Due to a successful partnership with Creative Edge of Saskatchewan in 2020, the Scribbler played host to accomplished authors selected by CE. It was so much fun for all involved, we are doing it again in 2021. Watch the last Saturday of each coming month for authors under the CE banner.
This month we are extremely pleased to have V.S. Holmes as our guest. Better known as V, they have graciously agreed to a Branching Out interview and are sharing an Excerpt from Heretics.
V. S. Holmes is an international bestselling author. They created the BLOOD OF TITANS series and the NEL BENTLY BOOKS. Smoke and Rain, the first book in their fantasy quartet, won New Apple Literary's Excellence in Independent Publishing Award in 2015 and a Literary Titan Gold in 2020. Travelers is also included in the Peregrine Moon Lander mission as part of the Writers on the Moon Time Capsule. In addition, they have published short fiction in several anthologies.
As a disabled and non-binary human, they work as an advocate and educator for representation in SFF worlds. When not writing, they work as a contract archaeologist throughout the northeastern U.S. They live in a Tiny House with their spouse, a fellow archaeologist, their not-so-tiny dog, and own too many books for such a small abode.
Allan: Thanks for being our guest this week, V. Before we chat about your novels and writing, you mentioned in our correspondence that you once lived in New Brunswick. Care to tell us about your time here in Atlantic Canada?
V: Thanks for having me! I lived in Fredericton, New Brunswick for a year during undergrad. I was attending Renaissance College at UNB at the time. While I opted for a more hands-on approach to learning and ultimately transferred back home, I loved the natural beauty of the Maritimes, particularly when visiting the Bay of Fundy.
|Photo by Bay Ferries Ltd.|
Allan: When I visit your website, I’m particularly intrigued by your novel – Blood of Titans – and the wonderful review that headlines the page. “The atmosphere surrounding this epic tale is intoxicatingly real… Holmes weaves a tapestry of the forthcoming events with the skill of a thaumaturge.” The San Francisco Review of Books. Wow! Can you tell us a bit about the novel but before you do, maybe you would like to clarify the word “thaumaturge?”
|Book one of the series.|
V: Blood of Titans is my dark, epic fantasy series. The first book is Smoke and Rain, which became an internationally bestselling fantasy in 2018. As for “thaumaturge,” it means magician! The series follows the--mostly--human characters who are caught in the crossfire of a war between the gods and the titanic creatures that created them. I delve into the psychological effects of war, loss, and sense of self through characters who experience dissociation, isolation, and other symptoms of PTSD within a fantasy setting.
Allan: What’s the one main thing about your writing or your novels you’d like to tell our readers about today?” Something new? Something amazing?
V: While my fans will already know this, new readers can expect imperfect heroes, and complex villains. I strive to craft worlds where marginalized characters--specifically queer and disabled ones--not only exist, but thrive. Something exciting that happened recently is an excerpt of Travelers, the first of my Stars Edge: Nel Bently Books, will be headed to the Moon! I was lucky enough to join the Writers on the Moon project, and both the excerpt and a poem I wrote will be included in the literary time capsule aboard the Peregrine Moon Lander Mission headed for Lacus Mortis on our Moon.
Allan: Please share a childhood memory or anecdote with us.
V: This is one of my favorite memories. Until I was about 10, we lived way out in the woods. There was very little light and so at night, my dad would set up his telescope on the balcony. We spent hours looking at all the craters on the Moon, pointing out the Pleiades and Canis and the Horsehead Nebula. Once, on a very cold winter night, my dad woke me up to glimpse a ribbon of the Aurora. He adored science and space so it was incredibly moving for me to be able to also include a memorial of him on the Peregrine mission.
|The Horsehead Nebula.|
Allan: Once more, referring to your website, you tell your readers and followers – “As a disabled and non-binary human, they work as an advocate and educator for representation in SFF worlds.” Would you like to expound on that statement?
V: Using my passion for world building and creativity to help advocate for people like myself was a natural progression for me. Like my bio states, I’m a trans non-binary person and I have a chronic degenertive disease and PTSD. The way our world currently views those things has affected how I navigate my life and it was a long time before I actually saw a person like me in fiction. Honestly, it was also through fiction where I finally started to find words for what I had always known about my gender. A lot of the portrayals of marginalized demographics in fiction are stereotypes and pretty harmful--it does a number on you when the only people you see represented are villains or the butt of the joke.
Since I am an author, I wanted to pay it forward and write about trans and disabled characters in a way that turned a lot of the bigoted tropes on their head. I also like to focus on stories where the characters are “casually” queer or disabled, but it’s not a main feature of the plot, since all of us, while trans, or gay, or disabled, or neurodivergent, have so many other interesting facets to our lives and personalities.
Allan: Tell us about your main character – Nel Bentley and her series. As an archeologist yourself, is there a bit of V.S. Holmes in this character?
|Book One in the Series.|
V: There’s a bit of me in all my work and characters, of course, but Nel is certainly the most similar on a superficial level, as we share a field of study and she’s queer. However, she’s a woman and lesbian and works in academic archaeology (I work in the contract sector). When her pristine dig site ends up at the center of an intergalactic feud, sceptic Nel is thrown into a world of high-tech and higher stakes. She’s a lot of fun to write! In this newest book, she returns to Earth to track down the victims of a deadly radio transmission while navigating her anger and frustration at an unjust world, and her complicated relationship with her mercurial--and alien--girlfriend, Lin.
Allan: Your stories have won awards, received tremendous reviews, etc. What has been your proudest moment being an author?
V: It’s been an incredible journey, and I’m so honored and humbled with each of these achievements, but I think the most powerful moments for me are when readers reach out to say that they saw themselves in my pages. Knowing I’ve helped them, that I showed that they weren’t alone, and that characters like us can fight the baddies and save the world without being the “perfect queer” or able-bodied is the best feeling. I remember the first time I saw a character that looked like me and I’m thrilled to pay that forward.
Allan; Anything else you’d like to share with us?
V: If folks would like to dive into the Blood of Titans or Stars Edge worlds, they can try two free short stories that are available on my website. The first is The Tempest, an epic fantasy survival story following Nubon, who’s tossed out to sea for a trial-by-leviathan to win her kingdom’s crown. The second is a prequel to Travelers, and follows the events leading up to the first book, but through Lin’s eyes as she struggles with her brother’s orders not to get involved with the archaeological site they’re monitoring on Earth.
**** To find this great offer from V - go HERE.
And, of course, if you’re into snarky queer sci-fi that leans toward space horror, Heretics, Nel’s fourth adventure hits stores on May 8th!
An Excerpt from Heretics.
(Copyright is held by the Author. Used with permission)
Stiffness woke Nel. She rolled her neck with a groan. “I don’t think I have the body for camping anymore,” she muttered, peering against the sunlight bathing her face. Somewhere above, a hideously cheerful bird chirped, and she fumbled for her sleeping bag zipper.
There was no sleeping bag. Or tent. Sunlight was beaming from mirrors and lamps just overhead. The chirping continued and she glared at the holographic message displayed over her wrist.
REMINDER: Shuttle Departure for Le Fe De Amor in T-105 minutes
She peered at the glowing red letters for a moment before parsing that if she didn’t hurry, she might miss saying goodbye.
“Fuck fuck fuck!” She scrambled to her feet and bolted to the nearest elevator shaft. Shoving through the doors, she jabbed at her communicator. No messages from Lin or Zach, or frankly anyone. Only one unread thread blinked in her inbox, and it was the four system reminders that she had apparently slept through. She swiped it clear and bounced on the balls of her feet, trying to blink exhaustion from her bleary eyes.
“C’mon,” she muttered to the elevator as the floors rolled past. Weight draped over her as the capsule hurtled outward. Another two seconds and it hummed to a halt at the residential level. She broke into a jog. Whatever she and Lin had was complicated, made even more so by the layers of their increasingly complex world and Nel’s own mercurial temper. But I’ll still miss her. More than she’d like to admit.
Tense voices slowed Nel’s steps as she rounded the last bend to Lin’s room. Shrinking back against the wall, she peered around the corner. Dar lounged beside Lin’s open door, feet crossed at the ankle. Despite the relaxed stance, a dark glare knotted his features. Lin blocked her doorway, arms crossed.
“I don’t really care what you think,” Lin snapped. “And I don’t want to get into this at all, let alone here and now. Just because you’ve suddenly grown some emotions doesn’t mean I have to put them above my own. You had your chance to see things my way years ago. You had another chance back on CE7.”
“I’m not suddenly interested in ‘seeing things your way,’” he spat, “I’m interested in my baby sister’s safety! I’m concerned this rabbit hole, this obsession whatever it is, will get you killed. You were on track for a promotion—”
“You demoted me! I could have been Ndebele’s intern—”
“I had my reasons. What kind of person follows someone across fucking space—” he hissed.
She never corrects my cussing. So why was she bothering with her brother’s? Lin’s voice was tired but tense with something else. Fear? Nel fought back the urge to rush from behind the corner and wedge herself between them. Except Dar didn’t look like he was going to hurt her.
“Lin, please just think about it. Ayah and Ibu are worried too, you know.”
Lin’s hand slammed into the wall with a sickening thud. Tendons bunched in her throat, but Nel couldn’t say if it was pain or fury. “Is that why I haven’t heard from them in months? You’re holding them over my head until I sharpen up and fly straight?”
Dar looked away and his gaze halted on Nel, tucked by the door. She opened her mouth to apologize, but his head shook almost imperceptibly.
“You know I haven’t heard from them either. But they mentioned it before. And again, when Nel’s transfer docs came over their screens this morning. Associating with her is going to get you killed.” He shoved off the wall and made to reach for her shoulder but stopped a few inches shy. “Please, just consider it.”
Nel jerked out of sight again. A second later he almost collided with her as he strode around the bend. His gaze pinned her, but he said nothing, boots stomping long after he disappeared up the hall.
She peeked at Lin’s door again. It was shut, the corridor deserted. Dar clearly felt she threatened Lin somehow. Why do I feel like he just entrusted a huge secret with me? Drawing a deep breath, she stepped up to Lin’s door, heart hammering. She pressed her brow to the door, palm spreading across the gleaming metal. None of them want me here—fuck, I don’t even want to be here.
And every nasty comment her exes’ bigoted parents spat at her now drifted in the space stations recycled air lightyears from home. Intellectually she knew it wasn’t anything to do with sexuality—not if she was to believe Paul’s anecdote about his relationship with IDH’s hotshot Komodor Muda Udara Dar Nalawangsa.
She pressed the private intercom. “Lin?”
“Sorry I’m late. Can I see you before you go?” Still nothing. “I saw Dar in the hall, looked kinda pissed. Do you—”
She whirled to see Lin striding down the hall. Her gleaming electrosuit was perfectly fastened, long hair braided and tucked carefully away in preparation for the helmet of her space suit. The shadows under her warm eyes rocketed Dar’s words to the forefront of Nel’s thoughts. “What kind of person follows someone across fucking space?” She pulled a smile she didn’t feel onto her face. “Hey, babe. Just looking for you.”
Nel stared after her for a moment. They hadn’t kissed since the gala. “Sentimental” was the last word Nel would use to describe herself, but the undercurrent of exclusion gave her new sympathy for all the exes she ghosted over the years. “You sleep okay?”
“Not really. Been up since 0500.” Lin frowned at Nel’s half-done suit. “You packed?”
“Is your comm on? Did you get the messages?”
Nel glanced at her wrist. “Just a bunch of updates about your mission—”
“Our mission,” Lin interrupted. Her expression might have been a smile, were it not for the hardness in her eyes. “As of 0200 today you’ve been transferred to the Field task force.”
Excitement blasted through every one of Nel’s more complicated emotions. “What? Thank you!” She wrapped Lin in a tight hug. When it was only reluctantly returned, however, she stepped back. “You pulled strings?”
“Not me. Harris, I guess. Said he wanted someone like you on his team.”
Confusion dampened Nel’s thrill. She barely knew the man. What about the woman who almost single-handedly destroyed their second home appealed to him? Cut the shit, Bently, and be grateful. “Any idea what I’ll be doing?”
“I’m not sure. Maybe research? They’ll need data on CE7, Los Cerros—”
“Yeah, I know the abbreviation.” At Lin’s closed expression Nel forced tenderness into her voice. “Sorry, just got a bit of mental whiplash. I’m happy to help any way I can.” Tagging along behind a stranger was better than nothing, but it was far from ideal. But I could try to find Mom. And Tabby. And Annie. And everyone else who went dark. It could be just the radio silence, but the shadow behind Emilio’s eyes at the gala and Lin’s extra avoidance frayed Nel’s tenuous trust.
Both their wrists flashed. “You better get ready,” Lin suggested. At long last, something close to amusement graced her regal features.
Nel backed toward her own room down the hall. “Don’t let them leave without me, okay?”
Read the rest of Heretics at books2read.com/hereticsnel
Thank you for being our guest this week, V. It’s been a pleasure having you here. All the best with your future stories.
For all you fantastic visitors wanting to discover more about V and their writing, please follow these links: