Nath's Quick Note:
Alright, so I am finally joining a blog tour as a stop... and I'm branching out of my usual reading genre, and venturing into historical fantasy horror. I basically got in touch with the author, Justin Alcala, through Twitter (kind of long story short, but that's the essence), and for a long time I've been entertained and impressed by his witty tweets about horror and writing. I am not done reading yet, thus the review will follow sometime soon -- but I can assure you all that I'm loving what I read so far! It is one fast-paced, intriguing, horror-filled mystery, which (in Nath's opiu... err, opinion!) will be relatable and enjoyable for readers mid/late teens upwards.
Blog Tour: Consumed by Justin Alcala
Author: Justin Alcala
Published: The Zharmae Publishing Press
Publication Date: September 11th 2014
When opium-addicted detective, Nathaniel Brannick, receives a new case from Scotland Yard, he unwittingly puts himself in the middle of an investigation that has him questioning if the supernatural is real or just some elaborate plot crafted by his two lead suspects.
Synopsis (From Publisher):
Consumed is about Sergeant Nathaniel Brannick, a detective living in Victorian England who loathes the world he lives in. Trapped in London during a period of disease, crime, and insatiable vices, he fights to keep his humanity after his wife falls ill from consumption. In order to manage his grief, Brannick turns to opium, but struggles to keep his addiction under control while overseeing both his comatose bride and police work. Then one night as he returns home from work, Nathaniel stumbles upon an eerie messenger in his flat who warns of darker things to follow. The next day he takes a new case involving a victim who suffered from the same ailment as his wife. As he uncovers more clues, he cannot help but wonder if the practical man he once was has been altered by an investigation encompassed in the paranormal. That is until he meets the witch hunters and everything takes a turn for the worse.
Justin currently lives in downtown Chicago with his wife Mallory, their Great Dane, Poseidon, and their black, unlucky cat, Misery. His influences include authors Edgar Allen Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and modern writer, Christopher Moore as well as Jim Butcher. His favorite poets include Robinson Jeffers and Shel Silverstein. In his writings, Justin relies on first person perspective, and tends to integrate multiple point of views throughout different chapters. He also tends to make the location, season and time of story reflect the protagonist’s conflict, emotions, or demeanor.
When asked why he writes, Justin replied simply: " I would do it for free for the rest of my life. It is what I was made to do. I’m a storyteller .” When asked what inspires his more terrifying tales he answered, “I’ve always been the kid who gets excited for Halloween, Ghost stories and Grim Fairytales. Maybe that makes me macabre, but I kind of like it.”
Author Q & A:
How did you get into writing, and into the horror genre?
What a great question. I don’t think that I set out to write horror as much as accidentally stepped into it, like when you’re walking down the street and feel something squash under your shoe. When I was a kid, my family adored scary and weird. We lived in a century old house on the south side of Chicago that looked more like a haunted castle than a place to raise a family. There were vampire novels and weird antiques strewn across the house, and come Halloween, we would turn the place into a scary attraction. Even then, writing and horror were all one in the same. I use stay up all night making penny dreadful comics for the kids at school. In the morning, I was exhausted, and my fingers would be stained with magic markers, but it always seemed worth it.
As time went on, I started writing fantasy campaigns for my circle of role-playing buddies. I’d cook up these adventures that strayed a bit from your traditional Lord of the Rings settings, adding a drop of gothic horror into each plot. Trolls would be found with collections of baby teeth in their pouches, and honorable knights would hide dark secrets, like undead orphans that they kept chained in the cellar. Now that I look back, I’m kind of like, “Whoa, I was a weirdo,” but my friends really enjoyed it, and encouraged me to keep penning campaigns.
I continued to write in my free time throughout college, but between studying and finding ways to pay for school, I had to steal every moment I could in order to do so. I’d scribble down plot ideas on the train to school or hurry home from work and tap away at the computer, still reeking of onions from my job in a kitchen. Finally, when I was halfway through college, it finally sunk in that this desire of mine to write was more than just a fun way to pass time. It was something that I wanted to do for the rest of my life no matter what the consequences were. So, I changed my major to English and committed any time that I had to developing bizarre stories like I had throughout my upbringing.
What were your main inspirations for Consumed and for the characters?
That’s another great question. Someone recently commented about Consumed on a social website, saying that the novel sounded like an homage to gothic horror, and I kind of had this eye opening moment where I was like, “Yeah, I never thought of it that way, but they’re totally right.” The book was definitely inspired by my favorite Victorian era horror novels. The only tidbit that I would add to the comment is that Consumed, and the characters in it, are not only a tribute to my favorite Victorian era books and personalities, but the real people that I’ve met throughout the years.
I think between growing up on the dodgy south side of Chicago, and attending private Catholic school, I encountered a lot of unusual individuals that inspired Nathan, the witch hunters, and most of the criminals in the book. Additionally, while I was writing the novel, I also worked nightshifts as a security guard at a downtown hotel. Not only did I meet a plethora of interesting guests, but I also befriended some of the most fascinating hotel employees.
All of these spellbinding people were taken and mashed together with my favorite gothic horror characters in order to create the bizarre individuals in Consumed. Once I’d constructed these concepts, it was my goal to make sure that each one of them, no matter how minor their role, had a splash of weird colored into their personality. That’s mostly because my favorite characters in books were never stereotypes. They always had strange merits and paralyzing flaws that made them the perfect compliment to their book.
Tell me a bit of your writing process for Consumed, please :).
The process for Consumed as a whole probably took longer than it should have because of the research that I wanted to conduct. While the book takes place in London during the late nineteenth century, I’d not only studied a lot of Victorian Literature throughout college, but had gallons of information online to help me ensure that I was getting the setting right. However, the same couldn’t be said for the Romanian piece of the novel. Luckily, I was given the opportunity to travel to Transylvania, as I had my heart set on learning more about Romanian culture. I spent nearly two weeks in a Transylvanian city called Sibiu, not far from the Carpathian Mountains, and came away with far more than I could have asked for.
Once I’d returned, I began to develop this odd process for Consumed that was almost Dr. Frankenstein-like in nature. I knew how I wanted the book to start and finish, but the journey between became an odd obsession of mine. This is not a joke, and God bless my wife for putting up with me, but for three years, whenever it was time to write, I would lock myself into the office of our downtown apartment and blast a playlist that I created in order to help me get to that place mentally where I needed to be. It was a mixture of Victorian era melodies and eerie soundtracks.
Another part of the process was constant revising, probably more than was necessary. Believe it or not, I’d counted it up once, and realized that I had gone through the entire novel nearly forty times, changing major scenes and characters during each revision that I felt were no longer fitting enough for a Victorian thriller. And because reading and writing go hand in hand, I would make sure that I was exclusively reading horror, mystery or sci-fi genres in my off time. I purposely strayed away from any books that might taint my writing, as I wanted to be in right mindset to create the novel. Hopefully, readers will feel that the process worked or else that just makes me a bit of a psycho.
Have you got more books planned for the future?
I do. The book that I’m working on now is a bit more playful than Consumed. It’s an absurdist fictional piece called The Devil in the Wide City, and it’s about a fallen angel named Ned who accidentally startedThe Great Chicago Fire. As punishment for drawing unwanted attention to Satan’s soul spoiling Corruptor’s Department, Ned was sent back to the abyss of hell, and has been doing everything in his power ever since to get back to Earth. Finally, he receives a second chance, but finds that this time in the Windy City isn’t going to be as easy.
Along with that, I’m also in the brainstorming stage of a science fiction piece called Lost Orbit, as well as a possible sequel to Consumed. To be honest, I had a lot of fun writing Consumed, and have tons of interesting ideas for future books. However, I kind of like where I left the story. Sometimes it’s best to let the reader daydream what happens to the characters next instead of directly telling them. I honestly believe that once an author publishes a book, the characters belong to the reader. So, I think I’m going to wait and hear what fans have to say before breaking out the old creepy playlist again.