Tag Archives: YA

Review: Legend Unleashed by M. Latimer-Ridley

“Little Alice here is taking a trip down the rabbit-hole with you then.”

Regular readers will know that I interviewed M. Latimer-Ridley about Legend Unleashed before Christmas. Now that No More Books 2012 is over and I’m free to buy books again, I didn’t waste much time in picking up a copy. Thanks to the preview on their website I already knew it started with some brilliantly intriguing imagery. But how was the rest of it?

A wide black oak grandfather clock towered in front of him. A figure had been chiselled into it; a snarling animal with human hands trying to escape. Roughly carved and splintering in places, it was fused to the ground in a mixture of stone and wood. Numerous white rocks encircled it in a symbolic ring of salt, old magic that was supposed to trap demons inside.

Temperance Levinthal is a regular girl who finds herself caught up in a conflict between wizards and werewolves and finds out more about herself than she expected. Maybe that sounds like standard fare but it’s written with a wit and a warmth that keeps you engaged. There’s no overblown dramatics and not much teenage angst either. M. Latimer-Ridley hit the right tone unfailingly and that made this book an absolute pleasure to read.

“Poor crazy Levinthals, I hope you’ve taken your medication today, you’d be mad not to!”

The Twilight series has made paranormal romance seem rather hundrum now. In fact it’s difficult to make paranormal YA stand out. And Legend Unleashed doesn’t take massive steps to do so. Rather it folds in quirks and foibles that are memorable enough to make the story feel fresh yet comfortably familiar.

For example, Temperance is well aware that she suffers “hallucinations” and takes pills to keep them at bay. She relies on them for stability and it’s a very nice touch to see her rely on them more and more as her world is increasingly filled with impossible things. I do wish more had been done with this idea, but perhaps this will come up in a sequel. For now it’s a nice wrinkle.

A part of her had always wanted to find someone as lonely as she was.

This is a book that wears its Young Adult audience on its sleeve and I loved it for that. There is an enormous influx of YA titles of late and you get the feeling that a lot of writers are chasing the Twilight dollar. No such feeling here. This is true YA. It’s not a dumbed-down “adult” book; it’s written for its target audience. And, like all great books, it can be enjoyed by anyone.

It was nice to see wizards as well. We’ve seen lots of witches and werewolves and vampires but the poor wizard seems to get short thrift. So kudos to M. Latimer-Ridley for resurrecting the wizard.

If I have one complaint about this book it is this: it feels too rushed. M. Latimer-Ridley weave a nice world but I didn’t feel I was given enough time to explore it and settle in. Events happen at a breakneck speed and even major revelations don’t seem to have quite enough space to breath. It was quite a shame as I think I would have enjoyed the book a lot more if the pacing had been a bit calmer. As it was the plot always seemed to have one eye on the horizon. I’d have preferred its full attention on the moments as they unfolded.

That said, if werewolves and YA are your thing then this book is for you and I can definitely recommend it. Legend Unleashed has a well-crafted world with some great characters and a nice, twisty plot. But all I can really say is that I would buy any sequels: what greater recommendation is there than that?

Interview with Young Adult Authors M. Latimer-Ridley

Writing duos aren’t a rarity, but M. Latimer-Ridley are. Two writers with impeccable taste (after all, they follow me on Twitter) and an excellent sense of humour, I was very pleased to hear that they’d finally finished the novel they’d been talking about for so long. To celebrate the publication of Legend Unleashed, I shone a light in their eyes and subjected them to the third degree.

Congratulations on publishing Legend Unleashed!

Many thanks James!! We really appreciate the chance to answer your questions and visit your blog! It’s nice to be somewhere new instead our old blogging gaff *glances round, peering in behind the blogging curtain* Very nice. Pretty swanky place you have here! :D

Thanks. Please put that down. Now, tell us all about Legend Unleashed.

Well, it’s a young adult fantasy novel. Our main character, Temperance Levinthal is accidently swept up into a magical world by the handsome Alastair Byron. She’s really a very reluctant participant in their adventure, which would be nothing like us, as we’d be leaping in joy at the chance to see real magic. She’s not so impressed!

However, we’ll give you the blurb! It describes the book without giving too much away:

When an infamous criminal is unleashed from his prison, it has consequences for everyone in Carwick. Temperance Levinthal in particular…

Temperance is satisfied with her ordinary life. Dealing with her eccentric, childlike parents is all the excitement she needs. That changes when Alastair Byron returns home.

After a failed matchmaking attempt by her father, sparks fly between her and Alastair-just not the good kind.

They are forced together though, when they are implicated in a grisly murder. Their search for the truth leads them to a secret world beneath Carwick, filled with werewolves, wizards and other magical faey.

However, uncovering the truth is far more dangerous than they’d ever imagined.

There are secrets within secrets.

Even Alastair may be more than he seems…

Now tell us a little about yourselves. What made you want to be writers?

Ridley: Well…I know this is true for Latimer as for me but I’ve always loved to write. When I was younger I got unending encouragement from my parents and one English teacher in primary school in particular. She was fantastic. Plus my school was really brilliant about inviting Irish authors to visit (Gordon Snell-Maeve Binchey’s husband, Siobhan Parkinson, Don Conroy, Tom McCaughren, Martin Waddell, Michael Mullen all came in my time there), we were really spoilt, so from a very early age I was aware of what an author did. I remember in particular Marita Conlon McKenna visiting, I loved her famine novels. I brought a massive pile of books up to her to sign, she was so friendly and she wrote, ‘To Rachel. Another Bookworm! Lots of luck.” I remember thinking; I’d love to create worlds and characters, to make people love these imaginary places like she does, and so all down through the years I’ve tried to do just that.

Latimer: I didn’t read as much as Ridley when I was young. I did draw a lot of pictures though, and as I drew them I would think up stories for the person or creature I was drawing, to the point where I was actually talking to the character in the picture! In later years, I got really caught up in reading, particularly my brother’s high-fantasy books. I enjoyed coming up with stories and ideas. I don’t really know when I put pen to paper, but once I did I never stopped. When I get an idea, I just want to write about it! And meeting Ridley and striking up a friendship with her, really encouraged the ideas! Whenever I told people I was writing, no one ever said ‘that’s silly’- throughout my life everyone has been very supportive.

Having the support of your friends and family is so important. I suppose you’ve got support built into your partnership! How did that come about?

Ridley: Well, we’ve been friends for years and we have almost the exact same reading tastes, so we’ve always swopped books, giving our RSAs or LSAs (Ridley/Latimer Stamp of Approval) on the particularly brilliant ones. Many times after a book, we’d gossip about it, discussing what we would have changed or added and eventually we started to joke about writing a book together. We started to believe that we could put everything we’d ever wanted to see into it. Our main aim was and has always been to create a book, a real ‘find’ that would deserve an RSA or LSA.

Latimer: We can pinpoint the moment we decided to write a book. We were out for a walk one day, talking about books and we sort of stopped and said… ‘we could write one?… could we? We could… right?’ Then summer of that very year, we started work on a series – that had many incarnations until it reached the final plot! But it was fun, we worked on it in the library non-stop, annoying other people with our whispering and spending all day there! Pretty good fun, because during breaks Ridley took me around the library pulling out books going, ‘read this, and that’ and so on; I caught up on lots of books she read in her childhood!

What’s the writing process like? Do you have to make many compromises or are two heads better than one?

Ridley: No, there haven’t had to be many compromises I don’t think. No major ones anyway! We’re very respectful of the other’s ideas or dislikes. Two heads are definitely better than one, at least for us, we bounce ideas off each other and they build to even greater things than if we’d just thought things up alone. Plus it’s fun! :D We tend to have massive long tea breaks where we think up plots that usually start off with a particular character, or scene or following the words, ‘wouldn’t it be brilliant if…’, then we divide everything up into chapter summaries and we each get half of them. One of us starts the book and the other ends it. Simples.

Latimer: We’re lucky in that we can say, ‘no that idea’s not going to work’ or ‘hey how about this?’ I think it helps make our writing and ideas stronger and we’re very similar in terms of where we want to take characters. It is fun to see the idea grow and change into the finished product. All our ideas for books seem to start in a very different place to where they end up – but it’s definitely fun, because you are almost a reader yourself!

What are your influences?

Ridley: Anything and everything really, travelling, art, history, the discovery channel! In terms of reading I love fantasy, young adult and crime novels. Some of my favourite writers include Kelley Armstrong, Cassandra Clare, J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K Rowling. I also love animated films, the tales that Pixar, Aardman and Dreamworks tell are fantastic.

Latimer: I’m influenced by history and science; in little ways, like sometimes I read something and it sparks an idea. When I travel and see new things I often come back with new ideas. In terms of writers, I love Terry Pratchett’s humour and quirky characters; I love J.K Rowling’s world and J.R.R Tolkien is just a master storyteller.

Will either of you try a solo venture some day? Or are together until the end?

Ridley: Well, I’ve no plans for any. Latimer, you off to pastures greener? <(; _;)>

Latimer: I don’t think so. It’s M. Latimer-Ridley for the long haul. We have so many books yet to write, I doubt either of us will be going anywhere soon. I think a lot of ventures we have in mind fall under the M. Latimer-Ridley banner.

Ridley: We’re not against it, but either way, I think even if one of us went off to do a solo project, it would be as a side venture and it would never be completely by ourselves, we’d definitely seek the input and feedback about it from the other person.

Latimer: Yes, I think that would be the case. We’d never be 100% solo and M. Latimer-Ridley would always be around regardless.

I think our first interaction was you telling me how much you love dragons, yet your novel is about werewolves. What gives?

Funny thing is we have discussed dragons in the past and whether we could feature them in one of the books, but as much as we love them, they just never seem to fit in to any of our plots, well not the ones that we have so far…but one day perhaps! :D

You’ve mentioned that Legend Unleashed is your fourth novel. What happened to the first three?

Ridley: It’s the fifth book now; sometimes I forget there’s a fourth book written. We have a four book series already under our belts. These were the very first books we originally started writing together. They took us five and half years to finish. The plot for Legend Unleashed was fleshed out for about three years before we actually wrote it. We felt we really needed to get the characters of the series we were already working on and that world out of our systems before we could move on. They’re a different genre too, more like fantasy novels, and they need a lot of editing. I think over time we gradually gravitated towards the young adult genre and for the future books we have planned they definitely seem to be within that area.

Latimer: We’ll definitely be back to them one day, but they are our very hairy babies at the moment! They need a lot of work, but they’ll get it one day!

Do you think you’ll ever release this series?

Definitely, though we just haven’t included it on our publishing and writing schedule for the next year. There’s so much editing to do on it, four whole books, it’s a bit of a daunting task! But we really love the characters and series, so it will definitely see the light of day!

So the series was fantasy but Legend Unleashed is young adult? What drew you to YA?

Really, the fantasy series isn’t a proper epic fantasy, there are definitely more elements of YA than usually found in a pure fantasy novel. So I suppose it wasn’t so much that we switched genres, we just refined what we liked to write about. Fantasy, but with a young adult twist on it!

You’ve published Legend Unleashed through Cranmer Publishing. What led you to them rather than going it alone?

Cranmer Publishing is actually our business. We do consider it a separate joint venture however, to our co-authors status. So we’re business partners too. We’ve always set out to be as professional as possible in all aspects of our books. After long discussions, we decided we would establish Cranmer Publishing and eventually, when we feel it is the right time and we’ve gained enough insight and experience, we will begin to accept work from other authors. That day is certainly not within sight yet however. We’ve freelanced out a lot of the jobs in terms of cover design, structural editing, copy editing and formatting, so we’ve begun to build up a good team behind us.

What is it about publishing others’ work that appeals to you?

Oh, it’s that dreamy notion of finding that diamond in the rough! To be the first to set eyes on the next great book, isn’t that why most people go into the publishing industry? That future is a long way off for us though!

And what is a Cranmer?

It’s connected to our pen name. We both went to Oxford separately and we each discovered the story of the Oxford Martyrs, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley. For some reason, it really stuck with us. However, there was also a third man that was connected to their story, and that was Thomas Cranmer. So we thought it would be a nice way to connect the three together again.

You created a book trailer which I’ve previously raved about. What led you to create an animated trailer?

Ridley: And we were chuffed you liked it so much!! We both love art, so it seemed natural to wander down that route when we were brainstorming ideas for the trailer. Animation is also another passion of mine. I love watching all of the Pixar and Dreamworks films, not to mention Aardman. That these lumps of clay or computer dolls (or ‘character rigs’) are manipulated with such skill to show emotion and movement that we cry and laugh as we follow their stories on screen; I just think that it’s amazing really, almost like magic. Good writing does the same; characters that never before existed, are now very real in our heads, all through the power of words. I wanted us to give animation a try as it was another facet of our world building, I had no doubt in my mind we could succeed in creating something and if we did, it would definitely be a unique trailer, though unique in a good way we’d hoped!! Plus as an added bonus, I got to combine two of my passions!

Latimer: The trailer was really Ridley’s hard work for sure! I merely whip-cracked! I think it was born out of passion and a desire to try something a bit different, which is what we like to do.

What does the “M” stand for?

I’m afraid it’s very boring. However, it shall remain our little secret and if we told you, we’d have to give you a potion to erase your memory. :D
OBLIVIATE! *ping*

Protego. What’s next for M. Latimer-Ridley?

Next will be the sequel for Legend Unleashed, which is nearly finished, that won’t be out until late 2013 though, sooner than that we also have a short story planned, featuring a young Temperance. Then we have many other plots and ideas bubbling away on the backburner, for example last weekend we were discussing ideas for a book that’s at the back of a queue of six others patiently waiting to be written. Sometimes, we get excited by a new character or plot and then realise with a sigh, we won’t get to it for another few years. (Together we really aren’t short of ideas!) Eventually, we’d also love to have our four book series edited and published but we know we need to be patient on that one!

Finally, what is it about dragons you love so much?

Ridley: How could you not love them? They’re terrifying and beautiful all at the same time! One of the best fantasy creatures ever! There really aren’t enough books out there with dragons featuring heavily in them! I can’t wait to see what Smaug looks like in the new film, The Hobbit!

Latimer: Could we make a werewolf-dragon? No, *thinking*… wait… that would basically be Falkor from The Neverending Story, wouldn’t it? Oh, I love him!

Buy Legend Unleashed nowYou can buy Legend Unleashed now from all major eretailers including:

Amazon US: ebook paperback

Amazon UK: ebook paperback

Smashwords: ebook

While you’re waiting for it to arrive, you can also check out M Latimer-Ridley’s blog and website.

Interview with Paranormal Young Adult Author Airicka Phoenix

Next up in my sporadic series of author interviews is Airicka Phoenix. I can’t remember who followed whom first, but it’s safe to say that my Twitter feed certainly became a lot livelier once Airicka was amongst the little blue pigeons! She’s got a good sense of humour and is always fun to talk to, so I thought I would have a few words with her about her new novel.

So, Airicka, the soapbox is yours. Could you start by telling us a little about your path to becoming a writer?

I suppose the only answer I can give to this that will make no sense at all is that Beauty and the Beast brought me here. It was grade 3 and we were supposed to draw pictures that told a story then put words to them. I was obsessed with Disney’s version of Beauty and the Beast, but I never liked how Belle didn’t get the chance to kick butt and it was too sappy (I was 8!). So I rewrote the story. The pictures were horrible and you can’t make out a word, but it was good enough to get framed by my mother! Lol. I’ve been hooked to writing ever since. Touching Smoke is only one book in a long line of plots and characters just waiting to get out.

Airicka Phoenix's Touching Smoke will be released at the end of July 2012.Tell us about Touching Smoke.

Touching Smoke is about a girl’s desire to know her past, only to discover her past is better left in the dark. It’s a young adult cocktail of romance, adventure, mystery, and fantasy and paranormal. The story stars Fallon Braeden, a sixteen-year-old gypsy on the run with her mother in their beat up Impala. Things haven’t always been normal, but they take a drastic dip for the downright insane the day Fallen starts an earthquake and everything falls apart. Suddenly, she finds herself hunted by creatures with unusual abilities, haunted by a ghost baring a frighteningly familiar resemblance and falls in love with the last person she should ever give her heart to. So as her foundation crumbles beneath her, Fallon teeters on the brink of two devastating revelations: follow her heart or save the world.

What inspired this trilogy?

Touching Smoke came to me by accident. I was actually vanquishing a demon in another story when the idea for Touching Smoke popped into my head. It took me about a day to write out the plot, fill in the characters and Touching Smoke was born.

You describe yourself as a paranormal young adult (or YA) author. The genre has been made very popular of late by the Twilight books. Did they have an influence on you?

Getting inspired has never been an issue. Getting all the stories bubbling up in my head out is the real problem. On whether or not Touching Smoke was directly inspired by Twilight or any other book/movie, etc, I can say with complete honesty that it wasn’t. However, in that same breath, Touching Smoke was inspired by another book that I will be releasing soon.

Can you tell us anything about that book?

It’s also a YA novel. I like to think it is a Buffy meets Romeo & Juliet. It’s about a girl named Clara who is a Hunter for the human race. Her job is to kill the supernatural, until she comes across a demon she can’t kill and breaks all the rules to keep him alive.

I’m not sure when this book will come out, but I’m hoping soon.

What is it that drew you to the paranormal YA genre?

I have my mom to thank for that. I grew up watching The Witches, The NeverEnding Story and The Labyrinth, just to name a few. My mom always had a passion for anything that had magic so our house was always full of superstitious stories and stories of romance and danger. My mom had a flare for making up some of the most amazing stories and I would sit up for hours listening to her. When I got older, I started writing my own. The young adult genre has always held something special for me. I love the innocence of the characters and those stages between childhood and adulthood when everything is the most fragile.

Touching Smoke will be published via Treasureline Publishing. What made you work with them rather than go it alone?

I thought of going at it alone several times, but the process had always daunted me so much that I kept waiting for Touching Smoke to get noticed by a publisher or waste away on my hard drive. Treasureline Publishing actually published my first short story, Torrid, and took up Touching Smoke after I got to talking with the lady in charge of the company. She took Touching Smoke under her wing, I designed the cover and the rest is history.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to be a writer?

It’s only as hard as you let it be. Be wary of who you let into those fragile moments when you are at your most vulnerable and always keep moving.

And, finally, what’s the problem with red Smarties?

OMG! LOL!! I think I cracked a rib! Oh my goodness! I thought we agreed this discussion would remain hush-hush! *sigh* all right, well, I actually have a phobia against most ‘red’ foods. So it’s not just smarties. I won’t eat or drink or touch most things red. But I do like strawberries, raspberries and applies which seem to be exempted in my weirdness.

If this has whetted your appetite, you can download Touching Smoke here (if you’re in the UK) or here (if you’re in the US)will be released at the end of July. You can also visit Airicka’s website and let her know what you think of her red food phobia. She’s on Twitter and Goodreads too, so she hasn’t anywhere to hide…