John Kerry is an average-sized, average-looking, marginally out of shape white guy, but in his head he could be about to take down a cartel of drug dealers with his bare hands. When John isn't living in a fantasy world he can be found in the city of Sheffield, UK where he lives. As our Author of the Day, Kerry tells us all about his latest book, Eden at the Edge of Midnight.
Please give us a short introduction to what Eden at the Edge of Midnight is about.
Eden at the Edge of Midnight is about Sammy Ellis - a teenage girl that lives her life separately from others. She goes mostly unnoticed and ignored by everyone until one day an old woman marks her out from the crowd. Sammy is told she possesses gifts, that she can unlock the powers of a gemstone to open a portal into another realm - the Vara of Yima, a former paradise and the true Garden of Eden.
It turns out that the old woman is “a chosen one” and needs to return to the realm to save it from the darkness that has choked out the skies.
Unfortunately, Sammy decides to experiment with the gemstone one night when the old woman isn’t around and ends up sending herself to the realm alone.
Sammy finds herself lost in a twilight land of giant mushrooms and pursued by dark forces, searching for a way home.
Tell us more about Sammy Ellis - what makes her such a great protagonist?
Through all Sammy’s trials she has hope and desperately wants to be the hero.
She can be prone to melancholy, is misguided, often childish, and in need of validation, but it’s her positive attitude that drives her on to keep going and, in the end, to do the right thing.
What drew you to fantasy as a genre?
An escape from office blocks, taxes, suits, and bills. Where you can travel to colourful landscapes of glowing mushrooms, encounter fantastical creatures in secret realms flowing with magic and explore hidden temples.
What inspired you to include the Garden of Eden in your story?
It wasn’t the Christian version of the Garden of Eden that inspired me, but the Zoroastrian version. The religion of Zoroastrianism pre-dates Christianity by nearly 2000 years and in their version of the story the Garden of Eden is called the Vara of Yima and it isn’t a garden but a secret enclosure hidden from the rest of the world. I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if that place still existed and you could travel there. I also wondered if it would’ve remained a paradise through the ages and what it might look like now after thousands of years.
Besides writing, what secret skills do you have?
I’m a font of useless information. I read a lot factual articles and retain a lot of the information contained in them. Numbers, statistics, facts. I’ll often bore my friends with the results of various scientific studies or car technical specifications.
What is the hardest thing about being a writer?
Editing and re-editing an early draft over and over when all you want to do is write something fresh.
If you could choose one character from your book to spend a day with, who would it be?
Mehrak, the traveller who lives in a golden caravan carried on the back of a dinosaur.
And where would you take them?
I’d prefer for him to take me somewhere. To travel on some adventure through the forests of Perseopia in his golden caravan looking for mythical artefacts.
Did you plan from the start to make this into a series? How do the other books in the series tie in with this one?
Eden at the Edge of Midnight was always going to be book 1 in a series. I planned the rough trajectory of the first several books early on and how they link in to each other.
Book 2 (Back to the Vara) begins shortly before Eden revealing the events that led up to Sammy arriving. Then we fast forward to after her first visit to learn of the consequences of her actions.
Do you consider yourself a disciplined writer? Do you have a schedule that you stick to, or is it more in the moment?
Not at all. I’m a total procrastinator. I normally have to fit in writing around regular life, so I’ll write on the train, at home at night, in a hotel room when I’m away. Any moment I get the chance.
How long did it take you to finish the first chapter?
8 years. Although not all of that time was spent writing just the first chapter. I write and re-write and re-write. I think the first 5 or 6 versions of the first chapter were awful. I’m never entirely happy with what I write. I have to get my writing to a point where I’m not ashamed of it. That’s as good as it gets.
Readers compare your work to that of C.S. Lewis, Stephen King and Lewis Carroll. Who are some of your favorite authors?
Recently I’ve enjoyed Lev Grossman, N K Jemisin, Pierce Brown, Victoria Schwab, Brandon Sanderson and Mark Lawrence. I love discovering new or interesting fantasy series. And I’m always looking for recommendations.
Does writing about surreal worlds and enigmatic scenes present any particular problems?
I’ve always been geeky for far away galaxies, alternate worlds and realms. I love the fantastical and the worldbuilding comes to me naturally. The only thing I think you need to be aware of are the details, the small flourishes of colour or smell, to ground those worlds in reality, or at least a reality that can hopefully suspend the reader’s disbelief.
What are you working on right now?
Book 3 of The Vara Volumes. I know how it’s going to end and what needs to happen in it. I just need to get it written… and re-written.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
There’s Back to the Vara, which follows on from Eden at the Edge of Midnight. That’s out now.
I don’t use social media a lot, but if people reach out to me I normally respond.http://twitter.com/JohnEKerry http://facebook.com/EatEoM http://eateom.com