Mother Pig (Flesh Eater #2) by Travis M. Riddle - Book Review 22, Dec

After loving Flesh Eater, I had solid expectations for the sequel Mother Pig, but also very little idea of where it would go. My expectations were happily exceeded, and the scope of the story significantly expanded. Now, instead of just Coal’s survival and freedom, the whole of Ruska is at stake, and Coal has five new companions to try and get along with, while trekking across the majority of the kingdom.

Flesh Eater (Houndstooth #1) by Travis Riddle - Book Review 19, Jan

After how much I enjoyed (SPFBO 6 semi-finalist) Spit and Song by Travis Riddle, I was excited for the chance to read his newest novel Flesh Eater, which is the beginning of the Houndstooth trilogy. This series takes place in a new world in which the characters are sentient animals (think Redwall) but retains the unique world-building and adventurous tone that I loved so much in Spit and Song and have come to expect from Riddle's writing.

Welcome to! Can you tell us a few things about yourself?

Sure thing! My name's Travis, and I currently reside in Austin, TX. I've been writing since I was in elementary school (my first projects being a comic that was somehow a ripoff of both Samurai Jack and Osmosis Jones, and a novelization of Final Fantasy IX), and I collect what many would consider to be "way too many" blu-rays.

What book did you enter SPFBO with, and is it your debut?

"The Narrows," which is my third novel. In last year's SPFBO, my book "Balam, Spring" made it pretty far with Team Weatherwax!

Tell us a few things about it. What should the Judge you'll be allocated to, expect from it?

It's a contemporary fantasy/horror novel that tackles themes of grief, different friendship dynamics, nostalgia, and changing relationships. It's more of an atmospheric, creepy kind of horror, with a big focus on the character relationships and the main character's emotional journey grappling with the death of his friend and how their relationship ended. It's a highly personal novel which seems to have resonated with a lot of reviewers already, which is really gratifying.

You'll compete against 299 other books. Do you believe your book will stand out against the competition, and if yes, why?

I hope so! I think horror fantasy isn't too common, especially in the indie community. At least not with the sort of tone I was going for with this book. I hope it stands out in that regard, as well as with its strange, gross imagery and the character development. Several reviewers have stated that they were so invested in the characters, they would've read a whole horror-less book about them, so I hope the judges are similarly enamored with this cast!


Under the snow, near the fence

Editorial Note: We’d never have thought to look there!

Why did you decide to enter SPFBO in the first place?

Last year's experience with it was great, and I'm hoping this year is similar. I met a great group of authors that I've become friends with over the past year, and it's felt nice becoming a larger part of this community that I'd mainly only been a lurker in previously. Plus, now I've been getting to beta read these authors' great new books, which is a nice perk...

Are you working on a book right now? What should we expect from you next?

I've been working on something for the past several months, and I'm nearing the end of the first draft. It's not a direct sequel, but it does take place in the same world as "Balam, Spring," albeit with a new cast, new story, and in a new country. It's a bit more of a lighthearted adventure than Balam and Narrows, though it still has that emotional undercurrent running through it like all my books. It involves two characters: a merchant named Kali from a race of flower-people who gain sustenance from the sun who's trying to scrounge up enough money to travel the world to share her wares; and Puk, an amphibious, drug-addicted singer who simply wants to get out of the desert and go back home. The book is about the two of them coming together for a singular task to accomplish their goals.

Anything else you would like to add? A message to the other contestants, the Judges, or Mark Lawrence himself?

I guess I'd want to say thank you to Mark and the judges for giving these self-published books a chance every year. The scene is only putting out higher quality and more unique stories every year, and this contest has truly added some legitimacy to what us authors are doing so that casual readers actually feel compelled to give us a chance. I think there probably still is a slight stigma around being "self-published" for some people, but that stigma is going away more and more and no doubt SPFBO is a big reason why.

What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

11 meters per second, or so I hear.

Editorial Note: Ah, a man of culture! Thank you for taking part in this, Travis, and the very best of luck to you and your spooky fantasy novel in this year’s competition!