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Monday, July 5, 2021

Blogtour: Interview with Damien Larkin the author of Blood Red Sand


ABOUT DAMIEN: Damien Larkin is an Irish science fiction author and co-founder of the British and Irish Writing Community. His debut novel Big Red was published by Dancing Lemur Press and went on to be longlisted for the BSFA Award for Best Novel. His next novel in the series Blood Red Sand will be released on 6th July 2021. He currently lives in Dublin, Ireland and is working on his current writing project The Truceless War.

Find Damien online: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

Blood Red Sand by Damien Larkin; Published: July 6, 2021 by Dancing Lemur Press L.L.C. Genre: Military Science Fiction, Alternative History; Pages: 240; CW: crime, Genocide, Gore, Violence (graphic, gun, etc), Mass shootings, Suicide, Torture


Thank you for joining us, Damien, and welcome to Fantasy Book Critic! Before we start, tell us a little about yourself.

Thanks - it’s great to be here! I’m an Irish science fiction author and I live in Dublin. I got a trad publishing deal in IWSGPit a few years ago and my debut novel Big Red came out in 2019. Blood Red Sand is the next novel in the series and I’ve a few other ultra-top secret projects in the works… I’m also one of the co-founders of the British and Irish Writing Community and our online magazine Bard of the Isles.

Who are your favorite current writers and who are your greatest influencers?

There’s so many to choose from! I’m a big fan of Lee Conley’s The Dead Sagas. I devoured his first two books and can’t wait for book 3, hopefully later this year (come on, Lee)… I also really enjoyed the Smokepit Fairytales series by Tripp Ainsworth. They’re easily some of the funniest and goriest books I’ve ever read. I’ve recently finished Jessa Forest’s Pulling Teeth and Other Stories and loved it!

In terms of influencers, I honestly couldn’t name one. There’s no one author or group of authors that I’ve consciously tried to emulate or have influenced me (that I can think of)! I do read as much as I can from new and established authors, trad and indie, and I’m constantly absorbing new ideas, writing styles and ways of doing things. I’ve been compared to Robert Heinlein on a good few occasions, but I’ve only read one of his books so far (bonus points if you can guess which one)!

How would you describe the plot of Blood Red Sand if you had to do so in just one or two sentences?

British and French soldiers fight the last battle of World War Two on Mars against the Nazis. Things go downhill fairly quickly.

Okay, so you have decided to write a book, where did you start? Research? A scene that came to you? A character that you dreamed up? Tell us what got the ball rolling?

Big Red started as a nightmare. I woke up one morning after dreaming about highly traumatised soldiers screaming in their bunks but with no discernible wounds. I remember being really freaked out for a while as it was incredibly vivid. That scene stayed with me, and I found myself trying to figure out what could do that to a group of battle-hardened soldiers. Threads started to form and link in with each other, and that nightmare became (roughly) the first two chapters of Big Red.

For Blood Red Sand, it started when my publisher suggested doing a prequel short story to Big Red. A few of the characters in Big Red mentioned the historical Battle of New Berlin between the Allies and the Nazis but never elaborated on it. I figured that’d be a great place to start since some of my readers asked questions on those events too.

I put together a 13k word short story, sent it to my publisher and within a few days, she came back to me insisting I develop it into a novel!

Who are the key players in this story? Could you introduce us to Blood Red Sand 's protagonists and antagonists?

It’s told from multiple POV’s but the main ones on the Allied side are Sergeant McCabe and Private Jenkins. McCabe is a veteran British army NCO determined to get the job done at all costs. He’s fiercely loyal and protective of the soldiers under his command and is suspicious of the real reason behind their mission. Private Jenkins is an easy going, friendly person thrown into a world of violence. He gets a hard time from his platoon-mates, but continually puts his life on the line for them.

On the Nazi side, Generalfeldmarschall Seidel is a careerist who’s taken completely by surprise by the Allied landings. He stages a desperate defence of New Berlin but finds the situation spirally rapidly out of control despite his best efforts. Reichsführer Wagner is a despicable and sadistic SS officer determined to sacrifice everything, from his own soldiers to the colony itself, if it means bringing the secretive Hollow Programme online.

I also had a lot of fun writing secondary character Anna Bailey (a former MI6 operative). She’s pivotal to the story and even more so in the wider Big Red universe. As it’s sent twenty years before the events of Big Red, readers will also come across a few characters as younger versions of themselves. Also watch out for those Black Visors, whoever they are…

Cover art is always an important factor in book sales. Can you tell us about the idea behind the cover of Blood Red Sand ?

The team over at Dancing Lemur Press asked if I had any thoughts on the cover or if there was anything I thought we could use to link in with the cover of Big Red. I mentioned how I loved the soldier in the Exo-suit used for Big Red, but since this is set twenty years before, we’d need to scale it back and make it a bit more retro. When I saw Blood Red Sand’s cover it completely blew my mind. The darkened cover was a nod to the Black Visors who play a central role to the story, with the British flag representing that most of the ground forces were British soldiers conscripted into the Mars Expeditionary Force.

Have you written it with a particular audience in mind? Who'll enjoy it?

I wrote it following that age-old piece of writing advice: write the book you’d want to read. Now, if I could only find a million Damien Larkin’s, I’d be laughing all the way to the bank…

I reckon anyone who enjoys Heinlein, World War Two stories, action and/or Irish science fiction will enjoy it. At least I hope they will…

What are you most excited for readers to discover in this book?

I’ve answered a lot of questions readers asked after checking out Big Red. In particular, I can’t wait to see what readers' reactions are to the Black Visors and a certain young pilot!

What's your publishing Schedule for 2021/2022?

At the moment, it’s just Blood Red Sand this year. I’ve two more projects set in the Big Red universe currently scheduled, but both still need a lot of work, so no dates confirmed just yet.

Thank you for taking the time to answer all the questions. In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers?

Thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure! I’d like to thank your readers for checking out this piece. I know we’ve all had a crazy year with lockdowns and the pandemic, so look after yourselves, folks. Thankfully, things seem to be getting better, so let’s hope we have a great summer!

NOTE: Many thanks to Justine, Timy & the Storytellers On Tours for giving us an opportunity to take part in this tour.


Damien Larkin said...

Thanks so much for hosting this. I had a lot of fun with this interview!


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