Hi everyone! Today I am so excited to welcome the fabulous Alexis Hall to the blog. Alexis is here to talk to us more about his new release, Iron & Velvet, which I reviewed the other day and totally loved (demon hunting, ninja nuns who love pudding, you guys!). Alexis has also brought a great giveaway to share (see details below). So please join me in giving him a big welcome!
Hello, and welcome to my second ever blog tour, celebrating Riptide Publishing’s release of my second ever novel, IRON & VELVET. Yay! Thank you so much to Joyfully Jay for hosting me. And, to you, dear reader, for stopping by. If you’d like to come with me and keep me company on my virtual wanderings, you can find a full listing of when and where I am here.
There’s also some kind of contest type thing happening. I had a bit of trouble choosing a prize for this one because most of the things Kate likes (booze, cigarettes, knives, women) are illegal to ship internationally. I thought about a fedora, but then I remembered people had differently shaped heads and there was no point sending somebody an item of clothing they wouldn’t be able to wear. So, basically, that leaves coffee and Bovril and nobody likes Bovril except people from the North East of England. I’m therefore going offer 250g of Jamaican Blue Mountain, the nicest coffee in the known universe, purchased from a wonderful speciality shop, ground or beaned to your specification. If you don’t like coffee, I’ll replace it with an equivalently lovely tea. And if you really want to try the Bovril, I could probably be persuaded to throw that in as well.
If you’d like win this distressingly perishable souvenir please answer the three questions below (clues in the book) and drop me an email. I’ll announce the winner a handful of days after the end of the tour.
- What is hanging in the study of Aeglica Thrice-Risen?
- What’s Rule Twelve?
She was wearing the traditional uniform of that sort of vampire: tight leather trousers, knee-high boots, a plum velvet frock coat, and a sleazy grin. Her ridiculously ruffly shirt had slipped from one shoulder to reveal ivory skin and a hint of black lace. And I was staring.
There was no point wishing I’d showered this morning, but I wished I’d showered this morning.
“Well, you’re just what I was expecting, Ms. Saint-Germain.” I folded my arms and pointedly neglected her title.
“Call me Julian, sweeting. Let’s be intimate.”
“Let’s not. And don’t call me sweeting.”
(Somewhere in Iron & Velvet)
In all the urban fantasy I’ve ever read, there’s always a smorgasbord of hotties for the heroine to choose between and angst about choosing between. And, naturally, I wanted to make sure Kate was in the same predicament.
The main romantic interest of Iron & Velvet is Julian Saint-Germain, because it’s always the vampire first, and it always either the tormented one or the lascivious one. Julian is kind of the latter. She did have her tormented phase, but she got over it and now she oversees an empire of hedonism, debauchery, and slightly trashy music.
As far as Julian’s concerned, I probably failed World Building 101 because the character essentially came first and the entire way vampires work in the setting was built around her. Which, thinking about it, is exactly the way she’d want it. Basically, I knew I wanted to have a straight-down-the-line sex vampire, like Jean-Claude or Lestat, so that meant that I needed a setting in which that kind of vampire could plausibly have a position of authority within whatever the heck kind of society the undead have.
So that led me in two directions – both of them, thankfully, compatible with each other. The first was this notion of vampires as archetypes who feed on emotion as much as blood, and who come to embody the driving passions that sustain them. So, for example, Julian’s bloodline is all about pleasure and excess, Aeglica’s is all about fear; Patrick’s (although we don’t see much of his lineage in this book) is all about obsession, and so on.
The second thing it gave me was the basic structure of UK and European vampire society. My original plan had been to have something very straight forwardly pseudo-feudal with local vampire princes running cities or counties, possibly with vampire kings and queens above them, like in True Blood. I moved away from that, partially because it was even more clichéd than I was comfortable with (and I’m usually pretty enthusiastic about clichés), but once I’d settled on vampires as archetypes it made sense to me that their power would be divided up conceptually rather than geographically.
This left me trying to design a society in which “the one who parties all the time” is an actual job, which, after a certain amount of mental callisthenics, led me to the idea of a power structure based around the tarot. The upshot being that, in the UK at least, the vampire population is governed by four princes: Cups, Swords, Coins and Wands. And Julian is, of course, Prince of Cups.
And, at the risk of sounding like the Monty Python Spanish Inquisition sketch, now I come to think about it, there’s a third, quite important way that Julian wound up shaping the way vampires work in the series. I decided early on that she’d been a nun in life – partly because I’d named her after Julian of Norwich and partly because, as she observes herself, there weren’t many jobs available to women in the late twelfth century – and this meant her backstory had a very clear arc from pious servant of God to libertine lesbian sex vampire. Which left me with a bit of a problem, because I really didn’t want to suggest that acquiring the freedom to express her sexuality without worrying that she was going to burn in hell for it represented any kind of corruption or loss.
So for Julian and, as a result, for many of the other characters in the book, vampirism is almost a form of redemption, in that it allows them to break free of the constraints placed on them by the society they were born into and embrace who they are. Vampires traditionally tend to be associated with stagnation – they are literally beings who have refused to pass on when they were supposed to – but I quite enjoyed writing vampires who explicitly weren’t like that. So, I’ve got a nun turned hedonist and a courtesan turned enforcer and, okay, a banker turned banker but he was always a bit ahead of his time anyway. Maybe it’s just me but I think if you’re going to hang around for an eternity you’d need to get really comfortable with trying new things. Because you could expect to encounter rather a lot of them.
Julian occupies a slightly tricky position in the story since while she’s the primary romantic interest, the whole series was written around the idea of multiple possible romantic interests, and part of me was very concerned that because Julian came first it would be easy for her to wind up feeling a little bit like the vanilla option. Perhaps I’m just a contrary person, but I don’t think I’ve ever read (or watched) an Urban Fantasy/Paranormal series in which I haven’t at some point pointed at the page (or the screen) and shouted “why on Earth are you wasting your time on this boring schmuck when there are a dozen more interesting people queueing up to jump your bones?” This is probably the main reason that I decided to make her the flirty-and-lascivious kind of vampire rather than the tormented-and-angst-ridden kind of vampire. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love me some angst in the right circumstances, but I think if I had to date a supernatural being, I’d want one who actually enjoyed their unlife, rather than one who spent all their time telling me how lucky I was to be mortal.
Alexis Hall was born in the early 1980s and still thinks the 21st century is the future. To this day, he feels cheated that he lived through a fin de siècle but inexplicably failed to drink a single glass of absinthe, dance with a single courtesan, or stay in a single garret. He can neither cook nor sing, but he can handle a seventeenth century smallsword, punts from the proper end, and knows how to hotwire a car. He lives in southeast England, with no cats and no children, and fully intends to keep it that way.
About Iron & Velvet
My name’s Kate Kane, and when an eight-hundred-year-old vampire prince came to me with a case, I should have told her no. But I’ve always been a sucker for a femme fatale.
It always goes the same way. You move too fast, you get in too deep, and before you know it, someone winds up dead. Last time it was my partner. This time it could be me. Yesterday a werewolf was murdered outside the Velvet, the night-time playground of one of the most powerful vampires in England. Now half the monsters in London are at each other’s throats, and the other half are trying to get in my pants. The Witch Queen will protect her own, the wolves are out for vengeance, and the vampires are out for, y’know, blood.
I’ve got a killer on the loose, a war on the horizon, and a scotch on the rocks. It’s going to be an interesting day.
You can read an excerpt and, y’know, cough, buy the book, if you want, at Riptide Publishing.