INTERVIEW, REVIEW, and GIVEAWAY
No Shelter From Darkness:
The Cruentus Saga
The Cruentus Saga
by Mark D. Evans
Bewitching Book Tours brings you the book tour for Mark D. Evans’ No Shelter From Darkness, the first book in The Cruentus Saga. Be sure to visit all the stops below. Today on Books Direct I will be interviewing the author as well as sharing an excerpt and my review.
“Her hands began to shake as she looked down wide-eyed at the blood-soaked cotton that covered her.”
London emerges from the Blitz, and every corner of the city bears the scars. In the East End – a corner fairing worse than most – thirteen year-old Beth Wade endures this new way of life with her adoptive family. She also suffers the prejudice against her appearance, an abiding loneliness and now the trials of adolescence. But with this new burden comes a persisting fatigue and an unquenchable thirst that ultimately steals her into unconsciousness…
What happens next is the start of something Beth will fear more than the war itself. She begins to change in ways that can’t be explained by her coming-of-age, none more frightening than her need to consume blood. The family who took her in and the former best friend who’s taken refuge in their house can never know. Aware of the danger she poses to everyone around her, Beth has never felt more alone. But someone else knows Beth’s secret… someone who understands just how different she really is. He alone can decrypt her past and explain her future. But he’s been sworn to destroy her kind, and as Beth grows ever more dangerous, he’s forced to take sides.
Can Beth keep all of the secrets? Can she trust a man sworn to kill her? And can she stop the vampire within from taking her humanity?
Beth breathed furiously. She was exhausted, but the air she breathed had a new scent to it. It stopped her short. Her insides jumped in excitement at the rusty metallic scent. Her jaw twitched and her body flinched. She spun her head around, toward the aroma. Oliver had felt his way back to the uneven wall and leant against it cradling his arm. He sobbed and whimpered, while looking aimlessly at it. Beth could see what he couldn’t: a jagged edge of bone poking out from his forearm. He was slightly sheltered under the broken floorboards above him, and the rain wasn’t washing away the blood that now oozed freely. Beth didn’t need to see everything. She could smell it.
Beautiful, delicious, unparalleled and unbeatable human blood.
Her head tipped forward. Her nose flared involuntarily and her lips snarled into a sadistic smile. She felt the four pointed canines being pushed out; unsheathed. The tip of her tongue curled under one of the two fangs that slid down. Her heart deafened the rain and the approaching bombers. Almost subconsciously, she lowered herself into a half-crouch, ready to pounce, and though her nails were trimmed short, her fingers curled into claws. She couldn’t even feel the hole in her palm any more. She felt nothing at all except raging bloodlust. Her brother leant there sobbing, oblivious to the bloodthirsty creature no more than a yard away that wanted nothing more than to cover everything with his precious life force. To swim in his blood.
Beth could almost taste it.
No Shelter From Darkness is set in 1941 in war-torn London. Beth, now thirteen, was adopted by the Wades when she was one year old, after being abandoned on the steps of a church. When next door neighbor, Mary, is orphaned, she moves in with the Wades. This leads to some interesting situations, especially when Beth starts noticing changes in her own moods, health, and behavior, and begins to crave something she can’t identify. What is happening to her? And what secret has her father been hiding?
This book provides a fascinating look at life in London during World War II. I loved the amount of detail and obvious effort the author has put into the story, along with his new twist on vampire lore. The story is told alternately from the points-of-view of Beth, her friend Mary, and her adoptive parents Lynne and Bill. It’s interesting to see how Beth changes and how, with help from an unexpected source, she learns to understand and cope with her situation.
The book is exceptionally well-written, the characters are well-drawn, and the author does a wonderful job of getting into the minds and bodies of his female characters. I guess all of that research paid off (see interview below). I look forward to the release of the next book in the series in 2014.
Interview With the Author
Hi Mark, thanks for joining me today to discuss your new book, No Shelter from Darkness.
Which writers have influenced you the most?
Dean Koontz has influenced me in terms of style. It’s only recently when I read another of his books that I realized this. He’s such a great writer with an amazing way with words, I have no shame in saying I aspire to write like him.
As far as this particular novel is concerned, I wouldn’t say this was an influence as I had already written a few drafts of mine by the time I read it, but I sure was encouraged when John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let the Right One In became so successful.
I love that book! It does have a similar feel to yours. What age group do you recommend your book for?
I know some readers classify my book as YA. I can appreciate that, I can see why that may be. In my mind it’s an adult book, written for an adult audience, but at the same time there are themes in this first book of the saga that would seem to lend itself to the YA market.
But then, how many under-18s watch 18-rated films?
I of course hope that the book reaches a broad audience. I think all the books in the series would appeal to late-teens and up, through the twenties and thirties and beyond. I’m not writing them for the YA market, but the YA audience will enjoy them.
I agree. What sparked the idea for this book?
A lifelong fascination with vampires helped. Among all the other ideas I have for stories, I think a vampire story was always going to be the one that would become my first book. However, The Cruentus Saga (of which No Shelter From Darkness is the first book) will be my only foray into vampires. No other ideas I have involve them.
Back to the question, though, and although I always wanted to write a vampire story, I was waiting a long time for that spark around which I could build a good vampire story. And the idea did come just like that. From out of nowhere, I suddenly asked myself what would happen if a vampire was brought up by humans.
I’m not saying that idea in itself was original, but the way I was visualising it was. It wasn’t a case of a human taking in a vampire. It was a case of a child growing up unaware of what she was, discovering she was a vampire, and exploring what that would mean for her and those around her.
Which comes first? The character’s story or the idea for the novel?
For me, it’s the idea that comes first. In everything I’ve written, it’s the idea that creates the character, and then it’s the situations that create the character’s story. The story for probably all of my characters has changed as I write them. There might be arcs that I want to cover and I’ll make sure that arc is part of the story, but for the most part I’ll be writing with a plan for the character, but then things happen, scenarios come about and the character’s story organically changes.
I think some of my better plot threads have come about this way, totally unintentionally but naturally coming out of some scenario or situation.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
It being set in 1941 and my insistence to myself on getting the details correct made a great many parts of the book difficult to write. But even then, probably the hardest part had nothing to do with the era. It was writing about the biological aspects of Beth’s transition into womanhood. It is a major part of the story, after all it’s what starts the whole thing off, in a way. I did a lot of research and asked a lot embarrassing questions of my female friends. It was important to me that like every other part of the book, I got it right.
Not that there is a “right” as I learnt; it’s different for every girl. But my concern was getting it realistic and relatable, and not shying away from it.
Well, I think you did a remarkable job. How do you hope this book affects its readers?
First and foremost, I would like for them to be entertained. I would be happy with that. Going a bit deeper, and I know this is asking a lot, I hope that it will leave people thinking about what is evil and what is good. I hope there’s a bit of a Dexter syndrome – he’s a serial killer but you like him. Is he evil? Likewise, Beth is a vampire. *Minor spoiler ahead* She’s killed animals. We know her kind kills humans. We know she almost did kill a human; that she wanted to. *End spoiler* But we like her and (hopefully) feel sorry for her. Yet, is she evil?
What does it mean to be evil?
I hope people are left a little confused, to be honest, as to who they should be rooting for. Real life is rarely black and white, so I hope to have a bit of that ambiguity in my novel, and for people to care enough about it to think about it.
As well as all this, there are various underlying themes and messages that I hope people will pick up on.
I always think a good novel is one that stays with you, that you find yourself thinking about it for days afterward. Again, I know it’s a tall order, but if my book stays with people like that (and for the right reasons, of course), it would make me a happy man.
I like your Dexter analogy, Mark. And you’ll be pleased to know your book has stuck with me. How long did it take you to write this book?
It took me a few years to write, from the first word of the first draft to the last word of the final draft. However, due to what I’m trying to achieve with the book and the series, I spent over a decade on research and development before I wrote that first word.
Wow, that’s impressive. What is your writing routine?
On the days that I get to devote completely to writing, I usually get up, go to a coffee shop, get my favourite latte and a panini and write until my battery dies. I’ll then usually go home, plug the laptop in and at the least finish the chapter I was working on.
How did you get your book published?
I actually started out the traditional way. I spent ages creating a cover letter and synopsis and sent them off with the first few chapters to numerous agents in the UK. Most of them replied, but all those that did said the usual thing, something along the lines of “it’s good but not for us”. It’s weird, but to get a rejection letter was kind of exciting in a way, a kind of rite of passage. But then it gets depressing when you get the sixth one.
But… I have a good FB/Twitter friend, Tracey Frazier, who is an author with Seattle based team publishers Booktrope, and she kindly got my foot in their door. I sent them my stuff, and the next thing I knew they were offering to publish my book.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Really, the only thing I could say is probably the same thing any other author would say: don’t give up. Keep on writing, and keep on improving. The old adage “if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again” is possibly more true for this vocation than any other – hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was created for this vocation.
But also, when (not if) you do get published, remember to stay realistic. It’s fine to dream about your book reaching millions of pairs of eyes, as long as it is your dream and not your expectation.
I think expectation is a bit of a fine line to tread, actually. I have dreamt (and still do) that No Shelter from Darkness will reach millions, but at the same time I know that the odds are against me. This is being realistic, but it’s very easy to fall the other side of the line into pessimism, certain that you’ll never sell more than a few copies.
Expect too much and you’re very probably setting yourself up for a nasty surprise, expect too little and your ambition, enthusiasm and drive will drain away.
At least, this is what I’ve found. Perhaps you’ll never have this problem, but it would be prudent to watch out for it.
It’s a great book. I hope it reaches millions, too. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Currently this is restricted to “free” activities (I’m an author, remember). Thus it’s the usual kind of things like reading, music and movies.
I was bitten by the travel bug many years ago, however, so am constantly itching to get out of the country and embark on adventures. Anything a little bit crazy is right up my street. Unfortunately right now I have to settle for walking around London and occasionally attempting to skateboard (usually with painful consequences).
What does your family think of your writing?
My sister is my beta reader. She has confided in me that when I gave her the first book to read, she approached it with equal amounts of excitement and fear. The fear was that she’d have to sit me down and tell me that I couldn’t write and that the book was crap. Believe me, she might be my sister, but I know that if she thought that, she’d tell me. It’s why she’s such a good beta reader.
Obviously I’m telling you all this now because she breathed a big sigh of relief when she realised she wouldn’t need to have that discussion with me (apparently she said to herself, “f#@k, my brother can write!”)
That’s great, Mark. Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
It included the usual stuff; pre-school, school, wishing you were a grown up with no idea how bad a wish that was.
Did you enjoy school?
Did you like reading when you were a child?
I was a little odd as a child in so much that I was creative and imaginative, drawing and painting and, of course, writing. I showed promise when it came to words, being a good speller and grasping the concepts of word formation quite early on.
But I was too busy out playing with friends to read. I’m also not the best person at being told what to do, and throughout school we were given books to read and it made me not want to read them. To be honest, it wasn’t until I left school and was no longer told to read, when I started to read.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
There was no kind of “eureka” moment for me. It slowly developed over time. Ideas for stories occur to me all the time and always have, but it wasn’t until the idea for this novel popped into my head over a decade ago and I started to develop it when the desire to write really began to burn, even though I’d been writing stories most of my life.
Did your childhood experiences influence your writing?
Not that I’m conscious of, but I wouldn’t be surprised if my sister read this answer and said, “You’re kidding, right?”
What was your favorite book as a child?
After what I’ve said about almost actively not reading as a kid, when I did read I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and there was a book I remember reading and loving, but the title of it to this day escapes me (no prizes for guessing it was a book school didn’t tell me to read). I’ve Googled it, of course, trying to find it but to no avail. I thought it was called something along the lines of “Dark Planet”, but nothing by that name matches the book I read.
It was about a man who lands on a seemingly abandoned planet only to learn something has caused the machines to come alive and kill everyone.
To a nine-year old me, that was awesome!
Okay, we’ll put the challenge out there. Does anyone know this book?
What can we look forward to from you in the future, Mark?
I’m working on the follow-up to No Shelter from Darkness at the moment, which I’m aiming to get published sometime in 2014. If you go to the Cruentus Saga website you’ll see my plan is to get all five books in the saga published at a rate of one per year, with the last part hitting in 2017.
As far as the saga goes, I’m just so excited to write each one and get them out there, because I really do think and believe that I have a great story to tell. It all started as one book and my intention was to write one book. I didn’t expand it into a saga for the hell of writing a series, I did it because the story required it. It has evolved without me pushing it.
Beyond that, I have other ideas in gestation and I already know which one I’d like to write first outside of the Cruentus world. Whether I’ll manage to do it before or after Cruentus is complete, we’ll just have to wait and see.
But whatever I write, I always try to break convention. Even if it’s a common theme, I always try and come up with something different. They say there’s no originality left in the world. While that may be true, I will always try to prove them wrong.
That’s great, Mark. I hope you do prove them wrong. Thanks for stopping by today. I look forward to reading the next books in the series.
About the Author
Mark D. Evans was born near London, England. He graduated university with a degree in something not even remotely connected with writing and went on to become a successful consultant. Then he threw it all away to chase his dream of being an author, via a considerable amount of travelling. Today, his life largely resembles that of a nomad, and he can currently be found typing away in a tiny flat in north London, sustained by coffee.
He is the author of two short stories, Dead End Train and We Are GOD. His latest work is his debut novel, No Shelter From Darkness, which is the first book in his series, The Cruentus Saga.
Make sure you enter to win in the tour-wide giveaway. There are five paperback copies and five ebook copies of No Shelter From Darkness up for grabs.
Book Tour Schedule
October 1 – So Much to Write – Guest blog
October 2 – Fang-tastic Books – Guest blog
October 3 – Roxanne’s Realm – Interview
October 4 – Lisa’s World of Books – Spotlight
October 7 – Book Worm & More – Spotlight
October 8 – Reading in Twilight – Guest blog
October 9 – Lis Les Livres – Spotlight
October 10 – Dalene’s Book Reviews – Interview
October 11 – Jodie Pierce’s Ink Slinger’s Blog – Spotlight
October 15 – Bewitching Book Tours Magazine – Interview
October 15 – Nicky Peacock Author – Review
October 16 – Pembroke Sinclair – Interview
October 17 – Ramblings of a Book Lunatic – Spotlight
October 18 – Wicca Witch 4 Book Blog – Spotlight
October 21 – The Creatively Green Write at Home Mom – Interview
October 22 – Bookworm Bridgette’s World – Interview and Review
October 23 – Fae Books – Spotlight
October 24 – Quill or Pill – Spotlight
October 24 – Hide the Matches – Review
October 24 – Rogue Reviews – Review
October 25 – Ebook Escapes – Guest blog and Review
October 26 – Sunshine & Mountains Book Reviews – Review
October 27 – Mythical Books – Review
October 28 – Mythical Books – Interview
October 28 – Cloey’s Book Reviews and Other Stuff – Review
October 29 – Books Direct – Interview, Review, and Excerpt
October 29 – Deb Sanders – Review
October 30 – Beverly @ The Wormhole – Spotlight and Review
October 31 – Share My Destiny – Spotlight and Review
October 31 – BK Walker Books – Review
October 31 – Booklover Sue – Spotlight and Review