Friday, May 4, 2012

Lyle Blake Smythers Talks about his new novel, Feasting With Panthers/Book Giveaway

Today, I welcome Lyle Blake Smythers to Immortyl Revolution.  Lyle has graciously offered a copy of his novel to one lucky commenter! 

We are going to be giving away a free copy of the novel, either a print edition or an e-book, to one of the readers of this blog. Interested readers should leave a comment here that includes their email address. Lyle will select the most intriguing poster to be the winner. The deadline to enter this contest is May 11, 2012 at 11:59 p.m. EST.  Readers who follow me during this entire virtual book tour and post at each blog stop will be entered for a drawing to win a print of the outstanding cover art by Duncan Eagleson.

We found the first one-eyed man at dawn...

So begins the highly original fantasy tale of warrior poet Catalan, when he and his band stumble upon a handsome acolyte near death in a mountain pass. But when the acolyte reveals his mystical vision, the poet finds himself at the center of a War Game between two mysterious
sorcerers. To unravel the mystery, Catalan and the agents of the War Game must seek the missing pieces of an enchanted chess set in a quest complicated by deceit and treachery, in which nothing is what it seems.


The original kernel that gave life to some of the multiple plotlines came from an old edition of the Arabian Nights I found as a child.  My family was traveling through the mountains of southwest  Virginia, on our way to visit relatives near Galax,  and we stopped in a tiny hamlet called Fancy Gap.  We wandered into a used furniture place that had a table of used books for sale.  I picked up an old copy of the Andrew Lang retellings, one with terrific illustrations.  Soon I was riveted by the great stories inside.  I was already  familiar with the well-known  ones about Sinbad the Sailor, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, and Aladdin, but soon I got to lesser-known ones that were equally intriguing.  One that really interested me described a porter in Baghdad who carried a package home for a customer and found himself mingling with strange visitors in her house, men who had missing eyes and shaved heads.  Each had his own story to tell, and wondrous stories they were. 

Even in elementary  school, I had started to write my own stories.  Adventure stories, science fiction, my own version of Tarzan tales, bizarre people and creatures hidden in darkest Africa.  Somewhere along the way I resolved to find a way to retell some of these stories of one-eyed men and the dangers they had faced and overcome.  Fast forward some thirty years.
I was visiting a friend in Baltimore and we went to a Star Trek convention.  At this point I had started to tinker with an outline for the Arabian nights novel but was getting nowhere.  I wanted a unifying thread more significant than just a chance encounter with strangers in a strange house.  At the con they were showing a variety of fantasy/SF movies and I ended up in LADYHAWKE, the medieval fantasy story of two lovers trying to find each other again while under two very different shape-shifting curses.  What caught my attention was the motivation behind the person who put them under their spells:  They had been cursed out of REVENGE.  I had it.  My characters would be subjected to the horrible perils they faced because a powerful magician was wreaking revenge.  On whom?  And why?  It didn’t take me long to work that out.  And my book was born.

I wanted to work within the framework of standard heroic fantasy but add fresh elements to give the reader an experience never felt before. Not just sorcerers and a quest (they are there) but a hallucinogenic drug, green snow, a boy turned into a monkey, a convention of puppeteers, an outdoor festival where people come to see a magic trick only performed once a year. Also bloody revenge.  I started to have fun with it.

My love of language, basically my ongoing love affair with words, led me to using four different narrators, each with his own voice, which I tried to make as distinctive and vivid as possible.  I also ended up weaving in snippets of description and quotations from some of my favorite authors, from Shakespeare to Faulkner.  As I recently commented on the Pink Narcissus Press Facebook page, I read widely and steal from people who are dead.

Oh, and about the title.  When I was in grad school, getting the Master’s in Library Science that carried me into the professional field of books and more books, I saw a PBS documentary on Oscar Wilde.  It was entitled “Feasting With Panthers,” a phrase I immediately seized upon.

As many people know, Wilde was convicted and imprisoned as a sexual outlaw.  Writing from prison, he said this of his sexual encounters with boys or young men half his age:

“They, from the point of view through which I, as an artist in life approached them, were delightfully suggestive and stimulating.  It was like feasting with panthers.  The danger was half the excitement.  I used to feel as the snake-charmer must feel when he lures the cobra.  They were to me the brightest of gilded snakes.  Their poison was part of their perfection.” 
I knew that I had to use that title somewhere, somehow.  It wasn’t until I was well launched on my fantasy adventure, with its unusually large sentry cats, that it occurred to me where the title belonged.  Once I had made that decision, I found myself using the image of a large dangerous creature as a symbol several places in the narrative, notably during the climax.  And, yes, there is blood.

I hope that you will join me on this strange journey.

Right now Feasting can be pre-ordered from Barnes and Noble and from my publisher at Pink Narcissus Press.  It will be available shortly on Amazon.  I can be reached on Facebook.

Lyle is on tour with the Virtual Book Tour Cafe', and you can follow HERE

A very big thanks to Lyle for joining me today!  

Tomorrow, Sexy Cedric will be back to share some tidbits of his new urban fantasy adventures in Servant of the Goddess and Annals of the Immortyls.


Denise Verrico said...

Lyle, thanks so much for sharing your fascinating journey! I was intrigued by the Wilde quote. I'm an admirer of Wilde's writing. People ask me in interviews if there is one historical figure Id like to have to dinner, and I always say Oscar Wilde. I love all his witty sayings, such as, "All of us are in the gutter, but some of us are looking to the stars".
Your book sounds like a great read!

Michelle/Cedar said...

Hey you! I've always known you were in a love affair with language, but until recently didn't know that you were a writer. This is fascinating, where things start and how they germinate. It would be fascinating if I didn't know you but is somehow even MORE FASCINATING because I do.

bn100 said...

Very interesting title and cover. I enjoyed the post and finding out more about the inspiration for the book. It sounds very intriguing.


marybelle said...

I read the ARABIAN NIGHTS as a child. They were incredibly foreign in every sense. They took me to places that stretched my imagination & beyond.

What an inspiration to take with you through to adulthood & your writing.


Lyle Blake Smythers said...

Thanks for the comments, folks. It makes me feel that I'm not talking into the void. Or the abyss that Nietzsche wrote about.

Yes, I do find it interesting how we see and read things that stay with us for such a long time, frequently in the subconscious.

Stay tuned for an announcement of the winner of the free book.