ShadowSpinners Press is thrilled to announce the release of Mountain of Ashes by John Reed. Mountain of Ashes is the eighth book in the Labyrinth of Souls series. Like the others, it is a stand alone story, sharing the theme of an underworld journey, and continues in the vein of weird fantasy, with hearty doses of adventure, strange realms and heroic quests. If you’re wondering why we chose April Fool’s Day to publish, take a gander at the cover. Cover art by Joseph Vandel, as usual:
We tracked down John Reed and asked him a few questions about Mountain of Ashes, and how a thriller writer became lost in the labyrinth of dark fantasy.
What was your inspiration for Mountain of Ashes? What about the tarot card, The Fool, appealed to you?
My inspiration for the book came from a confluence of odd-ball sources, including Ovid’s Metamorphoses. You’ll find references to a number of mythological characters including the guardian of the Underworld, Charon, rendered here as “Bob Charon.” The ending is, of course, an homage to Orpheus and his visit down below. The idea that the Mountain of Ashes is composed of dead souls just popped into my head whilst meditating on the likely content of the labyrinth. I believe that accidentally riding my motorcycle over a cliff may have influenced the opening scene.
Since I was embarking on a harrowing first adventure into the mysterious world of science fiction, it occurred to me that it might be a ‘fool’s errand.’ Luckily, I made it out to the other side.
You usually write in the thriller genre. Did you find it challenging to write fantasy? What are the main differences between thrillers and fantasy, in your opinion? Any similarities that surprised you?
I found the fantasy realm an interesting challenge. The thriller must deal with a linear, more or less believable, plot line. In the Mountain of Ashes, anything goes. That, however, does not make it any easier. Your world must have structural rules, and you must follow them—that requires remembering what they are. (Let’s see. Which way is gravity pulling today?) It is not, as I once foolishly thought, like ‘playing tennis without a net.’ It is more like playing jai alai with gorillas. The interior logic must be maintained, wherever the shots come from. The similarities that surprised me: People are just people. An interesting character is just that, without regard to the landscape.
Has your view of fantasy changed now that you’ve written one? Do you think you’ll write another?
I have a broader view of the genre, and a deeper appreciation of the writing, thanks to my well-educated compatriots and a bit more reading on my own. Oddly enough, not everything is ‘chrome lizards’ as I once imagined. Though, as I discovered, they did find a place on the Mountain of Ashes.
Are there any works of fantasy that resonate with you? What are your favorite thrillers?
My taste in fantasy runs to Bradbury, (of course) Terry Brooks, and Ursula K. Le Guin. I read Rip Foster Rides the Grey Planet when I was seven, but I don’t think that counts. As to thrillers: Nowadays, I read everything by Lee Childs, Harlan Coben, John Lescroart and Michal Connelly. Back in the day, when espionage was espionage and a trench coat was mandatory, I cut my teeth on Le Carré and Ludlum. Gayle Lynds and Sandra Brown added flavor to the mix.
Of your own work, what is your favorite?
There’s a soft spot in my heart (and my head) for Van Gogh’s Gypsy, about a priceless lost masterpiece and a deadly love affair.
What’s up next for you? Any books or stories coming out?
My current project is another sci-fi fantasy novel called, The Mole Train. This tale concerns a mystical subway train that travels beneath the East Village at the speed of 30.06 bullet. A private eye and a wiccan fight the devil (or someone like him) while dodging a voodoo drug dealer.
I’m pleased to say there’s one of my stories, “The Third Hurricane” in the upcoming collection, Hurricanes & Swan Songs, A Strange Anthology, Borda Books, Santa Barbara.
Mountain of Ashes: A Labyrinth of Souls novel
Matt Thanos is devastated when his wife, Emily, dies in a fiery car wreck. But when an irresistible force hurls him down a wild river into a bizarre labyrinth, his dead wife calls to him from the blackness. She—or at least her spirit—is alive. To save her, he must fight his way out of this endless underground chamber, a world ruled by Vaatu, god of the darkness, and cross a time-shifting desert to a crystal city ruled by Raava, god of light. Between these two worlds lies a mysterious mountain made from the ashes of dead souls. Here, the two gods fight for control, a war that has raged for millennium. Since Matt’s escape from the labyrinth has disrupted the balance of power, both gods seek to destroy him. The only way to save himself and Emily is to tear the mountain down and destroy their perverted kingdoms.
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About John Reed:
John Reed’s years as an Army Intelligence officer have given him more than enough background for his four espionage novels: Thirteen Mountain, Dark Forest, Shadow White as Stone and The Kingfisher’s Call. His unforgetable characters and tension-filled plots are testament to his skill as a master storyteller.
John’s innovative wit and style has made him a sought-after presenter for the Willamette Writer’s Conference in Portland, the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Conference in Seattle, Maui Writers Retreat and the San Miguel Writer’s Conference in Mexico. He also conducts the legendary Pirate Workshop at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference.
His “Adventures in Fiction” retreats in Zihuatanejo, Mexico and the “Writers-By-The-Sea” workshop series on the Oregon coast are characterized by his signature humor and high energy.
John has analyzed and critiqued more than 400 novels and has helped countless writers find their voice, polish their prose and market their work.
His poetry has appeared in more than 50 literary magazines and journals including: The Carolina Quarterly, Descant, The Old Hickory Review, Four Quarters, The New Mexico Humanities Review, Negative Capability and the Piedmont Literary Quarterly. He won the National Narrative Poetry Competition, sponsored by the New England Review/Breadloaf Quarterly in 1985.
He has a master’s degree in Communications and is a member of the Intenational Thriller Writers.
John lives and writes in Eugene Oregon. When’ he’s not writing or critiquing, he enjoys biking along the Willamette River, turning wooden bowls or making furniture in his workshop. Come summertime you will often find him in his organic garden trying to capture zucchinis before they become footballs.