Indie Zone: Talking with Joe Hempel, Audiobook Narrator

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Best known for his captivating, rich narration and uncanny ability for pulling listeners into an immersive experience, Joe Hempel has been the driving force behind over 90 audiobooks ranging from Horror, Mystery, and Sci-fi to Romance and Personal Development, and has also been published by Audible Studios, Punch Audio and Listen 2 a Book.


Talking with Joe Hempel, Audiobook Narrator

Sci-Fi & Scary: You mentioned when you first reached out to me that horror was your forte in audio books. What about the genre makes you so comfortable with narrating it?

Joe Hempel: You know, it’s kind of funny. I have always been drawn to the darker side of literature. The titles that kept me awake and afraid of the dark.  Something about that genre just felt so real.  I’ve actually got a funny story about my first encounter with the darker side of literature.  I was in 6th grade and I was reading Stephen King’s Cujo.  My teacher noticed that and sent a note home telling my parents that I wasn’t to be reading that stuff for reports and asked if I needed to be in counseling.  She told her to basically go to hell because I was obviously reading books that nobody else was.  And from there it was horror and sci-fi and I loved each and every title!  I think because of that I have a great ability to really get into what the author is saying.  The fact that I don’t have a booming brooding voice actually plays to my advantage because it feels like we’re sitting at a campfire and I’m just telling you an account of true stories and gives that little bit of “realism” to the characters and makes it that much more creepy.

Sci-Fi & Scary: Out of the 90+ books you’ve narrated, which one was your favorite?

Joe Hempel: …that’s a tough one. Hmmm……I’ve got a few because of the different genre’s I’ve narrated, but I’m definitely partial to the Jonathan Shade series.  There’s just something about those characters that I really connect to.  I really “become” Jonathan Shade when I’m in the booth.  I’m really going to miss  him when I finish the series.

Sci-Fi & Scary: What did you do before you became a professional narrator?

Joe Hempel: I’m actually still a TV Engineer full time, but really close to going full time as a voice actor. Insurance reasons keep me there right now.  I also ran a book review site for a few years, which kind of was the catalyst for me to get into narrating audiobooks.

Sci-Fi & Scary: What’s the process for a book getting into your hands for recording?

Joe Hempel:  It’s an easy process. Just shoot me an email at, or contact me through ACX, or even my facebook page at  Once we make contact we discuss due dates, rates, etc, and we go from there!

Sci-Fi & Scary: What’s the hardest accent for you to do?

Joe Hempel: Oh geez…..all of them?? LOL. If you’re talking foreign accents, anything Middle-Eastern is really tough for me.  So is a cockney accent.  I’m working really hard to hone my Brittish, and it’s a heck of a lot better than when I started thanks to a couple of sessions with Dr Dialect himself, PJ Ochlan.

Sci-Fi & Scary: I noticed from your website that you have a home studio. What is that set-up like? (Ie: soundproofed room, basement, do not disturb sign, etc.)

Joe Hempel: Yeah, I built the studio from plans that I bought. It’s not soundproof but it does keep a LOT of noise out.  No home studio is going to be completely soundproof.  I just have my Computer on the outside and a wireless keyboard and mouse inside with the monitor and mic and interface all having cables run through a passthrough in the booth to the outside.  It’s nice and spacious and is comfortable enough to spend long periods of time in.

Sci-Fi & Scary: How many hours a day do you spend narrating books?

Joe Hempel:  Since I’m still working full time, and also have 3 kids, it’s tough to spend long periods in the booth. I try for about 2-2.5 hours a day with about 4-5 on Sunday night taking Saturday off.  I’ve got a very understanding family and I love the fact they allow me to spend so much time in there, and it’s paying off!!

Sci-Fi & Scary: Does your approach for narrating a book vary depending on the genre?

Joe Hempel:  The approach is pretty much the same. You have to get to the bottom of what the author is trying to say.  Get to the truth of the narrative so to speak.  You let the characters guide your acting choices.  Each book does require a read through to get to all of this before you step into the booth to record.

Sci-Fi & Scary: What’s the most popular/best-selling book you’ve narrated?

Joe Hempel:  It’s hard to say because I only get sales info on certain titles that I share royalties with. There are 3 that are neck and neck in those sales.  Two of them are non-fiction and complement each other.  Surviving AI: The Promise and Peril of Artificial Intelligence and  The Economic Singularity: Artificial Intelligence and the Death of Capitalism, both by Calum Chace, and one was a surprise in Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volume 1 from Comet Press.  I’m excited to work on volume 2 in May.  If I had to guess, I’d say that Game Changer by NYT Best-selling author Douglas E Richards may be the best selling based on the amount of ratings/reviews.

Sci-Fi & Scary: If you could get to record any particular book out there, which one would you love to give your voice to?

Joe Hempel:  Anything by Stephen King.   I’m actually VERY excited to narrate for a horror author that I’ve loved for a very long time in April.  I’ll be lending my voice to The Rising series by horror legend Brian Keene.  He’s a very close 2nd for authors I want to narrate to Stephen King.

Sci-Fi & Scary: Have you ever fallen in love with a series after narrating at least one of the books? Or author at least?

Joe Hempel:  The Jonathan Shade series by Gary Jonas. I am incredibly attached to these characters.  They are my pretend family and Kelly Chan is my pretend girlfriend (don’t tell my fiance).

Sci-Fi & Scary: When you meet people for the first time, what’s their reaction when you tell them what you do for a living?

Joe Hempel: Really?? Neat! How do I do that? I love reading and doing voices would be great! Seriously though, that’s pretty much the reaction.

Sci-Fi & Scary: What was the most emotional book you’ve narrated?

Joe Hempel: Hands down, the Bram Stoker-winning novella Little Dead Red by Mercedes M Yardley.  I cannot put into words how much that story affected me.  It was incredibly tough to get through.  And here’s the kicker……it’s only 90 minutes long!  It made such an impact in such a short amount of time that it was hard to narrate without tears in my eyes.  It’s so visceral, so emotional.  I don’t think I’ll be narrating another like it anytime soon. 

Book cover for The Raven's Daughter

The Raven’s Daughter: After a police shootout where she killed a man, criminologist Maggie Tall Bear Sloan retires from the force to enjoy peace and quiet in rural California. When sets of young twins are murdered in her town, the local sheriff recruits her to solve the gruesome killings.

But to catch a killer, Maggie either accepts her true nature as a “pukkukwerek” – the shapeshifting monster killer of Yurok legend – or more children will die. As the manhunt intensifies and her own family is threatened, Maggie will do whatever it takes to keep them safe. Whether she’s awake or asleep dreaming, Maggie is faced with a difficult choice: embrace her heritage – even if it means turning into myth itself – or deny that heritage and lose everything.

Check out Joe’s work for yourself with his latest narration work on The Raven’s Daughter.


Interview with Phoenix Forgotten Director Justin Barber


Movie Cover for Phoenix Forgotten

Phoenix Forgotten: 20 years after three teenagers disappeared in the wake of mysterious lights appearing above Phoenix, Arizona, unseen footage from that night has been discovered, chronicling the final hours of their fateful expedition.

Genres: Horror, Mystery, Science Fiction

Starring:  Florence Hartigan, Luke Spencer Roberts, Chelsea Lopez

Release Date: April 21st, 2017

Runtime: 80 minutes

Recently I had a chance to prescreen Phoenix Forgotten and then talk with the director, Justin Barber, about his experiences making the film. He gave some interesting answers, and I enjoyed getting to know a bit of the behind the scenes details. I hope you enjoy it as well!

Interview with Phoenix Forgotten Director Justin Barber

Sci- Fi & Scary (S&S): I noticed that T.S. Nowlin has a Thanks credit listed for Medicine for Melancholy, a film that you produced. Now, the two of you share writing credit for Phoenix Forgotten. How did you come together for this film?

Justin Barber (JB):TS and I were in the same film school class at Florida State, along with Barry Jenkins who directed Medicine for Melancholy (and later, the Oscar-winner Moonlight).  At the time, I had put all the money I had into the production of that movie, and was living on TS’s couch in Los Angeles.Around that time, my day-job was as a graphics and VFX artist working with Wes Ball, a producer on Phoenix Forgotten, and another FSU alum.  We all just ended up hanging out a lot, seeing movies together, talking about the things we wanted to make, and this project grew organically out of those experiences.

Around that time, my day-job was as a graphics and VFX artist working with Wes Ball, a producer on Phoenix Forgotten, and another FSU alum.  We all just ended up hanging out a lot, seeing movies together, talking about the things we wanted to make, and this project grew organically out of those experiences.


S&S: You have mostly Producer credits to your name, bar directing the short Leaving Baghdad (which you also had writing credit on). What was it like moving from producer to directing a full-length film in Phoenix Forgotten?

JB: As a producer on small movies I had to be very focused on the logistics of the shoot, the realities of the production, and that eventually boxes in the creative ideas in the show.  It was hard at first to let go of that and just focus on imagining the best sand castle I could, irrespective of the sandbox I was playing in.

Ultimately being a director is more fun but I have this lady on my crew Aggie who is my costume designer – she has been around, did costumes back in the day for big movies like Beetlejuice and The Color Purple – she says producers always have the best wives so take that as you will.

S&S: Why did you make the switch from producer to director? Do you think you’ll swing back and forth or is this the direction you permanently want to head in?

JB: I just want to work with talented people, and help them get their visions made.  Yes, I have my own stories to tell, but if I could help the next Barry Jenkins get his/her work out there – that’s important to me.  And ultimately all directors end up producing on their own shows somehow.  Orsen Wells not only directed and starred in Citizen Kane, he also produced – crazy!


S&S: Did you learn anything unexpected from your feature-length debut?

JB: I learned a lot about the desert, about how to search for missing kids, but specifically regarding the craft of filmmaking this was a lesson is seeing the forest for the trees.  Before making this movie I had directed a lot of commercials, and in that field you become hyper-focused on details – handfuls of individual frames.  But the director on a feature needs to be able to sit back and keep the overall experience for the audience in his mind.


S&S: Given that you have a bit of Star Trek on your CV, and the subject of Phoenix Forgotten, one must ask… Do you truly believe in the existence of aliens?

JB: I haven’t seen enough hard evidence to hang a belief on.  To quote X-Files, I WANT to believe they’re out there, but I’m waiting to be convinced.

I enjoy reading about the Drake Equation and the movie Contact hits on it – the idea that the universe is so big and so old and we know there must be X amount of habitable worlds out there…  But on the other hand, there are the issues in the Fermi Paradox – if that’s the case ‘Where are they?’ as Fermi himself said.  Did they all blow themselves up with nuclear weapons before they could call us?A lot of people say that aliens have visited them, but with how little we understand the human mind it could be just as likely these people are having some sort of collective psychological experience, or are just crazy.  At the end of the day, the photographic evidence doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny IMHO.

A lot of people say that aliens have visited them, but with how little we understand the human mind it could be just as likely these people are having some sort of collective psychological experience, or are just crazy.  At the end of the day, the photographic evidence doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny IMHO.


S&S: Was it intimidating, helpful (or both) having Sir Ridley Scott attached to the film as producer?

JB:  It’s only intimidating when you throw his knighthood around like that.  Otherwise, he’s a really lovely, insightful man.  He wasn’t on set day-to-day, but he did offer his advice and the producers at Scott Free were very supportive.  Myself, the cast and crew, we were all just motivated to make something that was of the quality of his own work.  We were all really driven to make something that he would like and sign off on.


S&S:  How long did Phoenix Forgotten take to film from pre-production to finished film?

JB: We shot and edited the movie together over time.  We started shooting in December 2015.  We shot for about four weeks, then we worked on a rough-cut.  Once we had that, we shot for one more week, filling in some holes, and then at that point we had a cut that we all felt could work and moved towards finishing the movie.  We shot a day or two here and there after that, getting odds and ends and VFX plates, and really only put the finishing touches on the movie a few weeks ago.


S&S: Phoenix Forgotten has a strong found footage element.  Many people feel that this particular style has hit its saturation point. Do you think this will work against you with Phoenix Forgotten’s general reception?

JB: That was definitely something we were mindful of, but the found footage device works particularly well for this story, for these characters.  It’s about a kid who films a UFO sighting, and then catches the bug – he sets out to investigate what it was and film it again.  So the camera is a part of the quest here in a way it wouldn’t be in a movie about time travel or something else.  It’s particularly suited for this story.

And then also the first half of the movie is more in the style of a cinematic documentary, like Making of a Murderer, or any Errol Morris or Werner Herzog film.  So it’s not shaky-cam from start to finish, it’s a mix of styles that’s justified by the story.


S&S: Many of your credits on IMDB are documentary associated, even if you weren’t attached as producer or director. What draws you to working on these types of films?

JB: When I was in high school I wanted to be a journalist.  I just gravitated towards writing and graphic design, I liked getting out into the world and discovering things.  And then the first Matrix came out, and that pointed me towards Hollywood from then on.  But even when it comes to fiction I have a journalistic approach, I do a lot of research and I find real-world models for fictional characters.  Not sure why that’s the case, it’s just my process.  As they say, truth can be stranger than fiction.


S&S: Do you think you’ll work with any of the crew members (be they cast or otherwise) in the future?

JB:  I was very blessed to have such a talented bunch of weirdos forming my cast.  Truly, they brought so much to the movie in terms of creativity and hard work.  If enough of your readers see the movie, I would be happy to make a sequel and continue their story! I was very blessed to have such a talented bunch of weirdos forming my cast.  Truly, they brought so much to the movie in terms of creativity and hard work.  If enough of your readers see the movie, I would be happy to make a sequel and continue their story!


S&S: What excites you about Phoenix Forgotten?

JB: In a lot of ways it’s auto-biographical.  I was into all this UFO shit when I was Josh’s age, and if I had filmed a UFO myself, and my footage appeared on the news, I would be as excited as he is in the movie, and would have pursued the lights in the same way he does.  What these three kids experience is exciting, and I hope the audience shares that!


S&S:  Do you have any projects in the hopper now?

JB: None that are far enough along to discuss, unfortunately.  BUT I hope you’ll hear from me again soon!

Indie Zone: Talking with Todd Allen

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Todd Allen - Headshot - No greater Agony

Author Bio: Allen lives on the East Coast of Canada with two beautiful ladies—his wife Michelle, and daughter, Maya. A lifelong fan of all things horror, Allen released his debut novel, Sacra Obscurum, in 2015. Allen’s second novel, No Greater Agony, was published in 2017. Influenced by the genre greats, M.R. James and H.P. Lovecraft, and raised on Stephen King and Peter Straub, Allen aims to deliver his own brand of creeping, cerebral thrillers.


Interview with Todd Allen – Author of No Greater Agony

1. Your first book, Sacra Obscurum, was (in part) about finding a book. And now No Greater Agony is about writing a book. Was it a coincidence that both your novels revolve around books?

Todd Allen: No, I like the idea of dangerous books. Both stories feature books that end up causing a lot of harm. Most households have a shelf full of books or at least a few books kicking around. They’re such a benign presence in our everyday lives. I like the idea of something sinister waiting in our bookcases without us knowing.

2. There’s a little bit of fun in the fact that your second novel is about an author having trouble following up on the success of his debut novel. Did you have a few sleepless nights yourself or was No Greater Agony already in your mind for writing for a while?

Todd Allen: I assure you, my character had a lot more success with his debut than I did! When my first book was published, I decided to devote more time to writing. It can be difficult to strike a balance between time spent writing and time spent with family and friends and on other pursuits. But, you really need to find that healthy balance if you’re going to be the best version of yourself. The main character in No Greater Agony had that same difficulty. He never found that balance and suffered for it.

3. You say that you’re influenced by “the genre greats, M.R. James and H.P. Lovecraft”. Where/how/will readers see this influence in your work?

Todd Allen: I believe, if you write horror, you’re influenced by those two whether you know it or not. They are the godfathers of the genre. James’ influence likely shows up more in my published work to date. His stories often feature scholarly men on some quest for riches or knowledge. They inevitably come to a point of no return and when they decide to forge ahead are met with danger. Many of his tales are cautionary and warn of overstepping or taking things too

4. Do you have another novel in the works yet?

Todd Allen: Oh yes. One in the works. One already complete. I’m writing a lot these days.

5. Tell us a little bit about Wabasso, the location of No Greater Agony. Is it based on a real location? 

Todd Allen: A real place inspired the story. I visited there many years ago and the place just kind of stuck with me. The fictional place I wrote about is quite different, though. Both places are beautiful and peaceful and have a bit of a wild vibe, but that is the extent of the similarities. Nothing supernatural ever happened at the real-life place—not to me, anyway.

6. What was the most difficult part of writing No Greater Agony?

Todd Allen: I didn’t really have difficulty writing this book per se. But, I did have some difficulty writing in general. I was supporting my first novel at the time, doing book fairs and literary festivals and launch events. You could say I was entering the writer’s community. I met a lot of writers. I met a lot of readers. I heard a lot of opinions. That was kind of the problem. For a time, I began writing to please other people. I lost sight of why I wanted to write in the first place. The work suffered. Ultimately, I learned to ignore those outside influences. And a lot of pages went in the trash, I am happy to say.

7. What’s your favorite horror movie (or book if you don’t movies) scene?

Todd Allen: Easy. The shower scene from Psycho. It’s fifty-some years-old and still one of the most terrifying scenes on film.

8. What, in your opinion, is the best horror novel to be released in the past 5 years. (And no, you can’t vote for yourself. 🙂 )

Todd Allen: The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker. I read the first hundred pages or so before bed and had nightmares about Pinhead. That never happens to me. And it just seems like Barker has a lot of fun when he writes. He sure a s hell makes it fun to read.

9. What is it about horror that attracts you?

Todd Allen: People frequently experience fear in one form or another. It’s an unavoidable part of the human condition. I have fears. I fear economic collapse. I fear North Korea and ISIS and Russia. These are everyday fears. When I pick up a horror novel, or watch a movie, I get to express that fear all at once. I can let it go for a time. It’s kind of like a reset for me. It’s therapeutic. Also, it’s just plain fun.

10. Given that you were ‘raised on Stephen King’, what do you think of Hollywood remaking It? Did you like the book? The first movie?

Todd Allen: I cringe a little when Hollywood tampers with any novel, but I have a bit of a soft spot for those old Stephen King movies, It especially. I really like Tim Curry. He was fantastic in the role of Pennywise. Bill Skarsgard will have some giant shoes to fill in the new movie. Pardon the pun.

11. Are you going to try to get an audio version made of No Greater Agony?

Todd Allen: I confess I hadn’t thought about it. It’s a great idea though, so long as I’m not the one reading it. I have a terrible reading voice.

12. What would your coffee cup say about you?

Todd Allen: My coffee cup should bear a warning label: If this mug is running low, duck and cover!

Todd Allen - No Greater Agony - Cover jpg No Greater Agony: Jack Bishop always dreamed of becoming a writer.

That ambition finally became reality with his critically acclaimed debut novel, but following up on that success has proved difficult. For over a year, he has failed to produce a new bestseller and his publisher is losing patience. In a last ditch effort to save his floundering career, Jack is sent to the renowned writer’s retreat, Wabasso Lake, with orders to finish his manuscript in record time.

Jack’s first impression of Wabasso is that of an idyllic place to work, but despite being surrounded by awe inspiring nature and the lovely Kate, a fellow author, he continues to be plagued by self doubt. It is with the discovery of a hidden manuscript that Jack begins to scratch the surface of the retreat’s sinister purpose. As visions of fictional characters inundate Jack’s waking life, he is driven to the brink of madness.

A diabolical intelligence has stirred. Wabasso wants something from Jack, but is he willing to pay that price to achieve his greatest desire?

Buy No Greater Agony now on Amazon.

Indie Zone: Talking with Nick Sullivan

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NICK SULLIVAN has worked extensively on Broadway and at many theaters throughout the U.S.  His television credits include The Good Wife, The Affair, Madame Secretary, Boardwalk Empire, 30 Rock, Elementary, BrainDead, Alpha House, Royal Pains, All My Children, Reading Rainbow, and all three Law and Order series.  Film credits include Our Idiot Brother, Prison Song, and Puccini for Beginners.  Nick has recorded over four hundred audiobooks, is an Audie winner, and has received numerous AudioFile Earphones Awards. Find him on:

I recently had a chance to talk with Nick Sullivan, author of Zombie Bigfoot, about his work as an audiobook narrator. Nick has narrated a lot of titles and was able to give us some fantastic answers to our questions. Haven’t you ever wanted to ask a narrator about how they got into it, what goes into it, and how it all just…works? So did we. So read on.


Interview with Nick Sullivan


S&S: You have done a ton of audio books!  How many have you done? Did you do any pre-Audible? (It’s hard to imagine a time where there were audio books before Audible!) How many do you do per year on average?

Nick Sullivan (NS): I’ve been around quite a bit longer than Audible and including old pre-digital titles and a bunch I recorded for the Library of Congress, I’ve narrated over four hundred titles. I work in film, television, and theater too, so it varies year to year.  This year it’s been a couple a month.

S&S: You narrated your own book, Zombie Bigfoot, fairly recently. How did narrating your own compare to narrating other people’s work?

NS: Well, for one thing, anytime I thought a sentence was clunky when spoken aloud, I got to change it! I had planned all along not to finalize the book until I recorded it so I’d have a chance to make any final changes that hit me during the performance.  I was also able to sculpt characters that I knew I could voice well.  Although the Afrikaner character was a beast; I’ve never used that accent before but I’ve always wanted to.  I had to seek out a South African buddy of mine to give me some pointers.

S&S: What has been the most challenging book you’ve ever narrated?

NS: That would be “JR” by William Gaddis. I’d call it the “Ulysses” of American literature.  The book is 97% unattributed dialogue.  No “he said/she said”.  I had to piece each scene together, figuring out which character was speaking by context or by mannerisms of speech.  For a pretty cool review from a Gaddis fan check out:

S&S: About how many hours do you put in per, let’s say, one hundred pages of narrating?

NS: You really have to go by words, since every book’s pages are different. A 300-page book with typeset similar to “Zombie Bigfoot” would be about 70,000 words… and that’s about an eight-hour book.  So, figure 100 pages is about 2 hours forty minutes.  To record, that will take me about four hours at home, a little less if I have an engineer.  If I’m really rolling with a well-written book in an engineered studio I can do about 45 finished minutes every hour my butt is in the chair.  But, that doesn’t take preparation into consideration.  If it’s a dense book with a lot of foreign language content and pronunciations to look up those 100 pages might take a few hours to prep… if it’s simple fiction in a long-running series where I already know a lot of the characters, it might take only a half hour to prep.

S&S: Where do you do your narrations at? (Home studio, etc.)

NS: I’ve been narrating since about 1994 and I started using a home studio in 2009. For a while it was about fifty/fifty but now I record most books at home.  This year I’ve done 5 or 6 at home and one out at Audible with another one scheduled for next month.

S&S: What’s the biggest compliment you’ve ever been paid in regards to your narrating skills?

NS: I’ve had several authors I do series for tell me they “hear” me when they write now. LOL, at least I HOPE that’s a compliment.  Maybe they’re clawing at their scalps, screaming “Get out of my head!!”

S&S: From the layout on Audible, it would appear you tend to narrate more mystery/thrillers and sci-fi/fantasy. Which one is your favorite genre?

NS: It’s not a dodge for me to say I really do enjoy recording across many genres. If I only did a couple I’d lose my mind.  Different companies tend to hire me for different genres and I kinda love that.

S&S: How much choice do you have over what books you narrate?

NS: I can bid for what I want to record on ACX but I haven’t done that in a long time. I tend to take what I’m offered, though sometimes I’ll call up a company that’s just given me a book and say, “Do you know this book is first person and the protagonist is British?” (or, in one case I remember, female) In this case, they’ll take it away from me and maybe assign me another.

S&S: Has there ever been a scene you’ve been uncomfortable narrating?

NS: On the funny end of that question, vividly depicted sex scenes.  On the more sober end of that question, hospital scenes where a parent is dying.

S&S: What determines your pay for a book? Hours? Pages? Etc.

NS: All union actors work on a per-finished-hour rate. If you do a ten-hour book you just multiply the rate by ten, easy peasy.  SAG-AFTRA has different rates with different companies but usually, they are pretty comparable.

S&S: How did you get into narrating?

NS: My father used to record for the blind, and when I was young I was obsessed with Dick Estell’s “Radio Reader” program on our local NPR radio station and in my college and summer stock years I listened to them every time I drove long distance. When I was beginning to work professionally in New York an opportunity to record for Talking Books kind of fell into my lap; I was shooting a small budget movie and the actress playing my wife recorded for them. Shortly after that, I began recording for Chivers… which became BBC Audio… which became AudioGO… which was bought by Blackstone.

S&S: If you could have your pick of any novels out there to narrate, which ones would it be?

NS: Wow, is it Christmas? Hmm… I’d say the “Game of Thrones” books but I’d ALSO have to magically become a Brit… you really need a native-born UK narrator for that.  Oh, I know!  “Confederacy of Dunces”!  Actually, I’ve recorded John Kennedy Toole’s first novella, “The Neon Bible” and a non-fiction book about Toole.  As close as I could get!  Oh, shucks, just thought of another: “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss.

S&S: What kind of training did you do for your job?

NS: When I first auditioned for Talking Books I had a lot of voice, speech, and accent training from various schools and classes but no actual audiobook training, apart from listening to them. Of course, it took a long time to learn all the tricks: how to prep a book and do research, how to record for long periods with proper mic distance, how to breathe just a teeny bit without making a sound so you can get through a long sentence.  And for home studio you have to learn a whole new skill set.  I can take a tiny mouth click out of the middle of a word… I don’t HAVE to do that for most companies, but it’s kinda cool.

S&S: Is there anything about your job that the average person would be shocked to know?

NS: That it’s exhausting. Fun, but exhausting.

S&S: Do you listen to audiobooks during your spare time?  Do you have any favorite narrators?

NS: I drive long distances to visit family and to travel to theater gigs;  I listen to an audiobook every time.  Some of my favorite narrators are Katy Kellgren, Dion Graham, George Guidall, Chris Sorensen, and Barbara Rosenblatt

Zombie Bigfoot by Nick Sullivan

Bigfoot is real.

That’s what Sarah’s father told her before his academic disgrace and untimely death.

Now, primatologist Dr. Sarah Bishop is eager to restore her father’s good name. Survival show host Russ Cloud is just as eager to boost his plummeting ratings. They’ll both have a shot at redemption when they find themselves hired by eccentric billionaire Cameron Carson. After a series of his publicity stunts end in spectacular failure, Carson has a plan to redeem his tarnished image: capture a live Sasquatch.

Sarah and Russ join an expedition with an eclectic crew: an Afrikaner safari hunter, a ‘roided out former wrestling star, a Shoshone master tracker full of surprises, a heavily tattooed Russian warrior woman, a pair of wise-cracking nerds, and a cute gum-chewing intern with some hidden skills. Will they find Bigfoot?

There’s something in the woods… but it’s not what they’re expecting. – Goodreads

Zombie Bigfoot received a 4 Coolthulhu Rating from Sci-Fi & Scary. You can see our review of the book here


Purchase Zombie Bigfoot now on Amazon.

Indie Zone: Talking with Jason Parent

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Photo of Jason ParentJason Parent is an author gaining notice for his horror work in recent years. Seeing Evil and Wrathbone and other Stories are the most popular of his works. Wrathbone comes with a highly complimentary (and amusing) introduction by horror author Kealan Patrick Burke. We’ve reviewed both of these works on Sci-Fi & Scary and rated them highly. When we were approached for Jason’s latest work, we definitely wanted to be involved in some way.  So, we sat down recently for an interview with him, and we had some big questions about People of the Sun, his latest work. (Including but not limited to: You wrote a sci-fi novel?!)


This interview with Jason Parent is part of the People of the Sun book tour hosted by Erin Al-Mehairi from Hook of a Book.

Talking with Jason Parent

S&S: Your latest work, People of the Sun, is what you’ve described as a ‘soft sci-fi’. Obviously, this is a big departure from your previously published works. What reaction did you get from your publishing company when you approached them with the idea?

Jason Parent (JP):  People of the Sun is predominantly science fiction, but when I say “soft sci-fi,” I mean it’s a lot closer to “X-Men” than it is to “The Martian.” So it’s got fantasy and superhero tropes, but like all my stuff, it’s dark enough to appeal to my horror fans. I often wonder if I drive them crazy with my genre mixing and switching, but I can’t help it. I just write the stories I want to write.

And that applies to my publishers, too. I’ve been fortunate to work with some great people who’ve shown nothing but support for the stories I want to write. Matt and Travis over at Sinister Grin brought me in for this novel, and we’ll be teaming up again for a traditional horror novel later in the year. Red Adept is home to another great team and my thrillers, with Seeing Evil and two more books already underway. Comet published Wrathbone, my horror short story collection, and I hope to be teaming up with Randy and Cheryl over there again soon for something… a little more aggressive. I have one or two other projects in the works and another novel I’m marketing, but I am grateful for each publisher who has taken a chance on my work and asked for more.


S&S: Did you draw inspiration for People of the Sun from the song “Children of the Sun” by Billy Thorpe?

JP:Besides the literal meaning behind it (and my titles have literal and figurative meanings—What Hides Within, Seeing Evil, Wrathbone, Unseemly), the title might have been intended to invoke Thorpe and his imaginative space opera, or maybe the hard-hitting, head-banging aggression of Rage Against the Machine, or maybe even the Yavapai (which means “people of the sun”),a Native American tribe with a fierce warrior heritage, captivating creation stories, and a penchant for living in places that are hotter than hell.

Or, maybe I just liked the name.


S&S: You’ve likened People of the Sun to I Am Number Four (but for adults).  Is this simply because of the general theme, or will people who have read the books recognize specific influences?

JP: People of the Sun is not thematically similar to the Pittacus Lore series. The similarities are on the surface: aliens with extraordinary powers thrust into a battle not of their own making. Action ensues, minus the teenage romance.


S&S: What was the most difficult part of writing People of the Sun?

JP: Creating life. Like creating a new monster for a horror novel or a mythical beast for one’s next fantasy series, building up an alien culture from scratch takes a certain kind of imagination inherent in all who appreciate speculative fiction in all its mediums. You want to make something that is entertaining and unique and avoid putting to page the next Jar Jar Binks.


S&S: Including stories that have appeared in anthologies, you now have nineteen distinct works under your belt (at least according to Goodreads). Do you think you’ve changed as a writer in that time?

JP:  Hopefully, I keep putting out better and better work. I’m trying different things, learning from my mistakes and my successes. I’d consider myself fortunate as long as I am to keep writing, so long as there are people out there who want to read it.


S&S: How long does it take you to get from idea conception to finished draft for a novella+ length work?

JP: Novellas are a good length for me. It’s always around the novella mark when I put a novel down and start working on other things. So, I could probably do the first draft of a novella in a couple months. I think I have novel first draft down to about a year, with one exception I cranked out for a competition (and soon to be another one for a deadline I have).

S&S: Do you intend on revisiting any of the stories you’ve put in anthologies and seeing if you can flesh them out into full books?

JP: A friend of mine has proposed I do so with Peter and Dervish in Unseemly, but the story idea for that isn’t jumping at me yet. Wrathbone doesn’t really allow itself for further treatment, but I’d love to do a highly researched historical horror again along the same vein. The most likely novella to get further treatment would be my 17th century Bavaria werewolf, tale, Where Wolves Run, though I am partial to my main character in “Dia de los Muertos.”


S&S: What’s your favorite horror or sci-fi film released in the last twelve months?

JP: “Get Out” was good, with powerful themes but a predictable plot. Though not films, I found “Black Mirror” to easily be one of the best shows on television, ever, period. I’m more excited about “Life” and the new film in the alien franchise. When done right, space horror always appeals to me. Movies like “Alien,” “Aliens,” “Pandorum” and “Event Horizon” are some of my favorites. I’m also looking forward to “It.”


S&S: Do you plan on doing more with science fiction? Will People of the Sun’s reception weigh in on that?

JP: I’ve already written a sci-fi/horror novel, so yes, science fiction will be part of what I write going forward regardless of reception. Like I said, I write the stories I want to write. People of the Sun’s reception, however, may affect whether it gets a sequel one day and if so, how soon. I write all my books to be stand-alones, but even with all the death in my books, I generally leave some way to continue the story if I ever want to return to it.

S&S: Got anything in the works that you can tell us about now?

JP: Lots. My next crime thriller, set in Fall River like Seeing Evil but at the turn of the millennium and unrelated, will be out in May from Red Adept Publishing. After that, I should have a couple of short stories mid-to-late year and another novel from Sinister Grin at the end of the year or early next year. Beyond that, I will have the sequel to Seeing Evil and another surprise I can’t really announce yet but that will take me back to my roots.

People of the Sun Synopsis: All life comes from the sun. Sometimes, death comes with it.

Filled with hope and compelled by fear, four would-be heroes are driven from their home planet in a desperate bid to save their civilization from extinction. But survival takes on a whole new meaning when a malfunction sends their ship plummeting toward Earth.

Surviving the crash is only the first obstacle on their path to salvation. The marooned aliens soon discover that Earth’s beautiful exterior masks an ugly foundation, a place inhabited by a warrior race that’s on a path toward self-destruction.

Brimming with action and intrigue, People of the Sun is sure to entice fans of dark fantasy and sci-fi thrillers such as Watchmen and I Am Number Four. 


Praise for People of the Sun

“Jason Parent has penned a thought-provoking, gripping scifi thriller. This isn’t your grandma’s alien invasion. My own world stopped the moment I stepped into People of the Sun. Lovers of science fiction, horror and even super heroes will revel in this roller-coaster of a tale. A true must-read!” -Hunter Shea, author of We Are Always Watching and The Jersey Devil

“With his own indelible blend of tension and dark humor, Jason Parent’s latest page-turner reminds me of what you’d get if you crossed Isaac Asimov with Kurt Vonnegut. In addition to being fast-paced and wildly entertaining, Parent’s novel also offers the occasional flash of insight into the human (and not-so-human) condition, and displays Parent’s talent for turning a given genre on its head.”
-Michael Meyerhofer, author of The Dragonkin Trilogy

Purchase: Amazon | Available on other online retailers as well such as Barnes and Noble, Kobo, etc.

Indie Zone: Talking with Nicole Jones-Dion


Profile picture of Nicole Jones-DionNicole Jones-Dion is an LA-based writer/director who specializes in genre films. She is currently in pre-production on a YA fantasy that begins shooting this spring. Her first feature film, a YA sci-fi called STASIS, was from one of the executive producers of CLOUD ATLAS. Her writing credits include THEY FOUND HELL for the SyFy Channel; DRACULA: THE DARK PRINCE starring Academy Award-winner Jon Voight, which was distributed by Lionsgate; and TEKKEN 2, based on the best-selling series of video games. She also has several projects in development with her mentor, Sean Cunningham (creator of FRIDAY THE 13TH).

I met Nicole during Women in Horror Month, at the official WiHM website. Timing didn’t allow for an interview to take place during that month, but we decided not to let that get in the way. Nicole’s graciously agreed to answer a few questions about working in the film industry, her CV, etc.


Talking with Nicole Jones-Dion


S&S: How old were you when you realized that working with film is what you wanted to do?

Nicole Jones-Dion: I’ve always been a storyteller. When I was a kid, I used to write and perform little neighborhood plays and puppet shows, and when I growing up in Germany, I was part of a travelling performance group that went around to different military bases entertaining the troops. I quickly realized I wasn’t the world’s best singer or actor so I focused on my strengths working behind the scenes instead.

Even making the transition to film took a while… I moved to LA to work in video games and I’d written a few spec video game scripts that a friend told me would be better as movies. I’d say I was probably 26-27 when that happened. The person who I really credit with getting me into screenwriting is Iris Yamashita (who was later nominated for an Oscar for LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA).  We were both working for a software company at the time and we would meet up every day at lunch to work on our scripts.


S&S: Now that you’ve got several credits under your belt, is there anything about working in the industry that you never expected?

Nicole Jones-Dion: There is a certain mystique about the film industry but at the end of the day, it’s a job. For the most part, the industry is full of normal people living normal lives – paying bills, getting their oil changed, shopping for groceries — doing all the things the rest of the world does. They just happen to have a really, cool, fun creative job that they love.

I think most newbie screenwriters envision producers as these Scrooge McDuck type-caricatures sitting in their giant money vaults but that’s not the case at all (at least not with the producers I’ve worked with. If you know any of those money-vault guys, send them my way!). Producers are some of the hardest-working people I know, busy juggling multiple projects in multiple stages of development at any given time. They’re always hustling, always working a deal. Love them or hate them, producers are the gears that keep this town moving.


S&S: Is writing for films just a stepping stone to eventual pure directing or producing for you? Or is writing where you’re happy?

Nicole Jones-Dion: I’ve actually doing a lot of soul-searching about this lately… writing is my first love. I live and breathe it. But unless you’re a novelist, a screenplay is not the end product – the film is. I know so many writers who are sitting on a great big pile of unproduced scripts that will never see the light of day, and that can be really disheartening. Or if you are fortunate enough to sell a script… only to have it completely rewritten by the producer and director it goes into production, so the finished film is just a pale specter of what you had envisioned. How do you change this? You decide to make these films yourself.

Making that transition from writer to writer-director and writer-producer has been eye-opening. Now those scripts that I used to think were “good enough” are total crap. You look at each scene differently —  it has to earn the right to be in the finished film. Is there tension, is there drama, is it moving the story forward? If not, it’s gone. Same thing with all those characters – do we really need all these speaking roles? Can some lines be cut or can certain background characters be combined to save costs? Locations and set pieces go through this same process. Looking at a script through the director’s or producer’s perspective instead of the writer’s definitely changes things.

So far, I enjoy directing. It’s an extension of storytelling, but using moving pictures instead of words. It’s like learning a new language, but I like the challenge. I still have a way to go before I’m as comfortable directing as I am writing but that’s OK, it’s part of the journey. Producing feels more like “work,” but if you want ultimate control over the end result, producing is the way to go.

S&S: You’ve got 5 credits as director, 6 as producer, and 12 as a writer.  There’s a lot of overlap, especially in your shorts, so I was wondering if you could answer a basic question for us: What is the difference between directing and producing, in your experience?

Nicole Jones-Dion: I think in general, the director comes up with the creative vision for the film and the producer acquires the resources to make that happen. So while the director gets to do stuff like building outlook books and watching movies and TV shows for visual references, the producer is responsible for raising money, hiring the crew, negotiating contracts, and getting insurance. They are vastly different jobs. Some producers do get involved in the creative process as well, but usually in the development stage. Once production starts, they are busy putting out fires so the director can stay focused on making the day.


S&S: When serving solely as a writer (as you did on Dracula: The Dark Prince), how much interaction do you have with the movie as a whole? When does your job on the movie officially end?

Nicole Jones-Dion: Dracula was interesting because it was shot in Romania but because the budget couldn’t afford me to fly out there, I was still in LA. We would have meetings at midnight my time where the producer would give me script changes that would need to be ready for the next day’s shooting schedule. So I was essentially working on Romanian time. Even after the film was shot, I was brought on to write new lines of dialogue for ADR. So even though I wasn’t physically present, I was involved all the way through post-production.


S&S: You have a preference for thrillers, and a lot of those thrillers have a technological bent to them. What draws you towards delving into the ways that technology can be used against us?

Nicole Jones-Dion:  My preference leans toward what I call “hidden realities.” These can be expressed in a number of ways, from ghosts and demons to secret societies and government conspiracies. I like to draw back the curtain, so to speak, to expose a little piece of the many possible worlds that overlap our own. Technology does it in a more seductive way… by hiding in plain sight. The Netflix show BLACK MIRROR does a fantastic job of shining the light on the myriad of dangers that our dependence on technology creates. It’s such an excellent show, so disturbing but incredibly thought-provoking. One of my new favorites, for sure.


S&S: On average, how long does it take you to see one of your shorts through to release?

Nicole Jones-Dion: People underestimate how much time it takes to make a short. I guess if I was just shooting something on my iPhone, cutting it together myself and using stock music, I could whip something up in a week or so (heck, as the 48-Hour Film Challenge has proven you can make a short in 2 days). But since I never went to film school, my goal with my shorts was to gain as much experience of what a “real” film production is like as possible. So I wanted to go through each step of the process and glean as much from it as possible. From fundraising (2-4 weeks), pre-production (another 2-4 weeks), filming (1-3 days), editing (4-8 weeks), sound, color correction, music, VFX… it all adds up. Especially when you’re calling in favors and people are helping on the side. I think for our 15 minute shorts, they each took about 6-9 months. DEATHDATE is unfortunately taking a bit longer because I shot my feature STASIS in the middle of it, but we’re hoping to wrap it up soon.


S&S: On several of the movies you’ve worked as a writer on, the main character has been male. Is it hard writing characters of the opposite sex? Have you ever had anyone check you about something that didn’t seem quite right?

Nicole Jones-Dion: No, and that’s an interesting question because I see the reverse happen all the time (male writers totally misrepresenting female characters). I think it might be easier for women to write men because all our lives, we’ve been inundated with male-dominated stories. We know those characters because we’ve seen them a million times.  I can’t tell you how many times a reader has read one of my scripts then went back to check the title page because they didn’t believe it was written by a woman. I take it as a complement, but it’s also sad that the general consensus is that women can’t write horror or sci-fi and should stick with more traditionally “female” genres like character dramas and rom-coms.


S&S: Alright, now for an obvious question: Do you feel like being a woman has helped or hampered you in any way during the course of your career?

Nicole Jones-Dion:  Ask me again in a few years, LOL. As a writer, I feel that the words on the page are gender-neutral – either you can write or you can’t. As a director, it’s a bit different because you’re not only judged on the end result of the film but also by also your cast and crew while you’re on set. You have to manage a team of people and make decisions in real-time, often under incredible pressure and impossible deadlines. I think working in management in corporate America helped prepare me in that capacity, but there is still an undercurrent of gender bias in the film industry. Luckily more attention is being paid to the problem now and there are programs in place to try to correct the imbalance, but there’s still a long way to go. We’ll see how it all works out in the long run.


S&S: As a director: Practical effects or CGI? We know a lot of that depends on budget, but what’s your natural instinct?

Nicole Jones-Dion: My first choice is always practical. In the low-budget space, I think nothing takes you out of a film faster than bad CGI. There are certain things you just can’t accomplish without it, but I try to keep it to a minimum. I would rather err on the side of subtlety than shoot for the moon and end up looking cheesy.

S&S: What is one of the most frustrating things about working on a film for you? (IN general, or pick a specific capacity.)

Nicole Jones-Dion: Film is a collaborative medium. When you surround yourself with great people and everyone is on the same page working toward the same goal, it’s like a glorious symphony. But on every production, it seems like there’s always that one person who is out of tune with everyone else. When you’re an introvert (like me) dealing with people issues is the most annoying part. I’ve had other directors tell me that when they’re on set, they actually spend very little time directing and most of their time babysitting. It’s crazy-making.

S&S: Tell us a bit about Stasis, your upcoming movie, if you can? IMDB is not very helpful at the moment!

Nicole Jones-Dion: The producers are being pretty secretive, but I found this synopsis elsewhere online so I think it’s safe to share: “After a night out of partying and left behind by her friends, Ava wakes up and sneaks back home only to find that she’s already safe in bed. But that’s not Ava… it’s someone who looks just like her. A time-traveling fugitive has stolen Ava’s body, her identity, and her life. What’s more — she’s not alone. There are others, hiding in the past, secretly living among us, plotting to alter the future. Without her body, Ava is a virtual ghost, silent and invisible to the world. And, as far as she knows, she’s the only one who can stop them and put the timeline back on course.”

As for the film itself, it’s been picked up for US distribution by XLrator Media. I don’t have any release info yet, though, sorry…

S&S: They Found Hell, your 2015 adventure/fantasy/horror movie, was made for TV. What’s the difference made-for-tv and a regular film? Are there any considerations apart from budget?

Nicole Jones-Dion: Huge. The structure is completely different. Instead of 3 Acts, there are 8 to allow for commercial breaks. Each Act has to end on a cliffhanger to entice the viewer to come back after the break. There’s hardly any time for character development up-front, you have to grab the audience by the throat in the opening scene and never let go. But the biggest difference is also turnaround time. For THEY FOUND HELL, I only had 2 weeks to write the first draft of the script. It was tough but a fun challenge.


S&S: What piece of work are you most proud of so far? Why that one particularly?

Nicole Jones-Dion: I will always have a soft spot for DEBRIS because it was my first solo project as a writer/director. And I just love the visuals and the subject matter (It’s about a cursed samurai sword that washes ashore a California beach in the aftermath of the Fukushima tsunami). Hopefully someday I’ll be able to work on the feature version of that story. STASIS will also be special because it was my first feature. I’ve learned something new from each of my films so hopefully my best work is still yet to come.


S&S: How do you sell your script?

Nicole Jones-Dion: I wish I knew the answer to that but I haven’t actually sold one yet! All of my produced credits were all written on assignment. This is the reality of working as a professional screenwriter – 90% of the jobs out there involve writing (or rewriting) someone else’s ideas. If you don’t like the sound of that, then it’s time to put your producer hat on and make your own films.

That’s not to say a spec script is completely useless. Having a killer spec is your calling card. You will need a strong writing sample to get your foot in the door with producers, to win contests, to give you credibility – in short, to prove you can actually write. If you’re lucky, your spec might even get produced but think of that as the secondary goal, not the primary one.

Blog Tour for The War of the Usurper: Interview with Elí Freysson

Banner for War of the Usurper by Eli Freysson

Elí’s Biography: I was born in Akureyri in northern Iceland in 1982. Aside from a brief spell spent in Norway in my very early childhood I have spent my whole life here, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I was diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum in my teens, which explains a whole lot and makes me just eccentric enough to be a writer.

I graduated high school in 2004, after which I dove into my first attempt at a proper fantasy novel. I finished the first draft a year later, but it took me until 2011 to get it published. I followed with a book a year for the next four years, before deciding to move into the English-language market. I translated three of my fantasy novels into English and self-published on Amazon, and then started writing original material in English. And here we are.

Talking with Elí Freysson

S&S: When did you start writing?

Elí Freysson: I toyed with writing a bit in my teens, but never really finished anything. I got serious about the whole thing just after graduating college in 2004.

S&S: Where’d the name for your book come from?

Elí Freysson: “The War of the Usurper” is the central conflict of the story. The culture the novel focuses on is quite fond of dramatic titles, personal honour and forging events into legends. So just at the dawn of the war the man who murdered the king and seized the throne is titled “The Usurper” and it sticks to him to such a degree that it effectively becomes his name.

S&S: What book got you hooked on reading?

Elí Freysson: I can’t point to any one work of fiction that really got me reading. As a kid, I was a bookworm since the day I could read. European comic books like Lucky Luke, Asterix and Spirou, were big favourites early on, and when I moved to prose I started out with pulpy stuff like Tarzan and Morgan Kane. But I can safely point to The Lord of the Rings as sparking my interest in fantasy.

S&S: Did the story of  The War of the Usurper make its way into your dreams while you were writing it?

Eli Freysson: Boy, I wish my dreams were that interesting. No, I’m afraid I only get confused nonsense. As a writer, I can’t say I approve of all those internal inconsistencies and plot holes. 🙂

S&S: What’s your current favorite book?

Elí Freysson: It’s always hard for me to pick a favourite anything, but what’s fresh in my memory right now is Alexis Hall’s Kate Kane, Paranormal Investigator series. I have to admire the way it manages to use many of the tropes that annoy me so much about the urban fantasy genre and still be entertaining… in part by skewering quite a lot of them. I also recently read and quite enjoyed Tim Lebbon’s Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi: Into the Void (two colons, how about that?), for the interesting take on the very early precursors to the well-known Jedi.

S&S: Did you ever read a book and think “I could have done it better”?

Elí Freysson: I’m not going to call anyone out by name here, but I recently took a look at a fantasy novel that had quite a lot of positive reviews, and it just felt like someone’s first attempt at writing. A prologue that is nothing but infodump that goes into exquisite detail about cultures, races and characters for several pages before actually getting to any real storytelling is not the way to go.

S&S: How long did it take you to write The War of the Usurper?

Elí Freysson: From starting the first chapter to finishing the last, I would say it took me about half a year. That seems to be my general speed, counting fixes, rewrites and long sessions at the café with a notebook, trying to untangle a plot problem.

S&S: How many drafts did you do before you were satisfied?

Elí Freysson: I don’t really work in drafts these days. I can’t seem to write anything down unless I’m satisfied with it, so once I have the finished manuscript all that remains are little tweaks.

S&S: What aspects of the writing community did you utilize? (Beta-readers, proofreaders, etc.)

Eli Freysson: Beta readers are an absolute must. To any aspiring indie-author who happens to read this and thinks they can go without a second opinion: Don’t. It’s my experience that authors are the worst judges of their material.

S&S: What was the hardest part of writing The War of the Usurper?

Elí Freysson: Possibly the fact that I was stepping out of my previous genre of choice (fantasy), and moving into space opera. Deciding on the technology level was also a challenge, given that I am the least technologically savvy person I know outside of a retirement home.

S&S: “For fans of” can be a dangerous phrase, but what well-known books would you say are like _____________________________ so that people can get a feel for if they might be interested?

Elí Freysson:  Boy, that IS a minefield of a question. I have asked my beta-readers that on several occasions, and they haven’t really been able to come up with an answer. So I guess I can conclude that, at the very least, my book isn’t just same-old, same-old.

The War of the Usurper is the first in the Golden Throne series. It is my foray into creating my very own epic space opera universe, full of what I like about such settings: Casual space travel, many, many inhabited worlds, super-technology co-existing with magic, larger-than-life characters, a whole lot of backstory, and just sheer vastness of scale.

This first entry is a self-contained story about the titular nine-year war for the throne of the Realm of the Glorious Dawn. Power is seized by a power-hungry tyrant, who resorts to ever-greater atrocities to hold onto the throne, while loyalists secure the sole legitimate heir, twelve-year-old Princess Maraka, and begin the struggle to restore order.

Each chapter details a different flashpoint of the war, as important events must turn on the actions of wildly different people, spread far and wide across the social hierarchy and physical width of the Realm. Meanwhile, year after year, Maraka must grow up in the shadow of all of this, and learn to become both the steadfast symbol and the strong leader her subjects need.

Check out The War of the Usurper on Goodreads.

Purchase The War of the Usurper on Amazon.

Indie Zone: Talking with Teri Polen

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Teri Polen Author PhotoTeri Polen reads and watches horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. The Walking Dead, Harry Potter, and anything Marvel-related are likely to cause fangirl delirium. She lives in Bowling Green, KY with her husband, sons, and black cat. Visit her online at



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Indie Zone: Talking with Frank Cavallo

Frank CavalloFrank was born and raised in New Jersey. He graduated from Boston University with a degree in Communications in 1994 and he earned a JD from the Cleveland Marshall College of Law in 2001. He currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio, where he has been a criminal defense attorney for fifteen

His latest novel, the dark fantasy “Eye of the Storm” has just been released from Ravenswood Publishing. He is also the author of “The Lucifer Messiah” and the weird western “The Hand of Osiris.”

His short fiction has appeared in venues such as Another Realm, Ray Gun Revival, Every Day Fiction and Lost Souls. He has worked in the Warhammer universe, penning the novella “Into the Valley of Death” included in the “Gotrek & Felix: Lost Tales” collection as well as a number of short stories available as part of Black Library’s “the Best of Hammer and Bolter: Volume 2.”

You can see more about him at


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Indie Zone: Talking with Brenda Cooper

Brenda Cooper InterviewBrenda CooperBrenda Cooper is the author of nine science fiction and fantasy books. Her most recent novel is Spear of Light (Pyr, 2016). Her other works include the P.K. Dick nominated Edge of Dark (Pyr, 2015) The Creative Fire (Pyr, 2012) and The Diamond Deep (Pyr, 2013) as well as the Silver Ship and the Sea series (Tor Books) and Building Harlequin’s Moon, with Larry Niven (Tor, 2005). Her most recent short fiction includes Elephant Angels (Heiroglyph, 2014) and Biology at the End of the World (Asimov’s, August 2015).

Winner of the 2007 Endeavor Award for a distinguished science fiction or fantasy book written by a Pacific Northwest author or authors Brenda lives in Bellevue, Washington with her wife and three dogs.

Find her at:


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  • I love Audible. Tons of books, fantastic narrators, good prices.