I recently had the opportunity to read THE BEHOLDER by Ivan Amberlake and was so impressed that I thought I would bring the author to you.
TRC: Hi Ivan and welcome to The Reading Café. Congratulations on the release of THE BEHOLDER.
Ivan: Thank you. It’s an exciting time for me, and I hope it will go on like this for as long as possible.
TRC: We would like to start with some background information. Would you please tell us something about yourself?
Ivan: I was born and live in Belarus, a small state bordering on Russia and Ukraine. “Amberlake” is a pen name I chose because I felt my real name would be difficult to pronounce and remember for most native speakers.
For a few years I’ve been working as a teacher of English, but now my ambition is to become a full-time writer, as writing is what makes me tick. I’m an avid reader of fantasy, proofreader, freelance editor, and member of a self-published writers’ group called Breakwater Harbor Books.
Besides literature, I love music, action movies, sunsets and the sound of rain pattering against the roof.
TRC: What or who inspired you to write your first book?
Ivan: THE BEHOLDER was not my first attempt at writing. I have a couple of unfinished drafts that became a kind of stepping-stones to my third book that I finally published. To tell you the truth, THE BEHOLDER started as a completely different book, the general idea similar to THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY, which may come as a surprise to those who have read the book. I was influenced by Oscar Wilde’s style, unaware of the modern principles of fiction-writing. Now it is a fast-paced, action-packed fantasy novel.
As to sources of my inspiration, my parents and wife are my main ones. They always ask how my book is doing, what reviews I’m getting. They are always ready to support me, and I’m trying to respond in the same way, so I dedicated my first book to my wife, and was so happy to see the smile on her face when she saw the dedication.
I enjoy listening to music, and I wrote most of Book 1 while listening to different genres –- from romantic ballads to melodic death metal. For example, the romantic episodes in the book were inspired by the music of the Swiss folk metal band ELUVEITIE and their album, “Evocation I: The Arcane Dominion”.
TRC: THE BEHOLDER is the first storyline in your new series appropriately entitled The Beholder. Would you please tell us something about the
Ivan: THE BEHOLDER is not just about a man tormented by dreams where people are haunted and killed by shadows. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of my mind being infused into the mind of a different person, so I wished to explore this idea in a book. I think that was how I came up with my main character, Jason Walker, being inside the victims’ minds, although Jason got a bit unlucky that he found himself in the minds of people about to die a horrible death. To Jason, these deaths are not only dreams but also a message that he is the last to be killed, that the shadows will come for his life.
TRC: Is there a message in the novel that you would like your readers to understand or grasp?
Ivan: As much as I love reading for pleasure, I love writing books that other people would enjoy. I’m not intent on teaching anyone anything, but I dwell on the concept of Good vs. Evil and offer my readers a vision of the world that I’ve had in mind for a few years now. It’s the world that I enormously love and want to share with as many people as possible. I’m trying to explain why things happen as they do in our lives, but I must say this concept will be developed bit by bit throughout the whole trilogy.
TRC: Your hero is Jason-the average working man who discovers he is The Beholder. Are the human characteristics of Jason based on anyone in your life or an amalgamation of different people?
Ivan: The character of Jason Walker has been changing with each rewrite of the book, so even if I wanted him to resemble me, Jason has become independent of me. I also used some of the best friends’ features for him and other characters. As for Emily Ethan, she was greatly inspired by my wife and her beauty.
TRC: How did you keep your plot unpredictable without sacrificing content or believability?
Ivan: “Believability of fantasy” is the term that I got acquainted with not so long ago. I was introduced to it by a Greek author Yannis Karatsioris who helped me grasp the notion so I could make THE BEHOLDER more believable than it initially was. But on the way of accomplishing that I had to cut more than 40,000 words and write another 15,000-20,000 words.
TRC: How much research (logistic, historical, philosophical, theological) was involved in the writing of this particular book and series?
Ivan: At the time when I started writing the book, Dan Brown’s THE DA VINCE CODE was much discussed, and I had an idea to use Freemasonry as the power in charge of Jason’s dreams and murders. I did a lot of research on them, and I’m so lucky to have changed my mind and decided against using them in THE BEHOLDER. I knew I had to come up with something of my own, and I promised myself that I would rely solely on my imagination, and there I came up with a world of Lightsighted and Darksighted.
TRC: What do you believe is the biggest misconception about your novel?
Ivan: I’ve come up with it only recently. While giving away Kindle copies of the book to people I realized that men strongly ignored my invitation to read the novel. Apparently, the words “love” and “romance” used in the blurb scare the bejesus out of them. I’ve always considered my book as a universal read, for men and women, for Young/New Adult and Adult readers, so if men are not sure whether they should try reading my book, I may assure them there is a lot of action there that they will love.
TRC: What difficulties have you had to face getting your novel to publication?
Ivan: I think my main difficulty was me. I was really insecure about getting it published, about my first reviews. Besides, I just couldn’t let myself publish a book if I knew it wasn’t finished. I am lucky to have so many friends who read the novel before it got published and helped me make it better. And I’m also grateful to my editor, Genevieve Graham, for spending awhile with THE BEHOLDER before it got published.
TRC: PATH OF THE HERETIC is the second storyline in The Beholder series. Would you please tell us something about the premise?
Ivan: I hope to make PATH OF THE HERETIC a much darker book. I’m planning on bringing the supporting characters of Matthew Allen and Debbie Eve to the fore, so that the readers would have stronger connection with them. I’m going to weave the main antagonist’s – Pariah’s — Point of View into the story, which I hope will add tension and suspense to the series.
TRC: Many authors bounce ideas with family and friends or, other authors. With whom do you bounce ideas and why?
Ivan: After I finished my first draft of The Beholder – naïve and inexperienced as I was – I started querying New York agents. Soon I came across a writers’ website hosted by HarperCollins UK, Authonomy. This is where I realized that I had so much work to do with THE BEHOLDER to make it right. After a year of writing and editing, I got the book to the Top 5 and it was selected for review by HarperCollins. I was lucky to have got a reviewer who gave me great advice on what to do with the book, so all in all it took me about 3 years to publish my debut novel.
TRC: What five things would you like to accomplish in the next ten years?
#1 – make my wife as happy as possible.
#2 – finally visit Great Britain and the USA!
#3 – become a traditionally published author.
#4 – complete “The Beholder Series” and start another series.
#5 – live a happy life and make other people happy.
TRC: How many books do you have planned for the series?
Ivan: It was supposed to be a 5-book series at first, but after a long consideration I decided it would be a trilogy. Yet I’m so in love with my characters that probably I’ll think of writing another book, but that might not happen in a long time.
TRC: If you could change something about yourself personal or professional,what would it be and why?
Ivan: I’m the world’s biggest procrastinator, in about everything. Maybe it is just everyday life that is always in the way, but it takes a long time for me to sit down and write. I do need inspiration for that. But when I do sit and write a line or two, or a chapter, I feel complete. It’s the feeling I’m eager to feel as often as possible in the near future.
TRC: Thank you Ivan for taking the time to answer our questions. Congratulations again, on the release of THE BEHOLDER. We wish you all the best.
Ivan: Thank you for this wonderful opportunity to be interviewed.
To Order THE BEHOLDER:
Amazon US Paperback: http://amzn.com/1481931024
Amazon US Kindle: http://amzn.com/B00B7TG2DC
Amazon UK Paperback: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1481931024
Amazon UK Kindle: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00B7TG2DC
THE BEHOLDER page on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Beholder/152577228229536?bookmark_t=page
Breakwater Harbor Books: http://breakwaterharborbooks.weebly.com/index.html
Below is the review of The Beholder done by Sandy from The Reading Cafe.
REVIEW: THE BEHOLDER is the first storyline in Ivan Amberlake’s Urban Fantasy series The Beholder. If you are a fan of storylines similar to The Matrix, a film based on the Sci-Fi novel Neuromancer by William Gibson, then The Beholder could be its literary counterpart in the UF genre.
The storyline focuses on Jason, a man who suffers from inexplicable painfully tactile dreams and nightmares that speak to him of danger, death and the battle between good and evil but his dreams are based in reality and most of what he ‘sees’ has or will come true. What Jason will soon discover is he is ‘The Beholder’-the savior of the Lightsighted-those with the power to use and see energy. The prophecies have foretold of The Beholder and the Lightsighted have been searching for The One who will save them all. But like every UF storyline there is the evil, the Darksighted who have been ordered by the Pariah to find and destroy The Beholder before he comes into his powers.
The storyline follows Jason and his friends Matt and Debbie ( A Trinity ), as they endeavor to learn about the world of the Light and Dark. The trio is a power unto themselves but there is never a thorough explanation as to the power of the three. There is an enormous amount of background information by way of interpretation regarding the use of energy, power and sight. The Beholder (Jason) is the key, the one with the power to save the world-but it is a world in an alternate reality. Time and space are different for the sighted and the battle is looming.
Like all UF storylines there is a battle between good and evil; light and dark; sighted and unsighted; love and loss. This is a storyline of romance, love, betrayal and hatred all mired in a contemporary fantasy world where good triumphs over evil-if only for a short time.
Ivan’s world building is fluid and tangible and, his characters are real. There is never any doubt about the direction of the story. But I want to add, that the premise appeared to be shrouded in theologian beliefs-whereby the people are waiting for their savior-the one to free them from an eternity of evil at the hands of the Pariah-and Jason-The Beholder-is literally the savior of the world. Will we eventually see Jason sacrifice himself to save the world from the Dark? There was nothing ‘preachy’ about the novel, only an overwhelming sense of faith and Christianity déjà vu.
The Beholder is a well-written novel that will pull you into the storyline as though you were experiencing the reality yourself. Congratulations to Ivan on an amazing piece of literary fiction. I am looking forward to the next installment.