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Monday, August 5, 2019

Exclusive Cover Reveal & Q/A: Right To The Kill by Craig Schaefer (by Mihir Wanchoo)

(Cover art & design by James T. Egan of Bookfly Design)

Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Long Way Down 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The White Gold Score 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Redemption Song 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Living End 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of A Plain-Dealing Villain
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Killing Floor Blues
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Castle Doctrine
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Double Or Nothing
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Neon Boneyard
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Sworn To The Night
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Detonation Boulevard
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Winter's Reach 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Instruments Of Control 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Harmony Black
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Red Knight Falling
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Glass Predator
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Cold Spectrum
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Ghosts Of Gotham
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Loot
Today we are extremely honoured to exclusively reveal the cover art for one of our alltime favourite authors. Craig Schaefer’s Right To The Kill is the first self-published title in his Harmony Black series which was previously published by 47 North. Craig had previously talked about why he’s re-launching this series under his self-publishing handle. I’m a fan of Harmony Black as a character and I especially love the horror-thriller vibe of her series. Within this small Q&A, Craig discusses why he went a new direction with the cover art (and as usual James T. Egan knocks it outta the park). What structural & format changes can readers expect within the books (think Casino Royale) and why you are NEVER safe going back in the water. Read on and enjoy

Q] Craig welcome back to Fantasy Book Critic and thank you again for being generous with your time. 2019 has been a unique year for you. With the release of Ghosts Of Gotham and The Loot, you have two traditionally published series making their debut and then you also are relaunching the Harmony Black series under your self-publishing handle. What would you say about 2019 and the things that you have accomplished?

CS: 2019 has been a year of experiments. Last year’s completion of the Wisdom’s Grave trilogy felt like the capstone of my first phase as a writer. While that multiverse and the related series (Daniel Faust and Harmony Black) will go on, I’m really looking into how I can evolve, push myself further and harder as an artist, and ask tougher questions of my own material. How can I do more, say more, make a stronger impact on my readers?

Answering those questions requires an author to step out of their comfort zone and try new things. Ghosts Of Gotham was a big departure for me, and it won’t be the last. The Loot is another, obviously, as I venture into an entirely new (to me) genre. And while Right To The Kill is the continuation of an existing series, I’m using the opportunity of a soft relaunch to really get into the guts of the engine, look at what worked and what didn’t work in the first four books, and make some changes.

Q] Let’s talk about the gorgeous cover for Right To The Kill. Firstly kudos to James T. Egan and you for nailing this soft relaunch, secondly what were your pointers to him on this cover and the potential trilogy to follow

CS: The first thing we decided together was not to mimic the original covers. He was game to try, if that was what I wanted, but I know the kind of striking work James is capable of and I knew he could better capture the feel of the work. (Also, asking a cover designer to mimic another designer’s work just feels incredibly rude. Like asking a musician to play a cover song instead of his own material.)

Mood is everything. The Harmony Black series suffered, I think, from some tonal mismatch; my original concept for the series was “spies, with magic” (much like the Daniel Faust series is “gangsters, with magic”), while my publisher wanted a more “occult X-Files” feel. I tried to cover both bases at once, and managed to not nail either of them. A priority for the new trilogy was bringing that narrative voice into crystal focus.

As part of that, I told James I was looking for something with the feel of a spy thriller, with a hint of the supernatural; specifically, I was looking to evoke the feeling of a vintage Ian Fleming novel. We went over a synopsis of the story and he keyed on one particular scene – which I’m not going to talk about, but you’ll know it when you get there – and I agreed that it would make for a striking cover treatment.

Q] Besides the change to the books on the outside, what are some of the structural changes occurring within these books and the Harmony Black series in general?

CS: The biggest structural change was going from a first-person perspective to third person. Writing in first person was a constant hindrance in the first four books, because Harmony is part of a team; I had to jettison a lot of ideas where Jessie, her partner, would have done something really compelling on her own, because the only way to express it was to have her come back after and deliver exposition. Likewise, I had to constantly come up with improbable reasons to bring April and Kevin (their support staff) into the field and into danger, because otherwise their interactions would come down to endless phone calls.

Moving to a third-person format gives everyone on the team a chance to shine. They can execute elaborate plans, coordinate operations with lots of moving parts, and generally do much cooler spy-type stuff. Readers will see what I mean right away; Right To The Kill is, on a lot of levels, a knowing and winking homage to classic James Bond stories. Appropriately, it begins in the middle of an undercover mission, with the team working to compromise a target at the heart of a bustling party. The action flows from character to character as each one pulls off their part of the plan (or fails to), in a way I never could have written in first person.

It’s also a matter of characterization. For one thing, Harmony is not neurotypical. Contrary as it may sound, I think I’m able to portray that much more clearly, and show a more sympathetic and nuanced take, from a slight distance (as we get both her perspective and how she comes off to the people around her). And this lets me get more into Jessie’s head (spoiler: it’s a scary place) and show the world from her perspective, not to mention the lupine passenger riding around in her brain.

I’m aiming for this book to be a jumping-on point for new readers. The main consequence of this is that the situation that was set up in the epilogue of Cold Spectrum has to wait one more book to get resolved; I was concerned that “oh, and here are all these other antagonists and all the continuity you need to know about” would have been overwhelming to a newcomer in addition to all the necessary worldbuilding. So, we’ll ease into it, but it’s definitely coming.


Q] The cover also showcases a certain amount of tentacles. Coupled with what you had mentioned in your previous interview “except that there’s a particular watery connection that readers of Detonation Boulevard will find familiar…”. Is it safe to say that Thalassophobiacs aren’t going to be thanking you any time soon?

CS: Remember the tagline of Jaws 2? “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water”?

Thanks to multiverse drift and leakage between parallel worlds, it is my duty to inform you that you are NEVER safe going back in the water. Just don’t do it. Of course, sometimes it’s the humans on land who are even scarier than the monsters beneath…

Q] With the soft relaunch of the Harmony Black series, what can the readers expect? Will it follow the horror-thriller trend of the first four titles or will it be more action-adventure oriented?

CS: Still very much a horror-thriller feel. I’m tinkering with the engine, but I’m not swapping it out for a new car. I love my longtime fans and didn’t want to do anything that would turn them off; the idea is to take what worked in the first four books, lean into those strengths, and make them better than before.

Q] Each of the first four books revealed an important aspect of the pasts of the Vigilant Lock team. Who will be getting the spotlight shined on in this fifth book? Linder? Someone else?

CS: This time, it’s all about the team as a whole; they’ve worked through their past history (more or less) and now they’re coming together, in the wake of their organization’s purge and rebirth, to build something new. Something that will last.


Q] After the first arc in the Harmony Black series, any pointers about what the next arc will bring for our heroes?

CS: Right To The Kill picks up several months after the events of the Wisdom’s Grave trilogy -- which changed the face of the occult underground forever -- and well after Cold Spectrum, in which the heroines wrested control of the Vigilant Lock organization from the demons who had corrupted it. Harmony and Jessie are in the driver’s seat now, for the first time, building a foundation for the future in a radically different world.

Several series mainstays are dead, thanks to the “Wisdom’s Grave Incident,” and the occult-mafia Network is in utter chaos with its surviving leadership scattered across the multiverse. The courts of hell are on the brink of civil war, and every one of them wants Vigilant destroyed (save for the west coast which, thanks to Caitlin, has offered a shaky hand of truce – a tough challenge for the once-morally-uncompromising Harmony). Meanwhile, Harmony’s nemesis Bobby Diehl is a cornered rat: his corporate empire is in ruins, his billions frozen, and he’s had no choice but to flee in disgrace – which means he’s never been more dangerous.

It’s chaos. Harmony and Jessie are fighting a secret war on a dozen fronts at once while the reborn Vigilant struggles to survive, navigating uncertain alliances and finding its footing on ever-shifting ground. As far as Harmony is concerned, their mandate hasn’t changed: their job is to protect the innocent from the forces lurking in the dark. But can you shake a monster’s hand, to stop an even worse one? And how long can you rub shoulders with monsters before you risk becoming one yourself?

There are some hard choices ahead, and every choice has consequences. Readers can also expect mystery, adventure, weapons-grade snark, gun-fu, magic-fu, wolf-fu, tentacle-fu, highly unsafe boating practices, and a remote little New England town that may give you second thoughts about your next road trip.

Also, Jessie might get laid.

Q] Many thanks for your time once again and when is the book tentatively scheduled for release? 

CS: Thank you! We’re set on an October release, probably close to Halloween (with the ebook, paperback and audiobook versions ideally going on sale at the same time), and preorders will go live in September.

*---------------*---------------*---------------*


Official Book Blurb: When two operatives go dark in Tampa, chasing the trail of an oligarch with ties to the demonic underworld, Vigilant Lock — the nation’s first and last line of defense against occult attack — sends their best to the rescue: Harmony Black, a troubled investigator and an elemental witch with a keen but tangled mind; and her partner Jessie Temple, the daughter of a supernatural slasher and the inheritor of her father’s powers.

The trail of clues leads them to the doorstep of Judah Cranston, a wealthy scientist with dark secrets and a darker agenda. Toss in an alluring marine biologist with eyes for Harmony, and a pair of demon-blooded troubleshooters on a hunt of their own, and Tampa Bay is heating up fast. As the mission takes Harmony and Jessie from the sun-drenched Florida coast to a gloomy New England fishing town steeped in forgotten history, they find themselves up against a threat far greater — and more otherworldly — than they ever expected.

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