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Monday, 29 February 2016

FREE Kindle Book Promo & Interview - The Awakening of James Island by Alex Pilalis

The Awakening of James Island
Author: Alex Pilalis
Genre: Fantasy Adventure
Publisher: Solstice Publishing
Pages: 260 (Paperback)
Language: English (UK spelling)
Format: Kindle, Paperback

Book Description:
After awakening two years earlier as a fully grown man, James Island has managed to make a life for himself in the city he found himself in. Until the day a lost young alien named Evan Goodheart appears, claiming to be on a mission sent by the gods, who have named James as his aid.

Despite trepidation, James finds an affinity with the lost and bewildered Evan and takes it upon himself to help him find his way; all while attempting to maintain some order in the life he's made and his construction work responsibilities. Throughout the course of the day James will come to realise the extent of Evan’s claims of their fates being entwined, as the truth of his unknown past is revealed to him.

Island Legends is set in a galaxy reeling from devastating wars, filled with countless alien species, a rich history of powerful magical forces and the interventions of many gods and dangerous spirits and demons constantly at war.

FREE on Amazon Feb 29th - Mar 4th

Buy Links:
Amazon US ¦ Amazon UK

Author Interview

1. What inspired you to write your first book?
Being a big science fiction and fantasy fan, and heavily inspired by classic adventure stories such as The Lord of the Rings, the Star Wars films and Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, I felt a great urge to tell my own story. A long time ago, I started developing the adventures of James Island as a computer game concept, and to this day have amassed hundreds of A4 pages, several filled notepads, dozens of word documents and even its own Wiki, collecting all the ideas and images of the world as it progressed and became what it is today.

The narrative of The Awakening of James Island is partially based off of the Heroes Journey (although most stories are) and maintains some of its computer game concept origins, in the sense of a group of characters going on a long and dangerous journey in the vein of a Final Fantasy RPG game.

2. Do you have a specific writing style?
I’ve never spent much time studying how to write, or trying to have my own authors voice, but I’ve learned a lot through reading different genres of novels and having my writing critiqued and edited. It was more of a trial by fire for me, writing from a young age and figuring out what kind of style works well and what makes writing weak. I’ve learned that I naturally stick to one POV at a time, and have realised that I tend to stick to real-time events – the entire first book of the Island Legends series takes place in one day. I’ve had some people who read a lot of books compare my writing somewhat to other fantasy authors, but I wouldn’t dare compare myself to established authors at this stage! 

3. How did you come up with the title for your book?
In the wise words of the great Marge Simpson, ‘Titles are hard!’ It took me years to come up with a fitting title for the book, as I knew that it was just the start of a much bigger adventure, so I needed a series title plus a book title. And coming up with a series title was the hardest part. I settled with Island Legends as I figured that the series is mainly focused on the Island family, with James Island being the main protagonist. The book title, The Awakening of James Island, came a little more naturally, as I liked the grandiose sound of it. I’ve heard people wonder if the title refers to a person or an actual island, and I like the ambiguity that creates intrigue.

4. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I wanted the story to make people think about who people really are, and what it means to actually be someone. I find people and social interactions fascinating, about giving away parts of ourselves in conversation, and how another person uses that information. James Island is a particularly special character as he has only known a two year life, having woken up one day as a fully functioning grown man. I tried to get into his head as much as I could and figure out what kind of person he would be in that situation.

Along with the fantasy genre tropes of magic and high adventure, it is also a story of self-discovery, particularly for James, and seeks to delve deep into the human psyche to ask such questions as ‘what does it truly mean to know who we are?’ and ‘how important are our past memories for shaping who our present selves are?’ I like to think of it as a character study, inspired by the varied and flawed characters forced to survive together on the television series Lost, or the daily lives of the intricate characters in Mad Men.

5. How much of the book is realistic?
I’d like to think a lot of it. Even though it’s set in a big galaxy full of aliens and magic and gods, the first book in particular is quite grounded, mostly set in one desert city. I think that, whatever the story, the characters are the most important element, and they have to be realistic and interesting. Even if we can’t relate to them specifically, we have to empathise and want to know more about them.

Spending many summer holidays visiting family in Cyprus, I’ve also drawn on my experiences there to help shape the world that James lives in, forming a culture and lifestyle of a race of desert people similar to a Mediterranean culture, from a skewed fantasy perspective, which I think helps to add a certain realistic aspect.

6. What book are you reading now?
These days I’m mostly reading unpublished stories or works in progress, either on or on The latter is particularly helpful at the moment to receive feedback on the second book I’m writing, the continuation of the Island Legends series.

I’m also reading a novel recently published by a fellow author, Samantha Alban, called A Life Without Living. It’s a paranormal romance novel about eternal love and the dark forces trying to prevent two lovers being together.

When I eventually find the time, I intend on finally starting Mistborn, by Brandon Sanderson

7. Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
The author I probably look up to the most right now is Steven Erikson and his Malazan Book of the Fallen series. They are undoubtedly the most epic high fantasy stories I have ever read, with a depth and scope that is unparalleled to any other.

I’m a big Stephen King fan. If anyone hasn’t read his Dark Tower series, his most fantastical and epic work, I’d strongly recommend it. Especially if you’re familiar with his other work. I highly respect J. K. Rowling for the Harry Potter series, and the way those books exploded with popularity, especially given the situation she was in while she wrote the first book. I love Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy too, a very mature and fascinating world that can also be seen as a children’s series – just ignore the terrible film adaptation of the first book!

As for new authors, I’m a bit out of touch with what’s currently out there, but have many favourite unpublished authors on writing websites.

8. What are your current projects?
Oof – so many! Along with promoting and marketing The Awakening of James Island, which is a full time job on its own (on top of my full time job), I’m currently near the end of the first draft of the second book, tentatively titled Echoes of the Past. I’m also going through a final polish pass of a short story I’m looking to publish, called The Lost Hero. I have another short story coming out as part of a Valentines anthology series from my publisher - a somewhat tongue-in-cheek high fantasy romance, called Custody of the World. And when I finally decide to slow down my novel writing, I have a few children’s TV shows and short film ideas to develop and pitch, in the hopes of getting something produced.

9. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
It was around ten years ago that I actually started writing the story as a novel – writing very on and off, some years with zero words – until I finally completed it at the end of 2014, having written it pretty much on my own, with little training or knowledge of how to actually write well. So going from having little idea of the differences between good writing and bad writing, I like to think I’ve learned a lot over the years. I uploaded the book onto Wattpad shortly after I discovered the site, and gained invaluable feedback on the writing and story. Through lots of rewriting and polishing, and finding that it still needed A LOT more work, I worked with a Copy Editor named Melissa Manes, who looked over the chapters, giving the novel its first professional touch. Through my own edits and with Melissa’s great advice, the final edit removed about 10,000 words to the original manuscript, while still keeping the same story and character development – that’s the power of editing!

So, I’d say that from writing this book, I learned how to write! (With a lot more still to learn, of course.)

10. What were the challenges (research, psychological etc) in bringing your story to life?
I had the story planned out, and knew who the characters were on a surface level, but knew that if I was going to write a novel, I would have to really delve into these characters heads and figure how who they were and what they would really do in the situations they’re in. Doing so did change the events of the story, in some big ways but mostly in a lot of small ways.

I looked into the different forms of memory loss, to better understand James, as well as looked into construction sites and their work methods to get a clearer picture of his work life. I found that the more time I spent with these characters, the better I understood them, and when I went through later drafts I found that their dialogue and actions would feel ‘wrong’ in some instances, and they almost told me what they would do themselves. It’s a strange thing to comprehend, and to explain, but it kind of is like knowing actual people and learning more about them, and finding that your characters can surprise you just as much as real people. The trick was being open enough to listen to them.

About the Author
After completing an Art Foundation course and a BA in Digital Arts, Alex Pilalis pursued his interest of animation with an MSc in Computer Animation and an online course with Animation Mentor. He is currently an animator on children's television shows.

Alex began his publishing journey with two children's story books, "Three Wishes" and "Where Dreams May Go," and was spurred on to write and create more.

Being an avid gamer, he spent the majority of his time growing up developing a video game adventure concept, and to this day has amassed hundreds of A4 pages, several filled notepads, dozens of word documents and a detailed Wiki, collecting all the ideas and images of the world as it progressed and became what it is today. Feeling the overwhelming need to bring the story to life and out into the ether, somehow, Alex decided to use his passion for writing and storytelling and turn the game into a novel, which has become Island Legends: The Awakening of James Island. Doing so has allowed him to delve into the character's minds and bring them to life so much more than he ever thought possible back when he was designing hit-point percentages of sword attack combinations, and the result is a much more mature and complicated story than his younger mind could have ever conceived.

Originally from London, Alex currently lives and works in Dublin, Ireland.

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