Monday, October 28, 2013

Author Spotlight: Christopher Rice

Given our tastes for the macabre, it's no surprise to attentive readers that Gazalapalooza's favorite day of the Hallowmas triduum is the first one, All Hallow's Eve. It's the yearly night when the delicate veil separating the living and the dead is at its flimsiest. We venture tricking and treating, duly disguised to prevent shocking the souls of our dearly departed loved ones as we gallivant. Clad as fiends or angels, heroes or villains, it's the one night our secret identities can wink without undue remorse from behind the prosaic masks we don the other 364 days a year.

With Halloween bearing down upon us, who better to grace us with a bob under the Author Spotlight than Christopher Rice? In addition to the blood of his legendary and lovely supernatural chronicler mother, Anne, snaking through his veins, New York Times best-selling author Christopher is eminently capable of spooking us all in his own right. And so he does with his brand new novel, The Heavens Rise. No less an authority than Peter Straub assures us The Heavens Rise "...inhales wickedness and corruption and exhales delight and enchantment." Happy Halloween, indeed.

When he's not writing, one of the many ways Rice keeps his hands from idling enough to attract the devil's attentions is when he and his friend, bestselling novelist Eric Shaw Quinn, do their Internet radio show. Having sampled and enjoyed its tasty wares, Gazalapalooza can confirm the program is a comedy and variety program as outrageous as it is irreverent. After you're done inhaling and exhaling The Heavens Rise, trick or treat yourself to a helping of "The Dinner Party Show with Christopher Rice and Eric Shaw Quinn." The program streams 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at, and new live episodes premiere Sunday evenings at 8:00 PM Eastern, 5:00 PM Pacific. Among other irresistible (but completely nonfattening!) hors oeuvres, the most recent episode includes tidbits of adventure and weirdness direct from our guest's ongoing promotional tour for The Heavens Rise.

With all that, we would think Rice should find himself well-prepared to broil magnificently under the piercing glare of our Author Spotlight's klieg light blaze. Shall we find out? Without further ado, let's get this interview underway. 

Gazala:    In my omnipotence, I've sentenced you to be stranded alone on a desert island for offenses best left unnamed. In my beneficence, I've decided to allow you a limited amount of reading material to make your stay a little less bleak than it would otherwise be. I'll spot you your religious text of preference, and the collected works of William Shakespeare. In addition to those, name the ocne fiction book, and the one nonfiction book, you'd choose to take with you, and tell why you choose them. 

Rice:    So is the woefully easy way out of this question to make the non-fiction title be something along the lines of How to Survive on a Desert Island? Surely I'm not the first author to use that tactic here, am I? We're doing these questions by e-mail so you're sitting next to me right now shouting, "CHEATER! CHEATER! CHEATER!" so I'm tempted to make a go of it. But it does kind of feel like cheating. I have to say, one way to answer the question would be to say that I'd take any two books that would help me survive on a desert island, which sounds like an absolutely horrifying proposition for which I am incredibly ill-suited. I'm not sure, when pressed, I'd be considering escape and enjoyment here. Survival would be foremost on my brain. So maybe this a good time to brag about how I do a lot of research for my writing? Or maybe not. I don't know. I could also be a total brown-nosing simp and say that I'd take one of my mother's novels "just to feel close to her, and to home" (sad violin sound). And also, wouldn't someone always pick a book that depicts the kind of bedroom antics they're into? know, they're going to be alone for a long time and they might need something get me? 

Gazala:    Your latest book is an excellent and gripping supernatural thriller titled The Heavens Rise. In it, three friends must confront an ancient, infectious evil lurking just beneath the surface of the Louisiana bayou. I've read it. I enjoyed it immensely, and recommend it highly. Shockingly enough, however, from time to time my bare recommendation doesn't always motivate a book's potential reader to become a book's actual reader. Tell us something about The Heavens Rise, and why its potential reader should make the leap and become its actual reader. 

Rice:   First off, thank you for calling my book excellent, which was a pre-condition of my agreeing to do this interview. [Editor's note: Our guest jests!] As for why others should read it? Because if you do read it, I'll make love to you in the grass. And if you don't read it, I'l disappear your family in an instant. Oh, sorry. I'm just in marketing mode all the time these days. I write the books I like to read. I like books that take me right up to the edge of darkness with complex and appealing characters as guides, but don't just drop me into a pit of bottomless nihilism. It's easy to write a dark beginning and a dark ending. The real challenge is making a happy ending out of a dark beginning. The Heavens Rise is that kind of book. It's meant to be a suspenseful page turner, one of the main characters is a city (New Orleans) and its villain is super scary - those are the three ingredients I like in a novel, so I put them in mine. 

Gazala:    What are books for?

Rice:   Books are supposed to be immersive and independent imaginary experiences. Books are sex between two brains, yours and the author's. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad, sometimes it's bleh, but you always walk away tired. 

Gazala:    W. Somerset Maugham said, "There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." Do you agree, or disagree, and why? 

Rice:   I agree. But I like Graham Greene's three things a writer needs to write. A professor I taught for told me this story. When he was a young writing student, he wrote a letter to Graham Greene and asked him what three things he needed to be a writer. Graham Greene wrote back, "A lot of time, a lot of paper and a lot of pencils." The student wrote back, "What's the time for? Writing?" and Graham Greene wrote back, "No. Reading." It might be an urban legend but any urban legend that involves Graham Greene is automatically awesome. Like the one about the driver who picked up a hitchhiker who turned out to be Graham Greene and then he disappeared but not before he left a copy of The Quiet American hanging from the door handle. Wait. I think I'm getting confused. Sorry. I'm in marketing mode. 

Gazala:    That shot glass of Louisiana swamp water I just drank on a dare is making me feel very...strange. While I attempt to gather myself, ask yourself a question, and answer it. 

Rice:    You drank a shot of Louisiana swamp water? Did someone hold a gun to your head? Wait. That's not my question. My question is: Why did your interviewer just drink a shot of Louisiana swamp water while he was interviewing you? Answer: Because you're that boring, Christopher.

No, Christopher. You're far from boring, my charming and erudite friend. I drank that sketchy water because I'm an inveterate risk-taker, often to folly's sharpest edge. That said, one thing not even I am foolish enough to risk is not popping onto to get a copy of The Heavens Rise. To that end, we've created a risk-free way to do so, but putting the book's Amazon link right here.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Author Spotlight: Raymond Khoury Returns

I’m walking down the street, just another day in the suburban jungle of trees and street signs and cell phone towers, my mind on my mission and my mission on my mind. Nothing unusual about that, nothing untoward. My thoughts are all as clear as they normally are, sharply pointed in the right directions. When my boots take me past the local bookstore’s picture windows, suddenly my thinking brakes, and then swerves hard off course. No longer is my brain brimming with the plans and visions that filled it mere moments before. Now it is full of one objective, and one objective only—I must go inside this shop immediately and purchase copies of Raymond Khoury’s brand new thriller, Rasputin’s Shadow for me and everyone I know. Plus several dozen spare copies just in case for any spontaneous gift-giving occasions that might arise, like Thursdays, for example.

I hear you chuckling at my feeble impulse control. But before you mock me mercilessly, I suggest you reconsider the cell phone towers I ambled by so nonchalantly just before the book store’s siren bewitched me. Can it be the Khoury Media Marketing & Manipulation Machine microwaved into my skull an irresistible lust for Rasputin's Shadow?

You say far-fetched? My credit card says ouch. Khoury says ka-ching. (He loves the ka-ching—see below.) Perhaps remote impulse control isn’t quite so far-fetched as you might hope. And using that awesome power to stuff his purse with my hard-earned money, odious though Khoury may be for doing so, is surely one of the more benign outcomes in our hypothetical scenario. He could have beamed any impulse he chose into my head. He could have used the technology to force me, without my knowledge (much less my acquiescence), to buy all the copies of Rasputin’s Shadow I could get my hands on while singing Bee Gees songs and dressed as a rabbit. Or, he could have puppeteered me into acts of arson, robbery, or much worse.

It’s a pity we can’t use this technology to turn the tables on our esteemed guest today as he returns for his second debriefing at the Author Spotlight. Otherwise, we could not only ensure the accuracy of his replies to our questions, but we could make Khoury answer our questions dressed as a rabbit, each reply rendered to the tune of "Staying Alive." But we digress. Brain beam unavailability notwithstanding, we shall get this Spotlight underway.

Gazala:    What is the most surprising occupational hazard to being a novelist?

Khoury:    I work from a home office, so it has be to having a kitchen within easy reach. All day. Every day. It’s there, constantly calling out to you, beckoning you to explore its hidden temptations, luring you with the succulent siren call of—damn, see what you’ve done? Back in a sec.

Gazala:    Your latest book is an excellent and gripping thriller titled Rasputin's Shadow, about a brutal 1916 Siberian mining catastrophe whose deadly secrets rise up again a century later in the person of a remorseless killer roaming the streets of New York City. I enjoyed it immensely, and recommend it highly. Shockingly enough, however, from time to time my bare recommendation doesn't always motivate a book's potential reader to become a book's actual reader. Tell us something about Rasputin's Shadow, and why its potential reader should make the leap and become its actual reader.

Khoury:    Frankly, I’m surprised. I found it really boring and wouldn’t recommend it at all. Unless you’re in the mood for a suspenseful page-turner about an über-effective rogue Russian FSB agent who’s only known as “Koschey” (meaning “the deathless”), shady CIA operatives and “security contractors,” Psy-loving Korean car-jackers and nightclub-dwelling Russian mobsters, all of whom are after something that goes back to the days of Rasputin and that could basically turn a whole city into one big bloodbath. I certainly wasn’t. Any more of that chamomile tea?

Gazala:    Have you ever killed off one of your characters only to greatly regret the death later?

Khoury:    After trawling through my extensive oeuvre (all of six novels), I have to say: no, actually. And I’ve killed a few. Gleefully. Which could be worrying. I did have second thoughts at (SPOILER ALERT) Farouk in The Sanctuary. It was unplanned and totally unexpected and, after I wrote it, it changed a major dynamic in the book, which I think made it a much more interesting book. But I liked poor old Farouk. He deserved better.

Gazala:    If you could take credit for writing one book not your own, God's, or Shakespeare's, which would it be, and why?

Khoury:    Does it come with the royalties? In which case, hello, Harry Potter and ka-ching. If we’re talking in more noble terms: it’s a toss-up between Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and Action Comics #1, which introduced Superman to the world. I mean, how cool would it be to say you invented the superhero genre!?

Gazala:    Who, or what, is the most terrible fiend ever to torment a novelist's imagination?

Khoury:    The notion that after spending over a year working on something you firmly believe in and pouring your heart and soul into it, someone else will have come up with a similar idea and bring his or her book out before yours.

Is it just us, or did Khoury unknowingly half-sing his last answer à la The Brothers Gibb? We warned you this impulse control stuff isn’t as outré as you’d like to believe. So don’t wait for the brain beam to take over your mind and make you do it. Simply click here, and you’ll be whisked to, where you can get your copy of Rasputin’s Shadow on your own accord. You’ll be relieved you did.