Welcome readers to another issue where we celebrate the works of writers.
This week, I’ve had the chance to have an interview with the awesome Stark Holborn, who is close to releasing more books in his or her series Nunslinger. If you want to meet Stark, he or she will be attending this years BristolCon! If you’ve not yet got your tickets, please do remember to do so! A few of us in the GeekOut crew will be attending, so do stop by and say hi. I’ll… probably have knocked up another costume or something for the event. It is me, after all.
So, read on and read about what the awesome Nunslinger series is all about and even learn a bit about the writer in the process.
Interview with the Writer – Stark Halborn
Q: Welcome to GeekOut South-West! As is customary, could you introduce yourself for our readers?
A: Stark here. Small time liquor bootlegger, moonshine brewer, purveyor of Penny Westerns and author of the Nunslinger series. Currently hanging my hat in Bristol, UK.
Q: So, you’re working on a series of books called Nunslinger. Before we go into the series, how did you get into writing?
A: I reckon reading is what did it: my parents read to me and my sister every night for years. Not just children’s books either. Pa started reading us The Lord of the Rings when I was 2 and my sister was 4. Took him nearly 3 years to read us the whole thing. I still remember hearing the end for the first time. My parents read us all sorts, basically whatever they were reading at the time, from William S. Burroughs to Brian Aldiss. Anyhow, that showed me that stories came in all shapes and sizes, and got me used to always having a book in my hand. From then, I guess it was natural to want to try writing them, too.
Q: I’ve read the first Nunslinger book which is awesome and really well priced on the Waterstones website. Can you tell me a little bit more about Nunslinger and how you began writing it?
A: Nunslinger follows Sister Thomas Josephine, a nun of the Visitandine order, who leaves her home in St. Louis, Missouri, to set out on the perilous journey west, in order to join a mission in Sacramento, California. It’s 1864, the heart of the Civil War, and the road is bristling with dangers. Of course, her journey is far from smooth, and before she knows it, she’s a wanted fugitive. Add in a mysterious drifter, a dangerously obsessed Cavalry Lieutenant, shoot outs, jailbreaks, snow storms in the Sierra Nevadas, deserts, bandits and steamships and you’ll be on the right track.
I began writing it… Well, to be honest I was sitting one Sunday morning, nursing a hangover and watching an old Western on TV. It was particularly bad one, featuring a nun who – when confronted by an objectionable grizzled ol’ cowchaser – seemed to forget every vow she’d ever taken in order to fall in love with him. “Jeez,” I thought, “that nun isn’t sticking to her guns at all.” (Sorry). So I decided to write one who would.
Q: I’ve noticed you’ve written a number of books in the Nunslinger series. How many more books are there and are there more books for this series? When are the next books due?
A: Nunslinger is a twelve-part series. The first nine e-books have been published in three-monthly instalments throughout 2014, with the final three due on 11th September. The Complete Series paperback is due for release on 4th December 2014.
Q: Who are your inspirations as a writer? Are there any common themes in their writing or do you like them all for completely different reasons?
A: You know, when I was 12 or 13 I was all about Tamora Pierce; she always had brilliant female lead characters and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of that influenced my approach to Sister Thomas Josephine – at least subconsciously. From a more modern angle, David Mitchell is definitely an inspiration: he makes me want to be a better writer (after I’ve finished sobbing “WHY DO I EVEN BOTHER I’LL NEVER BE THIS GOOD” into the corner). In terms of Nunslinger, I’ve taken inspiration and research from Patrick deWitt’s The Sister’s Brothers, which I think has helped nudge Westerns into people’s attention once again, to Elmore Leonard, Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Mary Hunter Austin and even 14th century mystic Julian of Norwich. So a bit of a mixed tub.
Q: What sort of research went into writing Nunslinger? How did you start the research and how do you keep track of it all?
A: Apart from the writers mentioned above, the quick answer is A TON. The American Civil war is a particularly well-documented time, which has its upsides and downsides. On the one hand, if you want to know what a fully functioning Philadelphia Derringer from 1859 looked and sounded like, there’s probably someone online who knows, and has posted pictures of it. On the other hand, it means that getting things wrong is pretty inexcusable. But there are some incredible resources out there, from internet archives to podcasts like Backstory, which help present a nuanced view of historical sources.
I keep track of everything using Evernote, and tend to research as I go. It certainly results in some weird Google searches, like: “which desert lizards are edible?”, “how to skin an iguana”, “history of mattresses” and “recipes for groundhog”. I also watched a man cauterize a wound in his own arm with gunpowder. He didn’t look very well afterwards but he put the video up on Youtube anyway.
Q: You seem to be quite active in producing eBooks. Do you think eBooks are a good thing for writers, or should people be actively promoting physical purchases of books still? What’s best; digital or printed books?
A: I wouldn’t want to champion one over the other exclusively, but my heart, like those of many other readers, will always belong to print books. However: ebooks and digital works do have the ability to do things that print books simply can’t. My pa had a stroke, for instance, and isn’t physically able to hold print books open or follow the text from page to page. Not a problem with a Kindle. But rather than just shifting texts from print to ebook format and leaving it at that, I think it’s important to look at the differences between the two, and the potential of digital to explore not just what we read, but how we read and address that. That way, it’s about different experiences rather than competition.
Q: If anyone wants to keep up to date with your works, how can they get a hold of you or see any updates?
A: Y’all can always reach me on Twitter (@starkholborn) and that’s where most updates appear. But other than that, there’s my website, where most of the important things feature, but without tweet-based ramblings. There’s also Hodderscape for other SFF news, pictures of dodos and general taxidermy.
Q: Here on GeekOut South-West, we celebrate all things geeky. So what geeky hobbies do you divulge in?
A: I ain’t had much time for hobbies of late, apart from drinking bourbon and writing, but y’all can’t go wrong with watching and re-watching Firefly. Except that isn’t geeky, that’s MANDATORY. Recently, I’ve become partial to a board game or two of an evening, mostly Dominion, because I’m the sheriff in that town right now.
But first and foremost, reading. Always reading, and usually until far too late at night. I’ve just chomped my way through fantasy-western The Incorruptibles by John Hornor Jacobs and can definitely recommend it, it’s like Cormac McCarthy meets The Hobbit with a steamship and a bar brawl.
I’d like to extend my thanks to Stark for his or her interview with us today (we still don’t know). The enthusiasm he or she brings for their work is a delight to read and honestly, it shines through in the Nunslinger series. You can buy all of the released Nunslinger books from Waterstones.
Have you ever wanted to write a book but just didn’t know where to start? Just contact people who’re already releasing their works to the world, most of these authors are eager to share their experiences with people who are interested. Have you read any of the Nunslinger books before or ever heard of them? Let Stark know what you think of them, I’m sure he or she would love the conversation!