Name: V. S. Holmes
Where are you from: New Hampshire originally, though I travel throughout the North East US for work now.
A little about yourself `ie your education Family life etc :
I’m a gender-queer archaeologist, author, and explorer. I live in a Tiny House with the amazing artist Jacob Carignan and Cricket, our weird alien disguised as a cat. I went to school at the University of New Brunswick and Keene State College studying Leadership, Biology and Archaeology. I do Cultural Resource Management as a full-time contract archaeologist throughout the northeastern U. S.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
2016 is going to be a great year. Vitality Magazine’s January issue included a short science fiction piece I wrote, called Starfall. Travelers, the first of my archaeological sci-fi series, the Nel Bently Books, will be released Feburary 27th. The second book in my Reforged Series, Lightning and Flames will be out in May.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve created stories for as long as I can remember. I started writing the stories down in grade school. I lived out in the woods with few kids my age nearby, and writing was a way to bring my imagination to life and add magic to the world around me.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I started working on the piece that is now Smoke and Rain. It was the first time that I wrote with serious aim to make it into something for the world to read.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Though I wrote many “books” beforehand, Smoke and Rain was really the first. I saw an image in National Geographic of these beautiful ruins in a desert. That image birthed the ruins of Cehn in the first few chapters of the book.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I like quietly powerful writing. Writing that both speaks and sings, as a good friend explains, is the best. I’ve never been a fan of first-person, so my writing is often in third-person limited, though I’ve written shorter pieces in second person.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
For the Reforged Series I drew on the elements that run strongest through the book — in Smoke and Rain, for instance, the title references both the powers that are growing in some of the protagonists, but also the obstacles that bar their way.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Honestly, I mostly hope readers find a good story, characters they can relate to, and some measure of peace or escape from their own lives. Though there isn’t a specific message, there is a lot of undertones concerning the power of being human and what it means to love and loose.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
Depends on your meaning. The Reforged series is fantasy, so the world itself — the cultures, the people, the technology — is technically completely fabricated. However, I draw from our world. I write characters who struggle from mental disorders that are prevalent in our world, and the clothing, weapons, and environments have all been inspired by hundreds of real-world aspects.
The Nel Bently Books are set in this world and the archaeology is all based on my own career — including some of the more colorful characters!
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Many of the characters I write have echoes of people I know — both good and bad. I study people, and the details of their lives and personalities are certainly fodder. I try to make the characters as real as the people in this world.
Fiona: What books have influenced your life most? A mentor?
Tamora Pierce writes YA books with incredible characters. Reading her work in middle school really influenced my writing and my sense of self. It’s tough to pick just a few books, but some that have recently impacted me are Black Blade Blues (J. A. Pitts), The Blue Sword (Robin Mckinley), The Name of the Wind (Patrick Rothfuss), The Art of Asking (Amanda Palmer).
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Currently I’m reading The Tourmaline, the second book in a series by Paul Park, The Sea of Storms, the first in Mark Whiteway’s Lodestone series, and Gardens of the Moon which is the first in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I’m constantly discovering new authors through social media. Cameron J. Quinn writes face-paced urban fantasy and romance. She just started her Starsboro Chronicles, and puts out a new short “episode” each month. Amy Spitzfaden writes some great magical realism and all of the authors associated with New England Independent Writers are fantastic.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I’m finishing the final edits of Lightning and Flames and drafting the third book in the series, Madness and Gods, as well as outlining Drifters, the second Nel Bently Book.
Fiona: Name one person that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My critique partner and marketer at Amphibian Press, Marissa Frosch and my critique partner Tanvi Berwah.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Certainly, though it is currently secondary to my career as an archaeologist.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Not really — I spent so many years developing it and that dedication really paid off. I would love to see it in a mass-market size, though! I love the “nerd-nugget” space of mass market formats.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I can’t be sure, though I do remember wanting to write down all the adventures I had with my dog and teddy bear when I was about seven. That’s when I started spending a lot of my free time writing.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I’d love to! This is from Madness and Gods, the third book in the Reforged series.
The wind off the sea bore too many teeth for summer, but it’s bluster was now mostly show. Bren shrugged deeper into his cloak with a sigh. Twenty years ago his body would not have noticed the change in weather. Now I run for the hearth at the most balmy of winds. He leaned on the ramparts, eyes narrowed on the open ocean to the west. The island of Le’yan still glowered off shore, its shores barren. He refused to meet the caverns in its black cliffs that seemed like the isles eyes.
War. He had avoided it for twenty achingly beautiful years. Now it slavered at his doorstep again. He scraped a hand through the stiff grey brown of his receding hair.
“Pa, there’s a warrior here to see you.” The young man was as tall as Bren, but had a slighter build.
Bren glanced over his shoulder. “Can it wait, Al?”
Alleanthus shrugged and jogged up the remaining steps to the lean on the wall beside his father. “Is it the war?”
“I’m not ready to go back to that life.”
“You don’t have to. You’re an ambassador, not the Military.”
Bren laughed softly. “You were always as direct as your mother.”
“Don’t call her that.”
Bren’s mouth tightened, but he allowed the retort. “I don’t fear war just because I think I’ll be called back. I know I won’t. Your Ma will do fine. War destroys things, things you don’t see or miss until it’s far too late to reclaim them.”
“If I wanted dark thoughts I would have written to An’thor.”
Bren snorted wryly. “Insolent boy.”
Bren smiled at the familiar banter. “Where’s your brother?”
“Training. He’s got it into his head that he’ll be champion at the head of an army.”
“Where does he find these ideas. Toar, I never should have read you both those legends.”
“I doubt it was the legends in the books, Pa, that inspired him.” Alleanthus leveled his dark eyes on Bren. “It’s the ones you lived.” He shoved off of the wall with a sigh and ran a hand through his thick black hair, his fingers echoing the path of his father’s. “Best not keep her waiting.”
Bren nodded and followed his son down into the modest manor. “When Azimir’s through with training I want to see both of you over lunch.” He waited until the young man had disappeared before stepping into the study. The light was stark, but strong. He smiled at the warrior perched on the window sill. “I wondered if it was you.”
“And I wonder if you’re mad.” Reka’s dark eyes narrowed on his grey ones. “I leave you for fifteen years and you start a war.”
“Sixteen. Azimir is sixteen.”
Her features softened for a moment. “Are they well?”
“Yes, though you don’t seem to care.” As long as they were trading barbs, he would start their old argument again.
“Bren, they’re your children, and the children of your wife, even if she couldn’t birth them. I only bore them for her. I care about them because you do, but I’m not their mother.” She slid off the window sill and sank into the chair across the desk from his. “Please, I’m not interested in this argument. I actually came to bring news.”
“From Athrolan?” Bren shucked off his cloak and propped his head on his clasps hands.
“Partly. I’m a fair deal hungry, though.”
“Toar, of course.” When Bren had ordered food for her and drinks for them both, he returned to his desk, a battered officer’s log open before him. He had an extensive intelligence network, many branches of which were unaware of others. Reka would always be the best of his officers, though she flatly refused any title.
“Athrolan is shifting. The queen’s illness has changed the streets. There’s violence and darkness on those streets that I haven’t seen before. I have a theory, but it is just a shadow.” She fingered the faded butterfly tattooed on her nose. “I think the Tzatia is dead.”
Bren gaped at her, dark brows advancing on his greying hair. “You can’t be serious. She wrote me just two weeks ago. It wasn’t as keen as her usual letters, but she’s weak. Surely we’d know if the city was suddenly grieving.”
“Bren, I don’t think the city knows either.”
He sat back, arms crossed over his chest. “Explain yourself.”
“I saw An’thoriend often. He is a drinker, but his habit is usually nursed in moderation and privacy. It was late in the evening, close to midnight. The queen’s handmaiden — the one who had attended her night and day for weeks — was dismissed. She looked frightened, not worried. Not even an hour later, An’thoriend emerged. He was drunk and weeping. He sat on the stoop of the Royal mausoleum until close to dawn.”
“And that told you Her Majesty had passed? I think An’thor just fears it. From what little he had shared, they are quite close.”
“Brentemir, you pay me to understand people, to see into their minds without a single word shared. Trust me, what I saw was grief, not fear, not anxiety, but cold, fathomless grief.”
Bren frowned at his log, thin lips twisted. He did not look up when Reka’s meal was brought, or when his serving man delivered a steaming mug of tea. “I hoped they would back us,” he finally murmured.
“In war against Ban? They will be pressed to stop civil war, let alone a pretentious war over another man’s business.”
“Slavery is not another man’s business.”
“When you blunder in and kill most of the people who are slaves it should be. But I do not wish to discuss politics. You and I will never agree.”
Bren smiled at the softness in her eyes. “I’m glad you keep me focused. I never could do this without your friendship. You said ‘partly,’ do you bring news from Ban?”
“No, and I won’t until Yun reports back. He’s already three weeks over due and I fear the worst. I bring news from the south.”
Reka put her fork down and leaned forward, her eyes holding his unwaveringly. “Bren, I think I found them.”
Bren’s face darkened, his features falling under a shadow of betrayal. He wordlessly reached into his desk drawer and poured a generous portion of wraith into his tea. He took two deep sips before meeting her eyes. “You think. If you tell me you found Alea then you damn well better be certain. You better have spoken to her yourself or I’ll never believe it. You’ve thought you found them twice before. My heart can’t take another.”
“No, this time I’m certain, Bren.”
“There’s a village a day’s ride from the Hartland. They told me about a man who trades with them twice a year. I waited for weeks, but he finally arrived. I did not speak to him, but I saw him. It’s Arman. He seemed healthy and happy. He shared banter with several shop-keeps. He bought a beautiful pin, one fit for a woman with grey eyes.”
Bren scrubbed his face with his shaking hands. Twenty years. Twenty years without her and now I’ve finally found her. His pulse clattered in his neck and chest. “Toar, she’s alive. After so much time I had started to fear….”
“There’s more.” Reka’s mouth curled. “They have a child, and he’s on his way to Athrolan.”
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Finding time is a obvious issue, especially working 40-60 hours a week during the digging season. I’m also a major world-builder, so knowing when to just let the words do their job and leave it up to the readers’ imaginations is something I struggle with.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I could never pick a favorite, but the aforementioned influential authors are certainly on the list. I also love Diana Rowland’s White Trash Zombie books. She does a fantastic job with pacing. Other authors deserving of mentions (mostly for world building and strong characters) are Sherwood Smith (for Crown Duel), Noel-Anne Brennan (The Sword of the Land), Jude Fisher (Fool’s Gold), and Jon Courtenay Grimwood (Stamping Butterflies)
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I travel a lot for work, so finding neat people and small towns is pretty easy for me. I lot of those aspects have been woven into my worlds.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The cover art for the Reforged series was done by an amazing artist Ben R. Donahue (www.bendonahueart.com). The covers for the Nel Bently Books were done by me. The cover layouts for both series I did myself.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Knowing when it’s done.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned how complex people are. I learned how incredibly valuable it is to have a community around you that shares your passion and interest.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Find a community. Listen to what other authors have to say. Read. And above all, keep writing.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I hope you find a part of yourself in my writing and my characters.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I remember reading Bambi’s Children by Felix Salten in fourth grade, and my dad read The Hobbit to me at a young age. I’m sure there were earlier ones, but they’ve been lost.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
The beauty and power of humans. The vastness of space. Incredible music.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
That’s a tough one. I think I’ll have to say Carl Sagan.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
I’m not much of a funeral person. I’m hoping natural burials are legal throughout the U. S. by the time I die, but if not, I’d like my headstone to say something that would make my loved ones smile or laugh. Something that would bring them comfort.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I’m a gamer — tabletop (the Final Age System is my favorite) and video gaming (WoW, Fez, and Battlefront II being a few of my favorites).
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
We don’t own a TV and rarely tune into Netflix, so my tastes are a bit dated. I enjoy the X-Files, BBCs Sherlock, Doctor Who, Cosmos, Bones, and Walking with Dinosaurs / Prehistoric Beasts.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
I love good sushi and authentic Japanese cuisine, though I will never turn down a good, medium-rare steak. Reds, browns and other earth tones are my favorite (they match the red hair). I’ll listen to almost anything, music wise, from underground rap to instrumental soundtracks, to trance.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Well I’ve got my other dream career right now. In another lifetime, though, I would have loved to be a pilot and astronaut.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I do. My website is https://www.vs-holmes.com and I post book reviews and interviews on https://vsholmes.wordpress.com . I can also be found on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/vs-holmes), Twitter (@VS_Holmes), Instagram (@VS_Holmes ), and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/authorvsholmes ).
Amazon author Page: