Voice of the Crimson Angel Part II: Poison finds Julissa ready to take on Chancellor Venloran while the United Nation Republic is gearing up to take over Mexico. Was this book an easy continuation of part I or did you have to plan and develop the story before writing?
VOCA Part II took quite a bit of planning, up there with End of Knighthood Part III: Ballad of Demise. I knew telling the entire story of The Expansion from start to finish wasn’t really possible (outside of a very, very, long novel), so I isolated the events that seemed most important and then tied the main characters to them. VOCA Part II, I think more than any other of my previous work, challenged my use of setting. Writing tests an author in odd ways, and one of those ways for me was geography. The setting in question, of course, Mexico. How big is this city? Is it dry or wet this time of year? Is it a metropolis or a small town? Luckily, my story takes place in the future, so I can tweak things, but I prefer going off reality. The first round of writing left VOCA Part II shorter than I wanted, but the final product I’m most pleased with.
Weird thing is at first, I was paying very little attention to the current situation. When I conceived of The Expansion, I was looking at it as a continuation of Manifest Destiny, where Americans expanded westward. The more I examined the history of expanded empires, The Expansion became more and more interesting to write. It went from being a small part of the original book to an integral backdrop for the Iranian characters. Now it’s the main focus in the VOCA trilogy. In future stories, I hope to explore neocolonialism more. Since 2016, immigration has become one of the most decisive topics in the American politics. It influenced me as I watched debates and heard different arguments, but it’s a bit different in VOCA Part II. In the book, the focus is more about imperialism reborn than the push for isolation that we’re experiencing now. What the book does do, I hope, is paint a picture of the circumstances that I feel are similar to current events. For example, I think no matter what side of the political spectrum you’re on, people accept that we live in an era where patriotism is a very touchy issue. Even critique from a person within the system can lead to harsh cries of them being “unamerican.” Blind patriotism, more than anything, fuels a beast like Venloran and his UNR. What I also wanted to focus on was displacement. Civilians can be turned into dissidents when pushed. People have forgotten that the Mujahideen that battled the Soviet Union was propped up by the United States. This same organization became Al-Qaeda, and in the age of the “War on Terror”, we’ve seen an upsurge in the formation of radical groups. I would argue that intervention, this need to intervene and ‘democratize’ other areas around the globe, fuels fundamentalists. Former New York Times writer Chris Hedges (who was fired around the start of the Iraq War) called the usage of violence a disease. Therefore “Poison” was the proper title for this installment. What I wanted to do with the book was take the “War on Terror” and move it closer to home. Instead of across the Atlantic in countries most Americans have never been to, I wanted to imagine it happening right next door.
Have you tried exploring other mediums for your series; games, comic books, etc? I ask because you have developed such a rich backstory already.
I’m not much of a gamer, so I’ve never really considered that route. Comics, however, have always intrigued me. I’ve always been obsessed with visuals (one of my worst habits was the tendency to doodle during class). Comics, namely graphic novels, have always been a favorite medium of mine. You can say a whole lot with just a single frame, and not to mention a good use of color goes a long a way in establishing the mood. The look of the cyborg uniforms, namely the overcoat, was inspired by the Blade design from Marvel comics, while the armor itself is actually manga-based. As a child, I’ve read my share of manga, including Dragon Ball. Unfortunately, I can’t draw all that well. If I could meet a comic book artist who wanted to tell a story from Reverence, I’d be honored to be a part of such a project.
I’ve actually given some thought to this! After all, as I write I often listen to my favorite movie soundtracks. This helps me set the mood and envision a scene: scary might be Ennio Morricone, action-oriented Hans Zimmer, and somber along the lines of Michael Giacchino. Naturally, sometimes I envision certain faces of certain characters. The big one is Will, and for him I could see Will Smith or Denzel Washington taking the role. They are both older and can play action heroes, but all while still giving them emotional resonance. Another instacast for me is Liam Neeson as Chancellor Venloran. This is largely due to his portrayal of Ra’s al Ghul in Batman Begins (2005). He’s calm yet menacing, all without being over-the-top. One of my favorites to envision would be Jessica Chastain as Gabriella Neeson. After seeing her in Interstellar(2014), I was thoroughly convinced. She’s both gorgeous, tough as nails, and can portray a character who is anything but a damsel in distress (no thanks Cameron Diaz). Others are mind boggling. In the case of Marisol Leone, for example, it’s really hard to pin down. One of these days, I’ll sit down and sort them all out.
Julissa Marconi is finally ready to be a soldier again, and now it’s time to take on the tyrannical Chancellor Venloran. With Captain Halsey and her daughter Zaneta by her side, the resistance is the last line of defense preventing the United Nation Republic from seizing the country of Mexico. The combat will prove bloody as Venloran sends his cyborg warriors to squash all opposition. As bullets fly and bodies pile up, Julissa will be forced to consider what she’s capable of. To defeat the enemy, she may just have to become the enemy.
Welcome back to the world of the Reverence series with Voice of a Crimson Angel Part II: Poison. Witness the spark that lit the fire.
Posted in Interviews
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YEGman is a thrilling crime novel taking place in the underworld of Edmonton, Canada. Why did you want to set your story in this location?
I had several reasons why I wanted to have the story take place in Edmonton. I prefer to write Canada-based stories and I’ve spent a lot more time in western Canada than I have out east, so can craft stories in these locations easier. A second reason is the name YEGman itself. YEG is the airport code and a common hashtag for the city. It is easier to say than – for example – YYCman for Calgary.
I also have grown up in Edmonton and have seen the city change over the decades. It is a pretty (no offence Edmonton!) bland city when it comes to major issues. So it is a good thing. That raises the question, how can you make a tame city feral and gritty? This was an interesting challenge to me.
This story takes a uniquely gritty look at the Edmonton crime scene. What were some ideas you wanted to capture when developing this underworld?
For YEGman’s version of Edmonton, I wanted to paint a crime-infested city that has some similarities seen in superhero comics. Daredevil/Hell’s Kitchen and Batman/Gotham are examples. A city that is in dire need of help. It becomes a motivator for someone to become a vigilante when they feel the city isn’t making any progress.
The details of the drugs and music scene I wanted to make real by showing there are good people that get caught up in these dark worlds of gangs and violence. Either they feel trapped or do not know any better to get out and just try to keep their friends safe.
Where did the idea for YEGman come from and what were some book titles you considered?
YEGman actually was birthed from the album that accompanies the launch – Sounds of Society. Both YEGman and the album tell a story of someone who can’t handle the constraints of society and go off the deep end. They also share similar content in the lyrics. Originally I was working on this album in 2012.
The plot and character of YEGman came to me in the summer of 2015 when I was at a book signing in a comic store. It was a quiet period and was daydreaming about super heroes because of the increase in popularity due to the Marvel movies, DC movies, comic expos and I was in a comic store at the time. Personally I am not a huge comic book far so I asked myself – what type of superhero story would someone who doesn’t like superheroes read?
From there I drafted out the concept of the superhero YEGman. Quite quickly I decided against super powers and made him very earth-bound. This helped map out the ending as well. If he was just an average person, and didn’t have any tech toys, money or ninja training, he’s going to have a pretty difficult time being a crime fighter. After writing out the outline for the ending I reverse engineered the story – a process I do not normally do with writing.
In November of 2015 I wrote the first draft during NaNoWriMo but shelved the concept because my horror novel, Seed Me, wasn’t fully edited yet. That took a higher priority and I didn’t revisit YEGman until 2017 after doing some heavy research into police procedures and psychology. These two points of study helped craft the inner thoughts of Michael.
So overall, comic books were the inspiration and I looked at comics such as the Punisher, Sin City, The Watchmen, and Hellboy to name some.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I really need to wrap up the dark fantasy series Mental Damnation. Book three is coming out in the fall of 2018 and the fourth is in the works. I also am working on a slasher novella but it is in the early plot outline stage.
In the darkest streets of Edmonton, crime is around every corner. The police have exhausted their resources. Citizens are in a constant state of fear. The city is in dire need of justice. Someone needs to give the felons what they deserve – skip the courts and deliver their verdict with a fist full of fury!
At least that is what Michael Bradford tells himself. He struggles with violent tendencies while personally investigating the Crystal Moths, Edmonton’s most notorious gang. His vigilante methods get caught on film and are uploaded to the web with the hashtag YEGman. These videos catch the attention of a rebellious journalism student whose aspires to cover the developing story on the city’s underground hero.
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YEGman by Konn Lavery is a dark thrilling romp through the back allies and underworld of Edmonton, Canada. Michael Bradford, our hero, is a vigilante, who struggles with violence. His issues aren’t going to get better as he investigates the most notorious gang in Edmonton, the Crystal moths. His methods are caught on film and uploaded online to become viral sensations and are labeled with the hashtag, YEGman. The videos fascinate a rebellious journalist, who wishes to cover the story of this mysterious hero.
This novel is an unexpectedly gritty trip through the Canadian crime scene that I don’t find too often in literature. Most of what comes to mind may be cozy mysteries, not ultra-violent vigilantes dealing with criminals. The novel takes a fun turn with the involvement of the student, Lola and how she gives a better and deeper inside look of the gang culture. In some ways, the trope is rather familiar with an attractive journalist in training along with the brooding vigilante in Bradford. It kind of brings to mind a mix of Batman, Spiderman, and Lois Lane. It’s an affirmation of Lavery’s skill to synthesize all of this together to make a novel that engages the reader and doesn’t let up until the end.
Lavery’s style leans on description, which helps to develop the world of this noir thriller, but I felt that the characters sometimes overly explain things. The prose is decent and kept me involved, but the pacing sometimes slows because of the over explanation which left me often wandering from the story. With an action packed story like this, putting the brakes on to go into detailed explanations lowers the tension on an otherwise exciting story.
This novel is plenty gritty, with a dark narrative and the definite feel that danger lurks within every shadow. With a consistently murky tone and treacherous atmosphere to the novel I was able to sink my teeth into the dark underworld set in an alternative Edmonton. For Canadian readers and noir thriller aficionados alike this novel would be a fun read, even people who enjoy a little bit of mystery and can tolerate the violence, this is recommended reading. Overall, an exciting addition to Lavery’s body of work.
Pages: 461 | ASIN: B07B3N5S92
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The Testimony of a Villain by Aaron Harrell is a dark, slick ride into the gritty alleys of the inner city. The book is not your typical crime thriller but one with a social lens that can only be given substance by one who has lived it. The reader follows Manuel Doggett, a boy who lost everything to be formed by the streets and remade in its’ dark image. He is out for retribution not redemption when an opportunity arises to have his vengeance on one of the murderers of his family.
Harrell provides a fresh and new take to the “true crime” thriller. His style is so firmly set in the bitingly grime reality of the inner city that the reader could even give this novel a new sub-genre of socio-economic thriller. The new threads do not stop there either, because the plot of the book itself is almost like a hero’s journey in reverse. Manuel is the classic anti-hero and one that does not once look to the audience for sympathy. Instead, there is only apathy towards almost everything, except towards the memories of his past.
The weaving of the inner city struggle and the complex inner life of Manuel makes this novel a stand out for readers of not only crime thrillers, but also those who wish to delve into the dark, broken mind of a man walking the line between light and shadow. The writing is fraught with graphic images of both violence and sex and is not for the weak-hearted.
I found myself enjoying the book from the start, because of the quick and realistic dialogue and the meta conversation about corruption, justice and social strata. There are a lot of binaries at play here, between the poor and wealthy, justice and injustice, and morality and immorality. Harrell does a fantastic job with surveying these issues, touching on them just enough without becoming too explicit. I can only guess at what Harrell’s personal experience has been with the inner city, but I very much appreciated the taste of authenticity that he lends to the narrative.
I find Manuel to be a compelling character. Most readers may find something akin to the backstory of Batman here, but there is a real human struggle that Harrell puts on display often.
Overall, I do believe that The Testimony of a Villain stands up to the best the crime thriller genre has to offer. It makes for a pleasurable read for any fans of such novels!
Pages; 489 | ASIN: B06XG6FYVH
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