Just had to share this. Andrew Carter sent in this photo from his recent trip to a remote Scottish island (he didn’t get much reading done because the weather was too nice!). I very much recommend that this is the way to read City of Ruin – if not all books, in fact. The puffins don’t look that impressed by the cover or the empty bottle, mind you…
City of Ruin is now out in the US and I spotted this lovely review at Drying Ink:
Beware, though – there are no author’s darlings here! Characters suffer the consequences of their actions – or beyond them with impunity, and though it’s no A Storm of Swords yet… There’s definitely an ‘anyone can die’ feel to the book which definitely adds to the tension! There’s no safety net of ‘oh, x won’t be killed off’: because x very well might be. Then brutally dismembered for added drama, and sold as meat…
Mark Charan Newton has reached a stage of brutal genius, and I can’t wait to read more!
I thought I had mentioned this here, but it turns out I haven’t. There’s a pretty big interview with me, by Jeff VanderMeer, over at the Omnivoracious blog on Amazon.com. We talk about the books, but also about my approach to some of the technical aspects of writing, for what it’s worth:
Amazon.com: How do you approach characterization? And to what extent is the city in the novel “created” by the viewpoint characters?
Newton: I try to create a character who does something unusual, or has something about their personality that marks them out as different. That’s the starting point, because that then makes them interesting for me to write about (I have a low boredom threshold with characters). Then–just like everyone in the real world–I know they have problems, issues, or things they have to cope with–and I want that to be a decent part of what they have to do in the novel. For example, I wanted to know what it would be like if the military commander in the novel just happened to be gay, but was hiding that from people–what would that mean for the narrative, how would that shape his plot? How would it get in the way of his job? It’s those kinds of questions that make it all interesting…
If you’ve been brought up on ebook torrents and no longer think books should be paid for ever again, then you can win a copy of City of Ruin for free (and guilt-free!) at Blood of the Muse (though you’ve about a day left to enter).
Oh, and while I’m rambling on about the books, we’ve settled on a name for the monster in book four. It’s going to be called the Mourning Wasp.
I almost feel apologetic for plugging the books and interviews and whatnot, such is the nature of the blog these days. But tough.
The choice of a transgender as the main protagonist could have gone awry, but I think Newton has written her character, her difficulties, and her interactions with others (colleagues, strangers, enemies) very well indeed, and with a delicacy that was both welcome and surprising. Often, when one finds characters such as this, a preachy or strident tone can come across (at other, saddening times, more negative tones are evident), but not once did it feel like the author was trying to push an agenda. It’s very much a case of the main character happens to be transgender, and Mark does a great job of highlighting a lot of the problems that face transgenders in the world today, only transferred on a more repressive and less enlightened fantasy setting. If I’m perfectly honest, however, I never thought of Lan as anything other than female, which I think is a sign of Newton’s success at writing her character.
Very happy so far with the reaction to Lan.
And on the Suvudu blog I contribute to their Take Five feature, courtesy of Matt Staggs:
1) There’s a giant spider in City of Ruin that, as part of a minor sub-plot, is taking out union leaders – and the names of those leaders are based on real-world revolutionaries. In fact, there’s a bit of a role for unions in this book – part of what I wanted to do was show that, contrary to what some politicians would tell you, unions are all about ensuring workers are protected (in this case, not being made to work like slaves in freezing conditions etc). You can put this in a fantasy novel and people understand that. You see it on Fox News and… well. Quite.
But first, pimpage, over at LEC Book Reviews:
Call me a skeptic, but after the progress Mark Charan Newton had shown in City of Ruin, I was doubtful that we would see another leap forward such as that one in the next book. The Book of Transformations proved me wrong, exhibiting a writer at his best yet, and more importantly, thoroughly enjoying himself. More than that though, The Book of Transformation offered, much like its predecessor, a terrifically bizarre fantasy adventure, utterly unique in its construction. Fans of the first two books will be glad to find a book better than those this third time around. And for those that have yet to jump in to Newton’s rich, weird and thrilling world, there’s no better place than this one to start. This one is, you’ll understand, highly, highly recommended.
Daniel Abraham makes a brief statement on the current gender debate in SFF, which you should read:
There’s always a problem for men advocating for women’s equality that we come across as something less than manly while doing so. A woman I used to date had the solution of advocating for women in derogatory terms, as in “Ah, I say give the bitches equal pay.”
Though I rarely work blue, it seems to me that this is the occasion for it. If you are offended by rude language or are a woman, you may stop reading now. I’ll get back to a more genteel, open, and civil conversation next time.
Okay, then, fellas.
It seems as though the rise of self-publishing continues, as the Bookseller discusses a self-published author hitting the one-million sales mark:
Locke said: “Kindle Direct Publishing has provided an opportunity for independent authors to compete on a level playing field with the giants of the book selling industry. Not only did KDP give me a chance, they helped at every turn. Quite simply, KDP is the greatest friend an author can have.”
Other than an editor or an agent, that is. No doubt these one-off headlines will be enough to fuel the fires of struggling authors-to-be out there, but for every one success, there are probably a hundred thousand failures. Much like ordinary publishing in that respect, I guess. What is interesting is that in the few years I’ve been working in this industry, the stigma of self-publishing has all but vanished (allowing the publishers involved to make a mint by playing on the emotions of the struggling artist).
Meanwhile, the Guardian discusses the merits of actually having an editor:
But as an author who has a contract with a publisher, I like the fact that, on a very basic level, every time I deliver a manuscript, I am auditioning for them all over again.
Lastly, watch this, and then send it to all your e-reading friends:
Those crazy Americans. They’ve only gone and given away 50 pages of City of Ruin, as the book is out in the US in a couple of weeks. Here’s the widget, embedded for those who have not yet read the book.
Take a look, but beware of the spider…
The occupation of “gong farmer” sounds quite cheerful until you realise it was what the Tudors called people who were paid to clear out the sewage from cesspits.
So what can be said about the drunken Cambridge baker who, while relieving himself, fell backwards into a cesspit on 2 June 1523? He died horribly. What a way to go.
You don’t get many of these in novels. They seem rather ignoble ways to go, I guess.
Suffice to say, though, that I subscribe to the Watchmen school of heroes – that beyond the powers, superheroes are still people with stuff going on in their own lives. But power happens to be a central theme to the novel – it’s contrasted with political and democratic power (such as with the anarchists, who choose to decentralise to minimise the negative impacts of power). If anything, it’s structures of power that are what I choose to tackle, and superpowers are an extension of that metaphor.
And here are a few more words from Leo Cristea on the latest release:
Simply put, Lan was one of my favourite characters. Not only was she fascinating, but she was also exceedingly normal. That was the point. Newton had to force the issue that Lan is a normal character, and he does this remarkably well. Her transition features briefly, and following this, Lan is Lan. Her change is not the focus of the story. It’s not important. What is important is her new life and her role in the events transpiring in the city—a city facing destruction from inside and out.
Now enough of me. Go and enjoy the sunshine.
They’re here and looking rather fiery. And, as you may have noticed, straight into trade edition like quite a few of the newer authors on their books. I don’t think hardcovers are doing that well at all unless you’re a New York Times bestseller, so trade seems the safer option. I’ve also been hamstrung by the UK edition being out a year ahead of the US editions, and being available on export, but hopefully these can do well enough to keep things ticking over.
A wonderfully meaty review (always something that appeals to the author ego) over at Pornokitsch:
As a comics fan, I naturally tend toward an analysis of The Book of Transformations’ take on fantasy heroism – or, more accurately, the transformation from human to superhuman. But this is only one of the many, many lenses that can be applied Mr. Newton’s substantial text. He has given his book an audacious title and yet the finished product manages to live up to it. The book also scrutinizes the moment that utopian socialistic aspiration turns into anarchist revolt, and when enlightened absolutism becomes an oligarchial dictatorship. Transformations marks a turning point in the series as well – the climax of the internal politics and the dawn of a more external focus. The characters themselves undergo a series of transformations: static definitions of gender, class and species are all evolved over the course of the book. Transformation is a broad topic, but Mr. Newton approaches it from every conceivable direction. This is a book that, like many of its Dying Earth predeccesors, will provide grist for criticism for decades to come.
I realise the following sentence makes me sound like an arse, but it’s such a satisfying feeling when reviewers genuinely get the little layers. After all, I’ve been faffing about with them for the better part of a year; they’ve been loitering around my head in addition to the But what happens to the people? bit. Go read the rest.
To balance out the author ego, here’s a one-star review of Nights over at Amazon, entitled “Pompous prose murders momentum”.
I’m watching my stats closely to see which link gets the most clicks.
Firstly, I have apparently forgotten that yesterday was the official publication date of The Book of Transformations. Waterstone’s are doing a trade paperback edition and the hardcover is available from Amazon (who tend to have the largest market share of hardcovers). The paperback of City of Ruin is also out there. All three books are in the Waterstone’s 3 for 2 promotion at the moment, too. Copies are winging their way to reviewers (if you’ve not got one, give me a shout).
So in celebration of publication day, I got sent this:
Because Tor UK are lovely. Review to follow.
Also, I’ll be attending the Alt.Fiction festival on Sunday 26th June. It’s a weekend festival, this year, but I’ll only be there for the one day. You can view the whole schedule here. It’s quite a line-up. Hope to see you there.
Very quickly, there’s a new extract of The Book of Transformations over at Pat’s Fanatsy Hotlist:
On one of the central sections of Villjamur, beneath the disused aqueduct, a short walk from the corner of the long street called Gata Sentimental with its narrow, five-storey buildings, and under the subtle night shadows caused by a bold stone bridge, two men in hooded tunics and thick overcoats were navigating their way across the vast, empty iren, avoiding the patches of moonlight. A pterodette lunged down, inches from the cobbles, hunting bats, before it scaled one of the numerous, crenellated towers of the city at a high velocity. A sharp air pervaded the scene, and a fog was beginning to roll in from the sea, bringing with it a deadly evening chill.
‘There’s a foul air tonight,’ one of the men muttered.