I’m am delighted to welcome Bob Simms to my blog today so he can share his charm, wit, and wicked sense of humor, along with the insider scoop on his devilishly clever urban fantasy, The Young Demon Keeper. I was lucky enough to find this gem of a story (and writer) during the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Competition and I’m so glad I did! With a fast-paced plot and unforgettable characters, this clever story left me wanting more.
The Young Demon Keeper is a darkly humorous fantasy novel set in modern-day London.
When Paul summoned a slave demon to do his every bidding, he thought it would be really cool. Instead, he got Scarth, a hybrid that was as magical as a damp sponge but not as intelligent. His only talents seem to be invisibility and to eat: toasters, gravel, furniture, but especially ice-cream. Oh, and people.
Featuring demons, trendy priests, garrulous occult bookshop owners, muggers, publicans, evangelists, porters, witches, and wizards.
Oh, and then there’s the really strange characters.
Here’s my review:
Be careful what you wish for . . .
Paul wished for a demon slave to bring his every fantasy to fruition (an X-Box 360, Lauryn the hot office temp). Instead, he got stuck with Scarth, quite possibly the most annoying demon that hell ever spawned. He’s destructive, he’s irritating, and he’s a bit . . . thick. He also has a nasty habit of eating people when he can’t score some ice cream. What is Paul to do when even hell won’t take him back?
I absolutely adored this fresh and witty tale and recommend it to urban fantasy fans! With a fast-paced plot and quirky, unforgettable characters, it will leave you wanting more.
*goes off to grab the rest of the series*
And now for the good part – a chat with one of my favorite Cyberstalkees, er, Cyberpals, fellow ABNA alum and wonderful writer, Bob Simms.
Paul, your hapless protagonist, is one of those everyman type of characters who I found relatable and oddly endearing, in spite of the fact that he’s summoned a demon. Who or what inspired this character and his decision to dabble in demon summoning?
Someone told me every portrait an artist paints is, to some extent, a self-portrait. Three of the main characters, Paul, Ess and Oz are to some extent facets of myself, but in a less pretentious way than this sentence makes it sound. Paul was me when I left school and started work: insecure, social awkwardness bordering on terror, and his growth through the book was my journey to the self-confident, really cool guy I am now. Of course, that took me thirty years or more, whereas Paul manages it in a week, the jammy git!
You found him endearing? Where were you when I left home?
As for demon keeping, I like stories that take established memes and turn them on their head. Some really successful stories do that: Buffy (the vampires running away from the pretty girl), The Saint (the burglar who rights wrongs) and Firefly (the spaceship captain who is a bit of an idiot). It started with the idea of, what would happen if instead of an all-powerful demon, you summoned a really useless one?
You are a really cool guy now! As for me, I suspect I was an equally awkward nerd-girl when you left home, well before I came into my own as a fun and fabulous grown-up (sort of) Supernerd Extraordinaire. Tell us a bit about Scarth, a.k.a. the world’s most pathetic demon? How did such a creature emerge from your imagination?
Poor Scarth. He’s as much a victim caught in the machine as Paul. He’s not intelligent enough to be evil, or good come to that. He started off as a naughty puppy, but instead of savaging a box of tissues or throwing up on the Axminster, he breaks furniture and eats people.
I understand that a few of your female readers have a soft spot for the maniacal little dimwit. Much like Paul’s Wiccan gal-pal, Ess, I confess I found him sort of pathetically adorable (from a reasonable distance). What is it about this creature, and his unwilling master for that matter, that makes your readers cheer for him?
That was the biggest surprise. My daughter even knitted a Scarth doll for me (Though of course, as I’m a manly man, it’s an action figure). Perhaps he brings out the mothering instinct. You have to condemn his actions, but it’s not his fault. He was brought up in the pits of torment. He’s not really going to be socially responsible. And he has a childish joy in simple things like music and ice cream, new experiences for him. I think people empathize with Ess, and just see him as misunderstood.
Aw, that is so adorable, er, I mean, that is, he’s so full of manly demon menace… I have the next installment waiting for me in my Kindle queue. Care to drop a few hints about what’s in store for me with Thicker than Water, pretty please?
I think most authors go through a maturing process. Your first book tends to have your favorite jokes, your cleverest wordplay, and your influences are most plain to see. Later books (hopefully) have better crafting and development. Thicker Than Water is less serial. Three intertwined plots move in parallel. Ess and Oz reappear, but this time they descend deeper into the otherworld, meeting other mythical creatures that live in London ignored by most of us. There’s vampires and young romance, but I promise you mine don’t bloody sparkle!
Oh, goody! I adore Ess, and Oz is one of my favorite characters in your series, randy old goat that he is. And you’re absolutely right, vampires should NOT sparkle. Most of my favorite stories involve mythical, magical worlds that parallel reality, especially when the magic spills over into the ‘real’ world. I look forward to following Ess and Oz on their adventures in hidden London. How have you found Indie publishing?
At first, it was easy. I formatted the content, uploaded it and told my friends. Bingo. They were very kind. Then strangers bought it and were also very kind. The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards helped. The thrill of seeing your name on a book cover is second only to the thrill of receiving your first royalty cheque for £10.
What’s hard is keeping up the momentum. I’m an artist. An artist, dammit! Even worse, I’m English, and we really don’t like self-publicizing. That’s why, if you ask an Englishman how he is, after winning the lottery and establishing a harem of super-models, the best you’ll get is, “Not bad. I can’t complain” When I’m rich and successful I’ll have people do that for me, but for now I have to force myself to blow my own trumpet. Still, I can’t complain.
*Barely resists urge to comment on blowing one’s own trumpet*
Really, you should know better than to leave me with such an opening. I find marketing difficult as well, but I’m glad you’ll let me help blow the metaphorical trumpet and spread the word about your work. (Bob also won’t tell you about that wonderful Publisher’s Weekly review he received for Demon Keeper, but I will!)
Any other projects on the horizon? I’m always looking for great new reads!
Ha ha! Well, thank you for the implied praise. You tell the nicest lies.
Unawares is another London urban fantasy, much darker than the others, where it’s really hard to tell the difference between the good angels and the fallen ones. Ess and Oz establish themselves further in Blood Rush, where they encounter a special police squad. I’m currently working on a fourth Ess and Oz adventure, this time set in the more salubrious art world of London. No vampires or demons, but danger from a more surprising direction.
Now, now, Bob, I don’t lie about books. My age, yes, books, NEVER! Thank you so much for the wonderful interview! To learn more about Bob, please visit his website and blog. You can also connect with him on Twitter: @Snodlander1. The Young Demon Keeper, Thicker than Water, Unawares, and Blood Rush are all available now Amazon.
In the meantime, here is an excerpt from The Young Demon Keeper to whet your reading appetite.
“Jesus, you scared me,” said Paul.
The stranger winced. “Please, a little consideration. We don’t use His name.”
“Who are you?” asked Paul. “You’re not…you know…are you?”
The stranger chuckled. “No, don’t worry. He’s too busy to deal with individual souls, unless you’re very special. The curse of scaling up, I’m afraid. He’s very good at delegating, though. Let me introduce myself. I’m Lord Roath.”
“Lord Roath?” repeated Paul. “The Destroyer of Peace and Whatnot of Souls?”
“Crusher of Souls. You’ve heard of me?” he asked, pleasantly surprised.
“Sort of. Scarth keeps sacrificing things to you. Cats, newspapers, gravel, pretty much anything, really. I’ve told him to stop, but it’s like talking to a brick wall. Well, worse really, because at least brick walls don’t look like they’re listening.”
“Ah, yes, sorry about that. My fault, really. For the best part of three ages, Scarth has been part of my fiefdom. It’s embarrassing, quite frankly. What he expects me to do with them all is beyond me. It wouldn’t be so bad if he included the odd sacrificial virgin or saint, but what can you do? Between you and me, he’s just a little bit simple. It takes forever to get an idea into his head, but then he just won’t let go of it, no matter how much you torture him. It took nearly five hundred years in a lake of molten rock before he stopped picking his nose.”
“I sympathise. I feel I’ve spent an eternity in hell just the last two weeks. Still, it’s all over now. I’m sorry, I didn’t know you would come in person to collect him. I hope you weren’t busy or anything.”
“The thing is, Paul,” said Roath, wrapping an avuncular arm around his shoulders, “I’m not here to collect him.”
“No. Oh, it’s all in the small print, perfectly legal and all that, but the version of the summoning spell you used has a clause in it that gives us the option to refuse the return of goods. Sorry, chum, but you’re stuck with him. A demon’s not just for Christmas, you know. Look on the bright side. How many of your friends can say they have their own personal demon to command?”
“But he’s so useless. He doesn’t understand most of the orders I give him, and he keeps eating things.” Paul looked anxiously around the deserted car park and then said in a conspiratorial voice. “I think he’s eaten a couple of people too.”
“Yes, he does that. Not strictly necessary, of course. Being a demon, he doesn’t actually need to eat, but he does have a remarkable appetite. Still, just point him at people you don’t like, and that will turn your frown upside down.”
“I hardly think this is a joking matter,” said Paul.
“I wasn’t joking,” answered Roath.