Hello, my name is Essel Pratt. I have been published in multiple anthologies and have my first novel, Final Reverie, releasing this summer. I can be found on Twitter (@EsselPratt, Facebook (search EsselPrattWriting), and at EsselPratt.Blogspot.com. Other than Seventh Star Press, I have been published with Rainstorm Press, Cruentus Libri Press, Nightscape Press, Dark Moon Digest, JWK Fiction, Apokrupha, and more.
Frank Creed is a housecatter, end-times cyberpunk novelist, creator of The Underground universe, and founder of the Lost Genre Guild for the promotion of Christian speculative fiction. The Chicago born Creed lives in the Vancouver area of BC, Canada. Read the full bio at http://frankcreed.com
I’m Nick Bryan, author of darkly comic crime and fantasy, including stories in Seventh S tar’s A Chimerical World: Tales of the Unseelie Court anthology, the weekly London detective webserial Hobson & Choi and an upcoming novel re-imagining Hell for a new world. Updates and inner feelings on Nick Bryan Dot Com.
I’m Renee Carter Hall, a fantasy/science fiction author writing stories for adults like me who never quite grew up. (A lot of my fiction features animal characters of one sort of another, so this anthology was right in my comfort zone!) My short fiction has showed up in various print, online, and audio publications through the years, including Strange Horizons, Black Static, Daily Science Fiction, and the Anthro Dreams podcast. My online home is at http://www.reneecarterhall.com, I blog at http://reneecarterhall.wordpress.com, and I’m also pretty active on Twitter as @RCarterHall.
Tell us a little about your story in Hero’s Best Friend.
Essel Pratt: My normal writing genre is horror, so “Brothers” was a little out of my comfort zone. So, I created a setting that takes place after a horrific battle between hero and villain. The story focuses on an aged wolf that fought alongside his human brother during a time of great turmoil. The reader sees a glimpse of the final battle during a flashback scene and gets a feel for the brotherly love that the two heroes share. Although the focus of the story is on the canine portion of the team, the overall theme is one of friendship, brotherhood, and unity.
Frank Creed: I’d always had the concept of a cyberpunk animal story, and I heard of the anthology when one of our cats died. My contribution, “Dusk,” is the tale of a GMO tuxedo kitten saved from a lab and raised by the Cat Whisperer, or Whisp. While on Underground assignment in Chicago’s Chinatown, the pair are confronted by no fewer than six of the deadly robot-like Goliath battle-suits of the One State. Whisp goes down early in the battle, and the intrepid Dusk is left alone to save his partner.
I always thought my Cyberpunk animal would be more chromed, but Dusk is the size of a small mountain lion, has lengthened dew claws that work like thumbs, and nearly human reasoning capacity.
Nick Bryan: My story is “The Violet Curse,” in which a loyal dog tries to help her fantasy hero owner save the day, only to find she might be his undoing.
Renee Carter Hall: “The Emerald Mage” was inspired by the classic Tolkienesque stereotype of a wizard — a bearded old man with a staff — and wondering what might happen if wizards have to deal with the same aspects of aging as their non-magical counterparts. It’s told from the perspective of Jiro, the big-cat companion of the emerald mage Korrinth. Jiro’s accompanied Korrinth on many quests and adventures in their younger days, but now that the mage’s powers are waning, Jiro has to face the prospect of becoming something of a caregiver as well as a companion.
What animal characters in fiction are your favorite?
Essel Pratt: When reading fiction, my favorite animal characters are those that come to life with a sense of believability. It really doesn’t matter what type of animal it is, I want to feel a connection to the animal and believe that he or she is real. In the Jungle Book, Louie is a simple character with depth. This makes him very believable in the role. Rafiki is more complex in nature, yet his place in The Lion King is portrayed in a comedic way. I can connect to him because he is that wise old uncle or grandpa that we all know, who acts childish and reckless in his actions but is the best giver of advice you will ever meet. Then there is Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia. In the end, he has such a small role in the overall group of stories. However, he also has the most important role.
It really is not about whether the animal is reptile, mammal, amphibian, etc. It is all about how those characters are portrayed and how they add to the story itself.
Frank Creed: Charlotte and Templeton from E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, the horse from Orwell’s Animal Farm, and Fiver from Richard Adam’s Watership Down.
Nick Bryan: I’m a big fan of the array of talking mice and other woodland creatures from the Redwall books by Brian Jacques. Over in comics, We3 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely uses some amazing storytelling techniques to portray animal senses.
Renee Carter Hall: Oh, too many to list them all, but some of the ones coming to mind right away are the rabbits of Watership Down, Jane Lindskold’s Blind Seer, Meredith Ann Pierce’s Jan the unicorn, Aslan from C. S. Lewis’ Narnia books, Kipling’s Bagheera, Clare Bell’s Ratha, Naomi Novik’s Temeraire, and S. Andrew Swann’s Nohar Rajasthan.
Have you ever used music to help you write?
Essel Pratt: Always. Internet based radio has guided my fingers across the keyboard more times that I can count. My preference is very eclectic in nature and varies from Bach to Gwar. However, some of my biggest inspirations while writing are Nobuo Uemetsu, Lindsey Stirling, and remakes of various popular songs (new and old) using piano or violins as the main instruments. I typically have multiple playlists with different beats and intensity that I play during various scenes that I am writing. If I can use the music to set the soundtrack in my head, I can get a better feel for the flow and begin to actually experience it myself.
Frank Creed: Yes. Techno from the Quake III soundtrack and from an artist named Bassic make a good backdrop for cyberpunk. It’s been ages since I’ve tried my hand at fantasy, but I used baroque classical music for that.
Nick Bryan: I use a lot of ambient music and jangly rock. Some combination of Trent Reznor’s film soundtracks and REM is typical.
Renee Carter Hall: Often. I tend to have music in the background most of the time while writing — usually new age of one kind or another. Many of my stories wind up with a playlist or at least a theme song, and having that can make it easier for me to get back into the mindset of the story with each writing session.
Has music ever been an inspiration for a story or scene?
Essel Pratt: My inspiration comes from everywhere, so would need to answer yes to this question. When writing the flashback scene in “Brothers”, I listened to “One Winged Angel” a lot. It has the perfect blend of intensity, operatic stress, and builds to climax beautifully.
There are many times that I will be cruising down the highway on my hour drive to work and a song will come on the radio that ignites my imagination. There are many stories that I have yet to write, but are saved in a file on my PC, and have the title of the song that inspired it saved in a file. I will usually create a station on Pandora that begins with that song and the see where it takes me from there.
Frank Creed: One of my Underground tales is titled “Whiskey in the Jar” after the Irish proverb for saving up for retirement. It’s available in Splashdown Books’ Aquasynthesis Again anthology. It also happens to be the title of a darn fine Metallica song. J
Renee Carter Hall: Most of the time for me, the music gets fitted to the story instead of the other way around, but every once in a while the music is the source.
Nick Bryan: A lot of stories have the rhythm and words of whatever music I was listening to as I wrote them, although it’s something that gets refined out in the edit.
Last but not least: Benji vs. Cujo. Who’d win?
Essel Pratt: I believe that this question is similar to the race between the tortoise and the hare. With that said, Benji would be the winner. Cujo will act upon rage and instinct, whereas Benji will take the time to think the situation through. His small frame will allow him to hide in tight quarters until his plan comes together. Cujo, on the other hand, would more than likely tire himself while scavenging for the little guy. In the end, even if Cujo did happen to capture Benji, he would most likely choke on his small frame. Therefore, Benji wins either way.
Frank Creed: Benji would outsmart Cujo by running to the local gun shop where the proprietor would already have food out for him, and roasts Cujo with a flamethrower.
Renee Carter Hall: Tough call, but I’d say Cujo would infect Benji and they would then roam the streets in darkness together. And fight crime.
Nick Bryan: Cujo. Being unrealistic never helped anyone.