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Thursday, October 20, 2016

SPFBO: Hondus Pointe by R. D. Henderson & Mini-interview with the author (by Mihir Wanchoo)



Official Author Website
Order the book HERE

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Hondus Pointe is the first novella of the Nambroc sequence, what drew my eye to this novella was its blurb and what held my attention throughout the story was its quick pace & grey characters.

The plot begins with Nestor deNeffo, a black elf and senior operative in the Nambroc Knives. He’s extremely efficient at his work and soon realizes that there’s more money to be made if one were to be a bit more unscrupulous and were to have no master. So that’s what he does and soon recruits a number of knife operatives who are loyal only to him and follow his profit plan. This book dwells on a wide cast of characters and the repercussions their actions start to have.

This story being a novella is on the shorter side but definitely reads quicker and packs quite a punch. Our main protagonist (or is it antagonist) is as Machiavellian as they come. Nestor deNeffo only wants to get rich no matter the cost to anyone around him. He loves the finer things in life and knowing the high price that they cost. He will do anything and everything including selling information, weapons and other stuff to anybody on the black market. While being such a duplicitous agent, he also has to be careful as to not let his fellow Nambroc colleagues know of his true nature. This premise of this novella and the characters reminded me a lot of the TV series The Shield and its main protagonist (?) Vic Mackey.

Sure Nestor deNeffo is more calculating and perhaps a shade more dangerous but both these characters share similar reasoning for their shady activities. Vic proclaims to be doing it for the betterment of his family and Nestor proclaims the same for the betterment of his own life. As the story consists of only twelve chapters, the story opens up pretty quickly and then as quickly descends into a lot of murder, back-dealings and chaos. The pace of the plot is extremely high as the reader is constantly shunted from page to page wherein the actions shifts from the octane kind to the simmering type before twisting back again. The readers will never be sure where the story is headed and how exactly it will end and that’s the biggest draw, the unpredictability.

I liked this story a lot as it seemed very much in line with stories by Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch and Rob J. Hayes, R. D. Henderson showcases that there are no heroes in this tale. Just various shades of grey that turn more and more towards the black as the story progresses. The novella ends also on a big note and sets up the sequel novella as most readers will want to know what happens next and what will Nestor do?

The only drawback I can think of for this story is the novella format and the world-building which seems to be eschewed for the reasons of plot and pace. Sure there are some tidbits scattered here and there but the world most stays dark as most of the action occurs below ground. I hope in the ensuing novellas the author expands on the world scene and we get to know more. But for now, I couldn’t stop myself from finishing Hondus Pointe as quickly as possible. Folks who love dark characters and plotlines, the Nambroc sequence is exactly what you have been looking for.

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Q] Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic. To begin with, could you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

RDH: Thank you for the warm welcome. Very happy to be here.

I live near Seattle, Washington. I am married and have two boys. I grew up in the Midwest, completed my education in New England, worked for about a year in Japan, and then settled in the Pacific Northwest.

My background includes playing Dungeons & Dragons in high school and throughout college, collecting and reading comic books monthly for the last twenty years, and have a passion for fantasy as well.

Q] Can you tell us what inspired you to be a writer in the first place, what experience you went through in finishing your book, & why you choose to go the self-publishing route?

RDH: Since I was young, I was always interested in being a writer. The problem was I did not really write unless it was school assignments, or papers in college and graduate school. I have always been a reader, and fantasy has always been my favorite genre.

In 2007, I was finally inspired to take the next step in the process to becoming a writer when I had a germ of an idea for a story that I could no longer ignore. The problem was the idea was not clear, concrete, or vivid enough for me to take pen to paper. After awhile, I guess I lost focus and my attention was drawn to the ebbs and flow of everyday life, and forgot about the idea.

In middle of 2009, I read the First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie, and I really became enamored with the Northmen characters he created, especially Logan Nine Fingers. I was inspired to read more fantasy, and I read the first two books in the Gentlemen Bastards series by Scott Lynch, and I like the plot points featuring cons. I started to put pen to paper because I was inspired by these characters and these plot points. The more I brainstormed, the germ of an idea returned in full-force and became more clear, concrete, and vivid.

The experience I went through in finishing my book started with NaNoWriMo in 2009. I did not have a specific character or plot point, but I wanted to write a fantasy story featuring elves, gnomes, kobolds, halfling, dwarves who could be criminals. One aspect of the story I enjoyed writing was a corrupt and traitorous intelligence operative who was a black elf named Nestor deNeffo with an intelligence service called the Nambroc Knives.

I started writing and accomplished the fifty thousand word goal for NaNoWriMo, and then I kept writing until February 2010 with what I thought could be a potentially interesting story, but it needed to be revised and rewritten to become a better story. I enjoyed writing the first story so much that I continued to write fantasy stories for the next couple of years.

I did not start thinking about publishing until I felt the quality of my writing improved technically and grammatically as well as the qualities of the story, plot, and character.

After my writing and stories improved, I started to research online about publishing. I knew traditional publishing was not for me because it would take too long to get to market. I did not have the patience to endure the time to wait submission process of getting an agent to a traditional publishing company taking my book to market. Self-publishing was preferable because I controlled the publishing process and could publish my books on my schedule.

Q] Many writers have a muse, who directs their writing, and others do not seem to be affected the same way. Which group do you fall into? What is your main motivation and source of inspiration?

RDH: I don't have a muse.

I really don't have a specific process or way I get ideas for stories. Sometimes a character or a plot point pops appears to me. Sometimes I get an idea by reading an interesting article in the newspaper or online. Another way is I am reading a novel or non-fiction book and I see an interest plot point and that gets me thinking. I have also gotten story ideas from something I have seen on television or in a movie or film.

My main motivation to write is to get the stories out of my head and into a fixed and tangible form so I can write the next story. My source of inspiration is to write stories that I would like to read.

Q] Please elaborate how the genesis of HONDUS POINTE occurred. How long have you been working on it? Has it evolved from its original idea (if any)?

RDH: The genesis for Hondus Pointe was that part of story was in the original book I wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2009.

After I finished writing the book, a developmental editor read it and told me a story was somewhere in there, but it was hidden in the flat characters, too many dropped story lines, and large and gaping plot holes. She suggested that I pick one major plot point and the applicable characters and develop and deepen them.

I took her advice and ripped the original book to the studs and Nestor deNeffo and the Nambroc Knives made their presence known to me. In the fall of 2013, I started to write the story which ultimately became Hondus Pointe and it was published in January 2015. Yes, the published version evolved a great deal from when I completed the first draft at the end of 2013.



Q] Hondus Pointe is the first volume in the Nambroc Sequence. Could you give our readers an outline of your plans for the series as a whole? Is it complete and what can readers expect from it?

RDH: Nambroc Sequence is a fantasy series featuring Nestor deNeffo, a traitorous and corrupt black elf intelligence operative, who holds an important senior position within the Nambroc Knives. The Nambroc Knives is the pre-eminent black intelligence service in all of the Nether Realm -- self-proclaimed by its operatives -- and based in Nambroc which is a black elf city.

Nestor is motivated by his love of money so he can acquire the finer things in life. He is very comfortable passing state secrets to the enemies of Nambroc as well as being an enforcer and fixer for a local narcotics trafficking organization. The rest of the series features Nestor expanding his criminal activities to the Earth Realm because it enhances the possibility of him making more money.

Nestor engineers a deal of selling a cache of specially-constructed black elven arrows with each of them armed with an explosive component to an unknown buyer in Hartshire which is a city in the Earth Realm. The black arrows are used in the assassinations of several politicians as well as other powerful, wealthy, and influential people in Hartshire.

In Hartshire, Luigi Darkhawk, a mage, has to contend with the fall-out from the assassinations because all of the victims were his colleagues on the Hartshire Noble Council. The noble council is the organization responsible for mediating disputes between criminals as a way to ease the burden on the already over-worked members of the local constabulary.

Luigi is very concerned that one of the black arrows is meant for him. What makes this situation particularly difficult for his is he accepts bribes and other favors from a certain portion of the criminal element in Hartshire because of his love of money so he can acquire the finer things in life.

Readers can expect the Nambroc Sequence to feature standard fantasy tropes such as elves, dwarves, gnomes, kobolds, goblins, and orcs, but with a bent blended both of crime and espionage. Hondus Pointe, the first novella, along with the remaining six novellas in the fantasy series are available in ebook format to download from Amazon.


Q] Your covers have a very distinct look and all together look quite striking. What was your thought process in their creation? Who's the artist/designer for your books?

RDH: Thank you for the kind words.

The person responsible for creating the striking and distinct-looking book covers for all of the novellas in the Nambroc Sequence as well as the Water Falcon Trilogy is Clarissa Yeo of Yocla Book Cover Designs. I told Clarissa that I wanted to have a symbol on the cover similar to the covers of some of recent editions of A Song of Ice and Fire novels and the UK editions of Wheel of Time series. She weaved her magic and created the awesome and eye-catching covers. Clarissa is an overall awesome book cover designer and produces stellar covers.

Not only she a great designer, she is great to work with as well. She produces great work by the promised due date, responsive, and very personable. Please check out her work at her site.

Q] Could you tell us about the research which you undertook before attempting to write this series and what were things which you focused upon and any fascinating things that you found amidst your research?

RDH: I read my interviews of authors of fiction, including fantasy and science fiction, mention they get ideas for potential stories and characters as well as to ensure get the setting, atmosphere, context, emotions, among things just right to make the story interesting, plausible, immersive, and believable journey for the reader.

Following the lead of more experienced and established authors, I read a fair bit about espionage and traitors as well as about criminals and the crimes that they committed for potential story ideas or interesting characters. When I was reading about espionage and traitors, I learned about Lisbon during World War II was full of spies from both the Allied and Axis countries because Portugal remained neutral. Portugal, however, was very important strategically and tactically to both Allied and Axis countries because of its location. Everyone knew everyone was spying on each other, and Portugal secret police was spying on the spies. It was also very difficult for the Portuguese government leaders to remain neutral because of the imminent threat of military incursion from both the Allied and Axis powers.

One interesting nugget of information I discovered in my reading about criminals was Al Capone, the famous Chicago gangster of the 1920s and behind the brutal St. Valentine's Day massacre, was never convicted of murder or any of other numerous heinous crimes he committed, but he was convicted of tax crimes and sentenced to five years in prison. He was sent to Alcatraz which was one of the most secure and isolated prisons locate on an island off the California coast near San Francisco, and housed the most dangerous and difficult felons in America between 1934 and 1963.

Q] What other books have you written? Can you tell us about them and what genres they belong to?

RDH: Besides writing the Nambroc Sequence, I have also written the Water Falcon Trilogy which is also a fantasy series and takes place in the same world but in the Fairy Realm.

Wit Fallo, the first novella in the trilogy, features Wit Fallo, a white gnome and shiftless boat captain, wants nothing more than to retire and enjoy the free and easy life. He accepts the deal of a lifetime when he is offered to be part of a narcotics trafficking operation to deliver narcotics on the high seas on the Earth Realm

Life sometimes does not go as planned.

When circumstances occur beyond his control and three of his associates are killed during one of the deliveries, he is forced to leave the Earth Realm for the Fairy Realm with a hope of a new start and life. The new life is very much like the old life when he is forced to work for a halfling crime lord because he owes the crime lord a great deal of money.

The trilogy focuses on the relationship between Wit Fallo and the halfling crime lord as the white gnome is involved in deals of the criminal sort such as delivering narcotics, passing intelligence and information to the highest bidder, and killing enemies of the crime lord as ways to pay what is owed to the halfling. The series also features pixies, sprites, brownies, elves, dwarves, gold goblins, pirates, mages, and a bard who are involved in crime, espionage, and business transactions.

Wit Fallo along with the other two novellas in the Water Falcon Trilogy, a fantasy series, are available in ebook format to download from Amazon.


Q] Your book deals with some grey and essentially morally unreliable characters. What was your inspiration for the setting and characters?

RDH: The setting was inspired was my interest for Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) role-playing game I used to play while I was in high school and college. I took what I remembered from the setting for the D&D adventures I played as the starting point, and then brainstormed and worked on the setting until I created the setting which is used in the novellas in both the Nambroc Sequence and Water Falcon Trilogy.

The inspiration of using elves, gnomes, dwarves, halflings, orcs, and other standard fantasy type of characters in my stories was also inspired by D&D as well as the drow elves featured in the Forgotten Realms novels written by R.A. Salvatore. The inspiration for creating gray and morally unreliable characters is my interest in television shows such as Sopranos and Breaking Bad and movies such as Usual Suspects, Godfather, Godfather II, and Spanish Prisoner.

I combined my fond memories of D&D with my interests in crime dramas and created characters that are elves, gnomes, dwarves, halflings, and the like who are criminals, spies, and traitors in the Nambroc Sequence and Water Falcon Trilogy.

Q] Please tell us about the books and authors who have captured your imagination and inspired you to become a wordsmith in your own right. Similarly, are there any current authors you would like to give a shout out to?

RDH: The books and authors who have captured my imagination are Noble House by James Clavell, Return of Moriarty by John Gardner, Revenge of Moriarty by John Gardner, and A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin. The Canadian television series Intelligence produced by Chris Haddock also captured my imagination.

I became very interested in incorporating espionage and corporate elements in my novellas after reading the novel written by James Clavell. My interest in inserting both espionage and criminal components in my novellas was due watching the Intelligence television series.

My imagination was captured when I read the two novels by John Gardner featuring Professor James Moriarty, primary nemesis of Sherlock Holmes, as the head of a mafia-type organization in Victorian England.

My interest in gray and morally unreliable characters crystallize after reading the A Song of Ice and Fire novels by George R.R. Martin. Martin is the master of creating gray characters and political machinations in a fantasy setting. I do not think I have read anything more surprising, gut-wrenching, and exhilarating as the Red Wedding scene in A Storm of Swords.

The author who got me to think about becoming a wordsmith was Joe Abercrombie after reading his First Law Trilogy and becoming very enamored with Logan Ninefingers and the other Northmen characters he created. These characters are as gray and morally unreliable as can be. I finally decided to start writing for publication was after reading about the Northmen character of Caul Shivers in Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie.

Caul Shivers is the epitome of the gray and morally unreliable character I would like to create.

Besides the authors that I have already mentioned, I would like to give a shout out to the following authors: Michelle West for her Sun Sword series and House War series; Adrian Tchaikovsky for his Shadows of the Apt series; Timothy Zahn for the Thrawn trilogy and the sequel Hand of Thrawn duology by, and James Luceno for Darth Plagueis.

Each of these authors does a tremendous job of including espionage and criminal components in both fantasy and space-opera stories. I recently started to read the Sanctuary series by Robert J. Crane which I find to be rip-roaring and action-paced fantasy series about mercenary company/guild populated with very interesting characters.

Q] Thank you for taking the time to answer all the questions. In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers?

RDH: I want to thank the good folks at Fantasy Book Critic for this opportunity as well as the review of Hondus Pointe the first novella in Nambroc Sequence a fantasy series.

I also want to thank Mark Lawrence for creating and sponsoring #SPFBO as an opportunity to get self-published authors to get their fantasy stories exposed to a wider audience. I look forward to reading Powers of the Six by Kristal Shaff, Storm without End by R.J. Blain, The Moonlight War by S.K.S. Perry, The Dungeoneers by Jeffrey Russell, Nolander by Becca Mills as well as many other due to #SPFBO.

Because of #SPFBO, I have learned so much about all the great fantasy being created, and it is amazing.

In the next few months, I plan to publish a four novella series which is the sequel to the Nambroc Sequence. I hope people give them a whirl and find them interesting. Thank you very much.

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