Thursday, December 19, 2013

Guest Post & Giveaway: Iron & Velvet by Alexis Hall

Hello, and welcome to my second ever blog tour, celebrating Riptide Publishing’s release of my second ever novel, IRON & VELVET. Yay!  Thank you so much to Pants off Reviews for hosting me. And, to you, dear reader, for stopping by. If you’d like to come with me and keep me company on my virtual wanderings, you can find a full listing of when and where I am here. 

There’s also some kind of contest type thing happening.  I had a bit of trouble choosing a prize for this one because most of the things Kate likes (booze, cigarettes, knives, women) are illegal to ship internationally. I thought about a fedora, but then I remembered people had differently shaped heads and there was no point sending somebody an item of clothing they wouldn’t be able to wear. So, basically, that leaves coffee and Bovril and nobody likes Bovril except people from the North East of England. I’m therefore going offer 250g of Jamaican Blue Mountain, the nicest coffee in the known universe, purchased from a wonderful speciality shop, ground or beaned to your specification. If you don’t like coffee, I’ll replace it with an equivalently lovely tea. And if you really want to try the Bovril, I could probably be persuaded to throw that in as well.  

If you’d like win this distressingly perishable souvenir please answer the three questions below (clues in the book) and drop me an email. I’ll announce the winner a handful of days after the end of the tour. 

  1. Whodunnit? 
  1. What is hanging in the study of Aeglica Thrice-Risen? 
  1. What’s Rule Twelve? 

Team Tara 

“There’s a power in you, Kate Kane,” whispered Tara against my lips. “You smell of dark woods and wild places.” 

Tara smelled of blood and sweat and excitement. Ngh. I needed a way out of this. One that didn’t involve sleeping with a werewolf. Maybe. 

“I thought it was cheap cigarettes and dirty sex,” I said, preserving my modesty with witty repartee. 

“I can help you, yah.” 

“With the dirty sex?” 

“That too.” 

I caught her by the wrist. “Buy a vibrator.” 

(Somewhere in Iron & Velvet) 

In all the urban fantasy I’ve ever read, there’s always a smorgasbord of hotties for the heroine to choose between and angst about choosing between. And, naturally, I wanted to make sure Kate was in the same predicament.   

After the vampire, comes the werewolf. Almost always. 

In contrast with Julian, I didn’t really have much idea what I wanted my alpha werewolf to be like, apart from the fact I wanted her to be, well, alpha. And so before I could get a handle on the character that would wind up being Tara, I had to do some serious thinking about what I wanted to do with werewolves. 

For purely logistical reasons, I wanted lycanthropy to be hereditary rather than transmitted. If everybody who gets bitten by a werewolf turns into a werewolf, then you get werewolf pandemic really fast. I was also very sure I wanted to stay a long way away from associating werewolfism with any specific ethnic group because associating people of colour with animals is kind of problematic. I’d been mulling the idea over a while when I suddenly realised that when you combined inherited qualities with running around the countryside hunting things the obvious place to go was landed nobility. So, posh werewolves it was. 

From there, it all pretty much fell into place and it was clear the alpha werewolf had to be an absurdly privileged Amazonian It girl. Writing Tara was a tricky balance – one I hope I got at least vaguely right although as ever it isn't really my place to make that call – I needed her to be alpha but I was also pretty sure I didn't want her to be particularly masculine. Essentially the intent was for her to come across half the time as a kind of British Paris Hilton and half the time as a being of unchained primal power. Although, and perhaps this is my working-class roots showing, I confess that I think there's something pretty predatory about posh people anyway. 

I have to confess that while I was writing Tara, I had a disproportionately large amount of fun researching frocks. Tara is pretty much the only character in the book who consistently wears pretty dresses and since I do, in fact, really like pretty dresses I was rather determined to make the most of it. Over the course of writing the book, I must have spent hours poring through designers' websites, catwalk photographs, and whatever other sources I could get my hands on, trying to get a clear mental image of exactly what Tara would be wearing in any given scene. Obviously the novel isn't exactly a visual medium but I think Tara is never the less quite a visual character – being a shapeshifter her physical appearance is extremely important, and in a sense what she's wearing is as important as whether she's walking on four legs or two. 

Part of what I like about werewolves is that sense of dual identity. The idea that whichever character you're looking at is, at any given moment, meaningfully both a wolf and a human and both and neither. The impression I wanted to give with the Vane-Tempests was one of exaggerated civility stretched over something wild and savage. Immaculate suits and elegant cocktail dresses falling away to reveal fur and fangs. At the same time, I hope that there was a certain amount of coherence to the way the pack worked, that the strict social rules and rigid hierarchies of a family of landed gentry reflect the animalistic hierarchies of the werewolf pack. 

A big part of Tara's role in the book is to be the character whose attraction to the heroine allows the primary romantic interest to get all jealous and confrontational. This made her quite a lot of fun to write, because it meant she was kind of completely brazen about – well – everything. Thinking about it, none of the characters in the book are exactly subtle people (with the possible exception of Nimue), but Tara had a particular directness to her which I really enjoyed working with. Of course since part of Tara's role is to introduce an element of romantic conflict, it meant I had a bit of a difficult line to walk between making her attractive enough that you could see why Julian might consider her a threat and making her infuriating enough that you can see why Kate isn't interested in her right now (or at least, not very interested). I think if I've done my job right, the reader should come away from the majority of Tara's scenes not knowing if they want to date her or shoot her with a silver bullet. 

About AJH 

Alexis Hall was born in the early 1980s and still thinks the 21st century is the future. To this day, he feels cheated that he lived through a fin de siècle but inexplicably failed to drink a single glass of absinthe, dance with a single courtesan, or stay in a single garret. He can neither cook nor sing, but he can handle a seventeenth century smallsword, punts from the proper end, and knows how to hotwire a car. He lives in southeast England, with no cats and no children, and fully intends to keep it that way.  

You can also find him all over the internet, on his websiteFacebookTwitterBookLikes, and Goodreads. 

About Iron & Velvet 

First rule in this line of business: don’t sleep with the client. 

My name’s Kate Kane, and when an eight-hundred-year-old vampire prince came to me with a case, I should have told her no. But I’ve always been a sucker for a femme fatale. 

It always goes the same way. You move too fast, you get in too deep, and before you know it, someone winds up dead. Last time it was my partner. This time it could be me. Yesterday a werewolf was murdered outside the Velvet, the night-time playground of one of the most powerful vampires in England. Now half the monsters in London are at each other’s throats, and the other half are trying to get in my pants. The Witch Queen will protect her own, the wolves are out for vengeance, and the vampires are out for, y’know, blood. 

I’ve got a killer on the loose, a war on the horizon, and a scotch on the rocks. It’s going to be an interesting day. 

You can read an excerpt and, y’know, cough, buy the book, if you want, at Riptide Publishing. 


  1. Awww, contrary characters in le chic clothing - consider me sufficiently intrigued! ^^

  2. Thank you so much for hosting me :)


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