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Friday, September 13, 2019

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Rumble In Woodhollow + Q&A with Jonathan Pembroke (by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author Website
Pre-order Rumble In Woodhollow over HERE

Today we are extremely excited to exclusively present the cover for Jonathan Pembroke's sophomore effort Rumble In Woodhollow. This is a start of a new series for him and quite a departure from his debut which was a post-apocalyptic fantasy western. Also Jonathan was gracious enough to answer some questions about the book, the world and characters within. 

So with further ado, here's Jonathan and checkout the stunning cover for Rumble In Woodhollow by Jessica Dueck below:

Q] Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic Jonathan. To start with, could you tell us what inspired you to be a writer in the first place, and why you choose to go the self-published route? Anything else you’d like to share about yourself and your past? .

JP: Thanks, for having me, Mihir. I really think I was inspired to start telling my own stories when I was around eight, when I read C. S. Lewis for the first time. Around the same time I saw the movie Dragonslayer and that was it, I was done. The fantasy motif captivated me and I never looked back. My imagination took over and I started telling stories right then. Sadly, life happened. I had a whole career in the military come and go, got married, raised and booted a kid from the house (and now have an adorable granddaughter too). I didn’t take time to develop or practice writing skills until I was older. Lost opportunities, right? With my wife’s encouragement, I began making a serious effort around fifteen years ago and haven’t looked back. A hundred short stories and a few bad novels later (most of which will never see the light of day), here we are. My first published novel, Pilgrimage To Skara, was a finalist in SPFBO 3, where it received...ahem...mixed reviews

I went for self-publishing for a few reasons—the main one being that it feels very hard to break into conventional publishing. I tried for a bit. After a lot of failures, I rationalized that I could sit and wait for a break or get out and try to make something happen. The entry into SPFBO was just one excursion but the experience and community has been invaluable. Even if I manage traditional publication, I don’t think I will give up the self-publishing route altogether. It’s tons of work but tons of fun and I’ve enjoyed the experience too much to walk away from it. .

Not much else to tell about me. I live in northeastern Arizona (in the southwestern US, for our friends overseas) on a good-sized acreage where I can’t really bother anyone with my ramblings. Aside from reading and writing, I like to garden and do some gaming. I spent twenty years in the US military as a meteorologist...and before you ask, yes, it’s going to rain today (somewhere in the world, at least). .


Q] I loved the striking imagery in the cover art for Rumble In Woodhollow (The Holly Sisters #1). What were your main pointers for your cover artist/designer as you both went through the process of finalizing it? What were the main things that you wished to focus on in it? .

JP: The cover artist is a very talented lady by the name of Jessica Dueck and she was great to work with. My main idea was to depict Sydney, the story’s protagonist, nervously glancing over her shoulder as one of her adversaries approaches. Jessica ran with that concept and I think she did a phenomenal job. The mood and lighting are perfect and I believe the look on Sydney’s face captures the feeling that’s she’s in trouble. You can see more of Jessica’s work at the website StarsColdNight.

Q] Could you tell us about the inception of Rumble In Woodhollow & vis-à-vis The Holly Sisters Series and what was/were your main inspiration(s) for it? .

JP: It actually came from me watching the movie Gangs of New York. I got it in my head that an all-out brawl for control of a city’s organized crime—but with mystical races duking it out instead of rival human factions—would be fun to write. That was the nucleus of the idea. I wrote a short story focusing solely on the actual confrontation, but the idea stayed with me. Then, when I started digging into the foundations of the characters and wider world around them, I realized I had a much bigger and more interesting story. 

The fallout from the gang war and subsequent events will be outlined in the next two volumes of The Holly Sisters. I have one trilogy solidified and am putting together the plot for a second trilogy with the same characters. Well, the ones who survive. .

Q] This book and series seems to have quite an enigmatic mix of crime gangs, assassins, faeries, family troubles and a whole bunch of quirky weird stuff. What lead you to mix all of these elements into the story? .

JP: It was kind of a natural outgrowth of the original concept. Once I had the skeleton of the story, I kept asking myself, “What if?”:
- What if you find out that your older sister Marla—to whom you haven’t spoken in years—leads a criminal gang of faeries?  
- What if you found out a rival gang of leprechauns was leaning on your sister’s gang? 
- What would your aunt, who had raised you since your parents died, think of you running off to get involved in trouble? 
- What if something you did—or at least something you think you did—drew the attention of a sinister group you only thought was a rumor? 
- What if you found that in charge of the whole mess was a...well, you get the idea. .

I’m a weirdo, so letting my imagination run wild generally does in these strange combinations. If you think the mix is eclectic now, you should see the ideas I ultimately discarded! .

Q] The main character seems to be of Faerie heritage. Will the story be focusing more about this heritage and did you draw your inspirations from the Celtic Fae legends? .

JP: Not really. It’s not derivative of the Tuatha De Dannan stories. I don’t mention the Seelie Court or Unseelie Court, though now that I think about it, I am tempted to do it in a sarcastic manner. The faeries of this world are just more of a generalized concept one might expect from generic fairy tales: human-shaped, winged, a little magical (and in this setting, human-sized). They aren’t mischievous imps playing tricks on the unsuspecting. The gang members are ale-swilling foul-mouthed crooks, most of whom have a wide hedonistic streak. I didn’t want to make a direct connection to any mythology, for any of the characters. About the closest I came was with some of the naming conventions; the leprechauns, for example, lean heavily on Gaelic names. But everyone in the story speaks in colloquial terms, not in accented brogue. Other races in the setting draw inspiration from other mythologies but no direct parallels. .

Sydney’s particular heritage is one source of her angst. The faeries of Sylvan Valley are organized in clans, identified by their wing color. Faeries born without clan colors are usually called “unaffiliated” and are sometimes treated poorly by clan faeries—anything from antipathy to outright banishment. Sydney’s wing colors were random due to circumstances of her birth, despite her lineage coming from the Holly Clan, and that creates its own set of problems for her. .


Q] Can you tell us more about the world that The Holly Sisters is set in and some of the series’ major characters? What are the curiosities (geographical, mystical, etc.) of this world? .

JP: Most of the initial series will take place in the city of Woodhollow, which is not nearly a nice and pleasant as it sounds. Set on the Woodrush River, Woodhollow is the central city of the realm, kind of at the nexus of the homelands of the faeries, different degrees of elves, dwarves, gnomes, trow, vilas, dryads and goblins. It’s an industrial hub and is overrun with vice and corruption, though the ruling lord’s ogre and drake Enforcers keep trouble under control. The area seen outside Woodhollow is forests and farmland and mostly unremarkable. Thus far. .

Everyone likes to talk magic systems. I tried to keep mine simple in this world. Only a few of the races can access magic and they all need a conduit. For the faeries, it means eating dried albino mushroom, which gives them a charge, like a short-lived battery, they can use to alter reality around them very briefly. If unused, the charge fades after a short time. Other races have similar vectors. Some have very minor magical talents that are little more than magic tricks. Then there are, of course, old and immense beings with powerful magical talents that require no special actions to access. .

As for major characters, besides Sydney, her older sister Marla features prominently. Compared to Sydney’s introspective and somewhat philosophical personality, Marla is loud, brash, confident, and skilled in a fight. I think the two play off each other well. Lila is Marla’s secretary and keeps the gang’s records. She’s a smart-alec who becomes Sydney’s best friend. Markus and Dana, lieutenants in the gang, have important roles as does a gang member named Vivian and she’s….well, she’s interesting. Members of rival and allied gangs, and Crol, the too-smart chief constable of the Enforcers—acting on behalf of Lord Burnside, the city’s ruler—also get a lot of page time. .

Q] So for someone who hasn't read any of your novels, how would you describe the type of stories that you write, what would be your pitch for The Holly Sisters Series? .

JP: My stories tend to get dark and cynical, which is amusing to me, since I am kind of a romantic at heart. I like writing damaged (whether mildly or in a major way) protagonists who have to come to grips with their shortcomings and self-doubts. I have a habit of weaving a lot of plot threads together and dropping clues that don’t become significant until much later—maybe not even until the next book. I also prefer a tight POV. I know multiple POVs are in vogue and I’ve read quite a few books with head-hopping that I enjoyed. But for myself, I like to stay in the head of one or two characters. With one exception at the very end of the book, Rumble is all told from Sydney’s perspective. Hopefully, that will give the reader a good idea of what’s happening in this young lady’s thoughts. .

At its core, The Holly Sisters is a young faerie’s journey to find her place in the world and figure out what she wants in life. And maybe bust a few heads, drink a few beers, and break a few hearts along the way. .

Q] You will be releasing Rumble In Woodhollow in October. Could you give us a progress report on book two and outline your plans for the series as a whole? .

JP: Yes, 7th October is the release date. Pre-order for the Kindle version is live and I’ll have the paperback version available right about the same time. .

I’m over halfway through the first draft of the second book (The Mauler), which I should finish before the end of the year. I’m targeting release for late summer/early fall of 2020. I have a plot outline for book three and it will follow on in late 2021 sometime. Not sure past there, though I would like to write some more with these characters. .

Q] So what can readers expect from this book/series and what should they be looking forward to according to you? .

JP: In a word, fun. I tried to write an action story with a little bit of humor, a little bit of suspense, and a little bit of intrigue and plotting. With luck, it will all blend together well. Even though Rumble contains plenty of violence, loads of swearing, and a bit of sex (implied and discussed, not shown), this isn’t a grimdark series. It’s more of a character-centric adventure story, that doesn’t take itself super-seriously. Writing about these faeries was a greatly satisfying and I hope readers fall in love with the characters as much as I did and want to read more about them. .

Q] In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you’d like to share with our readers? .

JP: Nothing other than: thanks for reading and I hope you check out Rumble and enjoy it. If you loved it (or hated it) hit me up on Facebook or Twitter and lemme know.


Pre-order Rumble In Woodhollow over HERE

Official Book Blurb: Sydney was bored--bored with mixing potions in her aunt's alchemy shop and bored of life in the faery homeland of Sylvan Valley. So when her sister Marla sends her a letter and asks Sydney to bring some family documents to the crime-ridden city of Woodhollow, Sydney leaps at the chance--only to discover Marla in charge of one of the criminal syndicates competing for control of the Woodhollow underworld.

Before she knows it, Sydney finds herself embroiled in a gang war and must maneuver her way through the plots of rival thugs, ogre peacekeepers, and the semi-immortal ruler of the city. And through it all, she learns she has drawn the attention of a mysterious order of assassins...who want Sydney for some sinister purpose of their own.

NOTE: Gangs Of New York poster by Lee Bermejo.

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