Happy Wednesday everyone. This week I’m excited to do another author interview and book review. This week I’m welcoming fellow author Ambrose Hall. I’ve known Ambrose a few years back now and I’ve finally got him to come over for a quick chat. So, let’s jump right in and not waste any time.
Ambrose welcome. I’m happy you could swing by and do this interview. Please give us a quick introduction to yourself.
I’m a writer based in the UK. I mostly write speculative fiction with queer characters.
That was quick.
Nah, it’s all good. We have a lot to cover so let’s move into the good stuff. Gods and Insects is the second book in your City of Ash Series. It’s definitely a dark series but it’s also got a wit about it that I’m loving. There are even hints of romance to it. What made you pick this kind of series to write?
I’ve always loved vampires, but I’d never planned to write them, then a friend in one of my writing groups proposed a vampire writing challenge for Hallowe’en. I started with a short story, but it caught my imagination and I ended up with a short novella, told from five different points of view. I think vampires can be a great way to explore all sorts of facets of human nature. I started with the question: if you had eternity, what would get you through? The title of the first book, Love is the Cure, is somewhat ironic, as some of the characters end up on very dark paths believing that love is the thing that will get them through.
But you’re not a cynic about love. So, how did that work?
I wanted to explore all sorts of relationships, not all of them healthy. It’s a gothic story, so I wanted to show the heights and depths of emotion. And I’m a bit of a goth, so I can’t help falling to the dark side.
So, the idea of a dark vampire story fits you like a glove?
Ha, pretty much.
Asher, the main protagonist, has changed quite a bit from the first book in the series to this one. Honestly, he wasn’t so likable in the first book. So, what can you tell us about his character growth between, Love is the Cure, and, Gods and Insects?
He’d led a very ordinary, sheltered existence in a comfortable middle class suburb and been good at sport. The only thing that had ever conflicted him was his sexuality and he’d kept that in the closet and pretended to himself it was just a phase. When he was faced with vampiric life, particularly the violence of his creator, Kerrick, it really traumatized him and he was completely overwhelmed.
He was a bit of a mess in the first book. Understandably so, given what happen to him.
Yes, so by Gods and Insects, he’s trying to find his own way, but he’s lost and lonely and still following mortal patterns of behavior. When two more experienced vampires come along and offer him a home and protection, it seems like a good deal. The hardest thing for Asher is, even though he’s quite naive, he has a strong sense of right and wrong. In Gods and Insects, I wanted to explore what it would look like for someone like Asher to fall from grace. I also wanted to explore identity and how that’s shaped by our experiences, including the more traumatic ones.
Well he certainly was a new man by book two and I really liked how he grew between books. I think it served him and the story well.
Now, I can see at least one more book in the series with how you ended this book (and thank you for giving it a proper ending and not having it end on a cliffhanger). How many books are planned for this series?
It’s going to be a trilogy. The third book will be from Nico’s point of view. He’s a character who appears halfway through Gods and Insects. He’s trans and I wanted to tell a story with a trans main character, as I am. He’s also quite different from most of the other characters as he’s very much of the modern world, he’s much more in touch with his emotions than any of the others, and he has quite a different outlook. Unlike Kerrick and Asher, he’s also not a fighter.
Nico, was very different from all the other characters and I really like the contrast. Honestly, he surprised, in a good way. It was this breath of fresh air and kind of highlighted everything that is ‘wrong’ with the other characters. If that makes sense. He’s also one of my favorite characters in this story.
He was, also, one of the favorite characters from the second book, from feedback I received, so he seemed like a good choice. The third book will follow his story, with the vampiric war continuing in the background and his growing relationship with Asher. All the books have looked at power dynamics, in and out of relationships, and the nature of power is going to be a big theme in this final story.
Without giving much away, I enjoyed the ending of this book. You could have gone very dark, but you didn’t. You kind of ended the book as I thought you would a middle ground was reached. Was that your intention? Not to have an overly dark ‘end of the world’ feel to the ending.
Gods and Insects is a tragedy for Asher, but in the sense that he embraces more of his vampiric nature. But he’s only at the start of that path. But there are still others in Asher’s life, particularly Kerrick and Nico, who have their own way of doing things. Nico is still very young and very human and he connected to the good in Asher. Kerrick is more violent, because he was raised in a violent time and had a traumatic start to life, but he’s also very caring and protective of Asher, as his child. Inevitably, there will be some conflict between those different paths.
You and I both love vampire stories and we have a totally different take on vamps. What made you pick the darker more sinister type of vampire?
I’m a bit of an irredeemable goth, really. I’ve always liked things dark. I grew up in a crumbling old Victorian mill town in the north of England, which may be partly to blame for my aesthetic tendencies. I wanted my vampires to be monsters – not mindless monsters, because that’s not the type of monsters vampires are, but still monstrous in some sense. I find the idea of human monsters fascinating. I suppose growing up as an outsider makes me more aware of the hypocrisy of mainstream society and the way that power is exploited. Violence and abuse of power are often not far from the surface, even in modern times. My own trauma tends to leak into my work. I often write quite dark, brutal dynamics between my characters and I like to push them to the edge. But I also want to honor the gothic tradition of exploring all the taboo things that lurk under the surface, so my vampires are dark but also sexually charged. I think the intersection between sex and horror is a challenging one and keeps readers on their toes.
I know you have other stories in the works, however, I want to know about your City of Ash Series. When can we expect to see the next book? Also, what else do you have in the works? What can we look forward to seeing in the future?
My working title for the third book is Kill Your Kings. Hopefully that gives you a flavor of what it will be about. All the characters from the first two books will have some continuation of their story, though it will all be from Nico’s point of view, who is a seer from a very unusual bloodline. I’m writing it at the moment, so I hope to have it finished in the first half of next year.
And other works?
I’ve also been working on a 1920s horror story in the Lovecraftian tradition, which needs a final edit before I try to find a home for it.
I’ve recently been experimenting with sharing shorter fiction on Medium, so you can read some of my flash fiction on there. Click here.
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community how important is it for you to represent our community in your work? And as an author what is your responsibility to show all communities not just the LGBTQ+ community?
I tend to have LGBTQ+ characters in all my longer work. Like you, I want to write genre stories with LGBTQ+ character. Not just coming out stories, or romance, but also horror and science fiction and fantasy. I think being able to see ourselves in the stories around us is a really healing, self-affirming experience. For me, growing up in the 80s, there were a few indie films with gay characters, but in speculative fiction and film it was more often the bad guys who looked more like me. Being bi is often associated with evil and deviance in popular media, and obviously all villains are British. (Maybe that’s where I got my taste for black clothing from.) From quite a young age, I picked up the idea that I couldn’t be the hero in a story. Whilst I’m now always going to be cheering for the supervillains, I hope that younger generations get to grow up with a different message.
Thank you. Also, I’ve been working on my first romance, with a trans man as the main character. Trans representation is really important for me, and there’s not a huge variety of stories out there right now. I want to show that trans people don’t have to fit gender stereotypes, any more than anyone else, and have a little fun with a sex positive story. I’m playing around with Robin Hood folklore, which I loved as a child. Probably the last time I identified with a hero. I’m also experimenting with happiness and healthy relationships. Strange territory for me. The main character has a disability, so I guess I am conscious of wanting to include people from diverse backgrounds and experiences. Although I’m also conscious that I’m not always the best qualified person to tell a particular story.
Well, I think your stories are amazing and I’m thrilled that I’ve gotten a sneak peek at both your 1920s story and your Robin Hood story. I can’t wait to read them once they are finished. Thank you for agreeing to do this interview.
Thanks so much for having me on your blog. I’ve had fun answering your questions.
About Ambrose Hall
Ambrose Hall is a speculative and literary fiction writer who currently lives in the South East of England. Ambrose originally comes from Bradford, in West Yorkshire, where he was infected with gothic decay and went mad on a moor. You can find his blog here You can buy, Love is the Cure and Gods and Insects here
Review, Gods and Insects:
Ambrose Hall, has written the second book in his, City of Ash Series. It’s a dark gritty vampire story, but these vamps aren’t your typical vampires they are dark and monstrous, but not mindless killing machines. They have desires and dreams. The second story follows Asher a newly turned vampire who is coming to grips with his new reality. When we meat Asher in the first book, to describe him as a mess would be an understatement, but in book 2, Gods and Insects, he’s come into his own. Well, somewhat. This story is about his growth and him finding his way. I think it’s something that everyone can relate to. Where do we fit in and we make a place for ourselves?
Even with the proper ending to Book 2, I’m looking forward to the next book so we can see how everything that has been set up in both books will play out.
Gods and Insects, is a dark novel with a bit of a goth feel to it. It’s a great read and the characters are wonderful. Great care has been taken to give each character their own voice. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart, but it’s worth checking out.