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Claimed Possession



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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Interview with J.P. Sloan, author of The Curse Merchant! #FMBBooks

Holly: Hi! Would you tell us a little bit about yourself? J

J.P. Sloan: I have three major loves: my wife (and by extension my family, but she's the one I sleep with), my brewing, and my writing. I drive into Baltimore from the wine country of central Maryland every morning to pay the bills. My hope is to leave that commute behind one day, and earn a sole income through my writing. Outside of that, I brew beer and am a certified beer judge. I'm also very keen on whisky, and have begun to expand my knowledge of Scotch, in particular.

Holly: Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

J.P. Sloan: The greatest challenge was deciding whether to self-publish or to continue to pursue legacy publishing. I spent about ten months seriously querying literary agents with The Curse Merchants, and received plenty of interest. Ultimately they all passed, but I received some strong encouragement to consider self-publishing. I'll have to admit, the second I made up my mind a rush of energy swept into the project. I could tell it was the right call.

Holly: When did you realize that you would like to write and publish a book?

J.P. Sloan: I've been writing my "starter novels" for about ten years, now. Curse Merchant is the first manuscript I felt was suitable for publication. I decided to get serious about writing as a potential career when I wrote a supplemental piece for a roleplaying game. This coincided with the release of Deathly Hallows, incidentally. When I one of the players said she put off reading Rowling because she was so torn up by my story, I knew I had a shot at being a successful novelist.

Holly: Can you tell us, in your own words not the book description, a little about your book?

J.P. Sloan: Beyond the synopsis, I'll say that I was shooting for something that rode a close line with reality. I wanted the horror elements and the magical mechanics to be easily dismissed as coincidence or delusion. The world of The Dark Choir is meant to be so similar to our own, the reader might take one look down a narrow alley and wonder if a soul monger isn't actually practicing in those shadows.

Holly: Which came first for you, the characters or the plot?

J.P. Sloan: The whole project really began with the setting… the city of Baltimore. It's an old city with some particularly creepy corners. Plus it was Edgar Allan Poe's stomping ground. But the Curse Merchant truly took shape around the character of
Dorian Lake. I had his character, his vocal cadence, and his backstory set before I outlined the book. Truth be known, I had begun to outline a completely different Dorian Lake novel before I realized I was writing a sequel. I had to realize this and back up to write this opener first.

Holly: Do you think you may ever go into another genre?

J.P. Sloan: Indeed I will, and have already. The manuscript before Curse Merchant was a post-apocalyptic "powers" story, and the one prior to that was a "slipstream fantasy" novel. I am halfway through what I'm currently referring to as Top Secret Manuscript, which is a completely different genre than the Dark Choir universe, though I'm staying tight-lipped about what genre that is. After I complete the sequel to Curse Merchant, I've already lined up a western-horror to write. I'll be busy for a few years.

Holly: How much of you or people you know do you think make it into the characters in your novel(s)?

J.P. Sloan: Only one that I'm aware of. I specifically modeled the character of Edgar Swain, Dorian's best friend, after a man I know in real life… down to his vocal pauses and physical description. He's aware of this, by the way, and thinks it's "cool man."

Holly: Do you think you will have a follow up book to this novel or is it just a stand-alone novel?

J.P. Sloan: The Curse Merchant is the opening novel in a series which I'm calling The Dark Choir. I already have the sequel outlined, and have plans for two more cooking in my head. Beyond that I have an independent novel set in the Dark Choir universe which I'm considering publishing as a serial novel.

Holly: What is the hardest part of writing in your opinion?

J.P. Sloan: The hardest part of writing is carving out a regular time to sit down and right. It's a lot like exercise. My wife got me involved in her kickboxing class, and I've learned that if you keep going, it's easier to make the decision to go. If you miss one day, it's easier to say you'll skip the next day, and so forth. It's the same with your writing time. The more days you miss, the easier it is to let this myth we like to call "being in the mood" to affect your productivity.

Holly: What is the easiest part of writing in your opinion?

J.P. Sloan: Coming up with book ideas. I have a Word document filled with ideas for books, short stories, even screenplays. I even have an idea for a television series that's distracting the hell out of me these days. I don't have the resources to pursue them all at the same time, nor should I. But all things being equal, if I could stay at home and write full-time, I doubt I'd ever run out of material.

Holly: Do you have anything you would like to say to your readers?

J.P. Sloan: I live to entertain you! That's my motivation… to elicit an emotional response. If I get you to laugh out loud, shed a tear, throw your book across the room (hopefully not your e-reader), or even wait nervously for the next book, I'll feel complete as a writer. So, by all means, please tell me if any of these things happen!

Holly: Can you tell us about your main character?

J.P. Sloan: I love Dorian Lake. He's such a snob, bordering on narcissism… but no matter how much he claims to look down his nose at cheap things, he manages to be a genuine person to regular people. They keep him grounded, giving him leave to play the part of the socialite. His greatest weakness is his sense of misplaced responsibility. He tends to blame himself for other people's failures, and goes out of his way to try and fix them. All the while he claims not to care. The fun in reading Dorian's story is that everyone around him knows that he really does care, but can never seem to convince him of it.

Random Quickies!

Holly: Pepsi or coke?

J.P. Sloan: Pepsi

Holly: Cats or dogs?

J.P. Sloan: Cats

Holly: Favorite book to movie?

J.P. Sloan: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Holly: Favorite book or author? Yeah we know it’s hard to choose! ;)

J.P. Sloan: Arthur C. Clarke

Holly: Hardback/Paperback or eReader?

J.P. Sloan: eReader

Holly: Why do you like eReaders more?

J.P. Sloan: They let me read faster.

Holly: What book are you reading today?

J.P. Sloan: The Zona by Nathan Yocum

Title: The Curse Merchant
Series: The Dark Choir #1
Author: J.P. Sloan
Genre: Urban Fantasy Noir
Publisher: Self-published
Format: Ebook
Words: 83,000

Purchase: Amazon | Smashwords |

Book Description:

Dorian Lake has spent years cornering the Baltimore hex-crafting market, using his skills at the hermetic arts to exact karmic justice for those whom the system has failed. He keeps his magic clean and free of soul-corrupting Netherwork, thus avoiding both the karmic blow-back of his practice and the notice of the Presidium, a powerful cabal of practitioners that polices the esoteric arts in America. However, when an unscrupulous Netherworker interferes with both his business and his personal life, Dorian's disarming charisma and hermetic savvy may not be enough to keep his soul out of jeopardy.

His rival, a soul monger named Neil Osterhaus, wouldn't be such a problem were it not for Carmen, Dorian's captivating ex-lover. After two years' absence Carmen arrives at Dorian’s doorstep with a problem: she sold her soul to Osterhaus, and has only two weeks to buy it back. Hoping to win back Carmen's affections, Dorian must find a replacement soul without tainting his own. As Dorian descends into the shadows of Baltimore’s underworld, he must decide how low he is willing to stoop in order to save Carmen from eternal damnation... with the Presidium watching, waiting for him to cross the line.

I brought my finds to a table near the microfiche reader and opened up my spiral notebook. None of the books were meant to leave the building, and photocopying was forbidden, so I had to take my notes and glean all I could. At least I was alone.
Or thought I was.
I had finished the chapter on the life of Simon Magus, a Samaritan during the first generation of Christian evangelists who had locked horns with Saint Peter himself, when a shadow fell over my notebook.
"Curious reading, Mister Lake," a velvety Arabic voice spilled over my shoulder.
I looked up to find the Syrian smiling at me.
I set my notebook casually on top of the Jesuit text as he leaned on the microfiche reader.
"Good morning," I grumbled.
The Syrian leaned over and picked up my book with a pausing gesture that at the same time asked for permission and left no room for refusal.
"Simon of Gitta," he recited. "A widely misunderstood individual, in my opinion."
"Misunderstood in the days of the early Church usually meant brutal death by torture, so there's that."
"Colorful stories aside, any serious student of soul magics would do well to study the life of Simon." He set the book down and narrowed his eyes. "Are you?"
"Am I what?"
"A student of soul magics?"
"Oh, no. That's not my particular bag of tricks." I elbowed the Jesuit text further behind me. "I just saw a show on cable last night, and wanted to do some more reading. That ever happen to you?"
"I rarely watch television, Mister Lake. Abominable contraptions."
"Well, all right then."
He lingered beside me, staring down into my eyes. I shifted in my seat, trying not to look horribly guilty of something I had no intention of doing.
"How long have you been a member of the Occidental Lodge?" he asked, finally breaking the tension.
"Oh, roughly a half hour, now."
He shook his head in confusion.
I jammed my thumb over my shoulder.
"New policy. Some crap about a restricted section and Lodge members. I just ponied up to get to the good stuff."
He nodded with a warm grin.
"That makes sense. You did not strike me as the ceremonialist type."
"Know many ceremonialists, then?" I ventured.
His eyes lifted at the corners.
"You are aware, Mister Lake, that the practice of Netherwork is not kindly viewed by certain elements within the American magical establishment?"
I watched his face for a quick moment, trying to figure out if he was threatening me, or if he was genuinely asking me a question.
"Anyone with a brain knows that," I whispered.
"The question then becomes, are you a risk-taker?"
"I'm really more of a sure thing kind of guy."
He smiled and tapped on top of my notebook, making my stomach flip.
"Forgive my intrusion. Enjoy your studies."
He stepped away, grabbing a book from the top of a nearby table and settling down in a chair almost directly behind me. I looked over my shoulder a couple times, trying not to look nervous. The Syrian was studiously not watching me, which only added to my anxiety.

I am a storyteller, eager to transport the reader to strange yet familiar worlds. My writing is dark, fantastical, at times stretching the limits of the human experience, and other times hinting at the monsters lurking under your bed. I write science fiction, urban fantasy, horror, and several shades in between.

I am a husband and a father, living in the “wine country” of central Maryland. I’m surrounded by grapevines and cows. During the day I commute to Baltimore, and somehow manage to escape each afternoon with only minor scrapes and bruises. I am also a homebrewer and a certified beer judge. My avocations dovetail nicely!

Website/Blog | Twitter: @J_P_Sloan | Facebook |



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