Wednesday, December 28, 2011


A winner for the Midwinter Hop has been selected!

Congratulations Theresa J!

I have sent an email requesting your address so the publishing company can ship out your prize!!!

Thank you to everyone who participated!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop and Author Interview!

What are we giving away this Midwinter's Eve? 

A Brand New Copy of Death Watch by Ari Berk!
Sent to you directly from the publisher!

To enjoy excerpts from this book, please visit:
Where you will be able to read two different chapters from Death Watch

The following is an interview with Ari Berk:

1. Could you start out by telling us a little bit about Death Watch?

Death Watch is my first novel, a ghost story about a town (a necropolis, actually) where the dead tend to congregate. But it's also a story about parents and children, and about people who have a hard time letting go. In that regard, it's really about relationships between the living and dead. Without giving too much away, here are some things you'll find in the book: Ghosts. Purgatorial Hangouts. Curious Relics. Grave Robbing. Family Reunions. Wakes. Things Under Water. Night Visiting. Stuff trapped in Tins. Overgrown Cemeteries. Crumbling Houses. Jarred peaches.

2. What was your inspiration for making the main character, Silas Umber, such a solitary character when it comes to the world of the living?

I like outsiders. I was one myself through much of high school. I think, very often, people who are on the outside see the world a little differently. They may also see more of it, because they tend to be keen observers of other people. This is an important part of Silas. He is interested in parts of the world that other people tend to overlook: lore, magic, ruins, the truth behind the stories he hears, the nature of loss, and anything with dust on it.

       Part of his story is about bridging the world of the living and the worlds of the dead, but it's that work that helps him enter more fully into the lives of the living people around him.

3. Is Lichport, the town where Death Watch takes place, based on the history of a real town? (Or, What was your inspiration for the town of Lichport?).

Lichport is not a real town, though at this point, it feels pretty real to me. My inspiration comes from the ancient, little seaport towns I've visited in the West of England, and the fictional towns I've read about in the works of H.P. Lovecraft. I always wished I could visit the towns in his books. One of the larger coastal towns mentioned in Death Watch (Kingsport) is a little nod to H.P. Lovecraft. As strange as Lichport is, it's the kind of place I've always aspired to live in; a town with a weird past within earshot of the sea. I also wondered what a town might be like if it was founded as a Necropolis, as a harbor for funereal practice. What kind of people would populate a town like that? Lichport is my version of what such a place might look like. For me, place is vitally important. Before very much of the plot had been worked out, I had already made a complete map of Lichport. I need to have a sense of place first, then I can drop the characters in and see what happens.

4. Where did the idea for Death Watch come from?

The idea for the book came from seeing a small, sixteenth century, skull-shaped pocket watch in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, UK. The moment I saw that watch, the idea for the book began to form in my mind. I talk a little about that watch here on my website:

5. I see on your website ( that you're a Professor of Mythology and Folklore. Is Death Watch steeped in any particular culture's mythology or folklore?

There is a great deal of lore in the book and it comes from, or was inspired by, a variety of cultures, including British, American, Japanese, Norse, Egyptian and others. In many cases, the folklore has been adapted to make it more Lichportian. I've also invented quite a few things, but my hope is that most readers wouldn't be able to discern the real lore from the invented. It all needed to be believable.

6. Throughout your career you have traveled extensively to places considered haunted. Are any of Silas' supernatural experiences in the book ones that you've had in real life? What was your most terrifying ghostly experience?

I haven't had any encounters with the otherworldly that I would call terrifying, but deeply unsettling, yes. I've had some strange nights in very old houses. And once, at a ruin of a great house in, Devon, England, called Berry Pomeroy, my son (3 at the time) refused to enter an underground chamber and began crying and sobbing, saying "No, the lady. No, the lady." We later learned that part of the ruin is haunted by The Blue Lady, the ghost of a young woman who had been imprisoned and left to die there by her sister.

7. You've written quite a few other books, including a personal favorite of mine, Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Letters. What made you choose the YA Novel format for Death Watch, and how much harder or easier was that than creating illustrated literary works?

To be honest, I don't really consider that a book is "YA" or "Teen" or any other label. The division of the publisher that I work with publishes YA books, so that is what this book has been called. I don't think about such things when I write. Why would I? My concern is that a story should be unique and engaging, and well-written. When I was younger, and would explore the shelves at my local library and book store, I would never bother to see what section I was in. I just choose books that looked interesting to me. Growing up, I was allowed to read anything I could read, so a book's genre or age-level was never really something I thought about. In fact, many of the readers of Death Watch are adults. I think anyone who likes, say, Stephen King, for example, might like this book too.

       As for whether a novel or an illustrated book is harder to write, that's a tough call. Each presents its challenges and delights. At the end of the day, I guess I'd have to say that the novel is more challenging because it's just me, just a long line of words stretching out to the horizon…and if anything goes wrong, in a novel, I can't blame it on the artist!

8. Silas' life is filled with real ghost stories, but as a child, were there any particular ghost stories that kept you up at night? Are there any that keep you up now?

There are so many I love and that still give me chills. But perhaps my favorite, which you can even read online, is by E.F. Benson and is titled "How Fear Departed The Long Gallery."

       More often than not, however, most of my favorites tend to be "real," or folkloric, ghost stories, not literary ones. I love the immediacy of a tale that's told as chronicle, particularly if the account has been recorded from someone who has lived to tell the tale!

9. Who was your favorite character to write and why? Were any characters based on real life people?

That's a tough question, too. I think my favorites to write were some of the secondary characters. Silas's great grandfather was a pleasure to write and he's become one of my favorite characters. He has a very different perspective on the world and on the real meaning of  family in the full historical and spiritual sense. I also REALLY love writing the dialogue of the three ladies of the sewing circle. I could write in their three back and forth voices all day long. I am actually toying with the idea of a little collection called Tales From Old Lichport that would be stories the three sisters tell each other while they're working on their tapestry.

       As for characters being based on real-life people, the answer is yes and no. My mother is already telling all of her friends that Dolores Umber is NOT based on her, and she's right. Dolores is not based on her (for the record). But that's not to say I haven't borrowed moments from my life and the lives of those people unlucky enough to get within range of my pen. Silas's school experiences definitely mirror some of my own, and his life in Saltsbridge is invested with a lot of resonance from my own teen years. I will say this: when I read over the first complete draft of the book, I panicked that I had started out to write fiction but had instead written a bizarre Borgesian memoir.

10. Is there any word on when we can expect book 2 in The Undertaken Series?

Mistle Child, the name of book two, will be out either late, late 2012 or first of 2013.


Please hop by all the other giveaways!