for a while. What’s one thing you know now, that you wish you’d known when you first set out on this journey? Any regrets thus far?
I think one thing new Indie authors are never prepared for is the utter amount of time involved with doing this. I’ve blogged about this before (on John Marco’s website), and while I don’t think anyone could have told me this in a way that would have actually made me listen (because I’m kind of a dunderhead that way), knowing what I was really getting myself into would have been nice. There’s SO much more to doing this than writing…sadly, writing often takes a backseat to all of the other work you have to pour in.
6. I don’t select authors for this just to fill space. I spotlight authors that have books I believe will appeal to my readers. And since you’re the first male author to be on the site, you get to set the bar for all others (no pressure). Here’s your chance to tell us something about your books that the synopsis doesn’t. What makes your series different from any other post-apocalyptic tale? Wow us with word-magic!
Yeah, no pressure. Thanks, Matty.
Four things. The first three are bits of consistent feedback I’ve gotten from readers:
* Everyone seems to love the world-building in my novels. I partly credit my background writing Dungeons & Dragons to this strength, but building fantastic new worlds is somethin
g I’ve always enjoyed. It isn’t just about coming up with new and unusual places, but finding ways for all of those creations to work together: for entirely impossible concepts and places to co-exist in a system that actually makes sense. I suffuse my books with this, and apparently it shows.
* The magic. In the Blood Skies world, every mage is bonded to what is called an arcane spirit, a living ghost made of magical energy. This spirit is always of the opposite gender than the mage, and it maintains close contact and an emotional connection to its host. The mage shapes the spirit to create magical effects, and the two are connected in a way that makes them closer than any two humans could ever become.
* The characters. I’ve actually gotten angry e-mails from fans of some characters who’ve been killed off in the series. It’s very important, for me, to develop believable, likeable, flawed, funny, well-rounded characters. These aren’t superheroes: the protagonists of the Blood Skies novels are soldiers, mercenaries, ex-criminals, explorers, and ordinary people placed in some terribly extenuating circumstances.
* Sacrifice. If I h
ad to write a one-word summary about the theme or heart of the novels, that’s what it would be. The Blood Skies saga is one of survival and heroism, and all that has to be given up so others can succeed. It’s about putting friends and loved ones ahead of yourself, and about giving up what’s important to serve the greater good. (Yes, it’s about that, plus the “blowing up vampires” thing.)
7. Hypothetical #2 – You’ve been kidnapped and jailed by evil Smurfs. Leader Smurf has demanded you enter The Smufrena and fight. Since Leader Smurf enjoys a blood bath and uneven odds, he’s faced you off against five opponents: Wil Wheaton, a small but suspicious looking hobbit who is armed with an axe, a large Orc, Edward from Twilight, and one of the vampires from your novel.
You’re about to enter the arena. You’ve been given a steel mop bucket full of dirty water (possible pee-infused dirty water), an electric razor with a full charge, a sponge, and a steak knife. In one or two short paragraphs, how do you defeat your opponents?
Wil will take off at the first show of real force, so drench him in the pee-water and he’ll crumble like a 1st grader. One fell swoop with the actual bucket will fling the hobbit at the orc, knocking out Frodo and putting the orc down long enough to use the electric razor to shave Edward’s hair, which will remove his so-called se
x appeal and render him powerless. I’ll then use the axe to take out the orc, and it will also serve to put Wil and Edward out of my misery if they’re still up and about.
The real problem, of course, is my own vampire. This is a nightmare come true for me. These guys are tall, mean, and ugly, considerably stronger than humans, and armed with six-inch claws sharp enough for them to turn a living cow into a pile of hamburgers in 30-seconds flat. The axe will keep him at bay long enough for me to throw down the sponge, which hopefully the brute will slip on so I can rush in and take him out with the steak knife. (If all else fails, they can use the sponge to mop up what’s left of me should this plan fail.)
8. I like superheroes, so let’s talk about them for a moment. Who is your favorite superhero, and if you were a superhero, who would be your arch nemesis?
I think my favorite super-hero is actually the Savage Dragon, a big green-skinned beefcake who works as a cop on the Chicago police department. His adventures are grim and gritty while also managing to be tons of fun.
If I was a superhero, I’d be a telekinetic bount
y hunter from the future named Razer. (Yes, I plan on writing this someday.) Not sure about my arch-nemesis…hopefully something in the Catwoman vane… ;D
9. You’ve chosen to self-publish your novels. Was that a choice you made after trying to go traditional, or was the appeal and control of self-publishing too much to resist? And after traveling this path, is there anything about it you dislike? If given the opportunity to go traditional as well, would you consider it?
I tried to go the traditional route many y
ears ago, when that was basically the only real option. People may not remember this, but until relatively recent “self-publishing” meant either a) standing on the streetcorner with self-printed pamphlets, or b) paying a printer inordinate costs to churn out copies of your book.
When I finally got back into writing, I was excited to learn that self-publishing wasn’t only an option, but it was an option that worked. There isn’t much I dislike about being an Indie author, ex
cept sometimes the hours involved. It’s been a terrific experience learning the ins and outs of all of this craziness, bouncing ideas off other Indies such as yourself and figuring out new ways to be successful.
I’d only go traditional, honestly, if I could maintain some control over my creations. And if it paid enough to get me out of accounting. That would be pretty hard to pass up… ;D
10. What kind of things do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I’m a big movie geek, and I love to watch films and television with my better half. I’m also a music nut, especially when it comes to Indie electronic and goth/industrial music. (My two favorite bands, Diorama and Mesh, are both releasing new albums within a month of each other, so I’m in hoggie heaven right now.) I’m a workout nut/runner, and I make it a daily task to get away from everything else and either run 2 miles or spend an hour on the elliptical trainer. I’m a big NBA basketball fan (Go Spurs!), and I love the outdoors. During the summer Lib and I like to take the kids out hiking, onto the ferr
ies, or trekking down into Portland.
11. Before we get to the quickie-questions, tell us what makes you laugh? And I mean really laugh. What puts Steven Montano into an uncontrollable hyena-infused giggle fit?
George Carlin. That man was a foul-mouthed genius. John Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Monty Python’s “The Holy Grail”. “Spy”, “Modern Family” and “Big Bang Theory” all usually have me in stitches.
What’s your preference?
Writing With or Without Music: With. I make playlists to go with certain writing projects. Yes, I’m a dork.
Dream Vacation or Dream
Car: Taking my wife to Europe. She’s never been out of the country. My dream car would be a 1950 Mercury Monterey (the car from Sylvester Stallone’s old film “Cobra”.)
Cats or Dogs: Dogs, but small dogs. My son provides enough rambunctious energy for three larger dogs, so I don’t need any more of that.
Spiders or Snakes: Neither. Give me chameleons or scorpions.
Chocolate or Caramel: Chocolate!
Food: My tastes are too broad to narrow it down to one, but today we’ll go
with the broad answer “fish”.
Cereal: Not a big cereal eater, but I can usually suffer through some Frosted Mini-Wheats.
Color: I used to be all about the black. Now I’m all about the green (darker green). I like most earth tones.
80’s Movie: My first answer would be “Aliens”, but I prefer the Director’s Cut, which technically wasn’t released until the 90s…so I’ll go with Big Trouble in Little
China. Jack Burton is a God.
Concert you’ve been to: Depeche Mode, NIN, Phil Collins, Switchblade Symphony, Sister Machine Gun, U2, Poison. But I haven’t been to a show in a while. (Sad.)
Smell: My wife’s hair.
Special thanks to Steven for taking part in this month’s Author Alert. Want more? Check out the links below and stalk Steven everywhere!