Author Richard Writhen writes a fusion of horror and fantasy. Specifically, weird fiction, cosmic horror and gothic fiction presented as fantasy, and all with a dark atmosphere and grimdark feel. Sounds utterly delicious doesn’t it!
Well, Richard has a new release out called The Angel of the Grave and he’s agreed to not only answer some of my questions but also provide me with an excerpt of his latest novel for you all to feast your voracious reading eyes upon!
Below, you’ll find the interview, the official book blurb and then the excerpt – enjoy.
Interview with fantasy author Richard Writhen
Q. Please tell us a little about yourself?
Sure. I’m 42 years old and I hail from Newport, Rhode Island. I have also lived in the Bronx, Queens, and Providence. I hold no college degrees, but I did gain enough skill while briefly attending college to earn me a job as a copywriter in NYC for about four years.
That led to some blogging, and then an eventual segue into writing fiction. I’ve been active for about six years now.
Q. What is your favourite book and why?
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward by H.P. Lovecraft. It is a phenomenal portrayal of black magic and antiquarianism … obsession, really. Curiosity killing the cat.
The runners up would probably be Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, Watership Down by Richard Adams, and Mystic River by Dennis Lehane.
Q. What got you into writing?
I have always written short form, but I either lost it or deleted everything. I even did a full comic book when I was younger, but I ended up throwing it away. I inked it and everything. I guess I was just sick of taking it from place to place when I moved.
I didn’t really get serious about fiction writing until I turned thirty-six. Then, I became an ecommerce copywriter, and wound up writing blog posts for a technology / gaming website.
Q. The Angel of the Grave is book zero in The Celestial Ways Saga, where did the idea for the series come from?
I wanted to write something more conventionally grimdark. My first two novellas are very much more gothic or weird fiction-oriented. The only thing is, that when I did try to do that, the book came out almost romantic or Victorian in nature. There aren’t even any big war sequences; maybe in later books, there will be.
My two biggest influences are probably H.P. Lovecraft and George R. R. Martin, but King and Barker were also very influential, as I grew up reading a lot of their work.
Q. How long did it take you to write The Angel of the Grave? Any substantial changes whilst writing?
Over two years. One of its narrative arcs was originally part of The Hiss Of The Blade, and after that was published in February 2017, I started this one.
Over the whole course of writing it, I was putting stuff in and taking stuff out, ad nauseum. There’s actually a narrative arc that I removed because it would have been too difficult to include. It wasn’t fully gestated in my mind yet, and as the main character was male, I felt it didn’t fit the tone of the piece, even though it takes place during the same time frame.
Q. What did you most enjoy about writing The Angel of the Grave?
I tried to interconnect the characters’ lives in various ways and then bring everything pretty much full circle by the end. Also, there are little Easter eggs, references to my other works.
There are also two characters from The Hiss Of The Blade in it, but they are much younger.
Q. Who is your favourite character in The Angel of the Grave and why?
I don’t really play favorites, I love them all for different reasons. But, I will say that I had a bit more fun writing about Marissa, Rebecca and Sadine.
Q. Can you tell us more about The Hiss Of The Blade, The Celestial Ways Saga, Book One?
Sure. It’s about toxic masculinity and violence, men fighting each other over pretty much everything; money, power, the favour of the king, even women.
It’s set in a dark world where power is abused constantly, and the key is unending victimization, pretty much like our own world. But, it has a more minimal magic usage, kind of like A Song of Ice and Fire. There’s only one huge spell in it.
Q. What writing projects are you currently working on / excited about?
Well, I’m going to work on the third book in The Celestial Ways Saga soon. It will be titled The Crack of the Whip. Also, that deleted narrative arc from The Angel of the Grave is set to become its own piece, but I don’t know how long it’ll be, short story or novella. That will probably be my first real standalone.
The first and second series (The Shades of Cedron, The Rotes of Rena) will be prequel trilogies, and The Celestial Ways Saga will be a hexalogy. So, what we’re shooting for here is twelve series books, one standalone, and I am also working on a few short stories.
Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
Here's the book blurb for The Angel of the Grave
BECOME THE FIRE.
An intelligent little girl encounters a talented witch at the local fair and finds out that it's all in the family.
Interconnected by dreams, two young orphans embark on the long path to find a bloody revenge.
A wealthy lady travels hundreds of miles to become a baroness, but when she consults a diviner, she finds out that she may be in way over her head.
And here's The Angel of the Grave excerpt taken from The Lady Waits (Chapter Three)
Shortly after dawn, the expensive clipper effortlessly cleaved its way through the frothing green waters that lay off of the coast of Corsc. It approached one of the many gray wooden quays there, and its crew began to take down the sails. The ship had been painstakingly crafted by the greatest artisans that the continent of Mestes could offer. Its thick hull was fashioned from a black pine-wood, which had been sanded and then sealed with a mixture of resins. Its hull was painted; some of the segments were a midnight blue in color, and others an olive green. It was almost fifty feet in total length, featuring a towering center mast and three billowing white sails, each painstakingly embroidered with long red lines.
Once it had been secured at the dock, it was almost immediately boarded and searched by several representatives of the Hruutian Guard. That force had been stationed there on the coast in virtual perpetuity, in order to prevent a profusion of illegal substances that had been smuggled into Galgran from neighboring countries. It only took a few minutes for the black-booted soldiers to find that all of the vessel’s papers were in order; then, its passengers were allowed to disembark, filing down the gangway in a steady stream.
One of the very last people to step off the ship, Marissa Seftrey was a fresh-faced young woman of about twenty-one years of age. She had a folded parasol under one of her arms. She was dressed in a light pink dress, with a bonnet to match, her chestnut brown hair falling in cascades from under it. A wide pink bow tried vainly to hold everything in place. Marissa was originally from Caledavor, one of the countries on Mestes, the continent that lay to the south of the Watley Peninsula. She had brought some of her homeland’s artwork with her on the voyage. She was followed closely by a middle-aged woman with somewhat darker brown hair, who was pulling a wheeled chest. This was her maidservant, Neticia de Mont Noir. The two were followed in turn by three male servants of varying ages, who had been hired on the ship, to carry the rest of their luggage.
The procession proceeded to the end of the quay, then stepped onto the continent of Holrud for the first time. Marissa stopped them all for just a moment, and surveyed the panoramic view of the southern coast that greeted them there. Off in the distance, she could see hills and small villages. Even further, beyond them, there was a great walled city; it was imposing in its size, with a river running through its north-west corner. The minutes went by, as they stood there. Quickly becoming bored, Marissa began to tap one of her leather-shod feet on the cobbled dirt of the road.
She was waiting for someone, her eyes scanning to and fro, up and down the street. She had been corresponding through the mail with a baron of great nobility; her voyage across the sea had been planned for many months. She had come almost due northward from her home city of Bethel in Caledavor, Mestes, and was headed for the estate of Westmere. It was located in the borough of Wallins, in southern Malentan, on Watley Peninsula. She had come all this way to be the baron's blushing bride. The marriage that had been completely arranged for her by her mother, as her father had passed away when Marissa was still a teenager. She had been informed in the baron’s final letter that he and his men would be waiting to pick her up, at around the time of her arrival on the peninsula. The rest of the journey to the barony of Wallins would be undertaken by coach.
After waiting a few more minutes, the three hired man-servants put down the rest of her bags. She handed them their gratuities, and they said goodbye to her and then began to walk back to the ship, being part of its crew. The two women were left at the end of the dock. After she and Neticia had waited for the better part of fifteen minutes, they were finally approached by a man. Marissa smiled warmly at him and asked, “Baron Wallins?” A wide smile immediately painted itself across his thick, coarse features. “Why, the very same. And you must be my lady?”
“Yes, it’s me. Marissa Seftrey. Pleased to meet you.”
Marissa looked the man over quickly; right off the bat, she was a bit taken aback at his lack of height. He had bushy sideburns, a moustache, and scruffy hair. His clothes were quite unkempt, most notably a thread-bare black cloak which had apparently been mended many times. He also looked to be far older than his mid-twenties, which she knew for a fact to be the baron’s age. She noted that there was an odd glint to his bloodshot eyes, as if with some unknowable intent to it. So, she posed him a careful question. “You look … different from how I had pictured you. Where’s your coach …? And all of your men … ?!”
The man licked his lips quickly before replying, “Oh, the coach? It’s parked just down the street a bit. And I sent the boys off on another errand … for now.” Grinning at the two women, he then offered Marissa his arm, while she had to exchange a quick look with Neticia to bolster her courage, she hesitantly took it. He led her in a stroll down the wide fairway between the buildings of what appeared to be a small town. They were as far south in Corsc as it was possible to go.
In an even tone of voice, Marissa managed to say, “If I may be so bold, sir … you look to be a bit shorter than six-foot-six. I may not have the most trained eye, but I have certainly seen my share of men in my day.” The short man smiled at her again, even wider than before. “Oh, is that what I said in my letters …?!” His rheumy eyes left hers and gravitated downward, to stare pointlessly at the street for a few moments. It began to dawn on her that while they were heading north, he was also leading her, gradually and inexorably, towards an alleyway on their right hand side.
The sloping roof of one of the buildings had covered the aperture between it and the next one over, forming a dimness there that approached the darkness of night. She looked from one side to the other for a few frantic moments, only then noticing an odd odor coming from the man’s proximity. He stopped them, and caught her by the chin. Her chestnut brown eyes focused on his strange black ones.
“No, don’t look about. This is a very dangerous area. Even the slightest appearance of impropriety will arouse suspicion, and you can’t trust anyone. Just follow me, and I will lead you through safely.”
Marissa wrenched her face from his grip roughly, and then began to straighten out her dress, though it needed no real attention. They had gone no more than four paces further when she suddenly felt the front of the man’s body pressed hard against hers. His gloved hand found her mouth and slipped over it. As she dashed to her lady’s aid, Neticia began to scream, vainly swatting at the man’s head as hard as she could with her own closed parasol. He staved off her attacks easily with his other hand, and withdrew moments later, but retained Marissa’s arm. She was so surprised by the sudden reversal that her exclamations trailed off into mere whimpers as the offending hand fell away from her face. She turned about, only to find that her captor was now standing motionless; he was staring down the street at another man, who was striding towards them.
The new man appeared enraged; he was panting and red-faced. He also had a handlebar mustache, and was dressed in a dress jacket, over a buttoned leather vest and a white dress shirt. A red cravat was twirled about his neck and he wore well-shined, black boots. He was closely followed by three burly young men. They were dressed with much less style and opulence than their master, in faded blacks and browns, and torn denim pants. Marissa could sense that her captor was considering a sudden bolt into flight. But before he could do so, the new man pointed directly at him and then yelled, “HEY, YOU, STOP !!!” at the top of his lungs, shattering what little stillness the afternoon seemed to possess. Her captor froze up completely at this, and Marissa found herself completely released. As she was a little off-balance at the time, she fell on her bottom in a most unladylike fashion, but was far too terrified at that point to even care.
Neticia rushed over and helped her back to her feet. When Marissa turned about to look down the alley, she found that any shadowy accomplices that the short man might have had were now long gone. She could see no trace of life. By then, the new man’s three young thugs had set upon her captor. The first two of them grasped him by the arms and hauled him away from her bodily; then they drew him up, and the third one punched him hard in the gut. Her captor doubled over, his eyes tearing up and strands of saliva drooling from between his liver-colored lips. When his body had gone fully slack, they threw him down into the dust. One of the ones that had previously held his arms ran over to the alleyway, a black sap appearing in one of his hands. The remaining two began to kick him in the sides of his torso, as he rolled pathetically in the dirt into a broken wooden crate that still bore trace of the juices of rotten vegetables.
By the time the other thug had returned, Marissa’s captor had fallen still, his face slack and mouth agape. The man with the sap shook his head once from side-to-side to confirm the lack of any co-conspirators still in the alleyway. The man in the dress jacket had caught up with the others during the short beating. Assessing the situation, the well-dressed man walked over to Marissa, made initial eye contact with her and extended a gloved hand. Still slightly shocked, she reciprocated, and they gently shook. But, she was nearly inarticulate, and was only able to pant out a phrase at a time. “He was ... the alley … people were in there … waiting for-” she managed.
The well-dressed man smiled grimly. “Yes, yes, I know. But tell me … are you quite alright?” At this, Marissa looked down at her pale beige travel dress. It had been torn slightly at one shoulder, and her hair was somewhat mussed, but other than that, she was fully intact. She looked down the alley once more, then back at the new man. “And you ...”
“Yes, Marissa. I am the real Baron Wallins. This ‘man’ was an impostor, I’m afraid. It’s become a growing problem along the coast-line nowadays, something of a new form of piracy, I hear. No one ever thinks that it will happen to them, and then … well, anyways, please forgive me. I am terribly sorry to have been late … the whole affair is my fault, really.”
“No, you mustn’t blame yourself. It’s so good to finally meet you, in person …” she assured him.
So, Marissa allowed the new man, who was ostensibly the real baron, to lead her by the elbow to a coach that had been waiting just a bit further down the street from where the short man had been trying to lead them. She stepped up and got into it gracefully, but wrinkled her nose at the coach’s musty odor, of old leather and horse sweat. Then, the horses were set off, and the baron rested his elbow on the inside of the door, holding his chin in one hand. After a few minutes, he glanced Marissa’s way again and added, “By the way, welcome to the Watley Peninsula.”
Want to keep reading? You can buy The Angel of the Grave (The Celestial Ways Saga Book 0) as an ebook or paperback from Amazon.
Richard Writhen is originally from New England, but has also lived in New York City. He was raised on a steady diet of eighties fantasy films, horror television and universal monster movies. After briefly attending college for music and video, he began his first online serial six years ago. He has since been e-published on several notable blogs and websites and is now also the author of three independently published novellas on Amazon: A Kicked Cur, A Host of Ills and The Hiss of the Blade. He has also recently completed his first novel, The Angel of the Grave
>> My debut novel, a grimdark epic fantasy called MELOKAI, is out now! Available from Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play Books, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. Read more about my books here. <<
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