No Shelter From Darkness
The Cruentus Saga
By Mark D. Evans
Genre: Paranormal, Horror
Number of pages: 304
Cover Artist: Greg Simanson
“Her hands began to shake as she looked down wide-eyed at the blood-soaked cotton that covered her.”
London emerges from the Blitz, and every corner of the city bears the scars. In the East End—a corner fairing worse than most—thirteen year-old Beth Wade endures this new way of life with her adoptive family. She also suffers the prejudice against her appearance, an abiding loneliness and now the trials of adolescence. But with this new burden comes a persisting fatigue and an unquenchable thirst that ultimately steals her into unconsciousness . . .
What happens next is the start of something Beth will fear more than the war itself. She begins to change in ways that can’t be explained by her coming-of-age, none more frightening than her need to consume blood. The family who took her in and the former best friend who’s taken refuge in their house can never know. Aware of the danger she poses to everyone around her, Beth has never felt more alone. But someone else knows Beth’s secret . . . someone who understands just how different she really is. He alone can decrypt her past and explain her future. But he’s been sworn to destroy her kind, and as Beth grows ever more dangerous, he’s forced to take sides.
Can Beth keep all of the secrets? Can she trust a man sworn to kill her? And can she stop the vampire within from taking her humanity?
Beth breathed furiously. She was exhausted, but the air she breathed had a new scent to it. It stopped her short. Her insides jumped in excitement at the rusty metallic scent. Her jaw twitched and her body flinched. She spun her head around, toward the aroma. Oliver had felt his way back to the uneven wall and leant against it cradling his arm. He sobbed and whimpered, while looking aimlessly at it. Beth could see what he couldn’t: a jagged edge of bone poking out from his forearm. He was slightly sheltered under the broken floorboards above him, and the rain wasn’t washing away the blood that now oozed freely. Beth didn’t need to see everything. She could smell it.
Beautiful, delicious, unparalleled and unbeatable human blood.
Her head tipped forward. Her nose flared involuntarily and her lips snarled into a sadistic smile. She felt the four pointed canines being pushed out; unsheathed. The tip of her tongue curled under one of the two fangs that slid down. Her heart deafened the rain and the approaching bombers. Almost subconsciously, she lowered herself into a half-crouch, ready to pounce, and though her nails were trimmed short, her fingers curled into claws. She couldn’t even feel the hole in her palm any more. She felt nothing at all except raging bloodlust. Her brother leant there sobbing, oblivious to the bloodthirsty creature no more than a yard away that wanted nothing more than to cover everything with his precious life force. To swim in his blood.
Beth could almost taste it.
Can you please share with us a little about yourself?
My name’s Mark.
*Looks down over glasses and smirks* Well, yeah, I’d hope. *Sticks out tongue*
Too little? Oh, all right then...
I look younger than my years, more innocent than my guilt (not really, but it sounded good), but I’m sure my pleasant appearance hides well the dark and twisted stories that brew under my boyish blonde hair. Despite this, I’m pretty sure I have no ageing portrait hidden under cloth in my attic. I don’t even have an attic.
I’m a British citizen, but consider myself a little bit of a nomad. I don’t tend to stay in one place for long, and in fact I've been in my current flat since May this year and yet most stuff is still in a few boxes, ready for the next move.
Having said that, I've stayed in London for the last five years and am bound to stay within its confines for the foreseeable future. It’s a pretty cool city, I must admit, and of course it lends itself to the moniker my book manager, Wendy Logsdon, has given me: LondonBoy.
Have you always wanted to be an author?
Ha, no. Sorry, I know the usual answer to this is probably “oh, yeah, for as long as I can remember I've always wanted to write books”, but that just wasn't the case for me. Not quite (nothing’s ever straightforward with me)...
I can always remember writing things, whether they be short poems or short haunted-house stories. I make no claim that they were any good, I’m sure they were utterly rubbish, but the urge to write was there. Yet at the same time I used to think how terrible it must be for the people who had to write whole books; to have to write all those words. I couldn't imagine having to do that.
Of course as I grew older and my ideas got better (at least I believe that to be so), I slowly began to wonder if I could write a whole book. But still today, if I step back and think about the task of writing a book it seems daunting, but then I get stuck in, I’m absorbed, and I write away.
Can you share with us your typical writing day. Is there anything you have to have while writing?
A typical writing day for me has changed as of late. For the first novel, I took time off work to write it. I was very fortunate to be able to do so, I know that’s something most people wouldn't be able to even consider. The most common routine for me back then would be to get up and go to the gym (never as early as I meant to—I hate getting up), get a coffee and panini from my local coffee shop, invariably watch an episode of something and then get down to work. That was the plan, however due to procrastination it would often be four- or five-o’clock before I started to write, and sometimes even later. Evening was (and still is) my most productive time of the day, often going on late into the night.
Nowadays I've joined the ranks of all the other struggling authors, back to the day job and fitting in the writing whenever I can. When I do get to spend a day writing and not an hour or so at night, the gym is usually pushed aside and I’ll go straight to the coffee shop, write there till my battery dies before going home and finishing off the chapter I was writing.
So from writing this answer, I think you’ll see, the only thing I ever really need, no matter where or when I write, is coffee.
What would you say is the most challenging or rewarding part of writing?
A lot of the time, the most challenging part of writing for me is just making a start. I’m sure it’s the same with a great many things, but even though I love writing and creating stories and bringing them to life, I still find it hard to begin.
Getting more technical and going deeper into the writing process, something else I find challenging is ensuring that the continuity is in tact. I put great importance on continuity, but that has a tendency to make me slightly paranoid about it, too. Large plot threads are usually easy to deal with, mistakes easily picked up. It’s the small details that worry me. They would likely be so small that if I did get something wrong, no one would notice. But I never want to be in a position where I have to come up with some excuse for a continuity error. The way I look at it, real life doesn't make continuity errors, so neither should my stories.
As for the most rewarding? That’s easy; every satisfied reader, every single positive remark is a reward.
Can you please tell us about your latest book?
“No Shelter from Darkness” is the first book of a proposed five in “The Cruentus Saga”.
This first book introduces us to the central protagonist of the series, Elizabeth “Beth” Wade, who is an adopted teenager living with her foster parents and foster brother in London during World War 2. But the story is much less about her and the family living through war, and more about them living through the changes that affect Beth as she not only becomes a woman, but as she becomes a vampire.
How this could be, how Beth deals with this horrific change and how it affects those around her is the focus of the book. She has lived the first thirteen years of her life safe in the knowledge that though she may have been adopted, she is at least human. To then discover that vampires not only exist but that she is one... well, you’ll need to read the book to find out how all that pans out.
How did you come up with the idea for this story?
I’ve always been intrigued by monsters and things that go bump, none more so than vampires. I think I've always wanted to write a vampire story, and indeed in my teens I started on a few, but none amounted to anything. As time went on, I began wondering what kind of book or film could be written where the vampires were altogether more realistic.
And then multiple ideas seemed to come together at the same time, where I had an idea of a vampire being brought up by a human family and asking how that vampire would turn out, at the same time of really wanting to explore how to make a vampire realistic, but still keeping him/her a vampire.
Everything kind of evolved from there. Initially it was only going to be one book, focusing on this idea and set in the present day. A decade later, just before putting pen to paper, it had grown into a saga of a then unknown number of books with this first book set over half a century in the past.
Can you share with us your current work in progress?
I’m currently hard at work on the second book of the saga. I’d love to be able to share the title with you, but we all know it’s bound to change, and it definitely will if I reveal it so early on.
What I can say, though, is that it’s a direct sequel to “No Shelter from Darkness”, picking up a couple of years after the events of the epilogue. There will be more revelations about Beth, but also about vampires in general and the people who hunt them. There are many more vampires in the second book (I have a stupid grin on my face as I write that).
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Anyone who knows me will know that Dean Koontz is my favourite by far, but I also love reading Chuck Palahniuk and Scarlett Thomas. I vary my reading a lot, I rarely read two books in the same genre in succession. Likewise, just like discovering new music, I like reading authors I’ve not read before.
Do you feel that any of your favorite authors have inspired your writing style?
I used to say “no” to this question, but recently that’s changed. I read another Dean Koontz recently, the first I’d read for a while, and it struck me just how much I’d picked up from his style. There’s definitely approaches I make to my work that has been born from reading Koontz, I now realize.
Open your book to a random page and please read us a few lines.
This is going to look staged, but I honestly have just opened the book randomly. These are the lines I selected from that page:
Beth stood alone in front of the mirror while Mrs. Whitcombe waited for her outside. Removing her hand, she saw the saliva-diluted blood on her palm. As she snarled up one side of her mouth, she saw the baby canine pointing to the back of her mouth. She pulled it back straight, which made her squint. It had moved surprisingly easily. She began to wobble it, making it squelch and crunch. Then, she took a deep breath and gave a sharp tug. The tooth came away in her fingers. Tonguing the gap, she could taste her own blood (even that tastes good). She snarled once more at the mirror. The gum was red and sore, but there was hardly any bleeding. She looked like one of the slum kids from the parts of the East End she was happy to avoid; they always seemed to have teeth missing.She licked the gap again, cleaning away what blood was left. Something hard was in there. A tiny protrusion. Then she saw it: a new tooth was peeking out from the reddened gum . . . the sharp, pointed tip of a fang.
What is in your To Read Pile that you are dying to start or upcoming release you can’t wait for?
Hmm, I don’t really have a To Read pile, I just kind of pick up whatever’s nearest and intrigues me most depending on my mood at the time. I have “Shantaram” sitting on the side, but its sheer size daunts me, ha. But I’m feeling it’s about time I tackled it.
Have you ever used anyone from your real life encounters in any of your books?
Yes, but not on purpose. The character of Susan in “No Shelter from Darkness” wasn't meant to have been based on anyone, but one day while reading the manuscript for the umpteenth time I realized she was someone from my childhood. She even had the same brother. Like I say, totally unintentional.
Nothing to do with the question, but leading on from the answer, a similar kind of thing happened when I wrote “We Are God”. I created these two characters, one I called Benedict and who was the antagonist and the other was called Dirk. I thought they were such awesome names and they suited the characters. Only after I published the short story did I realize why those names seemed so familiar to me. “Dirk Benedict” is the actor who played “Starbuck” in the original Battlestar Galactica and of course “Face” in the original The A-Team. Still, I loved both shows as a kid and his were my favourite characters, so it all makes sense in the end. It’s my unintentional tribute to him.
What was the most surprising thing you learned about yourself while you were writing?
That I could write! (I can, right?)
MARK D. EVANS was born near London, England. He graduated university with a degree in something not even remotely connected with writing and went on to become a successful consultant. Then he threw it all away to chase his dream of being an author, via a considerable amount of travelling. Today, his life largely resembles that of a nomad, and he can currently be found typing away in a tiny flat in north London, sustained by coffee.
He is the author of two short stories, one of which made it into a Kindle Top Ten.
His latest work is his debut novel, No Shelter from Darkness, which is the first book in his series, The Cruentus Saga.
Visit Mark online: