Born in 1984, Leo Featherstone earned a BA in English and an MA in museum communication. He works as a freelance bookkeeper and archivist in addition to writing dark fantasy. The conception of his first book occurred when he arbitrarily sketched a vampire character in art class one day in his junior year of high school. This initial drawing led him to write a rough outline for his first story. It wasn't until he graduated from college that he finally sat down and fleshed his story out into a full novel.
Books - Ebon City: Death and the Maiden is his debut novel and he's currently working on his second, Ebon City: Bloodline.
Thank you so much for being in the Spotlight today!
How did you come up with the title for Ebon City: Death and the Maiden?
The title for the whole series, Ebon City, is the setting where the novels take place. Ebon is an adjective for a dark brown or black color, and derives from ebony, the name of a dense black wood. The title for the first novel, Death and the Maiden, is the name of a motif from Danse Macabre (“Dance of Death”), a genre of Renaissance art that presented several personifications of Death taking archetypal figures to the grave, illustrating Death’s lack of prejudicial treatment; no matter your status, Death will come for you. Death and the Maiden is one example of this theme, depicting Death as he collects a beautiful young woman. In many depictions, Death appears to be seducing the Maiden. This seemed like a nice visual allegory for the main characters of my novel, Ezekiel and Angela.
Who is your favorite character and why?
My favorite character is Ezekiel Blake. When I first conceived him, I drew a sketch of a vampire and incorporated every visual trope I could think of for a villain, such as a pointed beard, curled mustache, aquiline nose, black hat, wealthy clothes, and as the stereotype goes in American cinema, a British accent. All the while, I was planning for this dastardly looking fellow to be the hero of the novel. That’s the reason I visually love this character, but narratively speaking, I’m fond of him for his overly theatrical or hammy personality. He was just a fun character to write.
Tell us a little bit about your cover art. Who designed it? What made you fall in love with this particular design?
When I originally published my book, the cover featured illustrations I made myself, but I received a few reviews indicating the art style was too cartoony and didn’t fit the adult tone of the story. So I started an illustration contest on 99designs.com. Of the submitted designs, I selected an illustration done by Chandra “Jetta” Pandhita. He did a great job creating a more painterly illustration that incorporated all the major details of the original cover design. The characters look sharper and the atmosphere is perfectly eerie. In the old cover art, you couldn’t see Ebon City, but in Chandra’s illustration, you can see the gothic city clearly in the background. This is the illustration now featured on the cover, and Chandra is currently working on the illustration for the second novel. Also worth noting is that I selected a second design winner from an artist named John “Running with Joy” Nugroho. Although John’s illustration was submitted for the first book, I plan to use his design for a future anthology of short stories titled Tales of Ebon City, and I’ll likely ask John to do the illustration for the third book.
Who is your intended audience?
This is a book for lovers of romance and vampire literature. Elements of the story are extremely dark and disturbing, so this is probably not suitable for young readers. I’m probably riding the wave of the Twilight phenomenon after it’s already passed, but I wanted to present an alternative vampire novel for a slightly older audience nostalgic for the classic vampire.
What can we expect from you in the future?
For the Ebon City series, I plan to write seven novels and one short story anthology. The second novel, Ebon City: Bloodline, will be released during the summer or fall of 2014. I also plan to release a revised edition of my first novel around the same time. Once the Ebon City series is concluded, I plan to continue writing other novels and book series, all set within the same universe as Ebon City but with separate plots.
What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?
Spread the word about my book. Tell any friends you think might like the Ebon City series.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
I suppose I should mention one thing about the first novel. Something that might disorient readers at first is that multiple characters narrate the book, the perspective switching in each chapter subsection. I thought it would be a way to delve more deeply into individual character motivations and values. Since then, I decided my writing is more effective when written in third person perspective, which is how I’ll write all subsequent books, including the revised (third) edition of the first novel.
Before you go, can we get an excerpt from your debut novel?
EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER 1:
As I drank the boy’s blood, I felt him shiver in my embrace. He grabbed at my shoulders to push me away, but I was too strong. All the thief could do was groan in agony. He writhed for several moments before he went rigid in a fit of climaxing pain and then wilted in my arms, dying. When I had completely drained the body, it slipped lifeless out of my arms.
I trembled in ecstasy as the new blood filled my veins. I lifted my head and stared at the overcast sky. For a split second, moonlight filtered through the clouds. I had forgotten it was the full moon. It was October, which meant I was gazing up at the partially hidden face of the blood moon. I chuckled at the coincidence and agreed with Andrew about the continually dismal weather of this city.
That was my victim’s name, Andrew Collins. I made it a point to know all my victim’s names, having always felt regret that I’d never learned the name of my first kill. It wasn’t hard to learn their names. I could read the mind of almost any person I met, picking their identities from their thoughts as easily as picking up one of the autumn leaves that lay scattered around my feet. I knew all along that Andrew had been lurking in the bushes—believing he was the hunter when he was actually the prey.
As Andrew’s blood saturated my body, I could feel my heart—if you could call it a heart—beat with new vigor. The dull pain I’d felt in my chest for the past week slowly relaxed away. I gasped in pleasure and pressed my gloved hand against my breast. The blood filled my flesh, smoothing my skin. Though I had no need of breath, I sighed happily and smiled. I touched my refreshed skin and turned my gaze down to what remained of Andrew Collins.
“Now comes the chore, does it?” I whispered, dropping to a knee and scooping the lifeless body into my arms.
The Thornhill River was not far. It was named for Timothy Thornhill, a young boy who drowned in the river over a century ago. It was fenced off to prevent other such deaths, but I easily jumped over the ten-foot screen in one bound, clearing the barbed wire on top. Before disposing of the body, I touched my fingers to Andrew’s neck and used my powers to heal the tears in his flesh. If the body were found, a cause of death would be difficult to determine.
“Thank you for your services,” I said to the body in my arms before tossing it into the river. Droplets lightly flecked my shoes as the body hit the foul water. The corpse was whisked away by the currents and vanished under the surface.
Want more of Leo and his debut novel, Ebon City: Death and the Maiden? Look no further!