Thursday, August 26, 2021

6 Books with John Appel

John Appel is a former paratrooper, current swordsman, and life-long rum-drinker who writes SFF. He lives with is supportive and very tolerant family in Maryland.

Today at Nerds of a Feather, I ask John about his Six Books.

1. What book are you currently reading?

I generally have three books going at once: one in print, one e-book, and one audio. On audio right now, for walking and wood-work time, is RF Kuang's The Poppy War, which I've just started. The other two books in the trilogy are queued up right behind it. My current e-book read is Arkady Martine's fabulous A Desolation Called Peace, the sequel to A Memory Called Empire. I'm currently enjoying the swapping of places between Mahit and Three Seagrass from the first, with Three Seagrass being the visitor on Mahit's domain. And in a completely different vein, my print reading is Mission Furniture and How to Make It, by H.H. Windsor. It's a reprinting of three handbooks published by Popular Mechanics between 1909-1912 detailing how to build a variety of pieces, from side tables to chairs to full-sized cabinets and dining room tables.

2. What upcoming book are you really excited about?

Without a doubt, Matt Wallace's Savage Bounty, which came out July 20th. Matt's Savage Legion is a powerhouse epic fantasy that twists a lot of classic tropes like the rubber band in a toy airplane, and the action comes as fast as the spinning propeller. Savage Bounty promises more of the same. These books are also informed by our modern sense of the inherent injustice found in a lot of the things we see in traditional fantasy, and make for a refreshing change from the "we need to restore the royal line" plot we so frequently see. 

3. Is there a book you’re currently itching to re-read?

I'm seriously contemplating a re-read of the late great Kage Baker's "The Company" series, which features a group of immortal time-traveling cyborgs who work for Dr. Zeus Inc, a company in the future that has sent them back in time to recover artifacts lost in what Baker calls "event shadows," the unrecorded moments around great historical events. The series has some incredible characters and Baker's writing was sharp, often snarky, and frequently hilarious. If I had to pick one example from the series it would probably be Mendoza in Hollywood.

4. A book that you love and wish that you yourself had written.

I'd give up a redundant organ to have written Roger Zelazny's Doorways in the Sand, about a young man named Fred Cassidy whose uncle left him a generous stipend as long as he pursues a college degree - a process which Fred has stretched out for over a decade. Fred gets caught up in the disappearance of an alien artifact on loan to Earth as part of a cultural exchange and hijinks ensue. Fred's narration of events is done with incredibly deadpan hilariousness and at times a Douglas Adams-esque absurdity, and Zelazny's usual brilliant touch with language and imagery. 

5. What’s one book, which you read as a child or a young adult, that has had a lasting influence on your writing?

Probably Alistair MacLean's Force Ten from Navarone. I read a lot of MacLean's books as a youngster and the sense of action, the pacing, and the multiple layers of secrets found in his best works are definitely features in my own work. Along with that comes competent characters, people who are really good at what they do, who often are improvising because the situation they find themselves in has gone pear-shaped. In Force Ten for example, the question of "How do you destroy a bridge in German-occupied Yugoslavia when you've lost your explosives?" gets solved in a spectacular way.

6. And speaking of that, what’s your latest book, and why is it awesome?

My latest book is also my first! Assassin's Orbit  was published on July 20th, and if you look closely you can see where I've filed the serial numbers off of MacLean's underlying action/thriller model. The first aspect of which I'm especially proud is my cast of older female protagonists, all in their 40s to 60s, who have been there, done that, and don't have time for foolishness. These are MacLeanesque or possibly Heinleinesque heroes, highly capable and competent women who are doing their best under trying circumstances - but hopefully I've managed a more realistic depiction of women than my predecessors. I'm also particularly proud of the Exile Cluster, the universe I've created for the books, trying to make it feel truly lived-in and full of life beyond the bounds of the story in the book.

Thanks, John!

Find out more about Assassin's Orbit with my Nerds of a Feather Review.


POSTED BY: Paul Weimer. Ubiquitous in Shadow, but I’m just this guy, you know? @princejvstin.