Friday, March 29, 2019

Interview + Giveaway: Iron Circle by Justin Joschko (@justinjoschko, @RoxanneRhoads )

UFI welcomes Author Justin Joschko. Thanks for Joining us!!

What can you tell my readers about yourself that they might not know from looking on your bio or reading in another interview?

I really like working in the garden. Summers up here in Ottawa are short, so I start my seedlings indoors where possible. I bought UV lights a couple years ago and set up a small nursery in the basement, which has been a big help. Results are mixed: I had more ground cherries last year than I knew what to do with, but the slugs ate more of my kale than I did and my carrots never grew more than a finger-length. Each year I annex a little more of the backyard for raised beds. Eventually my wife will cut me off, but so far I’ve been getting away with it. Sort of like Germany in the 1930s (note from my agent: please don’t compare yourself to Germany in the 1930s).

What do you enjoy doing on your down time?

I already mentioned gardening, but during the parts of the year where there’s snow (so the entire year minus six or so weeks), I’m usually reading.

What is your Favorite part of writing? 

When it’s done. I usually enjoy reading what I’ve written during the editing process (unless it stinks, which is always depressing). But the initial act of laying words on a blank page is more pain than pleasure, to be honest, a bit like hacking a path through the jungle with a machete. Sometimes you discover things in the undergrowth, though, and that can be exciting.

Do you have any certain routines you must follow as you write?

I have three kids and a full-time job, so a writing routine is a luxury I can’t afford. I just sit down when I have a free moment and write as much as I can. I’m fortunate in one respect, though, which is that I actually write best in short bursts. Some writers produce their best work by sequestering themselves and pounding out 10,000 words in 8-hour marathons. I don’t have that kind of stamina. The flips side is I can jump in and out of a manuscript without getting disoriented.

What are some of your Favorite books or Authors in the Urban Fantasy/ Paranormal Genres?

I liked Neil Gaiman’s NEVERWHERE and China Mieville’s KING RAT, which are the first Urban Fantasy books that spring to mind. In terms of Paranormal stuff, I’m a huge fan of Stephen King, who was my first and largest motivation for becoming a writer. I also love Shirley Jackson—WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE is one of the greatest literary achievements of the 20th century. Going farther back, I enjoy moody, turn-of-the-century horror writers like Lovecraft and Blackwood. Guys who use words like “eldritch” and “ichor.” You gotta love eldritch ichor.

How would you pitch the YELLOW LOCUST series to someone who has not heard of it before?

A seventeen-year-old street brawler named Selena and her younger brother Simon flee the tyrannical state of New Canaan, carrying with them a data stick containing information on a terrible new weapon. Their goal is the Republic of California on the far side of the continent, which faces imminent destruction if they don’t get the data stick there in time. Along the way are innumerable dangers—slavers, killers, and the ever-present threat of starvation. And New Canaan is never far behind.

Can you tell us a little bit about the world that IRON CIRCLE (book 2 of the YELLOW LOCUST series) is set in? 

The story is set about 150 years in the future, and a hundred years or so after society’s collapse. The cause was environmental degradation and global war, culminating in the widespread use of a terrible biological weapon called Yellow Locust.

Quite simply, Yellow Locust is an uberweed: it takes root amongst crops and outcompetes them into oblivion, rendering vast swaths of farmland unusable. Mass starvation followed and populations plummeted. On the eastern coast of North America rose the tyrannical state of New Canaan, a theocracy predicated on its own twisted reinterpretation of the Bible, and determined to spread its influence across the entire continent.

As IRON CIRCLE begins, we join Selena and Simon midway through their journey, in the foothills of the western mountains. Misfortune waylays them in Nuevo Juarez, where the despotic Jefe Thorin has newly seized control. Selena finds herself sold into slavery, and must fight her way free so that she can finish her journey to California and save the beleaguered republic before it’s too late.

Do you have a favorite scene in IRON CIRCLE?

I really enjoy writing fight scenes, and IRON CIRCLE has a few to choose from. There’s also a sort of Spartacus moment near the end, which I really liked writing.

Which one character out of all your books was your favorite to write about? What about the hardest to write about? 

The Mayor of Fallowfield is probably my favorite, just in terms of his pompous dialogue and Machiavellian instincts. Selena is tricky to write for, though I’ve gotten more comfortable with her over time. Her stoicism can feel flat if not handled properly. But villains are always more fun to write than heroes, I think.

What Other Projects can we look forward to reading from you?

Book 3 is in the works, but in the meantime I’ve written a book set in my hometown of Niagara Falls about werewolves. It’s something of a horror story crossed with a police procedural. 

Justin Joschko is an author from Niagara Falls, Ontario. His writing has appeared in newspapers and literary journals across Canada. Yellow Locust is his first novel. He currently lives in Ottawa with his wife and two children.

Find Justin and his books

Iron Circle
Yellow Locust #2
The path west is long, but despite Selena’s progress, New Canaan is never far enough behind her. It was there that her parents were killed, forcing her and her little brother Simon to flee the tyrannical state. Now, New Canaan wants control over every last inch of America-That-Was. Only the Republic of California can stand against it—but not without the data stick in Selena’s pocket, rumored to contain vital information about New Canaan’s deadly new weapon.

As winter closes in, Selena races south in search of an open passage to the coast. She must pass through Nuevo Juarez, where a ruthless leader named Thorin has seized power. Selena runs afoul of Thorin’s men and is separated from her brother, captured, and auctioned off at the city’s thriving slave market.

Her only way out is through the Iron Circle, a fighting ring where the city’s most fearsome warriors pit their skills against one another. As the populace and Thorin watch Selena rise through the ranks, Selena earns a reputation she doesn’t want and the attention of man with the power to destroy her and what’s left of America-That-Was.

Selena grabbed her opponent’s left wrist. His skin was hot and clammy, its greasy expanse flecked with patches of flaky, dry crust. Suppressing her revulsion, Selena brought the man’s arm up behind his back and, with modest but steady pressure, eased him to his knees. The man obeyed without struggling. Whatever spirit his disease hadn’t eaten away had been beaten out of him by Thorin’s strongmen. He was defeated before he’d even entered the Iron Circle. The least Selena could do was signal this defeat gently.
She laid him on the ground and pressed his shoulders into the dirt. He seemed to get the message, for when she released him, he stood slowly, nodded at her in uncomprehending thanks, and scuttled out of the circle. She imagined he wouldn’t get far and would likely face his punishment in some other form. There was nothing she could do about that, but at least she wouldn’t be the one providing it. In recognition of this resolve, she stepped back and raised her arms to the crowd, beckoning their ire.
The crowd obliged, hurling incomprehensible epithets and pounding their fists on the railings. Selena ignored them, summoning her inborne Seraphim’s hauteur. She set her eyes instead on the clutch of fighters awaiting their own bouts, scanning for an ideal target. There was no shortage of options, but Selena was choosey. It would have to be someone who appeared unbeatable, and he would have to be among Los Hermanos.
One presented itself almost immediately. The Hermano who’d gestured obscenely at her before the fight was now tapping his friend on the chest with the back of his hand, signaling his derision at the spectacle before him. She scoped the topography of his muscles, sized up his potential speed and power, noted points of weakness: long hair and beard for easy grabbing, an offset knuckle that would weaken his left jab, a peculiar slope to his jaw hinting at an old break. He commanded respect from his peers, which meant he was good—but also meant he was cocky. Selena was good, too, and no one here had seen her fight.

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