Welcome readers! Today we have an interview with Erica Stevens, author of the Captive series. As Unbound (the seventh release) has just recently gone live, I bring you this little insight into the series thus far, and maybe some hints at what's next. Erica, you are very kind to take the time with us to answer these questions. Thank you.
Q: What inspired you to write the captive series?
A: Before I started publishing, when I would get stuck on one story, I would jump to another. I was working on Ravenous at the time the idea for Captured hit me.
When I got stuck on Ravenous, I jumped over to start Captured. I wrote the first two books in each series while working back and forth between them.
Q: Are any of you characters based on people you know?
A: Not so much in The Captive Series but in some other series there are a few characters who are very loosely based on people I know.
Q: When writing Broken, did you ever wish you could change the ending for Atticus and Genny?
A: Every single day. I still wish it.
Q: Which of your vampire series do you like best, and why?
A: If this is just for my Erica penname I'd have to go with The Captive Series because the world is so different and I love dystopian/apocalyptic stories.
Plus I love Aria and Braith's love story and Broken was the hardest book I've written so far. It was good to do something so different and out of my comfort zone.
Q: Why did you have to kill Aria's dad?
A: Their world isn't a happy world. It's not one where everything works out perfectly, and though I cried throughout that whole scene, I'd always known his end.
Q: Do you intend to write an elaborated back story of Melinda and Ashby?
A: Ashby and Melinda get more time in Unbound, but that will be the extent of their story.
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
A: What spare time? :) I like to read when I can, go to the gym and on walks. Hang out with friends and family. I love to get away with my husband, he can always make me laugh even on the worst of days.
We're in the process of having a barn built and I'll be getting a horse again soon. I'm hoping to be able to ride and just be around horses again.
Q: What are some of your favorite books to read from other authors?
A: I'm a BIG horror fan and Dean Koontz is my favorite.
Q: If you could give one piece of advice for aspiring authors, what would it be?
A: Don't give up and hang on!
Q: What is the purpose of having two pen names?
A: I wanted to keep my adult books separated from my YA books. There are times I regret doing it and other times when it is really helpful.
Q: There is a theory that the “Queen” must be the progeny of Genny and Atticus. Hypothetically, if this were true, then how would that be possible?
A: That's one I haven't heard before! I guess maybe if there were witches somehow brought into the book and some magic. Now I'm giving myself ideas! ;)
“We're going to get out of this and make them pay!”
After a financial collapse devastates the United States, the new government imposes a tax on the nation’s most valuable resource—the children.
Surrendered at age ten—after her parents could no longer afford her exorbitant fees—Vee Delancourt has spent six hard years at the Mills, alongside her twin, Oliver. With just a year to freedom, they do what they can to stay off the Master’s radar. But when Vee discovers unspeakable things happening to the younger girls in service, she has no choice but to take a stand—a decision that lands her on the run and outside the fence for the first time since the System robbed her of her liberty.
Vee knows the Master will stop at nothing to prove he holds ultimate authority over the Surrendered. But when he makes a threat that goes beyond what even she considers possible, she accepts the aid of an unlikely group of allies. Problem is, with opposing factions gunning for the one thing that might save them all, Vee must find a way to turn oppression and desperation into hope and determination—or risk failing all the children and the brother she left behind.
It would be easy to say that it is great, for a premier novel. But I won't give it that allowance because, frankly, it doesn't need it. The Surrendered is a great book whether it's Case Maynard's first or fiftieth. I am likely one among many who anticipate her future works with great anticipation. Especially for what has been presented in her first foray into authorship.
I was refreshed with the how the world presents. While futuristic high-tech societies and post-apocalyptic wastelands make for acceptably entertaining environments for a dystopia, they can become a bit worn through. I didn't realize I had become bored with it until I read this book. Maynard sets a completely different stage. The story begins several decades after a complete economic collapse of the United States. The economy is mostly agrarian, with only some post-industrial technology available to the highest priorities. While the country is now well organized and somewhat stable, it is not thriving. This scenario strikes a balance between two predominate themes in dystopian novels, and I appreciate it.
The storyline is executed well. It does not feel formulaic or contrived. The story flows well between chapters and holds the kind of surprises that most readers can appreciate. There sensory details, dialog, action, and internal narrative are well balanced and timed. The only criticism I can offer for the entire book, is that Maynard should have resisted the urge to draw so much attention to Jane's strange behavior. It is fun be uncertain of whether a character's strange behavior is just an aberration, or something to be watching out for. To the author's credit, the reason behind Jane's stony responses was still surprising, but I would rather have not been certain that a surprise was coming. Otherwise, Maynard maintained a reasonable trust in the reader's ability to glean the implications of character's actions.
The characters! I was angry for them. I was angry at them. I fought, laughed, and cried with them. Some are inescapably hatable, while others you hope can be redeemed. There is an element of romance, but it is not the basis or drive to the story. It feels natural in its interaction with the plot. That is to say: the plot is not drawn to accommodate the romance. Instead the romance reacts to the plot. For many this may feel like an insufficient explanation of the characterization. But I do not know how to talk about them without giving far too much away. Just read it, and you'll see what I mean. I know that I have become attached to the characters, and sincerely wish for this to become the first of an amazing series.
about the author:
With over 20 years’ experience in the legal and medical fields, Case Maynard decided to trade in her briefs and reports to write the stories that have been floating around in her head since childhood. She lives with her two teenagers and husband in South Georgia, while maintaining a long-distance liaison with her oldest daughter and partner in crime in Alaska. When not writing, she enjoys reading as often as possible, binge watching anything good on Netflix, and all things NCAA football (Go Noles!). You can learn more about Case and her stories on her website.
“We're losing control… Maybe we never really had it.”
She saw it coming. She knew it would happen―but no one believed her.
Almost a year after tragedy shattered her family, sixteen-year-old Paige Thomas can’t break free from her guilt. Her mother ignores her, doting on her annoying little sister, while her father is a barely-functioning shell. He hopes a move to the quiet little town of Shadesboro PA will help them heal, but Paige doesn’t believe in happiness anymore.
On her first day at school, a chance encounter with a bullied eighth grader reawakens a gift Paige had forgotten, and ingratiates her into a pack of local outcasts. For weeks, they’ve been trying to cast a ritual to fulfill their innermost desires, but all they’ve done is waste time. After witnessing Paige touch the Ouija board and trigger a paranormal event, the girls are convinced another try with their new fifth member will finally work.
Once the darkness is unleashed, it’s not long before they learn it will give them exactly what they asked for―whether they want it or not.
I was provided with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Before I go into discussing this book, I would first issue an open statement to the author.
You seem to have no respect for a good night's sleep. I didn't really matter whether I stayed up past a reasonable hour or not, because sleep would elude me regardless. The story's veiled secrets created endless conjecture and second-guessing which kept my mind alert. There were times where I couldn't decide if it was me or the protagonist who was paranoid. Keep up the good work Matthew! I don't like to be comfortable for too long at a time.
I was fascinated and somewhat horrified by the family dynamic. It shouldn't be so shocking to me as I had experienced something similar, but I never gave it close examination. Cox produced this broken family with eerie precision. Especially for the effects it has upon the protagonist. It is effectively employed as a premise for the kind of desperation that can drive someone to drastic measures.
The idea of “be careful what you wish for” is used in a somewhat unique way. Instead of having a sadistic genie twisting one's wishes beyond their intentions, or not knowing the full consequence of your desires fulfilled, the story focuses on the way an underlying darkness can rise to the surface and pervert the best of intentions.
For some, the beginning may seem to drag while the characters, setting, and such are being established. But, as I was somewhat enthralled with the family dynamic, and then early on getting hooked by a bit of a surprise about the family, I had no problem with the pacing. In fact, I am glad for the time that was invested as it creates the opportunity to examine the way their family changes in the course of the story. If a reader is the type to want to get into the action, you won't have to wait for long though.
Again, like the most recent of Cox's books I have reviewed, I was immersed in the details of the world. I took my time in taking in the subtleties of settings, and sensory clues. Forays into otherworldly settings were nicely conveyed through contemporary analogues to portray terror and decay.
While every story must be allowed to coalesce naturally, it is my sincere hope that there may be a continuation of this story. I know it's cruel, but I don't think Paige should be afforded a long reprieve. I would recommend this book to anyone who has a taste for paranormal, occult, or general suspense. I would also recommend this to arachnaphobes, because I'm occasionally wicked.
A sinking feeling washes over me. “We’re going to Meadowood.”
He responds without opening his eyes, “I want answers.”
I start to argue that this will be a fool’s errand, but in truth, I want the same answers he does. “Do you think the man who rescued Oliver was with the Southies?”
“I don’t know who else it could’ve been.” He sits up and stretches. “It must’ve been them, and I want to know why they changed the plan without informing us. The Master and his Regulators got to the rooftop very quickly after I fired that shot. I have to wonder if someone told them we were there.”
“You think the Southies took Oliver to get the combination and then set the Regulators on us? Why would they do that?”
He rubs his face. “It doesn’t make any sense. But something’s not adding up.”
I ponder this, thinking about my brother’s strange plea. “I know you think I’m insane, but I can’t help but feel like Oliver knew someone was going to take him; I swear it felt like he was speaking to me when he said not to interfere. But that doesn’t make any sense, either. He’s been behind the fence for years.”
Cason yawns and tries to shake off the effects of the Papaver. “I don’t think you’re crazy; his message did seem odd for someone who was about to hang for a crime he didn’t commit. I don’t know, but hopefully he’ll be at Meadowood and you can ask him yourself.”
My mood elevates as I realize I may only be hours away from a reunion with my brother. The pain in my arm forgotten, I try to concentrate only on this knowledge, confident we’ll have our answers soon enough. “I didn’t get a chance to thank you for earlier. You could’ve just turned me over to the Master and walked away, but you didn’t. I’m grateful for that.”
I feel a little embarrassed as soon as the words leave my mouth. Normally I’m not one to share my feelings, but the Papaver Flower makes me breathless and lightheaded and loosens my tongue.
He reaches for me, careful not to jostle my splinted wrist, and pulls my face to his. “I’m probably going to ruin that sentiment by telling you the Master would never have let me go anyway, but know this—” he runs the pad of his thumb along my lower lip and meets my eyes “—if everyone else in the entire world leaves you to fend for yourself, if your father, your mother, your brother disappoint you, if God himself decides you aren’t worthy . . . you’ll still be able to count on me. I’ve got your back, Vera.”
Young genius Morag Chen doesn’t believe in the supernatural. Or not until a thousand gods show up in front of her, appearing from a clear-blue sky. The Architects are terrifying, they’re hypnotically attractive, and they’re real—but what are they, and what do they want, and why have they stolen the mind of Daniel Calder, the person she is closest to?
Ancient gods? Invading aliens? Everyone has a theory, but no one has guessed the truth. In this dark, suspenseful, mind-bending sequel to The Fire Seekers, Morag picks up the narration from Daniel as she works to accept that there’s more than one way to think about the nature of humanity. And she will find that the only way forward is through secrets that Daniel himself seems desperate but unable to convey.
A mysterious lab. The house of a dying billionaire. The hidden home of a strange and forgotten people. In each of these places, Morag and Daniel will come a step closer to answers, hope, and a way of fighting back.
I was provided with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
While reading this story, I had been faced with a challenge. I had been asked “What kind of book are you reading at the moment?” While this question could apply do many different aspects of a book, the first which came to mind was genre. I was unable to produce a concise response. It is currently categorized as Science Fiction and Young Adult. I do not dispute either, but Ghosts in the Machine is so much more.
It's creative use of archaeological interpretation is like Indiana Jones, but more stimulating. Richard Farr incorporates other studies such as: mathematics, computing, linguistics, quantum mechanics, philosophy, and evolution. He does so in a way that is not awkward or cumbersome, but rather effortless. The result is a robust world for the characters (and a reader's mind) to navigate while searching for answers to a problem that seems to defy reason.
The re-read value on this book is very high for me. It is not so dense as to be unreadable, but heavily layered. I suspect that I have hardly scratched the surface in my first pass. Every so often I would feel as though I had sniffed out a little hidden nugget. The literary devices which enable such fascinating mechanics tend to abound through the pages. I am certain that I will discover new parallels and subtleties, as it seemed that they were always peeking around corners at me. Definitely an enjoyable read. For intellectual types, it may be like finding yourself in a candy shop.
The main characters were well portrayed. None were either cardboard figures or caricatures. They did they verge outside of plausible for their baseline traits. As I had raved about the technical details, it should be mentioned that the human aspect of the story was not lost in them. Quite the contrary. This story is suspenseful and absorbs you in it's world, but is at all times driven by the people within it.
If I had to mark at least one thing that may detract from this story, it would be the prologue. I did something experimental. I did not read The Fire Seekers, the book which proceeded this. Doing so may have made reading the prologue rather difficult. I stumbled over the first few paragraphs, continued on, and then finally figured out what was happening with the voice. It is not second person. When “you” is being used in narrative, the first person narrator is referring to Daniel as though she is addressing him. Once that was cleared up, it was smooth sailing. As I said, I tried out something risky, also I may have missed an important context clue early on.
St. Louis is falling to pieces. In the midst of rioting, a dangerous new disease has sprung pushing an already dire situation over the edge. Those who are infected suddenly become extremely aggressive, attacking and even eating those around them.
And Olivia Bennett is caught right in the middle of it.
Liv’s hectic life of school, work, and motherhood grind to a halt as the city around her begins to devour itself. Forced to flee from her car with nothing but a diaper bag and her eighteen-month-old daughter, Elli. Liv must trek forty miles on foot across the feral infested suburbs of St. Louis to a safe haven that may not even be safe.
What other hope does she have?
(Excerpt retrieved from author's page)
I was provided with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
What I liked about this book
Character's Internal Journey
I really enjoyed Liv's changes in perspective while she ventures through the shredded landscape of the St. Louis suburbs. I also saw some interesting mechanics within the story. An aspect that makes Devour a great apocalyptic story is the use of an extreme scenario to exaggerate and juxtapose the mundane. Blalock uses these conditions to criticize society's more selfish values and priorities. This voice however, does not present in an overbearing fashion.
One thing that I have been dwelling on is Liv's perceptions of her liabilities and assets. Her daughter is a source of obvious disadvantages when attending college, working a job, or even evading a horde of zombies. Her husband is her rock and shelter. When Liv's challenges threaten to overwhelm her, he is always there with the right words and actions to rejuvenate her spirit. In the telling of this story, I was presented with an idea: Our burdens may be the center of our fortitude, and we often see when shelters have become snares.
Suspenseful and Immersive
Of course it was suspenseful! It wouldn't be a very good zombie book if it wasn't, right? But beyond that, this story gripped my attention in a vice with the details of these relatable and abject characters. The scenes are illustrated well. In many instances I could place myself along Liz as she move through various environments.
What I disliked about this book
Editing and Ending
These are actually minor and petty points. The issues I have with the edit is in proofreading. They were very rare. But as I was so engrossed in this read, the distraction was less forgiveable than usual.
Saying that I dislike the end may not be entirely fair, as it was solidly executed, strong, and reasonable. However, it was also frustratingly tragic. So, it's criticism will remain for screwing with my emotions.
About R. L. Blalock (from author's website)
R. L. Blalock’s love of reading started young. As a child, her father would read stories to her before bed every night. In middle school, she and her best friend bonded over books and writing. Her love of zombies, though, started later in life. In 2008, when R. L. Blalock first watched the remake of Dawn of the Dead, she instantly fell in love with the genre.
Born and raised in Sacramento, California, R. L. Blalock now lives in St. Louis, Missouri with her loving husband and precocious three-year-old daughter. Their family also includes three pets: Memphis, a Pit bull/German shepherd mix who prefers to spend his days cuddling; Dixie, a Pit bull/Akita mix who greets everyone with excited squeals and enough kisses to last a lifetime: and Pazuzu, the Green-Cheeked Conure who thinks she’s a dog.
By day, she gets the pleasure of waking before the sun is up to serve coffee to all the morning commuters in Lake St. Louis. Despite the early hours, the job has it perks. She can get her hands on as much coffee as she wants.
During what precious little free time she has, R. L. Blalock likes to read whatever dark and twisted book she can get her hands on or scare herself silly with the same nightmarish kinds of video games.
I love books! For most of my life I have been reading them, and giving my insights to friends and family. This blog is for sharing that passion with the many others that love books too.