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Sunday, 10 March 2013

An Interview with Jeff Hollar

I've got the fantastic Mr. Hollar visiting today, with his new book, Keldane the Cursed out to buy now.

I was lucky enough to get my grubby little paws on a copy for this interview, and it's a joy. It's a collection of short stories involving Keldane, who can't stay out of trouble no matter what he does, (and it makes the very valid point that power of any sort can cause as many issues as it fixes), and I finished this with a smile on my face. It reminds me a lot of the old style fairy tales, with a lot less gore and mutilation - this is the story, this is what happens - told in a very direct and simple fashion that simply works. There is no epic horror or drama involved, but just reaches in and pokes at the right spots, and I may be in love with a vampire bat called Barnabas.
I'd recommend this especially for folks who want to introduce younger readers to fantasy, and speaking as someone who has fairly epic moments of oops, I could definitely relate.

The links to the book and Jeff's blog are here:

Jeff’s Blog: The Latinum Valult

Check out the interview below, and carry on for a sneak peek at the first story:


ME: Who or what inspired Keldane, and the pretty bizarre situations he ends up in? 
JEFF: Keldane began as a character in a flash fiction story of, I believe, 150 words. Lisa Stull, briefly, sponsored a flash fiction challenge wherein the winner from the previous week got to provide the prompt for the next week. My wife, Lisa, came up with a prompt of "frogs, cats & vampire bats" and from that came the first appearance of Keldane. Like so much of my flash fiction, humble beginnings have often had the potential to be much more involved works and Keldane proved to be the first. I mentioned playing with writing in different genres and so further installments of Keldane appeared from time to time. I moved on to other distractions and gave Keldane no further attention until I became a member of the Visionary Press Cooperative. We are a coalition of writers, editors, cover artists, etc all working for the common profit and good. Blaze McRob, one of the founders of the co-op, thought it wise for us to diversify our book offerings and I brought up that I had a YA fantasy serial on tap. The rest, as they say, is history.

 ME: Who is your ideal reader for these stories?
JEFF: My ideal reader for these stories is anyone, because I believe, on some level, we can all identify with Keldane. He is sort of the Everyman character in a shorter, younger & slightly more fantastic setting. While some of the word usage makes it less-suitable for readers much below the age of 10 or so, beyond that it is for anyone who has every really screwed up but found the wherewithal to keep mucking on. These are stories of persistence against all odds and that is a great life lesson or life reminder for anyone.

ME : What is the one story you wish you'd written?
JEFF: Wow. There are so many wonderful stories out there that have captured my favor over the years. I don't think I could ever pick a single one, but whatever it was would be something that far outlived the author but is still attracting and captivating readers. Think of maybe Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with his Sherlock Holmes or perhaps Edgar Rice Burroughs with Tarzan. Both were hugely popular with me as a boy.

ME: Steak or chocolate?
JEFF : This question is blatantly unfair as I refuse to accept the possibility of the two being mutually exclusive. I am a confirmed carnivore and don't think that liable to every change. I grew up in the corn-fed Midwestern tradition of consuming tasty animals. Now chocolate is no less a valued member of the food community in my opinion. I most definitely have a sweet tooth and sometimes nothing will assuage it quite like chocolate. So, that being said I will have the sirloin steak smothered in onions & mushrooms and...oh...I see you have chocolate lava cake on your dessert offerings.

(ASIDE: Yep. No argument here.)

ME: What monster would you like to be, and why?
JEFF: There are so many really sweet monsters out there that picking just one might be an impossibility for me. Can I combine monsters? I would love to some hybrid critter that possesses all of the absolutely coolest aspects of a vampire AND a were-creature but that somehow transcends either of their potential weaknesses. I'll let you know when I figure out what to call such a thing.

 ME: Country or metal?
JEFF : That is a slippery slope. I grew up with country as THE music my father and his side of the family listened to. My mom was mostly caught in her late 50's-early 60's faves (Bobby Vee, Dion, Elvis) I was a child of the 70's who went into the 80's before I got to choose my listening choices. Now, i almost exclusively, listen to "classic rock that really rocks" as the radio bills it. If I pick a channel on my android for I Heart Radio, I favor mom's music.

ME : And finally, tell us something that would surprise people who think they know you.
JEFF: I was hoping somebody would ask me this! I am a mildly-rabid fan of Star Trek and often wondered what species/niche I would fill in that fictional setting. I decided, after much deliberation, to be a Klingorengi. (That is one half Klingon & one half Ferengi. If I have to explain these species to you it kind of ruins the impact here) I reasoned I had all of the conniving sneakiness of a Ferengi but the martial code & sense of honor of a Klingon. In any event, I have always mentioned in any space requiring a bio that I am a Klingon/Ferengi hybrid. As I have built my platform and become less obscure, I have achieved the honor that if you do a Google search of "Klingon Ferengi hybrid" I am the first four (or more depending on the week) image responses it returns. Go ahead & try it. You'll see. 

(ASIDE : Bowing. Repeated and enthusiastic bowing, and very happy geek fangirl moment.)

Thanks for the great interview Jeff!

Check out the excerpt below; from Keldane the Cursed.


The boy rose from the stool he’d been sitting on and bowed his back as he stretched. His spine cracked loudly with the relief of stiffness the stretch provided. He thought, for not the first time ever or even the first time today, ‘My father is going to kill me!’

His gaze returned to the pages of the enormous book on the workbench before him. The runes all seemed to flow together in a jumbled mess. With a sigh of frustration, he slammed shut the cover of the grimoire. A plume of dust billowed from the ancient book causing him to sneeze violently and repeatedly.
“It’s no use guys. I can’t find what I need in this stupid book! I’ve been through it over and over and it’s just not here!”
He spoke to the two animals sitting on the table in front of him. The large greenish frog, Desmond, looked at him with a mournful gaze and croaked softly. The ginger cat, Lydia, looked at Keldane with a malevolent gaze, her tail swishing angrily from side to side.
“You guys KNOW transmogrification isn’t my best subject. I’d change you back in a second if I could only remember the bloody spell.”
The frog croaked more loudly and the cat hissed menacingly as if to say nothing was Keldane’s “best subject”. Although he was the son of THE most powerful wizard in history, Keldane was, unfortunately, so inept even his wizarding instructors openly referred to him as Keldane the Cursed.
*While it’s unlikely your father would actually kill you, I doubt he’ll be pleased with this latest in a long series of disappointments.*
The boy glanced up to the rafters at the immense vampire bat hanging there.
“Barnabas, you HAVE to help me!” the boy moaned, “You’ve served our family for over 20 years. There has to have been a problem like this happen before.”
*No, I don’t think any of your siblings quite managed an embarrassment of this caliber. Although I’m not especially hungry, I suppose it’d be easiest to just suck them dry and you can toss the remnants into the rubbish bin. No one need be the wiser.*
Neither the frog nor the cat was privy to the exchange between the boy and his bat, but they WERE both a bit on edge. Thusly, neither was as surprised as one might expect when the bat swooped down to feed.
Before Keldane could intervene, his friends took matters into their own hands, so to speak. Barnabas learned firsthand why they called them “catlike reflexes” as Lydia ignominiously slapped him out of the air. Desmond jumped on to the chest of the dazed bat and held him down while Lydia, daintily, tore his head from his leathery shoulders.
Both animals settled back on to the bench with expressions simply daring Keldane to protest.
“Yes indeed. My father IS going to kill me.” The boy mused as he plopped back down on the stool.