Today, I am joined by my fellow Curiosity Quiller, J.P. Sloan, author of The Curse Merchant.
Hi J.P. Thanks for joining me in my parlour today! Don’t mind the mess. I’d offer you a glass of wine, but I hear you’re an ale man, so I hope you brought me a bottle…
Oh, I’m chuffed as nuts to be here. (that’s something you say in the UK, right?)
Totally. Tell us a little about how you came to write The Curse Merchant.
Well, I’ve been writing long-format fiction for some time now. Curse Merchant is my eighth competed novel, but the first I felt was truly ready to release upon the world. The story and setting all came to me as I began a new job in the city of Baltimore. In my commute, I’d drive through downtown and spot seedy little alleys and mysterious basement doors tucked beneath glass-and-steel skyscrapers. The whole notion of infernal dealings transacting beneath our very feet basically unfolded into the series as it is now.
Who and/or what are the main influences on your writing? What inspires you?
When it comes to specific literary influences, I suppose the earliest were the works of George Orwell, Louis L’amour, Arthur C. Clarke and Michael Crichton. Quite the motley lot, there… I realize. But each in his way really goads me along: Orwell with his psycho-social forecasting and gloom, L’amour for his tight lens on character, Clarke for his mastery of tale-spinning, and Crichton for trying (and occasionally succeeding) to twist the expectations of the reader. My current project, as it turns out, is a western/horror… something of an homage to L’amour. At least in my own mind…
Introduce us to Dorian Lake.
Dorian Lake is a young socialite in Baltimore. He drinks expensive scotch, attends an exclusive social club, and is inexplicably likable despite his peculiar air of self-effacing narcissism. He sells charms and hexes to select clientele… a crafting skill he learned from an aging Netherworker in London before said mentor’s untimely and gruesome death. Such is the way with Netherwork… Dorian sees his hermetic arts not only as a way to earn a comfortable living, but as a way to help people whom The System has failed. He has a good heart, but tends to attend to his creature comforts until something… or someone… pushes him out of his comfort zone. Exes are good for that.
What is your favourite part of the writing process?
In truth, I love to finish a first draft! It’s so sweet, putting the last period down on a novel. No matter how horrible, dreadful, trite, or inexcusably flawed that first draft may be… getting it done is a big damn deal.
And your least favourite part?
Often, that treacherous brain of mine will muscle out of its skull and try to convince me that everything I’ve written this week is little more than reconstituted crap. It’ll try to tell me I’m wasting my time. Sometimes it even tries to convince me to start editing the book before I’m done writing it. My brain can be a real ass sometimes…
If you were forced to choose your favourite fictional character of all time, who would it be and why?
I feel my answer to this question would be different week-by-week… but this week I’m going to go with Prince Ashitaka from Studio Ghibli’s “Mononoke-hime.” He’s brave, takes responsibility, embraces self-exile to save his village, and fights through a deadly curse to the point of standing up to gods. He’s also something of a “green” hero, a respecter of Nature… which appeals to me.
Who would you cast in the movie of your book?
I have one actor firmly in mind for Dorian Lake: Sam Witwer. You’ll recognize him from the US version of Being Human. The character of Edgar Swain is actually based on a person I know, so it’s hard to think of an actor to pinch-hit… but I might go with Jon Gries of Napolean Dynamite fame. Carmen? I’d cast Cuban-American actress Anabelle Acosta. And of course, if you need a slimy other-worldly heavy to play Osterhaus, you have to go for Gary Oldman.
I think The Curse Merchant has a real Noir feel about it. How important do you feel Baltimore is to the overall tone of the story?
Funny, that… as the noir vibe was totally unintentional. It rather worked out that way. Baltimore isn’t just important to the tone, it’s practically a character in the story. The city is what inspired the whole series to begin with, and its peculiar geographical location is what allows Dorian to ply his trade without interference from the Presidium in Washington, or the rival esoteric groups that duke it out where the Presidium can’t reach. It’s an old city, full of ghosts, with a macabre heritage courtesy of Edgar Allan Poe. Fun fact: Dorian’s address in the book is the same address as Poe’s former Baltimore residence.
Your character Carmen has sold her soul. Who or what would you sell your soul for?
I don’t strictly believe in the existence of the human soul… but if I had to find an equivalent sacrifice, it would be for my family. I’d burn down the gates of Heaven for my family.
The novel opens with Dorian in a rather sticky situation. What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you?
Well, there’s that time I had dinner with the editor of Sovietskaya Musika magazine, and his wife who was the artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet. This was while I was an exchange student in the former USSR. On a free day, while the others were off doing tourist things (and getting loaded on vodka), I spent the day with our chaperone, who was a personal friend of the above-mentioned luminaries. My chaperone had a habit of buying Russian lacquer boxes for rubles in the Soviet Union, then bringing them back and selling for tidy profits in the States. At one point she asked her friend to trade dollars for rubles at an illegal (but street-wise) rate. He pulled open his drawer to reveal several envelopes, each marked with a currency symbol from major European nations… and a revolver. It was a great evening… something from a Le Carre novel.
Wow! Thanks so much for joining me today, J.P., and good luck with the book.
The Curse Merchant, by J.P. Sloan
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Date of Re-Release: September 15th, 2014
Description: Dorian Lake spent years cornering the Baltimore hex-crafting market, using his skills at the hermetic arts to exact karmic justice for those whom the system has failed. He keeps his magic clean and free of soul-corrupting Netherwork, thus avoiding both the karmic blow-back of his practice and the notice of the Presidium, a powerful cabal of practitioners that polices the esoteric arts in America. However, when an unscrupulous Netherworker interferes with both his business and his personal life, Dorian’s disarming charisma and hermetic savvy may not be enough to keep his soul out of jeopardy. His rival, a soul monger named Neil Osterhaus, wouldn’t be such a problem were it not for Carmen, Dorian’s captivating ex-lover. After two years’ absence Carmen arrives at Dorian’s doorstep with a problem: she sold her soul to Osterhaus, and has only two weeks to buy it back. Hoping to win back Carmen’s affections, Dorian must find a replacement soul without tainting his own. As Dorian descends into the shadows of Baltimore’s underworld, he must decide how low he is willing to stoop in order to save Carmen from eternal damnation… with the Presidium watching, waiting for him to cross the line.
About The Author: I am a storyteller, eager to transport the reader to strange yet familiar worlds. My writing is dark, fantastical, at times stretching the limits of the human experience, and other times hinting at the monsters lurking under your bed. I write science fiction, urban fantasy, horror, and several shades in between. I am a husband and a father, living in the “wine country” of central Maryland. I’m surrounded by grapevines and cows. During the day I commute to Baltimore, and somehow manage to escape each afternoon with only minor scrapes and bruises. I am also a homebrewer and a certified beer judge. My avocations dovetail nicely!
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