Thursday, October 1, 2015

Author Spotlight: Becoming Darkness by Lindsay Francis Brambles

Posted by HelloJennyReviews at 12:00 PM

Lindsay Brambles is represented by Kelly Sonnack of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. He was born in Ottawa, Canada in 1959. In ‘68 his father, an electrical engineer, signed on for a job overseas. This led to a decade of living and traveling in countries such as Pakistan, Iran, and Tanzania.

After grade three, Lindsay’s formal education was largely through the Ontario Ministry of Education correspondence course. He has spent most of his post-academic life in a variety of unrelated jobs, ranging from construction to childcare, all while pursuing a vocation as an artist.

When not engaged in the literary arts, painting, or earning money in less creative pursuits, Lindsay enjoys anything fitness related (especially cycling), collecting Gold Key comics and motion picture soundtracks, tinkering with computers, and just about anything that will expand his awareness of the world around him. Passionate about science and technology, he is especially interested in astronomy, cosmology, and quantum mechanics.

Lindsay is at present busily working on several books, not least of which are the sequel and final novel in the Haven trilogy (of which Becoming Darkness is the first in the series).

Title: Becoming Darkness
Author: Lindsay Francis Brambles
Publisher: Switch Press
Publication: October 1st 2015
Cover Rating: 4/5

Becoming Darkness is one of those books where you think, it's about time someone came up with this idea. Vampires have already been used in pretty much every aspect I can think of. But Nazi Vampires??? Uh, yes, please. All the "what if" moments people think of and this somehow hasn't been one. I think it was as great idea and an even greater book. The book is told in the 1990's, I believe, and Hitler is still alive. It is a very large book but it was a fairly quick read and definitely worth the time. So if you like the "what if's" of WWII then you should give this book a try.

Sophie is an Immune. It pretty much means that the deadly virus Hitler used, Gomorrah, doesn't do jack to her. But being Immune means she is one of the humans left to live in a world full of vampires and Nazi's and so many other horrible things. Even being faced with the brutal murder of her best friend, the need to reproduce and limited rations, Sophie is still a very lively and fun character. She has a lot of spirit and she is someone you can relate to.  

There is supposed to be a peace treaty with the horrible things of the world and Sophie's little village, Haven. But something seems off to her and there seems to be some sort of conspiracy hidden under everything. Never accept anything at face value. I thought it was great the Sophie started to question all of this. I am sure others have, but its been so long since Hitler unleashed Gomorrah that more than Sophie should have been questioning things. I have read enough Dystopian type books to know that if enough people band together then they can achieve anything.

I found it very interesting that Gomorrah was deadly to humans, turning most of them into vampires, but the humans who were immune then became deadly to the vampires. It's like the thing that makes something can also destroy it in the right light.

None of our technology exists. Well, at least no iPhones, gaming computers, mp3 players and such(duh, its the 1990's). I kind of wonder what our world would actually be like right now without those things. I feel like the technology we have now has ruined us. We no longer communicate with each other in a normal way. We hide behind screens all day. 

The writing style of the book and the overall story flowed very well. The book was executed brilliantly and the imagery was great! I could picture a lot of the situations and places, like Haven, very clearly. And I think what made it even better was the fact that, minus the vampires, this could have been an alternate future. If you are someone who believes in the idea of parallel universes then the world portrayed in this book would probably be one of the outcomes.

In the end, what more do you need to know? Vampires, Hitler, deadly virus, Nazi's taking over the planet, death, suffering, etc. What's not to love? This book definitely got me thinking about a lot of things. Go check out this book if you want something that will actually make you THINK and wonder. There is so much more I want to say about this book but...spoilers. So go find out for yourself! I cannot wait to see where the author takes this series in the next book.

Overall, I gave the book 4.5/5 stars.

1) Where did the idea for Becoming Darkness come from?
The initial idea for Becoming Darkness arose from a fortuitous confluence of events. I was in the process of reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula when I happened to catch a documentary about World War Two that was showing on TV. There was a piece in that documentary about a British information film made during the war that was meant to prepare citizens of the island for the possibility of a successful Nazi invasion. That just got me to thinking about the whole scenario of “what if.” What if there had been some event during the war that had made history branch off in a far different direction from the one it took in our world?

I didn’t want my alternate history to be conventional, and when I went back to reading Dracula, it occurred to me that it might be interesting to create a scenario in which vampires ruled the Earth (or what was left of it) and humans were a distinct minority. I also liked the notion of mimicking real world situations, so when I was developing the story, I used the relationship between China and Taiwan as something of a template for the relationship between the Third Reich and Haven. China is an immense political force in East Asia, and on the world stage it far outweighs the political clout of the tiny island of Taiwan. Successive Taiwanese governments have always had to take this into consideration and be extra cautious in their dealings with China.

Of course, I made things much more complicated and dangerous for Haven and its government, and that’s part of the driving force of the story and at the root of the moral choices the government of the republic makes.

Having Haven an archipelago (and don’t go looking for it on Google Earth because it doesn’t exist in our world) was rooted in the fact that I wanted something that on the surface seemed to be Paradise (which is one of the reasons the first chapter opens with Sophie walking with her friend near a beautiful white sand beach). The dichotomy between the appearance of a paradise and the actual reality of Haven was important to understanding some of the central character’s early motivations and her willful blindness to some of the less savory aspects of the island’s democracy. I think the story would have had less impact if it had been situated in some bleak, rundown city on the mainland where it would have been immediately obvious to the reader that things were far from all right.

Also, a paradise-like equatorial Haven (year-round sunshine, white sandy beaches, tropical temperatures, lush green jungles, etc.) stood as a stark contrast to the Third Reich, which is portrayed as a much gloomier and far more oppressive environment (it is Hitler and the Nazis were talking about, after all).

2) What made you choose Sophie as the voice for your main character?
Before I committed anything to paper (literally, since I use notebooks and pen to rough out ideas), I examined several options for how I would tell the story. But when I went over the ideas in my head, I kept coming back to a first person female point of view. For some reason it just always seemed the right fit. I felt there was far more potential to show the darker sides of Haven through the eyes of a young woman, and I think the book would have been quite different had I chosen a young male as the lead character. For one, the pressures on males in Haven society are quite different from those of females. In Haven, young women have almost all the same expectations and obligations placed upon them as young men, but they are also severely constrained by the demand to perpetuate the human race. This is pretty much central to their lives, and it’s something they can never escape. That fact was important to the story (and drove some of the lead character’s actions), and I don’t think readers would have felt the weight of it and how much impact it has on the women of Haven had the story been told from a male perspective.

There’s no question in my mind that the obstacles and challenges Sophie has to overcome in Becoming Darkness would not have been as great – and therefore the story not as interesting – had the lead been male. Just as in our world, gender inequality looms large in Haven. And I believe this makes for a more compelling and dynamic character. In this context, some of the things Sophie does would probably have been expected of a male character and regarded in a wholly different light.

3) If you had to pitch your book to someone who didn't know you were the author, what would you say?
You know, I wrote Becoming Darkness to be the kind of book I like to read, which is probably why it’s something of a mashup of genres. My reading tastes are very eclectic, and that’s reflected in my novel. But if I were pitching it to someone, I would probably say: Think about all those vampire novels you’ve ever read and then throw them out the window, because this isn’t them. This is an alternate history with a dash of dystopia thrown in. It’s romance and mystery, thriller and adventure, with a touch of gothic horror and science fiction. You can take it as a simple story, or you can scratch below the surface and root out the deeper examination of what it is to be human. But however you choose to look at it, I think you’ll be entertained – and ultimately that’s the most important thing.

4) Why did you choose to make Becoming Darkness a Young Adult book?
Although in the original draft of the novel Sophie was somewhat older (a university student), I always saw the book as being for the young adult market. Young adults are some of the most voracious and passionate readers out there, and I also feel they’re less set in their ways. They’re far more open to new and unusual stories, which makes something like Becoming Darkness ideal fodder for them.

Before Becoming Darkness, I was writing adult SF stories and really of a mind that I was never going to get anywhere with them. It was my nephew, Nicholas, who suggested to me that maybe I shift gears and try my hand at YA. The result of that was Becoming Darkness. Now I have several ideas for YA novels in my notebooks (some of which I know won’t necessarily pan out), and at the moment I’m working on a YA contemporary. I’ve also got a sort of YA SF thriller written (and a sequel to it roughed out). And there are plenty of other ideas knocking around in my head (including another YA contemporary I hope to get to soon, as well as another mildly SF YA story).

5) What kind of research did you have to do while writing Becoming Darkness?
I’ve always been interested in history (well, pretty much everything, for that matter), so a lot of the knowledge needed to create the background for Becoming Darkness was already firmly planted in my head. There’s a scene, for example, where the ocean liner Normandie is mentioned, and that came from reading (several years ago) a whole series of Time/Life books on ships. Mention of the raid on Dieppe came from reading countless histories of World War Two. And then there were subtle things, like ration books and the mandatory labor service, that stemmed from reading about wartime Britain.

However, when you’re writing a novel that’s meant to entertain, you don’t want your research to stand out. The last thing you want is to have your characters digress into a pedantic discussion on some aspect of history or science or whatever just because you spent time researching it and want to show readers you know all this. The research for a fictional novel should be (for the most part) transparent. If it starts getting in the way of the flow of the story, it should be reconsidered.

Of course, the world of Becoming Darkness is fictional, so there’s a limit to how much it mirrors our own. And if there are aspects of our history that are barely touched upon or missed out, readers shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that this is because I’m giving short shrift to those events. It just may be that in Sophie’s world they never happened or they happened to a different degree. Or they may be submerged beneath the greater tragedy of almost the entire human race being exterminated. Or it could be that in the somewhat cloistered Republic of Haven, Sophie has never really been made conscious of them.

I should also point out that when I was nine we moved to Pakistan and lived on a small colony there. Some of the feelings of being isolated and trapped that Sophie and other characters feel about Haven are drawn somewhat from what I experienced being on that colony, a member of a tiny minority immersed in a foreign environment, surrounded by a wholly different culture.

Airships, too, appear in the story not only because I felt they made sense, but also because I’m really interested in them. I have been ever since I did a project on them in high school. And flying in an airship is on my bucket list.

6) If you were chosen to move to Mars and you were only allowed to bring 5 things with you, besides necessities, what would those 5 things be?
Well, first of all, I love this question because I’m something of a Mars fanatic. I’ve been fascinated with the Red Planet ever since I first read Arthur C.Clarke’s The Sands of Mars and Robert Heinlein’s The Rolling Stones when I was about ten. I would love to go to Mars, and I rather wish I’d been born several decades from now, when we might actually be sending colonists there.

As to what 5 non-essential items I’d want to take with me were I to go, I think the first and most obvious would be something like an iPod or a tablet loaded up with music, books, movies, and TV shows. The music would mostly be motion picture soundtracks (the orchestral kind – not the song compilations); the books would have to include a complete set of Tintin, some classics like Jane Austen’s novels, and a copy of Beryl Markam’s West with the Night (one of my favorite books); The Day the Earth Stood Still, 2001: A space Odyssey, Star Wars and TheEmpire Strikes Back would have to be among the movies; and for TV shows, certainly the first and second seasons of Scooby Doo, Where are You!, as well as Jonny Quest, The Jetsons, Murdoch Mysteries, and Veronica Mars.

I’d also want a Swiss Army pocket knife – one of the versions that has a gazillion different tools. I’ve loved those things since I was a kid. And it’s amazing what you can do with something so small and compact it can fit in your pocket.

A sketch pad would be something I’d want with me, because although you can draw on a tablet, there’s nothing quite like sketching on a piece of paper. It’s so basic, but I’ve always thought it one of the purest forms of art.

I’d have to have a Major Matt Mason action figure (although back when he was introduced in the latter half of the 1960s, I don’t think they referred to them as “action figures”). Anyway, when I seven I desperately wanted one and all the accompanying gizmos – largely because I was bonkers about space and spaceships and the future of humankind in space. So a Major Matt Mason action figure in my kit would be there to remind me of that and why I was on Mars in the first place.

A mechanical watch – one that you have to wind up or is wound up by a weight that rotates inside (though, of course, such a watch would have to be adjusted to work in the slightly longer day on Mars). I love good old fashioned mechanical watches. Preferably chronographs or skeletons (the ones you can see the inner workings of). In a day and age when people don’t wear watches because they can check the time on their cellphones, I still wear a one. I like them for their simplicity, the weight of them on my wrist, and because they remind me of being six and getting my first Timex and proudly displaying it to friends.

I always have thoughts after reading books and after writing my reviews. So I thought adding this little section would be a good idea. 

The author of this book is an amazing person. He treated me like A HUMAN BEING instead of this piece of scum blogger. It is sad, but true, that many authors treat bloggers like they are nothing. I have personally dealt with quite a few authors telling me that because I am not paid to review or I don't have a degree in reviewing that I have no right to criticize their books. It it crazy to think that I have heard that multiple times. I always thought bloggers/reviewers and authors were somewhat of a team. Authors write books for the public, people like me. Not everyone reviews the books they read and not everyone has a blog where they put the reviews they do write. But reading and writing are two huge passions of mine. Mr. Brambles is one of far too little authors who made me feel like I mattered. He thanked me for reading his book and hosting him on my author spotlight and continued to thank me for doing what I do. No, not every author has to go out of their way to thank the bloggers/reviews but it would be nice to have some sort of recognition. We don't get paid to do this, although, we do get free books. We do this because its a passion and we enjoy it. Since when did you have to have a doctorate in order to have a hobby? 

As another side note, none of the authors I have had on my spotlight have been rude to me nor have I had any issues with them. It's more or less the authors that RUDELY decline my offer for the spotlight. It's fine to decline, that is the authors right, but it IS NOT okay to belittle someone because they want to host you on their blog. A blog they work very hard on and love with every fiber of their being. I love the authors I have gotten to work with and I am so grateful to them. But there are authors here and there that make me question what I am doing. 

Thank you, Mr. Brambles, for being such a wonderful person and author. I truly appreciate you and your work!


Jeanna on October 6, 2015 at 3:18 PM said...

I just read and reviewed this one too and totally loved it! I had some of the same thoughts as you-- these are one of the books that make you think. Great review and author spotlight. Becoming Darkness is definitely going on my favorites list! Happy reading!

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