Bestselling author Daniel James opens up to Digital Journal’s Markos Papadatos about his HOURGLASS” book.
Background on ‘HOURGLASS’ book
Clyde is a Brooklyn artist struggling to break into the comic book industry. Complicating matters further, the ghost of his recently killed best friend/roommate Kev has returned. Through shock and confusion, they’re trying to recapture their old status quo, but secretly know their future is a troubling place, until Rose Hadfield, agent of Hourglass, knocks on their door with an offer of mastering their hidden talents and a place in the world. Clyde lost his older brother and estranged dad to military service, leaving him with great distrust of all things military and federal.
He wants to stay in NYC and work on his comic, but he knows Kev is growing restless and in need of a purpose. Clyde compromises with Kev: he’ll accept Hourglass’ invitation to educate themselves on their condition, but he will remain a civilian afterward.
Meanwhile, Kozlov, an arcane Russian monk, has been press-ganged by the Cairnwood Society into leading a mercenary team into the dead realm of Erebus, to steal souls from the Eidolon Trench for profit.
During the intensive training, Clyde slowly realizes that he is a natural soldier, and together with Kev, they’re a formidable duo. When their training concludes, Clyde explains that for all his potential, he wants to return to NYC and his art. Kev is disappointed, but understands, knowing that Clyde can still lead an ordinary life.
Kev gets his first assignment. Hourglass has learned of the Cairnwood plot to siphon a wealth of souls. The profitable soul import is due to arrive in a Brooklyn warehouse where Kev and his team will hit them.
During the warehouse raid, Kev is wounded, and unwittingly sends a distress call to Clyde. Clyde, struggling to readjust to civilian life, races to Kev’s aid. In an epic battle between the hellish Eidolon Trench and a New York high society Cairnwood gala, Clyde and Kev help save Kozlov, and dismantle Cairnwood’s soul profiteering plot.
Kev has truly found his calling, and Clyde has accepted that he belongs with Hourglass, fighting the good fight, not for flags or profit, but humanity itself.
Biography on Daniel James
Daniel James is an author of dark fantasy, thrillers, and horror, from Liverpool, England.
He first began writing as a hobby and creative outlet to distract himself from the mundanity of completing his Bachelors of Science at Liverpool Hope University. His character-driven, action-packed urban fantasy novel, Hourglass, received a Kirkus Star from Kirkus Reviews, and was voted one of their Best 100 Indie novels of 2021.
Growing up, he spent perhaps a little too much time daydreaming about superheroes and horror movies. In his mid-teens he got his first bass guitar and joined his first band. No points for guessing the quality of their output. But growing up he maintained his interest in music, playing in several better bands and gigging locally. Having experienced a mugging at 18, he later decided to take-up kickboxing and jiu jitsu. Despite loving the thrill of getting soundly beaten-up several days a week, this bruising hobby eventually fell by the wayside. And that left only the writing, the one hobby he couldn’t shake.
His noir thriller novel Pigs landed him a New York literary agent in Ethan Ellenberg, who subsequently released it through his in-house imprint. Although Dan is currently an independent author, his previous involvement with a professional agency drove him to continue his writing pursuits unabashed. He has since released Hourglass, Fable, Heathens, and the upcoming sequel to Hourglass, The Ferryman’s Toll.
When not writing, he loves reading genre fiction and comic books, watching movies, listening to music, and playing guitar.
‘HOURGLASS’ has really resonated with readers and reviewers because you have created an amazing adventure in this book. Every book, has a story about its creation, what’s the story ‘HOURGLASS’?
I think it resonated with readers who were looking for something a little different or unexpected in their urban fantasy; which is a boilerplate genre category which I still think Hourglass struggles to fit into. There are clear elements sure: ghosts, otherworldly threats, adventure, and heroics, but I think the strong paramilitary/espionage aspects skew it from being straight-up UF.
As for the creation, I started writing it in the summer following the release of my crime thriller Pigs. I had parted with my former agent, and I wanted to deviate from the dark and violent Chicago underworld of that novel, to create a wild, vibrant and imaginative universe of my own; but for the record, it’s still violent!
I was working as a taxi driver at the time, and spent a lot of time at the cab rank, bouncing ideas around, and I recall wanting to revisit an old and very amateurish fantasy series I attempted at the very beginning of my writing life, knowing it still had potential to be something more. So that’s what I did. I cherry-picked a couple of my favorite characters, and built a whole new world around them. Other than that handful of characters, all I knew was that I wanted the agency to be called Hourglass, with the HQ being secretly based within a canyon in New Mexico…not entirely sure why, but those ideas were instantly cemented into the foundation of this new story.
Clyde Williams and Kev Carpenter are fabulous protagonists and have a fascinating relationship. One of them is in the living realm, while the other is a ghost. What was it like for you to develop these characters who are in such different places in terms of their reality?
I was deeply intrigued by their relationship dynamic, and that’s what drew me to dusting off these older characters of mine. When I first started writing it, I knew I would have to tackle the shock and confusion that the pair are trying to secretly deal with, not to mention Clyde’s guilt in assuming he might be responsible for anchoring Kev’s ghost; and for Kev, the fact that he was slowly realizing how bleak his future now looked, being an aimless spirit trapped outside society, and being forced to hide himself away from everybody, including his family.
Creatively, this troubled friendship made a perfect springboard for the larger elements of the plot and the universe: Clyde going to Hourglass to give Kev a much-needed sense of purpose; Kev’s own morbid fascination with the dead realm he was yanked out of; Konstantin “Gulag” Kozlov’s own ability to harbour the revenants of his fellow monks; and the whole nightmarish dead realm which awaits all living souls except those which find a way to escape.
So Clyde and Kev’s friendship really pulled everything together.
If you could somehow hang out with Clyde Williams and Kev Carpenter, what do you think the three of you would do to have fun?
Pre-Hourglass, I’d like to just hang out with them, go the movies, joke around, talk comic books, maybe even attempt writing Clyde’s comic book IP with him. Plus I’ve never actually been to New York, which is where they’re from, so that would be cool. But post-Hourglass recruitment…I’d want nothing to do with either one of them out of fear of getting accidentally caught in their enemies’ crosshairs.
While writing ‘HOURGLASS’ did you learn anything new about yourself as a person and/or as an author?
I was happy with how I managed to dovetail the two weaving story threads, that of Clyde and Kev’s journey in training with Hourglass and learning some harsh existential secrets, and that of Kozlov’s coerced paramilitary invasion of Erebus (the dead realm), into a big climactic showdown. But I also learned just how much I enjoy melding action thrillers with fantastical horrors.
You’re a very popular author with a lot of fans. What was the most interesting feedback or question you have received from a reader?
I’ve had some very nice, positive feedback relating to the genre-hopping nature of the book, whilst still managing to maintain my own voice. I’m also very happy with some of the authors I’ve been compared to: from China Mieville and Ursula Le Guin, to Robert E. Howard and Tom Clancy. I think these comparisons help show the breadth and potential of Hourglass’ scope as a series. But it’s best to let the readers decide, so hopefully they’ll grab a copy and see for themselves.
‘HOURGLASS’ has been such a hit with readers I have to ask – do you have another book or project in the works you can tell us about?
Yes, I do. I have started the first draft of the third book in the Hourglass series. Between that and working full-time, it should keep be busy for a while; but I’ll definitely have it completed sometime towards the end of the year. In the meantime, for those readers who enjoyed Hourglass, the second book, The Ferryman’s Toll, is currently available on Amazon.
“HOURGLASS” is available on Amazon by clicking here.