I haven’t been sharing many books lately on the blog. I’ve been busy, and many of the books that I’ve read recently have been just okay, and I haven’t felt like talking about them.
I discovered The Slave Auction on one of my Facebook groups. I had never heard of Ray Anselmo before, but I gave his book a chance. In fact, I enjoyed it enough to take the time to track down the author on his blog and beg to host him here.
If you haven’t bought a book for Christmas break yet, rush out and get this one. Get ready to step into the post apocalyptic future, where the land that was California is now the feudal state of Scotia. There is no electricity, and manual labor is in high demand. The strong conquer the weak and force them to become slave labor. Everything has changed, but human nature remains the same in many ways.
First, the Blurb:
Sixty years after the Final War smashed the countries of the world, the remnants of humanity are still working to rebuild civilization. In Scotia village, deep in the forests of what was once northwestern California, that’s taken the form of a return to feudalism, with the warrior descendants of pre-War survivalists forming the nobility. Below them are their tenant farmers, a few independent priests and artisans … and at the bottom of the pyramid, the slaves.
Eliza Cronin is the young head of the most powerful noble house in Scotia, with all the duties that accompany such a station. And as she’s yet to find a suitable consort, one who will treat her as an equal, she’s largely doing it alone. So she goes to the local slave sale, seeking someone who can help her manage her myriad responsibilities. But she quickly finds that Aaron, the slave she purchases, is more than she expected. Physically weak but with a strong mind, Aaron is soon turning her life upside down, and causing her to discover things about herself she never would have guessed, both good and bad.
Nor is all her stress coming from inside her house. There’s also a masked rapist targeting Scotia’s noblewomen (who may have picked Eliza’s cousin as his next victim). A fellow noble, her good friend and closest advisor, is nearing death. On top of that, there are whispers of a conspiracy against not only her, but the entire village. In the midst of all this, plans will have to be formulated, serious choices need to be made, lives will be at stake. And it seems only a lowly slave has what she needs to navigate the crises ahead … and maybe even find love …
A world torn by war. A noblewoman seeking help in a climate of fear. A hero in an unlikely disguise. And a romance for the ages. The Slave Auction is all that and more. Prepare for the future.
After I tracked Ray down, and he graciously agreed to visit my blog, I peppered him with questions.
This book seems to defy genre and predictability. What gave you the idea to write this book?
The initial idea was just a mental picture – a tall, austere redhead (think Julia Roberts or Keira Knightley) walking through a medieval marketplace in period dress. Other ideas sort of accrued to it, like layers on a pearl, and soon I found myself starting to write it because I couldn’t not write it. Eliza and Aaron, the protagonists, were coming to life, and I couldn’t stand in their way.
On your website, you indicate that the book took ten years to write. Was this a continuous ten years? Did it go through many iterations? Or were there long periods when you put it aside to work on something else?
When I finished the original draft in 2004, it was partly out of frustration with my job prospects – I was getting jerked around by temp agencies, bouncing from one clerical job to the next, and was looking for another field to pursue. I kept trying to find “normal” work, but every so often I’d come back to it, tinker with it a little, submit a portion to a publisher only for nothing to happen.
My friend, the novelist Geralyn Beauchamp (aka Kit Morgan) gave me a lot of good advice over the years on how to develop the characters and show their emotional growth. And when I got tired of getting deafening silence from publishers, Geri was the one who urged me to self-publish and showed me how. This year, after publishing a couple of small short-fiction collections as e-books – kind of testing the waters – I gave The Slave Auction one last polishing and sent it on out there. So it’s been quite a journey.
Tell us who you think would like your book.
I have an almost visceral reaction to the “muscular boy meets flighty girl, girl swoons” stories that are kind of the stereotype of romance novels – “bodice-rippers,” my grandmother used to call them. I can’t imagine Eliza Cronin swooning unless she’s been severely injured – she’s strong and tough and trained as a warrior, and she doesn’t let anyone push her around. Nor is Aaron the usual bulging-pecs leading man – he’s fairly humble, a gentleman, someone who gets by on brain power rather than muscle. So I think The Slave Auction would have an appeal for people who want something more than just the usual romantic story, who want more depth or a different twist on the concept.
I tend to write “clean,” so I also think The Slave Auction would be a good read for young-adult readers who are fans of post-apocalyptic books like The Hunger Games and The Mount. And science-fiction fans who appreciate a good love story and good characters would enjoy it as well, I believe.
Given genre conventions, how do you feel about classifying this book as a romance?
I don’t mind. As one of my heroes, Bill Veeck, put it, I have “the literary digestion of a garbage disposal unit,” so I pull from a lot of genres and styles when I write. I probably write more that could be classified as science fiction than anything else, but romance would be a close second, and a lot of my writing – including The Slave Auction – has elements of both. If you’re going to put a label on it, “romance” is a perfectly good one to use.
Are you planning additional stories in this futuristic society showcased in The Slave Auction?
Absolutely – The Slave Auction is book 1 of a saga that I’ve already planned out as at least six books, plus some shorter pieces. The first of the short works, “The View from the Cliff,” will be included in a short-story collection I’m releasing on January 19 entitled Adventures in Time and Place. It will give some background on Aaron and where he came from, and show how the leadership in Scotia is changing in their relations to the people in the surrounding area. If all works out, I hope to have a new Scotia novel out in 2015, and every year through 2019.
Also, I’ve written a novella, The Glory of a King, that takes place in the same universe as The Slave Auction – it’s available now through Amazon. I may do a couple of similar stories in the future, tales from elsewhere in the world Scotia is part of, though none are specifically planned.
So you can get a feel for Ray’s writing style, here is a short excerpt of the book. You can also download a sample from Amazon.
Tricia McCarron’s words bubbled through Eliza’s mind like a sulfur spring for the rest of the day. She found herself unable to concentrate at dinner, and kept dwelling on it as she dressed for bed.
When the right fellow comes along … She kept thinking she should be annoyed at yappy Tricia for bringing the subject up, but figured there was no point in that. The tenant’s wife meant well, just as so many other people meant well when they nudged her on the subject of marriage. Or, worse yet, started suggesting that they knew just the man for her, he’s really a prize, a good, strong fella and wouldja like to meet him sometime? They wanted her to be happy, and who could get angry with someone for that?
Eliza sat on the edge of her bed in her cotton pajamas and rubbed her temples. She certainly didn’t have anything against marriage, or any desire for spinsterhood – quite the opposite. And there was the succession issue to think of as well. As head of the house of Cronin, her firstborn would be the logical heir, complete with all the attendant privileges and responsibilities. No marriage meant no heir, which would eventually mean problems for the house. She wasn’t getting any younger, either – she would turn thirty in a few months, rather old for a woman to still be unattached in these times. If she was to produce an heir, time was beginning to run low.
But necessity alone was not going to drive her to the altar. And frankly, she really hadn’t met anyone she wanted to spend the rest of her life around, let alone allow access to her womb. Most of the noblemen in Scotia, at least those who were close to her own age, were too stuck on themselves or too willing to kowtow to her or (Franklin Duritz came to mind, and she made a face) both. When it came to eligible men in the village, the cupboard appeared to be bare.
Frankly, the best of the lot seemed to be Franklin’s brothers Jefferson and Hamilton. But as far as she could tell, Jeff’s devotion was to his father and his father’s house, to the exclusion of all else. He not only hadn’t expressed any interest in Eliza, he hadn’t expressed any interest in marrying anybody, as far as she knew. And Ham? Ham was good-looking and strong, but he was also so timid that Eliza was always afraid of overwhelming him whenever they interacted. Plus, with both Jeff and Ham would come the irritation of having Franklin as a brother-in-law …
She shook her head forcefully. No, that would definitely not do. She knew her father had held a very high opinion of Franklin, though she had no clue why. Thankfully, Robert Cronin had felt strongly about letting his children pick their own mates – probably reflecting his own experience, she mused – so he hadn’t tried to force her into a relationship, with Franklin or anyone else. But leaving her to her own devices, wise though it most likely was, had done nothing to fix her husbandless state.
As she rolled her eyes in exasperation, a children’s song her mother used to sing to her came to mind. Someday my prince will come … “Yes, of course he will,” she muttered to herself sarcastically as she sat down on her bed. “And if he doesn’t come soon, he’ll find me a mildewed old husk.” She was about to take that cheery thought and cuddle up under the covers with it when she heard the knock on the door.
Aaron, of course, showed no sign of similar emotional burdens, instead being eager as ever to report on the day’s events and then move on to reading. As spring went on and daytime had begun to lengthen, “an hour after sunset” was moving inexorably later. In consequence Aaron was reading a little less each night before Eliza nodded off. The protagonist of the story had changed – from Samuel the noble priest to Saul, a popular warrior but impatient and presumptuous, and then to David, a nobody infantryman who had worked his way up through the ranks and became the chief noble himself after the self-inflicted collapse of Saul’s house.
As Eliza shifted under the covers, she thought to herself how this David could seemingly do no wrong. Why wasn’t there a man like that around for her to meet?
But as Aaron read, she found she was in for a disappointment …
Short Author Bio
Ray Anselmo lives with his wife, two kids and various neuroses in Stockton, California. The Slave Auction is his first novel, but his fifth e-book – he’s also produced a novella and three small collections of short stories. His first full-sized short-fiction collection, Adventures in Time and Place, releases January 19, and The Irrational War, the second book of the Scotia Saga, is scheduled for later in 2015.
Find Ray and Find his books…
To purchase from Amazon (currently only $4.99 – a steal, I promise): The Slave Auction: Book One of the Scotia Saga
Ray’s Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Ray-Anselmo/e/B00KI85EDM/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/rayanselmo