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Friday, 27 February 2009

The books I grew up on - Dan Wells

Books have been an important part of my life since before I ever went to school. My Dad used to read to my brother and I every night before bed, and my Mom always had a book in her hands. Reading was just what you did—it was as much a part of life as eating or sleeping. As I got older I realized that not only did my Mom always have a book, she always had a new book; she reads faster than almost anyone I know. Being naturally competitive, I decided to race her, and thus began my personal relationship with books.

The first real book that I have any conscious memory of is The Hobbit, which my Dad read to us at night. Soon after that came the Narnia books, and then The Lord of the Rings (though I was too young to really appreciate it until I re-read it a few years later). My brother and I had a bookshelf in our bedroom stocked with fairy tales, from Hans Christian Anderson to the Brothers Grimm, and after I’d devoured those I moved on to a series of “history for young readers” books, full of non-fiction stories about life in the Yukon gold rush, or the American revolution, and so on. I remember reading kid mystery books, like Encyclopedia Brown, and then in elementary school I was re-introduced to fantasy through the works of Robin McKinley, Madeleine L’Engle, and Lloyd Alexander. My sixth grade teacher had us do a school project on Anne McCaffrey, and I was officially hooked on fantasy.

Meanwhile, I was developing a deep love of poetry. One of those early books on our shelf was the collected works of A.A. Milne, and while I liked the Pooh stories well enough what I really loved were the Christopher Robin poems. I can still quote many of them by heart. The books I was reading were introducing me to stories and plots and grand emotions, but through poetry I realized the deep power of words, and for that subject you can’t ask for a better teacher than Milne. Go read “James James Morrison Morrison Willoughby George DuPree” and watch the way he manipulates your voice and cadence so perfectly, just by the words he chose and the order he put them in. A good poet isn’t just using words, he’s playing with them, and when you read those words you can’t help but join in the fun. So powerful was Milne’s effect on me that it took me years—well into college, probably—before I would accept any kind of poetry that didn’t rhyme; sure, they had a nice sentiment and everything, but if they couldn’t do that AND make it rhyme I figured they just weren’t trying hard enough. That’s also why I eventually became a huge fan of Stephen Sondheim.

In college, though, I finally “got” non-rhyming poetry, and in a big way. You’ll notice as they are released that the epigram for each book in the “I Am Not a Serial Killer” series begins with a quote from a poem; I chose these poems, and the poets, very carefully. The first is a quick quote from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” by T.S. Eliot, which is quite simply my favorite piece of literature ever, in poetry or prose. I learn something new every single time I read it. Books 2 and 3 use Edgar Allen Poe and ee cummings, respectively, but you you’ll have to wait to see which ones.

Back to books. I read fantasy and science fiction about as fast as I could get through it, including Terry Brooks, Fred Saberhagen, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ray Bradbury, and more. Meanwhile I was also developing a love of “classic” literature, aided in no small part by the fact that I already loved classic poetry, and I figured that if old, dead poets had something valuable to say then old, dead authors probably did too, even their books didn’t have dragons in them. So I read Charles Dickens, and Nathanial Hawthorne, and Harper Lee, and Mark Twain, and finally Joseph Conrad—and it was Conrad, at long last, who ignited my love of dark fiction. You see, for all my reading I’ve never really read a lot of “traditional” horror, but through Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” I discovered this very dark, very bleak side of literature that for some reason I responded to powerfully. I don’t know why, I just did—there was a kind of epic grandeur to it, some level of tragedy that just hit all the right buttons for me. I wanted to read more stuff like it, but I was leery of horror fiction because I assumed (mistakenly) that it was all just slasher movie stuff. With horror off my radar, and so much of fantasy perpetually cheery (though I did read quite a bit of Michael Moorcock), I turned back to the classics for my fix of darkness: I read more Conrad, I discovered Lovecraft, and by happy chance I found a deep well of darkness in French and Russian literature, in everything from Crime and Punishment to The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I still thought I wanted to be a fantasy writer, because that how I had defined myself in my head, but it was the classic themes of human obsession, misanthropy, and self destruction that eventually came to define my writing. Dragons are cool and all, but who needs a dragon when humans can do such horrible things to themselves? I latched onto serial killers and true crime essays, and when I finally started to read modern horror it was through the psychological side-door of Thomas Harris and “The Silence of the Lambs.”

Which brings us, by a long and twisty road, to “I Am Not a Serial Killer.” It’s got a bit of everything: human weakness, supernatural terror, and even a snippet of poetry here and there (quoted from others; I won’t subject you to my own). I hope you like it.

As you can see on my own website, www.fearfulsymmetry.net, I’ve listed a long list of favorites in my bio, including my favorite books. Next week we’ll go through all five of these books and talk about why each one is so awesome.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Who is Dan Wells, anyway?

Hi! My name is Dan Wells, and I’m the author of the new book I Am Not a Serial Killer, which comes out in a few weeks. It’s the story of a boy named John who has a very dark side that he keeps tightly bottled up, and then a monster comes to town and he has to let his dark side out in order to stop it. In other words, it’s the kind of book where the hero is maybe a little scarier than the villain—and it’s got a pretty scary villain, so that’s saying a lot.

I’ve always been fascinated with villains. I love the darkness, the sense of fear, and the tragic mix of power and damnation. A great villain usually thinks he’s the good guy—he has a good reason for being bad, even if that reason is flawed or outright false. I don’t necessarily want the bad guys to win, but I love to watch them try, and when they finally fall I find myself identifying with them even more. As John tells his mother in one of the early chapters of the book: “It’s not weird to be fascinated by that. It’s weird not to be.”
Playing with that idea, I Am Not a Serial Killer blurs the lines between hero and villain in some pretty cool ways. John is a good kid, and he desperately wants to be the hero, but sometimes the only way to be a hero is to become a monster yourself.

I’ll talk more about heroes and monsters in the coming weeks, but first let me tell you a little more about myself. I was born in the US, in the state of Utah, where I’ve lived most of my life (plus two years I spent living in Mexico, which I loved). I am the oldest of three children, and at the young age of 31—yes, that’s still considered young—I have four children of my own. I love to read, write, eat, and play games; I have an entire room of my house stuffed to the gills with tabletop miniatures, roleplaying games, trading cards, and an ever-growing collection of board games. My five-year-old son already shows strong signs of growing to be just like me: his favorite games are all the ones with monsters on the cover.

Next week: I spent my childhood reading everything I could get my hands on. Find out what I read, and why, and which were my favorites.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

RUNNYMEDE SPA - exclusive competition for IT GIRL fans!

Win a luxury break for you and your mates (or you could take your mum!) away from it all at the stunning Runnymede Hotel & Spa set on the banks of the river Thames, near Windsor, South of England. Just answer the question below and you and your friends could be off for a day of pampering!

The prize includes three hours of treatments for those over 18, including a Magna Facial and Day Dreamer Body Treatment. And for teenagers up to 18, treatments include a Teen Angel Facial, Teenie Toes (nail tidy, foot massage and colour application), Fab Fingers (a nail tidy, hand massage and colour application) and Beginnings (an introduction to skin care and make-up application).

The prize also includes a three-course dinner in one of the hotel’s riverside restaurants, use of spa facilities (until check out) which include a swimming pool, eucalyptus steam room, saunas, plunge pool and whirlpool bath, plus an overnight stay including full English breakfast.

An adult must accompany any winner if under 18.

Just search the B-word site and answer this simple question.
What is the name of the character who features in both the Gossip Girl series and It Girl series? Fill in the form
here with your name, date of birth, email address and daytime phone number before 30 June 2009.

Please read our terms and conditions before entering the competition.

*By entering this competition you are agreeing to our terms and conditions and to receive occasional information which may be of interest to you from the Runnymede Hotel & Spa and Headline Publishing Group. If at any time you wish to unsubscribe, there will be a clear link at the bottom of every email.

Runnymede Hotel and Spa are also delighted to be offering an exclusive 15% discount for INFAMOUS readers on two of their treatments. For just £76.50, readers can enjoy a thirty minute Teenie Toes pedicure and thirty minute ‘Fab Fingers’ manicure. Upon booking simply quote the reference: INFAMOUS15 and you will receive the discount.

Terms & Conditions

1 The prize offer is a spa package for up to four people.

2 An adult must accompany any winner if under 18

3 The prize is only valid Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Terms apply.

4 Booking is subject to availability at any given time.

5 The competition is open to all UK residents, except employees of the Headline Publishing Group and Runnymede Hotel and related companies.

6 The winner will be selected at random by the Headline Publishing Group from entries received.

7 The winner will be notified after the closing date of 30 June 2009. The winner will be notified by email within 14 days of the promotion closing date and is required to accept their prize by email within 14 days of notification. In the event of non-acceptance within the specified period, the promoter reserves the right to reallocate the prize to the next randomly drawn correct and valid entry.

8 The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence, apart from notification, will be entered into.

9 The winners are responsible for their own travel to and from the Spa.

10 The prize must be booked by 31st August 2009 and taken by 28th February 2010.

11 The prize is not transferable to any third party and cannot be exchanged for cash, or redeemed in conjunction with any other offers.

12 Winners are responsible for any payment over and above the prize as outlined without exception.

13. Headline has arranged this competition in good faith but does not accept liability relating to this prize.

Promoter: Headline Publishing Group, 338 Euston Road, London, NW1 3BH


So our team of reviewers have started reading INFAMOUS and the love is pouring in! Here's what everyone thinks...

Oh my life this book is amazing. It is probably one of the best in the series. I recieved it this morning have already finished it. Needless to say its unputdownable. It will leave you smiling gasping and sighing with many twists and turns which you will not see coming.
If you read nothing else this year READ this. You wont regret it.
Lovely Laura :)

This book is absolutely amazing, I have recently read a few in the series and they get better and better every time. This book is full of gossip (obviously) and once you start reading you can't put it down, it's an addictive read and so realistic. Full of surprises that keep you gripped to the very last page... The characters personalities change throughout and the decisions they make are the most unexpected. Its definitely worth buying as you can re-read again and again and they storyline never gets old.
roxyy xo

Just got mine this morning and I finished it in hours!
The latest in the deliciously addictive series and it proves one thing - this series just keeps getting better!
Infamous is just as un-put-downable as the others!
Jenny and Tinsley are finally friends but Jenny is still unsure. Is Tinsley as cold hearted as she seems? Is it possible that she could ever be in love with someone? And is it possible that Jenny could have advice that is key to winning that someone back? Even though an old enemy from the past, who may be a bigger bitch then Tinsley, also has their sights set on him too?
Jenny seems to fall into love too easily and all it ever seems to do is get her hurt! Should she take Tinsleys advice and just relax and have fun?
Callie is moping after Easy, will she ever see him again?
Brett shows a side we've never before seen, her Jersey side! And it's definitely a side I want to see more of!
As with all the It Girl books, Infamous is packed full of glamour, style, parties and scandal! The gossip, shocks and plot twists draw you in from page one and leave you craving more!
You'll reread again and again and wish it were longer! A totally captivating book!

Think you know all that's going to happen in 'IT Girl'?
Then think again!
The addictive new book in the IT Girl series brings us more twists and turns with Jenny and Tinsley finally becoming friends, well how did that happen?
With Callie still mourning the departure of Easy she's not certain if she will ever see him again, but come on this is Waverly Academy you have to expect the un-expected!
The It Girl series is a short escape from reality and with this new book it may not be such a short escape with you unable to put the book down.
A must read!

If you'd like to send us a review you can do so by filling in the contact form. And if you want to be a reviewer go to the B Involved page and sign up.