BETWEEN TWO FLAMES WITH THE SEVENTH TERRACE
Thank you for joining us for another installment of Between Two Flames — where we place authors in our hot seat for what surely must feel like an eternity of environmentally unfriendly gas grilling.
Today we welcome Chris Patrick Carolan, author of “The Envoy’s Blessing” — a pulpy cosmic horror tale of murder, slime, and gold from our latest Purgatorio Tower’s book Terrace V: Penitent’s Gold. Chris, please tell us a little about yourself in exactly thirty-five words.
Chris: Born in Glasgow, smuggled to Canada as a wee lad, then raised between Calgary and various spots on the west coast. Wrote a book one time, and I sure would like to do it again.
TST: The The Nightshade Cabal is a fine piece of work, we’d love to see a sequel Chop, chop!! Okay, let’s get right to the greedy guts of it. What does Avarice mean to you? Is it inherently a bad thing? How does that play into your story of excessive desire found in this glitzy volume?
Chris: I don’t necessarily think a desire for wealth is a bad thing. It’s like any emotion or impulse; what you do with the impulse defines who you are as a person. When it transcends desire and becomes greed which compels one to set aside their morality to sop up more wealth than they could ever need without the least care for the damage they’ve done along the way, that’s avarice. The Envoy’s titular “blessing” is pure lucre in exchange for services rendered. But what exactly are the people of Port Urabus doing to receive this blessing?
TST: Nefarious deeds. It’s always nefarious deeds. Not that we have an issue with deeds of this sort. In fact, it’s kinda our thing.
Tell us about a time you desperately desired something and went to potentially unexpected lengths to acquire it.
Chris: I needed a new heel for my shoe. So, I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those da… oh, wait, that was something else entirely. Uh… let’s see. Well, there was this one time — I must’ve been five or six years old — when I was playing Transformers with the kid next door. He had brought over some wonky off-brand toy that wasn’t even a Go-Bot. I think this thing was a slot machine, with arms and a head you would pop out to make the robot. Its face was a sticker, and I don’t even remember if it had legs. Anyway, for some reason I decided I had to have it, and convinced the kid I had the same one and that he must’ve left his at home before he came over to play. When my dad noticed it later he asked where it had come from, and I fessed up. I think I was actually proud of my deception, but my dad made me walk over to the neighbour’s house to return the toy and admit my guilt. I was grounded for a week, and even though I couldn’t tell you that kid’s name now if you put a gun to my head, I still feel bad about what I did to this day. What can I say? I grew up to be a total hall monitor.
TST: Just imagine who you would have become if you had gotten away with it. We’re thinking Charles Montgomery Plantagenet Schicklgruber “Monty” Burns. “Loose the hounds!”
Can you see any of your characters popping up again in other stories?
Chris: There will definitely be more Nathaniel Garaven stories. He’s a character who is always on the move, and there always seems to be another scrape to get into in the next town. ‘The Envoy’s Blessing’ isn’t actually the first Garaven story I’ve written, just the first one that was ready to send out into the world. I also suspect we haven’t seen the last of Lee Cane… and who can say where and when the Envoys themselves might pop up again?
TST: Excellent! We’d love to read more Nathaniel and/or Cane stories.
Give us a sentence (or short paragraph) from your story that you feel knocked it out of the park.
Chris: I’m really partial to this exchange between Garaven and Howard Sutter:
“Seems wherever I go these days, I find another dead friend.”
“You sound like a man with revenge on his mind,” Sutter said. If the barman had an opinion about that it didn’t show on his face. He had a stern, wind-worn look; Garaven had seen the same stolid expression on working men and women up and down both coasts. Not the kind of man to abide nonsense.
Garaven shook his head in answer. “I’ve got no stomach for vengeance, Mr. Sutter. I’ve tasted violence too damned many times, and it always comes back up sour.” He drained the last of his coffee. “All I’m after is the truth.”
TST: Such delightful phrasing! West coast gold rush and cosmic cults. Want to tell us a little about your research process?
Chris: A lot of it was making sure I had things like timeline and modes of travel right. I’m a stickler for those sorts of details. I’ve set the Garaven stories into a rather tight window in history, roughly fifteen years after the end of the Civil War. I even spent a fair bit of time working out how the Envoy’s “blessing” might actually work as a physiological process, but those details didn’t make it into the finished story. I was reading a lot of cosmic horror stories around the time the ideas that became this story were rattling around in my head, so I think that definitely influenced the way this one went. Ultimately, though, the story started from the image of big gross larvae living under people’s skin, and I knew I wanted folk to accept them willingly. It wasn’t until I heard about the theme for this anthology that the reason why anyone would go along with it clicked into place.
TST: What’s next for you? Any forthcoming releases, hatchings, or germinations we should be on the lookout for? Or, any recent delights you’d love to flog?
Chris: I don’t have much on the way right now, unfortunately. I’ve got a few short stories out there in submission limbo, and I’m still working away on my second novel. Hopefully 2023 will offer a few chances to celebrate! But I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to thank Sarah and Rob for having me in this book. It’s a true honour to be included alongside some great writers whose work I admire the heck out of, and you’ve been amazing folks to work with on this project. Cheers!
About the Author:
Chris Patrick Carolan is an author, editor, and hovercraft enthusiast, originally from Glasgow but currently based in Calgary, Alberta. He writes science fiction, fantasy , horror , and steampunk, though he has also been known to turn to crime to make ends meet. Crime fiction, that is. The Nightshade Cabal was published by Parliament House Press in 2020 and was a finalist for the Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence ‘Best First Novel’ award. He can be found on Twitter as @cpcwrites but consider this fair warning… it’s mostly just wisecracks about McNuggets.