Sunday, September 20, 2015

Indie Author Spotlight: Alexis Radcliff

One of the cool things about being an indie author is that you get to know other indie authors when they’re just getting started. Word of mouth is one of the biggest ways for indie authors to get their work out there, so I’ve decided to start a new feature here on the blog that highlights a new indie author when their works stands out and deserves to be read by the masses. So, with that, we shall begin with A Vanishing Glow by author Alexis Radcliff.

A Vanishing Glow is a science fiction novel set in the fictional country of Ghavarim, a land on the verge of civil war. The story opens with Jason Tern, a young nobel on his way to the capital city to answer a call for aid from the soon to be High Sovereign and his childhood friend Nole Ryon. Once he arrives, Jason finds himself embroiled in a world full of deceit, betrayal, and death. When an assassin strikes, Jason finds himself standing between a hunt for a killer and a full scale rebellion.

On the other side of the story, we find Nilya, a young engineer looking to leave her old life behind. She finds companionship in another young woman named Verse, and the two find themselves on a mission for Ghavarim’s military unit, the Crimson Fist. When things go south, Nilya is left alone and on the run.

Radcliff dives right into the world of political strife and does it quite masterfully. You find out very early that there is at least one person on the council of Ghavarim that has their own objective and will go to any means necessary to see that it come to fruition. The book starts off a tad bit slow as the plot is laid out, but once things get going Radcliff keeps you on the edge of your seat, wondering exactly what’s going to happen next and what’s going on behind the scenes that you can see. You can definitely see some inspiration from George R. R. Martin. There’s plenty of death and violence, but unlike the Song of Ice and Fire series (Game of Thrones for those of you that don’t know), the violence is story driven rather than gratuitous, and, frankly, pretty awesome. All I’m saying is that you may or may not want to get too attached to anyone here because they may or may not die a pretty grisly death.

One of the things I really found interesting about A Vanishing Glow was the way it handled sexuality and marriage. With other fantasy series, homosexuality is looked at as something shameful and a point of ridicule and shame. Radcliff handles these concepts a little differently and with much more of an open mind. The ins and outs of how social morays dictate relationships are more open for reader exploration, so I won’t go too far into anything. I found it very refreshing, though, to see a more modern approach to these things.

There are so many great things I can say about this book, but it’s difficult to do so without spoiling things. I want to leave the discovery up to you, the readers, but I will say that if you like complex stories that keep you guessing with relatable characters and excellent action, Read. This. Book. Every time I thought I had a handle on things and could guess how it would all turn out, a curveball came out of left field and gave that line of thinking the boot. The last 1/3 of this book or so just left me constantly thinking “what the hell! What the hell!” but in a very good way.

The writing is excellent. The story is well thought out and well told. The ending left me wanting more. An excellent, excellent story.

Now let’s meet the author:

Alexis Radcliff is an author, gamer, unashamed geek, and history junkie who spent the better part of a decade working in tech before dedicating herself to her first love, literature.

Alexis lives and works in the Portland area with her adorable (if surly) cat and her equally adorable fiancé. When not writing, she spends her time reading, running, playing way too many videogames, and thinking too much about everything. Check out her website at

Give us a Tweet synopsis of the book (140 characters of less):

Haha. You know, summing this book up in a single tweet has been such a challenge from the beginning. There's so much going on, and it's all so exciting and dynamic! It's hard to do it justice in 140 characters, but I'm asked to do it all the time.

I finally decided that when people ask me what it's about on Twitter, I was just going to tell them that it's "Game of Thrones meets Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, with a distinctly Napoleonic or Empire style." That's as concise as it gets without getting into the various plotlines.

Ghavarim is a well-developed, expansive world. What’s the biggest hurdle you faced when creating it from scratch?

Thank you! I worked very hard to give it a realistic history with political and economic frameworks that have a basis in reality, because personally I always hate when authors handwave that stuff away. It breaks immersion for me when totally implausible things happen with social dynamics.

So I think the biggest hurdle in fleshing out the world was doing the appropriate research to ensure that I had realistic dynamics in place. Since the country is going through what's essentially an industrial revolution, I read several books on that period of history and drew extensively from that research while building out the complex political underpinnings of the story.

What was your motivation for breaking the story apart and following two main characters instead of one?

When you have multiple characters it lets the reader experience the same world through the eyes of very different people, adding more depth and nuance than a single character might be able to provide. I'll also point out that having multiple POVs allows you to be a little more brutal with your protagonists, leaving the reader uncertain as to who might make it to the end and who might not.

I've been a huge fan of George RR Martin since I was 12 years old (an eternity ago), and he uses multiple POVs to great effect in his A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) series. When I wrote A Vanishing Glow, I tried to consciously emulate some of that style.

That meant creating lots of compelling characters with divergent paths that still tied into the overarching story. In this book, you get to hear from Jason, Nilya, Hugh, and even a little from Beatrix. This is a trend I plan to continue in the future volumes, where I'll be introducing even more POVs for the reader.

If you could wish one thing for your book, what would it be?

Honestly, I would just love to see as many people as possible read and enjoy the world I've created. It's been so awesome seeing the overwhelmingly positive early responses to the book. Now I just want to step it up and make the next one even better.

Why did you choose self-publish instead of going through a traditional publishing house?

I've always had a lot of entrepreneurial drive, and the idea that my destiny is in my own hands is tremendously appealing to me. Remaining independent forces me to step my game up, stay razor sharp, and try to be better every single day, while leaving me a great deal of control over my own business.

I don't like people holding me back or telling me no. Being Indie means that I choose what my covers look like, I choose my release timelines, I choose when and where to market, and nobody ties my hands with respect to what I can do next. It leaves me very agile, which is good, since I'm someone with a lot of energy to pour into her career.

There’s a fair amount of carnage in your book. Do you think you could survive in your own book world?

Haha. Maybe? Do I get the benefit of growing up there and learning the nuances of the times and having a good social network to make sure I'm joined and stuff? Or are we just plopping me into the middle of war-torn Adaron? Because if it's the former, I think I'd be fine. If it's the latter, I'd have a few problems... The reality is that any country at war is inherently chaotic and awful and unpredictable, and humans can always find ways to survive, but it sure wouldn't be easy.

What author would you like to sit down with to pick their brain?

Oh gosh, there are so many authors I'd love to talk to. Chuck Palahniuk would be high on my list, just because his books are so incredibly raw, and I'm so curious to know how he channels that. Cory Doctorow would be another one, since I think he's such a fascinating guy (and remarkably prescient and plugged into things that interest me). Virginia Woolf (if I'm allowed to go into history) and John Green would also be top contenders, since I highly respect both of their books.

Do like to listen to music to set the mood for the story when you write, or do you prefer something that just helps get the creative juices flowing?

I actually like to write and edit in complete silence. Music is distracting for me most of the time, since it conjures scenes and feelings in my head that are a departure from what I'm trying to get down on the page. When I do occasionally listen to music, it tends to be instrumental videogame music from classic RPGs, often remixed or done in piano or violin arrangements.

You are a self-proclaimed “unashamed geek”. What fictional world would you like to live in if you had the choice?

I would have a hard time living in any world that didn't have the internet, but I've always thought Piers Anthony's Apprentice Adept series had a really cool setting. There's these parallel worlds of Proton (a spacey, scifi planet where they play an intricate VR game for social status) and Phaze (a high fantasy world ruled by a cadre of wizards with unique magical abilities) and some of the characters can move between them. It seems like that setup would give you some really cool things to do and the best of all worlds.

Would you rather see your book/series turned into a movie or a video game?

Despite being an avid gamer, I'd much rather see it turned into a movie. The narrative format of books lends itself so much better to movies, particularly when things are as twisty and brutal as they get in A Vanishing Glow. I honestly can't think of a single example of a game based on a book that really blew me away in the same sense that Skyrim, Baldur's Gate, or Fallout did. Those narrative styles are very different from the way that books are structured.

Who would you like to see cast as your main characters if your book was adapted to the big screen?

I'm kind of embarrassed to admit that I don't pay enough attention to the acting world to pick a whole cast for the major characters -- you'd have to give me examples. I will say that I kind of had a tougher version of James Franco in mind while writing Jason. Nilya, gosh... someone smart and waifish? And Virgil would have to be played by someone just hulking and huge, but who could do justice to his deadpan delivery. Haha. If we ever get there with this series, I'll definitely leave this part to a casting director.

Kindle edition of A Vanishing Glow is available for pre-order and will be released on October 1st. Pre-order on Amazon!

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