I got an interview with Holly Evans, author of ‘Stolen Ink’!

“Who’s our first client?”

He curled his lip and looked up from his sketchbook. “Some prissy boy in an expensive suit.”

I read Stolen Ink a while ago, and absolutely LOVED it, and I’ve been lucky enough to get an interview with the author, Holly Evans. If you haven’t already, read this book. There will be links at the bottom of the page to the author’s Amazon page and Twitter for anyone interested, and you really should be. I reviewed ‘Stolen Ink’ here. I’m also now reading an ARC of the second book in this series, Blood and Ink, which is shaping up to be as good as the first! (review coming soon). Holly Evans has also written a series called Infernal Hunt, which is on my to-read list! So, without further ado…

1) What influenced and inspired you to write your novels?
Stolen Ink really came from my love of tattoos. I think they’re an incredible art form. I have two at the moment but I have plans for four more.
There are so many subconscious influences and inspirations buried in there. My fae come from the Celtic and Norse mythology, there are twists of course, but I adore the predatory tricksters that they had there. None of the fluffy Disney stuff. The really tight friendship between Dacian and Keirn (also the one between Evie and Elise in the Infernal Hunt books) comes from my friendship with my bestfriend. We’ve been through thick and thin, we’d do anything for each other. The city and setting comes mostly from Prague as I was living there when I wrote the IH books and Stolen Ink. It’s such a gorgeous, multi-faceted city. There are so many layers to explore, it’s hard not be inspired there.
I think one of the big things that influenced the books was the fact that I see a lot of people saying they don’t see enough platonic relationships in books. There’s so much focus on rivalry and romance. I wanted to show the strong familial and friendship bonds. That came through more in the IH books, but there’s plenty of time with Dacian and co. yet.

2) Most writers put themselves into their characters, to an extent. Out of your own characters, were there any in particular that you felt you identify with more than others? Were there any that you found yourself particularly liking or disliking as you wrote them?
I really love Vyx. She’s such a fire-cracker! She’s strong, self-assured, and yet still very definitely feminine. She loves her pretty dresses, she has quite a strong maternal instinct (as can be seen in her cooking for the hopeless boys), but she’ll still stare down an alpha wolf shifter. She isn’t the combat model so to speak, but that doesn’t take away any of her strength or fire, if anything it adds to it. And she doesn’t compensate for her lack of combat effectiveness with feminine wiles or overt sexuality because she’s very much asexual. She’s so much fun to write. Don’t get me wrong, I love kick-ass woman, Evie and co were fantastic to write, and my favourite women in fiction are all kick-ass, but Vyx is wonderful. She makes me smile so much.
As to those that I put myself into… Up until Stolen Ink I made very sure to strip out every scrap of myself from my fiction. I allowed something of myself to creep into Isa though. I have an abusive past and some of that came through with him. I like to hope that I have Isa’s strength. I identify with Dacian a bit as well, that feeling of wanting a quiet life but the gods just won’t quite allow it lol.

3) If you had a day in the world of Stolen Ink, what would you do and where would you go? Who would you be in that world?
That’s so hard!! I’d love to go up into the skies with the knowledge merchants. They enjoy such freedom flying around the world trading information and using their wits and wiles to get all they can from the world. I think I’d like to fly over Northern Africa and some of the magical cities over that with them. To see the cultures that are so different to my day to day life.
4) Are there any bits of worldbuilding that never made it into the book that you’d love to share with everyone? If so, what?
There’s so much! This world is huge. I’m planning another 4+ series in this world so there’s a lot left to explore and share yet. I adore the knowledge merchants, they’ll be shown in Blood & Ink. There’s another branch to the dreamwalkers that’re very cool too, I have a series planned with one of those as a protagonist. Where Ben was very much half in the dream world with his bright colours and vacant expression, the other branch is more military. They’re kick-ass investigators. Oh! And I want to share the non-magic cities where they have magical creatures in zoos to stare at. The ethics and views around that will be fun to look into. To see how they view magic so very differently to Dacian and co. There’s so, so, much left to share! I could go on for pages, but I think it’s best put into the books.

5) If there was something you want people to get from the books above anything else, what would it be?
Hmm. I think it’s probably the importance of your chosen family. The people that you pull around you, that you choose to give your all to. The relationships with those people are so important. As I mentioned above I think those relationships are quite often put aside in fiction, but, as scary as it is to open up to people and establish those bonds, they’re life-savers (literally) when you have them. Dacian has trouble trusting people, but the people around came through for him. When he opens up a bit more he’s so much happier and freer. It’s terrifying to do that, to take the risk, but it’s absolutely worth it. It’s also worth putting our efforts into those bonds and being the best friends that we can be. It makes our lives richer.

6) What’s your next step? Tell us a little about the next thing you are planning to work on.
I’m currently writing Ink Bound (Ink Born 3). That continues Dacian’s story. After that I’m starting a new series, Hidden Alchemy. That follows the bisexual treasure-hunting alchemist Kaitlyn Felis. That’s set in the same world as Dacian and there will be a couple of cameos from Kaitlyn in Dacian’s books and vice versa. That’s far more an Indiana Jones type of book. I want to capture the adventure that I feel in the Stardust movie. Once those two series are established I’ll start my next series in the ink world. There are a few options for that, the dreamwalker I mentioned above, a blood magician, and there’s an air elemental that’s been calling to me for a while too. We’ll see what happens!

So, thank you to the wonderful Holly Evans for the interview, and for anyone who wants links to her work, here you go!
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Holly-Evans/e/B01ESEZALC
Twitter: Http://twitter.com/KhaosFoxe
-K Hart

 

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Sorcerer to the Crown – Zen Cho Review

At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, freed slave, eminently proficient magician, and Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers—one of the most respected organizations throughout all of Britain—ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up.

But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…

Why did I pick this up?: Honestly, I picked it up because I KEPT hearing about it. So often that I eventually caved and thought ‘why not just buy it and see?’

Good points: Okay, there is this gorgeous idea within it where characters use clouds as transportation. I LOVE THAT. I also love Prunella, and Rollo, who are great characters with huge potential.

Quibbles: I haven’t got that many, but yet again this was a book I was reading that was very slow to start. It reads a little like Austen, as several people have said, and this sort of thing often puts me off. However this time it didn’t. I’d say it was a steady 4/5. It also reminds me of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which I love, so there was always going to be at least some positive points there.

Overview (TL;DR): Super short review, but… it was a good book, nothing to scream and rave about for me, but definitely worth picking up.

-K Hart

Grey Magic – J T Lawrence Review

No one appreciates the irony of her situation more than Raven Kane: she’s a burnt-out witch. Raven is a hip, hexing-and-texting sorceress – or at least, she used to be. Now her ancient timber house is falling down around her, and the bank wants to repossess it. Nothing would make her cantankerous neighbour happier than seeing Raven and her messy menagerie out on the street. To add to her stress, the reckless Wicked Witches are causing mischief and it’s her job to reign them in. Worst of all is that her magic seems to be fading. Just as everything seems to be too much to handle, there’s a knock on the (splintering) door. A not-unattractive man appears in her life: not to save her, as a fairytale would have you believe, but to arrest her for the murder of one of her clients. It wouldn’t be that bad for Raven, except that she knows she’s guilty.

Why did I pick this up?: The plot sounded intriguing, and a modern take on witchcraft sounded like exactly my sort of thing. I also loved the simplicity of the cover.

Good points: Well, it did what it said on the tin. It was very much a modern witch story, with some great humour throughout.

Quibbles: Honestly, it took me SO LONG to get into and I’m not sure it was worth it. I’ve seen some very good reviews of this book, so maybe it was just me, but I think this book and I were incompatible. It was very nearly a DNF for me. Part of that, I think, was the use of present tense. It took me so long to get over that. I rarely like books in present tense – it has to be really good to grab me, and this one missed the mark, sadly. I loved the theory behind it, and the sense of what the story could have been, but I found the MC’s conversations with herself distracting rather than endearing, and the length of time it took for me to show interest at all was far too long for me.

Overview (TL;DR): Really not for me, which is a shame. To anyone reading this, it might be better for you, and by all means check out other reviews, but not for me.

-K Hart

Stolen Ink – Holly Evans Review

I’m Dacian, a tattoo magician, and my life went from my biggest concern being finding a pretty guy to fall into bed with at the end of the week to everything falling apart around me.

There are two problems in my life.

Number one – I’m an ink magician, the thing of myths. A lot of very powerful people would love to get their hands on me, and I have no intention of letting that happen.

Number two – A tattoo thief came to my city, and the magical community has decided that I’m the guy to stop them.

Somehow, I have to catch the thief without letting my secret out of the bag, and that’s even harder than it sounds.

Why did I pick this up?: LGBT+ ink magician? Urban fantasy? OF COURSE I was going to pick this up, and I wasn’t at all disappointed. I got what I came for and more.

Good points:  Isiah! I fell in love with this character from the first moment he appeared. Elves! Magicians! Tattoo magic! Vyx! Potentially asexual representation! Gay characters! Badass vixen hybrids! Snarky sarcasm. This was practically my perfect book. Vyx and Isiah I particularly fell in love with.

Quibbles: I had a panic mid-book thinking that there was going to be a sex scene, but there was all of the lead-up to sex and then a fade to black. THANK YOU SO MUCH HOLLY EVANS. I LOVE fade to black, because it saves me from having to read the gross details. So anyone like me, who moves away from sex automatically, know that this book is mostly safe for you!

Overall (TL:DR): READ IT. I absolutely loved it and have already prodded several friends to read it.

-K Hart

Spirit’s End – Rachel Aaron Review

Progress on Alternate: The beta-readers have it!

Current Review:

So, the final book. Now usually I don’t really muster much enthusiasm for the final book in a series. The problem is, the things I love about a story aren’t the big end battles or the huge stakes… it’s the tiny things. Character-building, little moments, things that touched my heart.

When I read the very start of this book, I was struck by a very weird uncomfortable feeling. It was so well-written, and Eli’s experience (no spoilers here!) was something that once in a while in my life I have felt too. And it is SO ACCURATE. And I’ve never seen it written down like that, in such a way, before.

And then everything moved on. Big things were happening. A storm was brewing. Literally as well as figuratively. And they have to find a way out of it. It’s not really a spoiler to say they do. That’s like saying ‘the story ends’. Yes, it ends in one way or another, but how we get there is the important part. Who we meet along the way.

I guess I just inadvertently made a metaphor for life in trying to review a genre novel. Oh well.

I think the main thing to be said with this novel is that the characters are incredible as always, and that I really want Eli and Nico on my side. Just saying. Josef would be handy in a fight, too. But Eli and Nico I want as friends.

-K Hart

The Spirit War – Rachel Aaron Review

Progress on Alternate: In the hands of beta-readers

Current Review:

I’ve finished reading the end of this book just seconds ago and the first thing I have to say is: DAMMIT ELI. I think he just made me feel some kind of weird emotion – a mix of mad and proud and confused and heaven knows what else. I always liked Eli in this series but dammit what the hell do you think you’re doing with my heart?

Josef and his role in this is sort of mildly hilarious. Finding out about his history makes me laugh because, basically, I have a very strong image of him, a little like someone else I used to know, entirely out of his comfort zone trying to act like the character he is supposed to be.

If I had any small criticism it is that Rachel Aaron seems to use ‘but this is a part of their real history and no one believes it’ a lot in these books, and I did read it thinking: here we go again. But that would be all.

I think the Shepherdess has beautiful characterisation, honestly. Even though I don’t like the character as a person I absolutely love her as a character. I think she’s perfect. As is the Empress. I’m intrigued. Spirit’s End is next, and since I finally splashed out and bought myself these books after mentioning wanting to finish the series not so long ago, I will finally see the end.

-K Hart

Small Favour – Jim Butcher Review

Progress on Alternate: In the hands of beta-readers

Current Review:

The Dresden Files #10, I believe. This book reminded me why I think Dresden is the exact sort of hero I’d be. Oh God, angels. Why am I doing this again? Just completely done and fed up with all of these external agencies pushing him around, but doing it anyway because he’d feel bad if he didn’t. Yeah, that would be me.

It’s getting so deep by this point. The stakes have been upped. I can’t help but wonder, though, why whenever urban fantasy ups the stakes, the angels are called. It’s always Heaven vs. Hell. Surely the highest stakes could be something different? I don’t know… it’s less a criticism and more a consideration.

Having said that, these angels are fun. Angelic vessels? Fallen angels? Weird coins? Well, you know, maybe the last one doesn’t excite many people, but you know. I never said I was normal. And as I said last time I reviewed a Dresden Files book, I love how much Molly is maturing. She’s sort of adorable and I want to keep her.

Less of Bob in this one. Fewer sleazy comments. But hey, Bob never struck me as an unpleasant sleazy… just… weird. And Dresden has a smart enough mouth to get past it.

Ivy is… quite frankly, adorable. I feel oddly protective of this little child. For anyone reading this review who hasn’t read previous Dresden Files books with Ivy in them, just… she’s cute. Take it from me. I want to wrap her in a blanket and take her away from everything. And even though I really disliked Kincaid at first, I’m coming to like him a lot more. Murphy, as always, is a goddess. I don’t have the rest of the series on my shelf yet (I know, it’s awful), but soon I’ll be trying to review the rest, as and when I get hold of them.

-K Hart

Writing Tools: The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Signs and Symbols

Progress on Alternate: 10% ?

This isn’t a review, exactly, but it’s something I’m going to put in the book reviews section. I own a lot of encyclopedias (I always feel like the plural should be encyclopediae) of various things for use when I’m writing, and the Element Encyclopedia series has been pretty good to me. I’ve recently been reading through the ‘Secret Signs and Symbols’.

A lot of people who often write genre pull on real religious, magical, or spiritual traditions as well as history and folklore and so on… I find that having a good background in these things really helps when you’re trying to make a story flow. While this series, and in particular the book I just read, isn’t detailed, it’s a good thing to flick through to see what it is that you might have to look up, research, or simply consider in more detail.

I think every writer should have a collection of books on weird and wonderful real life things as well as fiction. I have books about various religions, magical practises, cults, biographies, historical figures I took an interest in, unsolved mysteries, weird facts… and so many of them are stories in themselves. I feel like I have a bookshelf full of inspiration.

-K Hart

Fool Moon – Jim Butcher Review

Progress on Alternate: Editing at 11%

Current Review:

The Dresden Files #2: Harry Dresden and the War of the Werewolves.

There’s something similar about a lot of books in the Dresden Files series. They have this… key murder case, just like a detective novel, that has some sort of supernatural explanation. Then Dresden irritates everyone and chaos. That’s pretty much the formula. And it works. I think for me the thing about the series is that after a while it gets boring. I like detective things, but there’s only so much you can do.

With this, with the supernatural element, there’s a little more to play with. But still, reoccurring characters aside the premise of the Dresden Files is a bit like the premise of a detective show. In fact, it would probably make an excellent one.

I feel like in Fool Moon Jim Butcher hasn’t quite fallen into his stride yet. There’s something… missing. But it’s still a nice, quick read for someone that wants a little magic, crime and adventure thrown into their days.

-K Hart

Crossbones – Stefan M Nardi Review

Progress on Alternate: 48,229 words

Current Review:

So, I’m part of the Booktasters community which means that when I took a look at this I got a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

I wanted to read this book because immediately, it hit about three of my favourite things: pirates, fae, and magic. So I was more than happy to take a look.

I’ll start by saying that I loved the idea behind it the moment I picked it up, and I could see a lot of spirit in the characters. I’ve mentioned before that I love brother/sister/family relationships, too. Dean and Eldric were fun characters, definite pirate types.

I think the part that was less great, for me, was that everything moved so fast. It felt like one minute we were out on a ship in a storm and then the next there were new people that we hadn’t been properly introduced to, changes of scenery, lore that could have been expanded on. As a book, Crossbones is very short, but not through lack of content. It seems like it’s that way through lack of expansion.

I’m awful for remembering to give certain detail at times myself, but this does make me a little sad. I think this book could be SO GOOD. It just needs a little more of that life poured into it.

-K Hart