Former biochemist, now full time author, John Olson, continues to share about his life, his love of literature and an insight into his thriller, Shade.
If you missed Part 1 of our interview, click here.
Thanks for those of you who left comments on Part 1 of John’s interview – it was much appreciated.
Now, back to John:~
I’m actually illiterate, but I love to sit and look at the pictures. My favourite picture books include: Pride and Prejudice, The Lord of the Rings, Perelandra, The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Great Divorce, Tarzan of the Apes (yeah, yeah, I know Burroughs was a eugenicist, but it was the first adult book I ever read, and I still love it today), Skeleton in God’s Closet, The Princess and Curdie, The Chronicles of Narnia, Taliesin, The Brothers Karamazov, Beau Sabreur, Prisoner of Zenda, The Mad Scientists Club, Harry Potter, The Bourne Identity, etc.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’ve been reading Lois McMaster Bujold and several other books that haven’t been good enough to mention
I’ll skip over Ever After and the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice and jump right into Buckaroo Banzaii: Adventures Across the Eighth Dimension. There are so many great quotes:
“No matter where you go, there you are.”
“Character is what you are in the dark. History is made at night.”
“Don’t tug on that. You never know what it might be attached to.”
Please share some of your faith journey…
I’m still trying to figure out what a faith journey is. I think with me it was a child-like leap into the void when I was six – followed by many many years of testing, questioning, struggling, observing, experimenting, and accumulating experience. I’m still not done, but I know one thing for certain. Every time I step out on faith and trust in God, He holds me up and prospers me. When I try to do things on my own, I fail and I’m miserable.
Some essential Aussie questions
1. A platypus or a koala?
2. Barrier Reef or Uluru (Ayers Rock)?
3. A cricket match or a game of Aussie Rules Footy?
Definitely Aussie Rules Footy. I can see cricket anywhere (anywhere north of France and west of Denmark, that is), but Aussie Rules Footy is totally unique – and bizarre!
Before we get into Shade, tell us what writing project are you working on now?
I just started working on the next book in the Shade universe. It’s a supernatural thriller about a gypsy girl who has been kept completely isolated from the rest of the world by her grandfather – right up to the time he’s murdered by ten dead men.
The codename for the project is Powers, and it won’t be released until next year, but because you’ve been such an encouraging friend and supporter (and because I feel bad about taking so long getting this interview to you), I’m going to do something I’ve never done before. I’m going to give you and your readers a sneak preview of the completely unedited rough draft (which might not even survive until the release):
Smooth moonlight, soft and timid as a sleeping babe’s breath, seeped through the forest canopy, painting Old Man Oak’s mossy beard with twisting ribbons of silver and shadow. The swamp folks were full awake now. All stoked up with joy, singing hallelujah for the tolerable coolness of another summer night. Bachelor bullfrogs barking out their steady bass against a piercing cicada trillody. Crickets and peepers and creepers hollering their praise full on top the other, singing out to the Lord for the blessings He hath made.
It was a glorious song, filled with deep magic and considerations of awesome wonder. It made a body thankful to be alive. Squish-squashing through soft cool mud. Hopscotching dead wood and fresh fallen branches. Pausing to look out across dark star-dusted waters where the proud Cypress sisters, skirts hitched high above dark boney knees, waded through reflections of ringing light. Swaying and sighing to the night music. The sounds of blessed freedom and sweet never-ending joy.
Freedom. Mari turned from the water with a sigh and felt her way back into the pressing darkness. Grandfather would be getting home soon. He was going to be busting out mad when he found out she was gone. But she couldn’t just sit there and let him lock her up. She was a proper lady now. A full-grown woman. Miss Caralee said so herself. Proper ladies didn’t stay locked up in diddlecars. Proper ladies had work to do. Washing and cooking and tending to the nets.
Shade isn’t your grandma’s prairie romance. It’s pee-your-pants intense, mind-bendingly complex, chillingly nightmarish and a tad bit weird. Okay… Maybe more than a tad. There’s more going on beneath the surface than even the most brilliant reader will be able to pick up on, and it could very well be frustrating to readers who are used to having their stories served to them in nice bite-sized chunks. I’m not just nervous about it’s release; I’m chew-my-fingernails-up-to-my
And I’m excited. I’ve waited ten years to be able to publish Shade. It’s more vulnerable and unfiltered and ME than any book I’ve ever written. I can’t wait to get people’s reactions. They aren’t all going to be positive reactions, but I think they’ll all be good. And I think the story will rumble around a lot of heads for a long long time.
So here’s the prologue:
A moonlit night. Silver-frosted shadows frozen in the stillness of an early Minnesota fall. A weathered farmhouse looms over a fog-cloaked bog, leaking soft candlelight from a second-story window. Flickering silhouettes beat against the window panes. Clacks and sharp cries, injecting the silence with echoes of ringing pain.
Rising out of the mist, a dark shadow rolls through the clearing. Blotting out the farmhouse. Obscuring the moon.
“Recite the Gateway Prophecy. Now!” A hooded man swung a staff in a sweeping arc toward a young boy’s face.
“`The ancient enemy-‘” the boy ducked and hopped backward on feet bound together with new hemp rope–“`-in the last dark days of hunt shall rise up to destroy the Standing.’” The boy twisted his staff upward, deflecting the next blow in one fluid motion that circled his staff beneath his master’s defense. “`Only the long-awaited shall stand.’”
The man sprang back, spun around and swept at the boy’s feet, but the boy leaped into the air even as he brought his staff down on the man’s shoulder, pulling back on the blow an instant before impact.
“Good!” The old man smiled against the strain of another swing.
“`By becoming the enemy, he shall shield the world from the enemy’s dark-‘” The boy flinched, just managing to parry the next blow. He shuddered as a cold shiver crawled up his spine. Something…something dark…touched his mind like a foul stench.
“What is wrong, child? You’ve dropped your guard.”
The boy frowned up at his beloved master. “Do you not feel it?”
“Feel what? Are you ill?”
“I don’t know. It’s awful-wicked!”
“Don’t use slang with me, boy. If it’s wickedness you feel, you need look no further than yoursel–” A rasping gurgle choked off the old man’s voice. His eyes rolled back, then clamped shut until the creases surrounding them showed white against blood-red skin. Veins bulged at his neck as his lips drew back from his teeth in a piercing scream.
“Evil!” The man’s howl echoed around them as he smashed his staff into the boy’s shoulder, knocking him to the floor.
The boy tried to roll to his feet, but the force of the blow left him stunned. The air around him swirled with rage. A deep, dark unquenchable hunger.
“Pay attention, foundling!” The old man glared down at him, his face twisted into a mask of loathing and disgust. “Think you get a second chance with It?” The master swung his weapon down upon the boy’s now upheld staff. “Never underestimate its capacity for evil.” The staff struck again, sending pain radiating through the boy’s arms. “No atrocity is ever too small. Too twisted. Too profane!
Again and again he rained blows down upon the boy’s staff until it splintered in his aching hands. The boy rolled to the side, dimly aware of a sharp smack inches away from his ear. Springing to his feet, he hopped to the window and dove at it headfirst.
But the window mullions were too heavy.
With a sickening crunch he bounced off the window and sank to the floor.
A crash sounded above his head. The spray of glass and splintered wood. Shielding his eyes with his hands, he pushed onto his feet. “Master, please. I don’t under–”
Pain exploded in his arm as a powerful blow knocked him back through the jagged window. Icy darkness. The shriek of howling wind. He hit the ground with a soul jarring thud.
Glorious, wonderful, delicious pain!
Every heartbeat, every movement that convulsed his body with searing fire was answered with surges of perverse pleasure. Lying in the weeds, curled around his throbbing arm, a dark presence pressed down on him, rose up within him.
The sound of a slamming door broke him free from the nightmare’s grip. He struggled to his feet, but tripped on the rope and toppled back to the ground. A dark shadow, invisible to the eyes but chilling to the soul, passed over him as he lay on his side fighting with his good hand to work the rope over his bare feet.
A low growl rumbled in the night. Feet free at last, the boy rose to a crouch and searched the swirling darkness. The sound… it was all around him. Everywhere, nowhere, filling his mind, his soul, the spaces in between.
The angry voice of his master lashed out at him from the front of the house. The boy sprang to his feet and fled for the barn. Leaping against the bolted door, he attempted to run up its reinforced surface, but slipped and crashed back to the ground.
Risking a backward glance at his approaching master, he took a deep breath, and then, his right arm dangling, picked his way up the exterior braces of the door. He jumped out into space, twisting in the air to catch with one hand the rope that dangled from the loft beam overhead. He clung desperately to the rope, wrapping his legs and feet around it as he squirmed his way toward the overhanging beam.
A dark, rumbling growl filled the night, freezing him where he clung. A sharp cry of agony followed by a rasping wheeze. Wave upon wave of unholy exultation battered him as he clung, trembling, to the rope. He looked down at the twisted shadow on the ground, but even without seeing, he knew.
His master was gone.
The steady, familiar presence had disappeared. For the first time in his life, he was alone.
A blurred, man-shaped shadow moved toward him. The hazy figure flickered like a moth beating erratically against the light. Hunger. A dark terrible longing. Invisible eyes locked onto him. An irresistible tug on his soul. He was hungry. So very hungry. There was no escape. Weariness sang through him. Despair. Surrender. He had to give up. Climb down. He moved to lower himself down the rope…
Searing pain exploded in his right arm. The boy cried out, blinking into the night as if waking from a nightmare. His fingers tightened and he clung to the rope for his life. The dark presence reached toward him from below, but he didn’t look down.
Relax. Release the rope. All will be well.
“No!” Scrambling blindly against the tears and pain, heedless of the crashing of the barn door and the roar that echoed in his mind, he pulled himself onto the overhanging beam.
He couldn’t escape. Mustn’t.
Gritting his teeth, he stepped out onto the practice cable that stretched between the barn and the old farmhouse.
He couldn’t do it. It was too dark. He was weak, cowardly, full of loathsome sin.
Fixing his eyes on the light from the second-story window, he took a faltering step, feeling for the thin cable with his bare feet.
He was going to fall. He’d never practiced in the dark.
A jolt passed through the cable and rattled in his mind like a thunder clap.
And then he ran.
Across the cable, over the rooftop, down the trellis. Through field after field after screaming, shrieking field, he ran. Through the night and long into the morning until exhaustion left him panting in his sleep, cradling his arm in the fork of a tree in front of a small Minnesota farmhouse.
Trust me, Shade is one wild ride of a read!!! Look for my review closer to its release date! Once you have recovered from that little heart pounder, check out the giveaway!
John is generously providing two copies of Fossil Hunter, signed by none other than John B Olson, for you to win.
1. You must have a US or Canadian postal addy (sorry, Aussies – you’ll have to buy your copy!)
2. Post a comment before midnight Friday 23rd May, 2008 and
3. Tell me who you would rather be:
Girls ~ Elizabeth Bennett (P & P), Princess Leia (Star Wars) or Sydney Bristow (Alias)
Guys (I know you’re out there!) ~ Captain Jack Sparrow, Indiana Jones or Jason Bourne?
Thanks, John for spending time visiting RelzReviewz and sharing your wit and insight. Count me in to read everything you publish in the future