Thursday, 3 October 2013

Spotlight: Serpent's Quest by Janrae Frank (ROYA #22)

Next week sees the release of Janrae Frank’s Serpent’s Quest in paperback.  As if that wasn’t exciting enough, I discovered earlier that it will be accompanied by six brand new illustrations.  Being in the fortunate position of having Janrae on my list of contacts, I managed to secure an interview with her, as well as acquiring a sneak preview at one of the new pictures (inset).  I should state now that this book is aimed at adults and should only be read by a mature audience. 

Serpent’s Quest is a fantasy tale of espionage as one racial group attempts to destabilize another in preparation for a greater war.” --Janrae Frank 

Brutal, intense and undeniably twisted, Serpent’s Quest is a tale of revenge veiled in a politically deviant power-struggle.  Malthus, infamously known as the Butchering Serpent, must infiltrate the Lycans on behalf of his masters. However, the quest to discover his brother’s murderer festers in his cruel heart, tainting every decision.  In the guise of a human, the necromancer Malthus leeches his way into the minds of the wolf folk and sets to destroying them from the inside out. There’s lots of blood, sinister magic involving rape, and innocent people are ripped apart both mentally and physically. It’s not a tale for the fainthearted.
I was intrigued to know just what had inspired Janrae to write such a gritty, grim story. “It's my metaphorical re-telling of events from the early stages of World War 2 and other conflicts,” she illuminated. “I suppose there are several themes actually in the book and the series it is part of. Loyalty, courage and sacrifice.”

Originally published in 2006 by Renaissance Ebooks,  Serpent’s Quest is the first book in the Lycan Blood series.   Earlier this week, I also discovered that after its initial release, it spent six weeks on the Fictionwise Dark Fantasy Bestseller list.  Such immediate success would normally be enough to bowl-over any writer, but Author Janrae Frank remains a literary skeptic. “There is no such thing as instant success,” she explains.  Turns out the shrewd old bird (I’m sure she won’t mind me calling her that) has her grandmother to thank for her outlook. “She told me that if your product is good enough, giving away samples would lead to increased sales… She also told me that for the first five years of a business, you have to put all of your profits back into it, even if you have to eat a diet of beans and rice doing it. And she was right about that too.”

Interestingly enough, I was able to obtain my ebook copy of Serpent’s Quest for only $1, which is roughly .72pence in GBP. However, anyone can read it for free, as it’s just finished being serialized at a chapter a time on Wattpad. I was keen to find out how effective Janrae found it as a marketing tool.   “I discovered Wattpad by reading the Publisher's Weekly's free newsletter so I decided to try it. Publisher’s Weekly thinks that Wattpad is the big next thing. But the final decision was based upon what my grandmother taught me about business.”

For those of you who don’t know, Serpent’s Quest is the first in a collection of series set on Daverana; another world where vampires, lycans and necromancers known as the sa’necari hold power.  These beings are not indigenous to this world, however, having been transported there long ago. There are no half-measures with these books. You cannot dip a proverbial toe into this world or skip to the sex scenes. You must immerse yourself in Daverana, and come to accept that, like our world, there’s only so much you will ever know at any given time. And there’s a hell of a lot to know, which isn’t surprising when you discover how long this world has existed in the mind of its author. 

“The first story was published in 1979 in Amazons edited by Jessica Amanda Salmonson (DAW books). It was also my first story of Chimquar the Lionhawk, a woman passing for male in a foreign patriarchal region while raising two children. The Lionhawk tales were collected in a print edition published by Wildside in 2004 are currently out of print. Serpent’s Quest came out in 2004/05.”  

Sixteen books and counting, with each series differing stylistically, Daverana has a long established history. I’ll admit to finding some of it a little convoluted, but that’s purely down to taste. Having read Blood Rites, the first in the Dark Brothers of The Light series, I was had an advantage. With regards to the political element, it serves merely as an undercurrent theme to what is essentially Dark Fantasy. “I always have themes underpinning my novels,” Janrae tells me, “But I'm careful not to let the themes drive the plot. There are several themes in this book and the series it is part of: Loyalty, courage and sacrifice.”

The new cover for Serpents Quest
Sex and rape are also recurrent themes in Serpent’s Quest, and there’s no getting away from it.  That being said, it isn’t as unnecessarily graphic, even though it is thoroughly gruesome.  Janrae’s approach when dealing with this subject matter is clear-cut. “I have a philosophy about sex scenes: people show their true natures when caught with their trousers down. The actual sex is secondary to the revelations it brings.”

It‘s rare to read a story told mainly from the villain’s perspective. Malthus is as smart as he is malevolent, which is makes him terrifying. While I was horrified by him, I found the experience somewhat refreshing. It’s been a long time since I’ve been frightened when reading a book, by a character or otherwise.  Janrae was able to satisfy my need to know more about him. 

“The beginnings of Malthus were in an early version of a Dark Brothers story. But I decided his tale did not belong there. I based him on a blend of Mithridates and Josef Mengeles, however, in the course of writing him I realized I was drawing heavily on members of my extended family for his character."

With four novels complete in rough draft, and the conclusion to her second lycan series, the trilogy Lycan Pride, we can expect a lot more from Janrae Frank. When probed, Janrae admitted to having a soft spot for another character in Serpent’s Quest: Cullen Blackwood, the lusty, foul-mouthed lycan . So much so, she’s hinted that there’s the possibility of her re releasing some of his escapades in print. “The best regarded of them is Whorehouse Devil,” Janrae revealed.  You heard it here first.

If you’d like to connect with her, or simply add her books to your To Read list, you can do so by accessing the links below. Make sure to keep look-out for the release of Serpents Quest next week.