Niksabella the gnome has tinkered in the shadows for years, developing an invention that might change the world, even if she doesn’t know it yet. She has few friends and even fewer allies in the city of Hightower, where social and academic status is quite important. Her brother, Nikselpik, is a cantankerous wizard who drinks too much, sings dirty songs, and makes rude passes at gnomestresses. A dark addiction consumes him, a habit called bugging, which gives him increased power and feelings of euphoria while pushing him closer to death. Dark creatures from the ultraworlds have come calling. Niksabella must fight to protect her life and her invention, while Nikselpik engages the enemy as an unlikely guest of Hightower’s military elite. Niksabella and Nikselpik must find their true powers together, or perish apart. Will they heal the wounds of their childhood before it’s too late?
This book was a really lovely surprise. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nasty, dark and deliciously twisted. But its also a story about the love between family and how no matter how much they annoy us, abuse us we still stand by them and come when they need us. It’s also about how one young female can make a difference. Niksabella and Nikselpik are sister and brother gnomes. They have had a hard upbringing and have been left to themselves by a non existent family. Niksabella has locked herself away, an eccentric recluse, tinkering with her inventions, exploring the forbidden and avoiding life. Nikselpik is ambitious, magically powerful, unfeeling and addicted, socially awkward, he cares for only himself, money and prestige. He is a troubled, young gnome whose time is running out.
The landscapes and concept of different worlds that are accessable through magic works well and adds to the threats from within and without. I loved the humour and absurdity. Niksabella”s conversations with Termund and pushing the First Wizards buttons in the court scenes are very well done.
The baddies are wonderful, Raulnock the First Wizard is the sort of guy you want to punch. He is obnoxious, magically strong and probably a psychopath. The General and his army of amorph controlled, animated hosts are scary. The imagery used to describe the victims of the parasites and their actions is quite graphic and confronting.
I was struck by Niksabella though. She is an amazing female character. Her strengths and weaknesses are so relatable. Her cheeky, tough, clever personality had me grinning. I look forward to reading The Tinkermage and seeing what powers and mayhem Niksabella and Nikselpik unleash..
Kenny Soward Profile:
Kenny Soward grew up in Crescent Park, Kentucky, a small suburb just south of Cincinnati, Ohio, listening to hard rock and playing outdoors. In those quiet 1970’s streets, he jumped bikes, played Nerf football, and acquired many a childhood scar.
Kenny’s love for books flourished early, a habit passed down to him by his uncles. He burned through his grade school library, and in high school spent many days in detention for reading fantasy fiction during class. The transition to author was a natural one for Kenny. His sixth grade teacher encouraged him to start a journal, and he later began jotting down pieces of stories, mostly the outcomes of D&D gaming sessions. At the University of Kentucky, Kenny took creative writing classes under Gurny Norman, former Kentucky Poet Laureate and author of Divine Rights Trip (1971). Kenny’s latest releases are ROUGH MAGIC (GnomeSaga #1) and THOSE POOR, POOR BASTARDS (Dead West #1) with Tim Marquitz and J.M. Martin. By day, Kenny works as a Unix professional, and at night he writes and sips bourbon. Kenny lives in Independence, Kentucky, with three cats and a gal who thinks she’s a cat.
BCN: When did you first feel the need to write? Is it something you have always done, or did you come to it later?
KS: My need to write came hand-in-hand with a need to play music. At age six I was reading heavy horror and sci-fi books and playing air guitar to Monkeys and Beatles records. While I kept up with both, music seemed to provide the more immediate gratification, so I spent a good portion of my 20’s and 30’s trying to “make it.” I guess that’s why a part of me still wants to be in the spotlight, and probably why I make YouTube videos, as hideous as they are. But writing began to take over as I approached forty. It provides a broader emotional spectrum to play with, a deeper sense of discovery, and that seems incredibly important to me now. Plus it’s easier on the back.
BCN: Are there any books or authors in particular that you find inspirational?
KS: Indeed. China Mieville. Because trains. Two of his books, the Iron Council and Railsea, both feature those magnificent iron beasts. I’m slightly obsessed with them, which is why I couldn’t resist creating the train chapters in The Ten Thousand Things. There’s actually a set of train tracks less than a mile from my house running between two hills, and sometimes the distant squalls lull me to sleep at night. Wait. Where was I? Oh yeah, China Mieville. I don’t agree with all his political beliefs, but he writes with a flare that ignites my imagination. I love his characters, poor, hopeless bastards that they are.
Caitlin R. Kiernan. Brilliant curmudgeon. I only say that because she talks about her issues with the world quite freely and honestly on her blog. And I have personal experience with her less-than-pleasant disposition. But I think her personification (and realization) of the typical ‘crazy’ writer gives her prose a deadly sharp edge. There are times when I’m reading a Kiernan passage and I have to stop and think about the depth of what I just read. As a writer, she surpasses me in just about every way, and I admit I’m a little envious of that level of insight. Anyway, enough fawning.
I most relate with Stephen King because he seems like a regular dude. Loves Red Sox baseball, steaks, and rock n roll. He’s gone off his rocker on more than one occasion, but he’s still the King. Timeless. He has always had his finger on the pulse of the American culture. Take the Mist, for example. He captures a fair spectrum of American personalities about as perfectly as anyone I’ve ever read – minus LGBT issues, of course. We’re a crazy lot, to be sure, full of contradictions and strife. He captures the good things, too; our bravery, doggedness, and a willingness to help those in need. One of my favourite recent books of his is 11/22/63 which is an epic King story complete with time travel, history, mystery, and tear-jerking moments which break your heart. Ah, I’m tearing up just thinking about it.
BCN: I loved your characters in Rough Magic. Where do you find the characters for your books? Do you use people, personalities you like/loath you see or know? Or see something on TV or other places?
KS: Thanks! I’m glad you liked them. Nik and Nika, the main protagonists in Rough Magick, evolved from some Everquest Online adventures back in 2001. As I started to develop the actual story, they took on real qualities. They capture two sides of my own personality. Nika, for example, personifies my work ethic and insecurities as an ‘inventor.’ Nik, on the other hand, represents my willingness to ‘wing it’ and my love for good beer and conversation; my sarcastic sense of humor as well. The one big difference between me and Nik is that I’m an ass man, and Nik clearly favors breasts.
As far as my other characters go, I draw from real life people who I may either sympathize with or hate. I work in corporate America, so there’s no shortage of asshole personalities to draw from. TV is also a big influence on potential characters. For me, the Netflix era has helped a lot of things click. The ability to watch episodes of a series back-to-back sheds light on character development and plot weaving like never before.
KS: I’ve tried a million different things by now. The day-to-day I have down. I’m a 1 to 2k-a-day type of guy. The ‘big picture’ has been more elusive, like, what can I realistically accomplish in a year? The pattern I’m starting to see is to write and revise for three months, outline for one. That gives me breaks in August, December, and April. I’m constantly inspired, which is frustrating because the day job always gets in the way. I have to pay the bills – I haven’t had the courage or the book sales to ever quit – so the day job comes first. Unfortunately, it often leaves me drained when it comes to producing good words.
BCN: Do you think a lot of life experience, of mixed occupations, experiences helps your writing?
KS: Strangely enough, much of the banter in my stories comes from years working in a restaurant washing dishes or waiting tables. From the relationships I developed with co-workers comes some interesting conversations, especially at the most hectic moments.
Me (at Dennis the gay waiter): Hey, quit throwing plates at me. Just set them on the edge there.
Dennis the gay waiter: How about I shove them up your ass next time?
Me (laughing): Oh, you’d like that.
Dennis the gay waiter (with a sideways grin): You’re not my type. I’d get no pleasure out of that.
Me (ducking a thrown crouton): Ask nice.
Gail the salad wench: Don’t make me come over there.
Me (ducking a thrown olive): What? No magic words?
Gail the salad wench: Hey Kenny, get me some fucking clean salad plates or I will destroy you.
Me: Love you too, Gail. Plates coming right up.
It’s trite, but funny, and helps me quickly establish a character’s personality within a few sentences. I’d almost say I’m a bit of an expert in banter. Of course, I haven’t worked in a restaurant in a long time, but that’s where I learned the art of verbal jousting. I still have a lot to learn.
There are the deep depressing life experiences too, which I hate to dwell on, but are necessary for personal and professional growth. Funerals always leave me sort of shocked and speechless. Drug addiction and the resulting deaths from it seem to be a big part of my life for some reason. I’ve known (and still know) a lot of addicted people, so that certainly lends some perspective, especially in the case of Nikselpik and his bugging addiction in Rough Magick. When you have a heroin addict at your house trying to help them recover … it certainly is an eye-opening experience.
BCN: What else is on the horizon from Kenny Soward? The Tinkermage? Any other Kenny Soward Delights in the pipeline we can gnaw on?
First thing is that Ragnarok is going to release the entire GnomeSaga series within a six-month time frame. I’m not sure if that’s ever been done before. Rough Magick in September (we hope), Tinkermage in November, and Cogweaver in February 2015. I still have to write Cogweaver but the outline is done so, barring difficulties, I should have it done by December. The announcements have been slow in coming but we’re working feverishly in the background to make this happen.
In December, I’ll be working on an outline to expand upon a novella I completed but never tried to get published. I can’t really discuss the details other than it will be more in the vein of China Mieville’s strange fantasy. I’ll be exploring an incredible new world and more diverse characters than ever before. I’m chomping at the bit to get started, but my heart must remain in Sullenor (GnomeSaga) for a few more months.
After all that, I have some ideas, but nothing solid. Maybe more Dead West?
BCN: Instead of the cake question, I know you are a man who likes his Pizza, what is your favourite type?
KS: As you already know, I’m a simple, ass man. I have no problems with a straight up cheese pizza, especially if the cheese is unprocessed and the sauce is good. My other favorite lands all the way across the spectrum, and is what we call in America the ranch pizza. Green peppers, tomatoes, onions, and bacon with a white ranch sauce. Nothing like a Sam Adams Boston Lager to go with it.
BCN: Thank you Kenny, that was an amazing, funny and informative interview.Kenny can be contacted through his website: http://www.kennysoward.com Facebook Twitter: @KennySoward Also check him out on Youtube, he is a very funny guy: Kenny Soward Youtube.
By Leanne Ellis.