We are VERY excited to welcome TJ Klune, our featured author for the month of July! I have read or listened to many of his books like ‘Bear, Otter and the Kid’, ‘Tell Me It’s Real’, ‘Into This River I Drown’ and ‘How to be a Normal Person’ and while all those books are very different, they all really work for me – in different ways. TJ is an auto-buy author for me and I love how versatile his books are. I’m really happy to spotlight this fantastic author this month 😀
I was able to ask TJ all my burning questions about ‘Withered + Sere’, his recent postapocalyptic story that I just read and fell in love with and I hope his answers are as interesting to you as they were to me. Especially the one about all the upcoming releases and sequels ❤
TJ also brought the cover and blurb of the upcoming sequel to ‘Withered + Sere’, but you should only read the blurb, if you already read book one. SPOILER ALERT! He also brought fantastic prizes for 6!!! winners, so don’t forget to comment for the chance to win one of three audiobook copies of ‘How to be a Normal Person’ or one of three e-copies of ‘Withered + Sere’
Comment on this post to enter the giveaway. Any additional comment you make anywhere on Rainbow Gold Review this month (July 2016) will give you an additional entry. More giveaway details below. GOOD LUCK!
Marc reviews ‘Withered + Sere’ (Immemorial Year 1) by TJ Klune. This book was released by DSP Publications on April 19th, 2016 and is 280 pages long. ‘Crisped + Sere’ (Immemorial Year 2) by TJ Klune will be published on August 23rd, 2016 and is 340 pages long.
Once upon a time, humanity could no longer contain the rage that swelled within, and the world ended in a wave of fire.
One hundred years later, in the wasteland formerly known as America, a broken man who goes only by the name of Cavalo survives. Purposefully cutting himself off from what remains of civilization, Cavalo resides in the crumbling ruins of the North Idaho Correctional Institution. A mutt called Bad Dog and a robot on the verge of insanity comprise his only companions. Cavalo himself is deteriorating, his memories rising like ghosts and haunting the prison cells.
It s not until he makes the dangerous choice of crossing into the irradiated Deadlands that Cavalo comes into contact with a mute psychopath, one who belongs to the murderous group of people known as the Dead Rabbits. Taking the man prisoner, Cavalo is forced not only to face the horrors of his past, but the ramifications of the choices made for his stark present. And it is in the prisoner that he will find a possible future where redemption is but a glimmer that darkly shines.
The world has died.
This is the story of its remains.
I love dystopian and postapocalyptic stories. Dystopian stories focus on a future with a new kind of government that usually suppresses the people under its rule in some terrible way. It takes political ideas and events of the present or past and shows readers what would happen if they were taken to their ultimate conclusion. Books like George Orwell’s ‘1984’ show us why power should never be unchecked and why we should never blindly follow without thinking for ourselves.
Postapocalyptic stories focus on the humans that are left after a devastating catastrophe and how they act, feel and survive, when everything that makes them civilized has broken away. It shows humanity at its most vulnerable and raw. It shows who we are when everything else is stripped away, what we would do to survive, how strong or kind or brutal we can be.
This genre is just the perfect setting for character-driven stories. There is no ‘normal’ every-day life as we know it. There’s only survival and how different characters deal with this new reality.
‘Withered +Sere’ has a very short prologue, where readers find out how the world came to an end. The author doesn’t go into details. The why or the who or the how are not the focus of the story. It happened and it changed the world.
Readers get to experience this new world through the eyes of Cavalo. At first, he seems very cold and uncaring. He has a mysterious past and I wanted to learn more about it and him, but it was not easy to connect with him. For me, his bond with ‘Bad Dog’ really helped me to see his humanity.
It is pretty clear that his mind is unraveling, so maybe hearing his dog’s voice in his head is a sign of his insanity or maybe its sign of knowing the dog so well that he can understand him clearly in his mind, even without spoken words. In any case, there is a special bond of trust between the book’s main character and his dog that showed me his heart isn’t completely frozen.
It is a harsh and dangerous world and Cavalo seems like a hard and cold character that I could not immediately identify with.There is a lot of character growth during this book as Cavalo is forced to interact with people, forced to confront his terrible past, new dangers and flirts wiith death -or more specifically, the mute psychopath who wants to kill him.
This world is harsh and dangerous, but it quickly becomes obvious that Cavalo is not entirely a cold and hard character. He would do almost anything to protect that family he has built for himself.
However dark and gory or funny or suspenseful this book became, the focus is always on Cavalo and the thin grasp he has on his sanity and humanity. I must honestly admit that the unusual cast of characters did not seem like they could work together in a story, but they really do. It is a testament to the author’s loving detail that breathes life into the characters. He doesn’t flinch from making the world dark and gritty and there is blood and gore at times and a constant feeling of looming danger. But TJ is also not afraid of including moments of wit and laughter and happiness. A little peace in the eye of the storm.
This story has grabbed me from the first page to the last (which ends in a cliffhanger, but the next book is just around the corner).
I really fell in love with all these characters: Cavalo, bad dog, the crazy prison roboter SERS and even that psychopath Cavalo takes as prisoner.
I hope you enjoy it as well and if you already did, I hope you are as excited as I am about reading book two very soon. Don’t miss the cover reveal and blurb of ‘Crisped + Sere’ below 😉
9.5/10 Pots of Gold (95% Recommended) – Compares to 4.75/5 Stars
How did you come up with the idea for ‘Withered + Sere’? A loner, who is losing his mind and thinks his dog is talking to him, a crazy prison robot and a cannibalistic psychopath seem to be a very unique and unexpected cast of characters for one of your books.
The idea for W+S started out as something completely different. I had an idea for a desperately lonely man who “talked” to his dog and made up a voice in response to his own questions. It was supposed to be a comedy. And then a little twisted idea got into my head: what if the man actually thought the dog was talking to him? Like, legitimately responding to him, and only he could hear? I wanted to run with the idea, but it didn’t fit within the contemporary mold. I’d been fiddling about with a post-apocalyptic idea, so I decided to combine the two, and that’s the basic genesis of Cavalo and Bad Dog. The other characters grew from those two.
A post-apocalyptic story usually explores what’s left of humanity after a catastrophe destroys the world as we know it right now. Which barely repressed negative aspects of humanity would you suspect to break out in people after such an event and which positive aspects would give you hope?
I think you need to look to what happens when major riots occur. There are always looters, people destroying property, people hurting others. It’s odd, really, because most people go through their everyday lives acting like normal people, but you put them in a situation where a mob mentality forms—or a type of “group think”—and all bets are off. People who might not otherwise do something so terrible find themselves caught up in the moment, acting in ways that are considered shocking.
But I do tend to believe in the good of most people, so I think after the terribleness of it all, people would choose to band together.
There are some wonderful illustrations by Blake Dorner in ‘Withered + Sere’. How did this collaborations come about and will we see more illustrations in the next book?
I’ve known Blake for a few years through social media, when he sent me fan art he’d drawn for my novel Burn. When preparing W+S and its sequel, Crisped + Sere, I knew I wanted to take the story one step further, and the idea of illustrating it came to mind. I reached out to Blake to see if he wanted to work together, and he proceeded to blow me away with his talent.
And yes, Crisped + Sere is also illustrated with six new drawings, and even though it shouldn’t be possible, he exceeded even what he’d accomplished with the first book. Out of all the drawings he did, my top three favorites are in Crisped + Sere.
Cavalo, the main character, has a very tragic past and it was easy for me to understand why his sanity would unravel. However, I have been wondering if the ‘ghosts’ he sees are just a figment of his imagination and memory or if they are guiding him in some way. They seem like externalized consciences, trying to lead him to different conclusions. Are they open for interpretation or will we explore this aspect of the book further in the sequel and find out more?
W+S was originally conceived as one novel, but when I wrote it, I realized it’d become much too large for a single book. The whole story doesn’t necessarily reveal what these supposed ‘ghosts’ are. I wanted to leave that up to the reader’s interpretation, much like if Cavalo could actually hear Bad Dog speaking back to him.
It’s scary to me, how likely it seems that humanity will destroy itself in the end. Given how many weapons of mass destruction there are in the world, do you think the fate for humanity you envisioned in your book will one day come to pass or do you think we have learned enough from the past to not start another world war and to leave those weapons where they are?
I don’t think the world would end in some kind of nuclear war. I think if that were to occur, it would have happened already. If I really thought about it, I’d think the world had a better chance of falling to some kind of biological hazard or some natural event. It’s cool, though. If there’s an asteroid coming, all we have to do is hire Michael Bay and Bruce Willis.
Would the characters in your book be better off in small, rural communities or with a new central government?
The smaller, rural communities, for sure. The whole point of these two books is about the little guy rising up against a much larger force. Plus, I don’t think Bad Dog would do to well in a government-controlled facility.
After losing his wife and son to tragic circumstances, do you think there is anything Cavalo wouldn’t do to keep his new family safe – even if two of them might end up killing him?
That’s the crux of the deal with Cavalo. Initially, he comes across as cold and calculating. He seems to lack empathy, which could possibly lead to a diagnosis of sociopathy if the world hadn’t fallen. That’s what I wanted the initial reaction for the reader to have of Cavalo, almost to the point where they might actively dislike him or, at the very least, distrust him as a character. However, slowly but surely, I wanted to show that there was more to Cavalo then his seemingly cold exterior. I do believe he would do anything for SIRS and Bad Dog. In fact, in Crisped + Sere, we see just how far he’ll go for them, and Lucas.
Cavalo has developed a lot as character within this book. He started as complete loner, with little interest in others or their fate and turned into someone, who found the potential for new love and is willing to fight for a new future that seems suddenly possible. In the end of the book, he has seen real hope and suffered a crushing betrayal. How will he be affected by these twists going into the next book?
Cavalo will be forced to step outside his self-imposed exile and will need to make the decision if he wants to leave the town of Cottonwood to its fate, or become the leader they are searching for. He is going to battle within himself over this, but I think he’ll make the right decision in the end.
There is a game-changing cliffhanger at the end of book one, so readers will be glad to know that book two is already written and will be out very soon. Will book two conclude this story, or should we expect more books within this universe?
Crisped + Sere gives a definitive happy ending to the story started in Withered + Sere. However, it does leave a few questions dangling. Withered + Sere starts is set in Autumn. Crisped + Sere is subtitled Winter. I do have plans for Spring and Summer, but that’s a little bit down the road. But for purposes of the arc started in W+S, the sequel completes it. The two other books would be the start of something new, which is hinted at by the end of Crisped + Sere. The world is a much bigger place than the prison and Cottonwood.
Which other new releases or projects do you have right now and which books of yours will be treated with a sequel in the near or far future?
Wolfsong came out June 20th, and is my first shifter story.
Crisped + Sere is out August 23rd from Dreamspinner Press Publications, and is currently up for pre-order HERE.
Murmuration is coming October from Dreamspinner. This is a book I’ve been very secretive about, and cannot wait for people to read. It’s the most romantic thing I’ve written, but it’s going to knock readers for a loop.
In 2017, I have confirmed Until You, the third book after TMIR and Queen. After that is the sequel to The Lightning-Struck Heart, a book called A Destiny of Dragons. I’m almost done with the third book too, tentatively titled The Consumption of Magic. I also have a novella called Olive Juice, which…well. Wookiee Cry Face will be the words to describe that book.
Bonus Question: Which of the characters in ‘Withered + Sere’ was the most fun for you to write and why?
Bad Dog. I will always love Bad Dog, because he is the bright and shining beacon in the darkness that is the end of the world. The books are dark, but he helps to keep them afloat.
Thanks for having me!
When TJ Klune was eight, he picked up a pen and paper and began to write his first story (which turned out to be his own sweeping epic version of the video game Super Metroid—he didn’t think the game ended very well and wanted to offer his own take on it. He never heard back from the video game company, much to his chagrin). Now, over two decades later, the cast of characters in his head have only gotten louder, wondering why he has to go to work as a claims examiner for an insurance company during the day when he could just stay home and write.
Since being published, TJ has won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Romance, fought off three lions that threatened to attack him and his village, and was chosen by Amazon as having written one of the best GLBT books of 2011.
And one of those things isn’t true.
(It’s the lion thing. The lion thing isn’t true.)
Comment on this post for the chance to win:
- [Three Winners] an eBook copy of ‘Withered + Sere’
- [Three Winners] an audiobook of ‘How to be a Normal Person’
Every comment you leave on any post on Rainbow Gold Reviews this month (July 2016) will give you an additional entry.
You need to be 18 years or older to participate in this giveaway. Void where prohibited. Etc.
This giveaway will end on July 31st at 11:59 PM CDT. Good Luck!
(24 readers entered this giveaway and I went through all comments made by each commenter in July. I counted 60 entries, listed them below and used random.org to draw 6 numbers between 1 and 60 to find random winners. The winning entries are 40, 17, 44, 53, 10, 4. Congrats to the winners and thanks for playing )
Popecat (4) -> ‘How to be a Normal Person’ audiobook
James K (6)
Lisa B. (7)
Heather Reed (8)
Cornelia (10) -> ‘How to be a Normal Person’ audiobook
Aralyn (11-39) -> ‘How to be a Normal Person’ audiobook
Michael Thompson (40) -> ‘Withered + Sere’ eBook
Tim K (41)
Aldo Otilio Islas Sanchez (42)
susana (43-44) -> ‘Withered + Sere’ eBook
Teresa McDonald (45)
Lee Todd (46-48)
Jason Williams (49)
Mai (53) -> ‘Withered + Sere’ eBook
Pommawolf WWolfweep’s (57)
Jennie LovesBooks (58)
Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight (59)
C Martin (60)