Into the Night features an unlikely pairing of characters who set out on a journey to battle barbarians and vampires across the English countryside. I felt like the setting was very detailed in this story. Why did you choose this time and place for your book?
Historically, in the early 1300’s, England became the landing point of the Vikings when they decided to leave their northern towns. Vampire legends were also very well-known and taken seriously throughout almost every century.
Vampire belief peaked and declined and then rose again as time went on. Vampires are indeed everlasting; at first being a tale of horror and then becoming a fascination. It is no doubt that vampires evolved like no other monster in our literature. The lore is still alive today and fills us both with fear and desire.
I studied old maps of the English countryside and manipulated some letters of real older towns to create my locations. I also mentioned some landmarks that still exist today to give Into the Night a more historical background rather than that of pure fantasy. Somehow, barbarians, vampires, and England just seemed to fit perfectly.
The book got its title because one evening I was driving with the sun behind me and darker night skies ahead of me. I was literally driving into the night. It felt ominous and fit the vibe of my story well. Also at that time, was a popular song on the radio that shared the same name by Santana and Chad Kroeger.
The hero’s Samuel and Valencia are dynamic characters that battle vampire matriarchs Isabella and Cerbera who are also well developed. What was your inspiration for the characters relationship and how they contrast with the villains?
Samuel is a drifter with no clear path in life. Valencia is unable to forget a bad memory and is driven to seek revenge. In a way Valencia is too harsh and Sam too meek; together they take what the other has too much of and it makes them a perfect duo.
The vampire sisters mask their vile intentions and wicked deeds with beauty that beguiles those they encounter. Without Valencia, Samuel would not have been able to (or perhaps not want to) resist them. It stems from the duality of our minds – the fear of losing our humanity (Soul, goodness) and the desire to break free from physical obstacles and society’s restraints and give in to lust. Valencia keeps him grounded and stands as an icon of strength and courage; which eventually wins Sam’s admiration.
I felt like this novel did a great job utilizing vampire lore and creating some of its own. How did you set about creating the vampires in your story?
Into the Night was my first screenplay (and my second published book). At the time I was reading: Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field. That’s when I decided to practice what I was reading. My first words of the story were Valencia’s speech to Sam, at their first encounter, about Cerbera stalking her prey. I remember putting the monologue on Facebook and getting replies like: “what happens next?” The truth is I didn’t know. I was just practicing a writing exercise I had assigned to myself, but I knew I had to make something out of it now.
It helped that I took a liking to everything vampire; watching movies from Nosferatu to Interview with a Vampire to Underworld, and collecting a library of vampire literature; from Camilla to Vlad to vampire encyclopedias.
Cerbera’s name is taken from a plant species found in India; known as the suicide tree due to its toxicity. The vampire sisters each have a unique trait. One paralyzes men with a touch, the other with a look. Together they symbolize heightened sexuality that dominates all men and is based on the biblical character, Lilith, who eventually formed the race of the succubus. The vampires in Into the Night are a compilation of everything I read and saw.
I would love to see more of the pairing of Samuel and Valencia. Do you have any plans to expand their story in the future?
I have thought about bringing Samuel and Valencia back together as a vampire fighting couple. With the barbarian threat culled and the vampire’s uncanny trait to keep coming back; I would be able to dedicate the story to just vampires.
In the middle of the story Sam and Valencia rescue a family that escapes to Ireland. That was intended to be the main plot for the continuation. The team rejoins to aid the family and fight a vampire threat in Ireland.
In the autumn of 1325 an army of barbarians invade the south-western region of England. A drifter named, Samuel and a strong-willed woman named, Valencia journey north to Ashborough to seek the aid of the steward’s army.
While on their mission they realize the barbarian army is close behind them along with two vampire matriarchs and their vampire horde. They find themselves in the midst of two wars as they fight northward on, what seems to be, a Sisyphean task.
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Erinland follows 21st century characters as they are catapulted into a 9th Century Viking war. Some fantastic battles and world building ensues. What was your inspiration for the setup to this fascinating novel?
Actually, my inspiration came from the Irish side of the conflict. When visiting Ireland some years ago we visited Trinity College in Dublin. Displayed in a glass case is the Book of Kells. It is a beautifully illuminated ancient manuscript with vivid colours and characters depicting stories from the four Gospels of the bible. The Book of Kells is believed to have been written around the year 800 in a monastery in Iona. After a Viking raid on the monastery, the surviving monks took refuge in a new monastery at Kells, taking their treasures with them. The meticulous attention to detail and its beauty resonated with me, so I did some digging into Irish history and the Viking presence in Ireland. This finally lead me to Amy and Richard and the writing of Erinland.
Erinland provides much in the way of Viking history. Did you do a lot of research to maintain accuracy of the subject?
Yes, I certainly did do a lot of research into both Irish and Viking (Norse) histories and mythologies. I learned a lot about their ways and beliefs and found it absolutely fascinating!
I understand this is a your debut novel. What a fantastic start! What made you start writing?
I’ve always dabbled a little with writing. I enjoy getting lost in the ‘writing space’ and hopefully creating something entertaining for the reader but for Erinland, the catalyst was seeing the Book of Kells first hand.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am currently working on a sequel to Erinland. It should be available mid 2018.
Two troubled young adults find themselves key players in a deadly game that spans the 21st century and the Viking Age.
Amy, finding it difficult to ‘fit in’, becomes increasingly obsessed with the virtual reality game Erinland. The VR characters and the mist of Erin begin to invade Amy’s dreams and her waking moments. She finds herself drawn into Erinland in 9th century Ireland. Amy becomes part of this mystical world as she joins in the struggle to defeat the Viking raiders.
Richard has a complicated home life and feels he doesn’t belong anywhere. A series of events finds him desperate and living on the streets, where he finds himself dragged into 9th century Norway by a Viking warrior. Richard finds acceptance with the Vikings and joins them on a colonisation raid to Ireland.
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Kathryn Berryman’s Erinland infuses Christianity into ancient rites while catapulting 21st Century characters into a 9th Century Viking war. Two teens, Amy and Richard, serve as threads in an intricate tapestry of historical fiction. Sharing the weave is Aiden, a monk protecting valuable antiquities with his life.
The story moves along through the points of view of one of the three most important characters. When Amy and Richard land in their respective, opposing villages, they are fully embraced. Both are long-awaited reincarnations of gods of the time. We’d expect the teenagers to feel displaced and confused, but they adapt quickly.
Berryman provides much in the way of Viking history, landscape, and relic description. Erinland is driven by her vast interest in these. We learn much lore through the tale of these ordinary, troubled children endowed with extraordinary powers from the glorious beings they represent. Berryman’s depictions of the cultures during the time are lovely and detailed as she describes their villages, clothing, and lifestyles. “The kransen, a gilt circlet worn on the head by unmarried girls, is removed from the young bride to be. It is a symbol of her virginity. The kransen is wrapped up by the bride’s attendants and put away until the birth of her eldest daughter who it will pass to.” (Page 194).
In Berryman’s desire to share her knowledge, she writes long monologues. These establish her as a credible authority on ancient history, but do so at the expense of natural dialogue. After suddenly being transported in time, the three primary characters are plunked down and force-fed tons of information. “Richard listened closely to Vagn as he spoke. It was a lot of information to absorb.” (Page 325).
The lack of meaningful exchanges sacrifices character development. This is particularly true for Amy, but less so for Richard. Relating to the characters is essential for us to want to read on.
Because war is the foundation of the plot, we may find it difficult to suspend belief when we are told the teens can learn how to become warriors in a few afternoons. Berryman relies upon descendent memory to take care of the problem. “Familiarise yourself with our ways. Your memories will return. A son of Odin retains his father’s essence and with it his memories and might.” (Page 183).
In the end Erinland is a fascinating story that fuses mythology with well-choreographed battle scenes.
Pages: 278 | ASIN: B01MR9IAQL
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Delve into this mystical world populated with equally mystical beings. In Outpost by F.T. McKinstry we are introduced to a race of beings called The Fylking. Ethereal beings that have crossed over the universe and jumped from their world to the world of Math. These creatures shift from animal forms to those resembling a human but not quite. They cannot be seen by just anyone yet everyone knows they exist. A group of individuals known as Wardens act as liaisons between these beings and the rest of the world. For better or worse, they are entwined. We have three main characters who will shape the tale: Arcmael, a Warden, Melisande who is a woman that knits and Othin, a Ranger in the king’s employ. Innocent interactions beget the telling of an intricate tale: one that will see war, death and heartache feed off each other. Each of the three holds a part in this tale and some are more important than we are first led to believe.
McKinstry begins her tale with world building. This is an essential piece of any good fantasy novel as readers need to have some sort of understanding. This is a world not of our own and McKinstry does a great job carefully laying out the lore, legends and very geography of the world of Math. In the very back of the book there is a glossary which also holds some pronunciation tips. This is a bonus as some authors just expect people to understand. McKinstry gives preliminary information in the glossary without giving away what happens in the context of the tale. This can be a delicate balance and she achieves it well.
While Outpost is declared the first novel in a series, it can stand well on its own. There is a beginning, middle and neatly wrapped up ending which answers the burning questions raised while reading. Technically, more books are not required to enjoy the story, so it would be interesting to see if McKinstry carries on with the same set of characters or if the next book simply takes place in the same world. Either way, Outpost is an excellent installment.
Another thing to note is that the chapters are named. This is more insightful than just simply numbering them as it gives readers a sense of what is to come. Not many authors seem to name their chapters anymore, but this sets the tone for an adventurous read.
While McKinstry weaves the story, and captivates readers it is the characters themselves who seal the deal. Each character is created with such depth and personality that they could almost jump off the page and walk among us. What it is exactly that creates this feeling is nothing short of excellent writing and an author who has practiced their craft and carefully constructed this world. Indeed, McKinstry is much like a goddess with the way author sways the characters and dictates their actions. It’s almost like the author is there, within the pages, guiding the characters as well as the readers along.
For anyone who is interested in the rich tapestry of fantasy with solid world building and three dimensional characters, Outpost by F.T. McKinstry is a must read.
Pages: 370 | ASIN; B0138V5YE4
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The Lifeblood of Ill-Fated Women revolves around the story of two Valkyries, sisters Astrid and Yrsa, in a world still ruled by Nordic Gods. What was the inspiration for this novel and the Norse mythology used throughout?
Spoiler alert in that question. Lol.
My inspiration was two fold.
One, I really had not read or seen much about Valkyries in years. They are very interesting mythological beings, but not really focused on in movies, cartoons, or TV. Seems like a wasted opportunity, so I took it. I wanted to write a story about a woman who was questioning her reality on several levels. Is she alive, is she dead, was she adducted by aliens, is she in hell? etc.
Two, I felt like Norse mythology is something people, readers, movie-goers, are willing to openly accept easier than some other myths or cultural beliefs. Maybe because of it being so fantastical. Sometimes we believe the things that are harder to believe and accept quicker than those things more based in reality.
For example…. So many people watch and follow ghost shows and believe all that we are shown, but then laugh at the hunters chasing Big Foot in the forest. Paranormal vs. A living being (although myth). Seems like it would be easier to believe in a missing link than spirits from another realm right? Well, maybe that’s just me.
Note: I believe in both actually. 🙂 And aliens.
Regardless, Norse myth is fabulous. And there are a few good fiction books you can find and read. I read one prior to writing this book. Good reference material to pick over. That and my old original Deities and Demigods D&D book. 🙂
What kind of research did you have to do to make sure you got the mythology correct?
As stated about, I bought and read one book. Norse Mythology: A Guide to Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs by Lindow. I also used my old hardbound Deities and Demigods D&D book for inspiration.
I spent a LOT OF TIME online researching what “curse words” and foul language would have been used in the Viking Age. I could not deal with or accept the use of modern four letter words being said by my characters. I really lost sleep over it. I finally found some replacement words that were close to the time period or language. Not perfect, but I felt like the reader would understand what I was going for.
I never like watching movies set in ancient times with characters spewing modern day bad words….unless we are talking about STARZ’s SPARTACUS. That was awesome, and with all the over the top blood and guts it was fine. 🙂
As a writer who researches, I like to find the facts and then decide how best to use or alter them to fit into my works of fiction.
When Astrid falls in battle and wakes up with no memory the reader is brought into Astrid’s mind to be witness to her paranoia, fear, confusion and inner struggles. What were the obstacles you felt were important to highlight to connect readers with Astrid and develop her as a character?
Everyone struggles with these things on some level.
Astrid is a big, strong, proud Viking warrior. Who can relate to that? BUT they can relate to all her inner struggles. Who hasn’t questioned their reality? Who wasn’t felt afraid of something one moment, then loved it the next. Think of skydivers. Fear and then joy in a matter of seconds.
Astrid was originally designed as a near cave woman. She grunted and groaned. Took what she wanted. Feared nothing. But an early draft was read by my editor and she pointed it right out. Astrid was unrelateable. I did not want that.
My plan was to write a fantasy-horror story with a character who just cannot figure out if she is alive or dead. Her beliefs would pull her thoughts into both directions; a tug-of-war. While she struggled, the story played out. Things would be happening all around her and she would have to decided what to do, regardless of her inner struggles. That’s life. We all are faced with that.
I was really sick with the flu or something the other week. Two days of being the sickest I had been in 20 years. And guess what, I needed to go get my new drivers license photo. Time had ran out. I was faced with an obstacle on top of another obstacle. Life gets complicated.
In some books or movies, it seems like the hero only has one major concern. That’s unrealistic to me. Yeah, go save your kidnapped daughter Liam Neeson, don’t worry about needing to buy more ammo, or the authorities, or laws, or weather, or your own wounds, or….
This is a well written novel that leaves open the possibility for other stories to follow. Do you have another story in the works?
Book two is currently being written. It takes place several months after book one. I envision this series as 3-5 books long.
“Astrid the White isn’t an average princess. She has always stayed by the side of her father, King Kol, and learned warfare and weaponry from the best Vikings in the land. When she awakens in the city of Birka and hears the sounds of war, she rushes proudly into the fray. She is more than capable of taking down any enemy wishing to disturb the peace.
This enemy, however, isn’t what she expected. Before Astrid even gets outside the walls, a golden light knocks her out.
She comes to in the snow, in full battle armor. Astrid first suspects that this is a challenge from her father–or even the gods themselves. By acting correctly, she can gain the favor of Odin, the Allfather.
Astrid wants to complete the test, but it becomes more and more difficult as she explores this new part of the world and encounters both monsters and monstrous men. As creatures from the darkest legends reveal themselves, Astrid will discover that her journey isn’t about acting correctly or passing Odin’s test. It’s about pure survival. Before she can even think about finding Birka, she will have to defend herself against the demons of this new world.”
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As you step back into the past, you enter the world of the Norse, a time when the Goddess Freyja and the God Odin influenced the world. Freyja commands the ranks of Valkyries, immortal women that bring those slain in battle to the afterlife of Valhalla. The Lifeblood of Ill-Fated Women revolves around the story of two of these Valkyries, sisters Astrid and Yrsa. The sisters are from a Nordic area called Birka, they raid and plumage for wealth and entertainment. One night their home is attacked and Astrid believes she has died. Astrid awakens in a strange land with no memory of how she arrived there. She is found by a farmer named Warren that is kind to her and goes out of his way to help her having no clue either about her past or what she really is. This novel tells the story of how Astrid finds her family and discovers a life can have more meaning than how many villages you conquer.
Kevin James Breaux brings readers into a distant world where people are stilled ruled by the Nordic Gods. Times of war are ending and settlements are turning more to farm towns and less militant. Astrid arrives in one of these small farming towns called Gromstad. She is convinced Warren is her captor and she must escape, frightened by her lack of memory, she cannot comprehend that her home Birka is long gone and far away. Breaux does an excellent job bringing the reader into Astrid’s mind and seeing her paranoia and fear, her confusion and inner struggles. Even once the secret of her past as a Valkyries is revealed through her sister, she is still faced with even deeper struggles and decisions. Like all great epic tales, this one delivers the deep character development and inner conflict to match the action that is going on outside of the character’s inner struggles. The relationship of Warren and Astrid is hot and cold. There are some graphic sex scenes but their love and passion is a contrast to Astrid’s warrior goddess nature. The world they live in is being sieged upon by demons and Astrid must use her powers as a Valkyrie to save herself, Yrsa and the town. Typical of hero’s in epic tales like this, things are not so easy. Astrid must make sacrifices and choices that will impact the rest of her life, and the lives of the people she cares for. Breaux shows this inner struggle and lets Astrid’s personality take over the story driving it forward. The other characters react to Astrid and further the plot along showing their own personality traits and allowing them to be dynamic characters not just filler for novel. The overall development of plot and characters is well balanced making it appealing to people looking for an adventure as well as a love story.
Astrid is the focus of the novel, but her interactions with the other characters brings forward additional stories for Kevin James Breaux to add to the series. He already has the next book in the works and I am sure it will continue this epic journey and bring more characters to life as he did for Astrid.
Pages: 409 | ASIN: B01MU9F5JX
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