Today I am interviewing James Lovegrove, author of the new science fiction fantasy novel, Age of Heroes, eight book in the Pantheon series].
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DJ: Hey James! Thanks for stopping by to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
James Lovegrove: I am an author of science fiction, Sherlock Holmes novels and books in many other genres and for various kinds of readership, with well over fifty published titles under my belt. I’ve been a professional writer since the age of 22 and have just turned 50, so that’s 28 years in the saddle. I provide features and reviews on a regular basis for the Financial Times and the comics magazine Comic Heroes. I live in the sunny seaside town of Eastbourne with my wife, two sons, dog and cat. I am also a 9th degree red belt in jiu-jitsu and a well-known humanitarian, famous for spending millions on charitable causes. One of the above sentences may not be true.
DJ: What is Age of Heroes about?
James: When I submitted a proposal for the novel to publisher Solaris, the tagline I came up with ran: The demigods of Ancient Greek myth are alive and well… and dying one by one. The core concept is that Theseus, Perseus, Heracles and all the other spawn of unions between deities and mortals are still going strong and are more or less unkillable – except that someone has found a way of bumping them off and is doing so. Theseus is our protagonist, once a travelling crime fighter, currently a bestselling crime writer, living a quiet life until he gets dragged into the mystery of the demigod murders. Together he and his cousin Perseus pursue the team of hitmen who are taking out their kin… and if I tell you any more than that, I’ll be committing spoilerism. It’s a fast-paced action adventure with a whodunit element and a plot that crisscrosses the globe and ranges back in time all the way to 1500BCE.
DJ: Some readers may not have read any of your Pantheon series book before – what is the idea behind the series? Can Age of Heroes be read as a stand-alone?
James: Every book in the series is a standalone. The only thing each has in common with the others is the core theme of the interaction between gods and mortals. Maybe it’s because I have a short attention span, but one of the things I find satisfying and enjoyable about writing these books is coming up with ways of making them different from one another and devising different approaches to the material. Invariably the subject matter of each will define the content. So, for instance, with Age of Odin, the setting had to be snowbound and apocalyptic, so that I could make it as compelling Norse as possible, which included incorporating Ragnarok into the storyline. Likewise, with Age of Heroes, the intrepid, single-minded derring-do of the demigods shaped the plot. They were the pulp heroes of their day, and I’ve played that aspect up as much as possible.
DJ: What were some of your influences for Age of Heroes?
James: I read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Tanglewood Tales when I was young and loved the way he retold the Greek myths; likewise Leon Garfield and Edward Blishen’s The God Beneath the Sea. Then, of course, there are the old movies with Ray Harryhausen animation: Jason and the Argonauts especially, but also Clash of the Titans. Also, there are some issues of The Avengers set in Olympus and drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith (#98-100, or so Google tells me) which were so beautifully illustrated the stories seemed to leap off the page. All these things went into the cauldron of my mind and have been seething away there ever since, waiting to be let out.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them? (aka What makes them compelling?)
James: Theseus, now living under the guise of Theo Stannard, crime writer, is a protagonist who has been doing the right thing and helping others for so long, he’s kind of forgotten why. He is good to the core but has lost sight of his purpose in life. Turning out novels about a Jack-Reacher-type hero is his substitute for playing the hero himself. His cousin Chase Chance and is a TV presenter who tracks down cryptozoological creatures (the modern-day equivalent of what he used to do as Perseus, hunting monsters). Theo is perhaps a little serious, while Chase is much looser and cooler. The exchanges of dialogue between the two of them were fun to write, and then I threw Heracles and Hippolyta into the mix, adding them to the team, and that resulted in even more fireworks, because if you know anything about Greek myth you’ll know that those two have a chequered history. All four of these characters, I found, interacted wonderfully, and I think and hope that readers will enjoy spending time in their company.
DJ: Of all the Ancient Greek Gods, why did you pick Theseus as your main protagonist?
James: He seemed the right fit for the novel. If you read about Theseus, and especially about his Six Labours on the road from Troezen to Athens, you’ll see that he is a detective, a fighter and a dispenser of poetic justice. There’s more to him than just being the guy who slew the Minotaur. He’s less celebrated than Heracles or Perseus, and I felt therefore that there was more to explore with him, a whole untapped seam of story and personality. Basically, once I’d decided I was going to write about the demigods and make it something of a murder mystery, there was only one suitable candidate for the leading role.
DJ: What is the universe/world for Age of Heroes like?
James: It’s our world, just as it is, the only difference being that immortals walk among us, unbeknownst to us. They’re almost all of them immensely wealthy, having had three and half millennia to accumulate fortunes, and they are for the most part sane and well-balanced individuals, despite having lived so long. All of my Pantheon novels are set in our world, in each case given a small twist.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Age of Heroes?
James: Apart from the many scenes with Theo and Chase bantering and playing off each other, there are sections focusing on the team of hitmen assassinating the demigods. I set myself the challenge, when writing the novel, of viewing events from the perspective of someone who is nominally the bad guy, i.e. a stone-cold killer, and making him sympathetic and compelling. This particular character is called Roy Young and it isn’t long before he realises he is just a cog in the machine, a useful tool, a paid thug. You don’t often get inside the mind of a henchman, and that’s what Roy is, and it was interesting to me to develop this idea and see where I could go from there. What goes through the head of one of those goons with a gun whom Blofeld sends after James Bond? Why are they doing that job? How is their loyalty commanded? I had fun answering those questions for myself.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
James: Probably the whodunit aspect. There are several layers and types of bad guy in Age of Heroes, but I think I manage to keep the mystery of the real Big Bad a secret until the very end. I suspect, too, that they’ll enjoy discussing the canonical but less familiar myths I’ve delved into and exploited, some of which they might be coming across for the first time.
DJ: What was your goal in writing Age of Heroes? Is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across to readers when it is finally told?
James: With all the Pantheon books, the aim is simple: to tell an exciting, compelling tale with its foundations in the mythology of an ancient culture, using familiar figures and tropes to come up with something fresh and entertaining.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from Age of Heroes that you can share with us?
James: Tricky question. There’s this exchange between Heracles and Theseus, a.k.a. Salvador and Theo, that I quite like:
Salvador turned to Theo. “He complains all the time, doesn’t he? I forgot that about him.”
“Not all the time,” Theo said. “Sometimes he gripes. Every so often he bitches.”
DJ: Now that Age of Heroes is released, what is next for you?
James: I’m hard at work on a fourth Sherlock Holmes novel, The Labyrinth of Death, and the first volume of my Holmes/Lovecraft mashup trilogy, Cthulhu Casebooks, is out in November: The Shadwell Shadows.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
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*** Age of Heroes is published by Solaris and is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Goodreads | Kobo
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The demigods of Ancient Greek myth are alive and well and ready for war.
Except the demigods of Ancient Greek myth are alive and, well… dying.
Heracles, Perseus, Theseus, Orpheus, Achilles, Hippolyta, Aeneas, King Minos, Helen of Troy – for centuries they have survived on Earth, doing their best to fit in among ordinary humans. The offspring of liaisons between god and mortal, they are blessed, or perhaps cursed, with eternal life. They cannot be killed.
But someone has figured out how to do just that. One by one, the demigods are meeting gory, violent ends.
Now it’s up to Theseus, comfortably ensconced in New York and making his living as a crime fiction writer, to investigate the deaths. His search for the culprit draws him back into the lives of his extended family of cousins and half-siblings, and into a world of tragedy and long-held grudges that he thought, and hoped, he’d put behind him.
James Lovegrove is the acclaimed author of over 50 novels, novellas, and books for children.
James was born on Christmas Eve 1965 and, having dabbled in writing at school, first took to it seriously while at university. A short story of his won a college competition. The prize was £15, and it had cost £18 to get the story professionally typed. This taught him a hard but necessary lesson in the harsh economic realities of a literary career.
Straight after graduating from Oxford with a degree in English Literature, James set himself the goal of getting a novel written and sold within two years. In the event, it took two months. The Hope was completed in six weeks and accepted by Macmillan a fortnight later. The seed for the idea for the novel — a world in microcosm on an ocean liner — was planted during a cross-Channel ferry journey.
James blew his modest advance for The Hope on a round-the-world trip which took him to, among other places, Thailand. His experiences there, particularly what he witnessed of the sex industry in Bangkok, provided much of the inspiration for The Foreigners.
Escardy Gap was co-written with Pete Crowther over a period of a year and a half, the two authors playing a game of creative tag, each completing a section in turn and leaving the other to carry the story on. The result has proved a cult favourite, and was voted by readers of SFX one of the top fifty SF/Fantasy novels of all time.
Days, a satire on consumerism, was shortlisted for the 1998 Arthur C. Clarke Award (losing to Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow). The book’s genesis most probably lies in the many visits James used to make as a child to the Oxford Street department store owned by his grandfather. It was written over a period of nine months while James was living in the north-west suburbs of Chicago.
Subsequent works have all been published to great acclaim. These include Untied Kingdom, Worldstorm, Provender Gleed and the back-to-back double-novella Gig. Many of his early books are being reissued by Solaris Books in a series of compendium volumes entitled The James Lovegrove Collection, beginning in late 2014. United Kingdom was shortlisted for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, while “Carry The Moon In My Pocket”, a short story, won Japan’s Seiun Award in 2011 for Best Foreign Short Story. It and other stories by James, more than 50 in total, have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies over the years, and most have been gathered in two collections, Imagined Slights and Diversifications.
James has also written for children. Wings, a short novel for reluctant readers, was short-listed for several awards, while his fantasy series for teens, The Clouded World, written under the pseudonym Jay Amory, has been translated into 7 other languages so far. A five-book series for reluctant readers, The 5 Lords Of Pain, appeared at two-monthly intervals throughout 2010.
More recently James has produced the Pantheon series, a set of standalone military-SF adventures combining high-tech weaponry and ancient gods. The third of these, The Age Of Odin, made it onto the New York Times bestseller list, and it and all the others have been a huge sales success. He has also written the first two volumes in a trilogy of novels about a policeman who tackles vampires and vampire-related crimes — Redlaw and Redlaw: Red Eye.
He has also dipped a toe in the waters of pastiche, having produced a series of Sherlock Holmes novels for Titan Books. These include The Stuff Of Nightmares, Gods Of War and The Thinking Engine, with more to come. As of 2014 he has begun a new action-adventure series set on different planets in outer space, the Dev Harmer Missions. The first two of these, World Of Fire and World Of Water, are out now.
As a sideline, James reviews fiction for the Financial Times, specialising in the children’s, science fiction, fantasy, horror and graphic novel genres, and is a regular and prolific contributor to Comic Heroes, a glossy magazine devoted to all things comics-related.
In his latest venture, James is self-publishing a novel through Amazon. BetterLife is available both in a Kindle format and as a print-on-demand paperback.
Currently James resides in Eastbourne on the Sussex Coast, having moved there in August 2007 with his wife Lou, sons Monty and Theo, and Yorkshire terrier Honey. He has a terrific view of the sea from his study window, which he doesn’t sit staring out at all day when he should be working. Honest.