December 9, 2014

Gateways by Brian Gottheil (+Author Interview & Giveaway)

For months, the Continent has been mired in a devastating war: artillery barrages lasting days, the death rattle of machine guns, toxic chemical gas, futile charges across no-man’s-land toward enemy trenches. Caryn Hallom, the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Deugan and the first woman to have achieved such a powerful position in the fledgling democracy, is horrified that she failed to prevent the war from breaking out on her watch.

When Caryn finds herself trapped together with Michael Ravencliffe, a member of the royal family of Deugan’s main enemy in the war, she seizes on the opportunity to try to negotiate an end to the fighting. Little does she know that a new faction is about to enter the conflict, armed with a frightening magical weapon … or that it will be led by the one person on the Continent who knows the truth about Caryn’s past.

Gateways has been described as a fantasy novel that reads like historical fiction. Set in an alternate world that resembles Europe during the First World War, the novel combines geopolitics with plots, counterplots and magic, and ultimately asks the question: how far are we prepared to go for peace?

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Genre: Fantasy/Alternate World
Release Date: October 20, 2014
Length: 429 Pages

The Book Excerpt

The Cafe Interview

Thanks so much for stopping by the Authors' Cafe today, Brian. I'm very excited to host you and your latest release, Gateways!

Okay, I see you've got your banana bread and tea, so let's get right to the interview.

At what point in your life did you realized that being an author was no longer going to be just a dream but a career you were going to turn into reality?

I didn’t know that I was going to become a real author until my debut, Gateways, was well on its way to being finished. As late as February 2012, with 10 chapters already written, I had pretty firmly decided not to finish writing the novel, let alone publish it! Then in March 2012, while I was walking to the subway minding my own business, I was suddenly struck by an idea that would improve the novel dramatically and fix the plot problem I’d been struggling with. Less than a year later I had finished the first draft and knew that I was going to publish it. 

Where do you write?

I normally write at home, often on lazy weekend mornings. My laptop is hooked up to a larger screen. Occasionally I have written on trains or in coffeeshops, but I find that I concentrate best in my quiet apartment.

Do you have any “rituals” you go through before you write?

Does obsessively thinking about scenes and acting out dialogue in my head count as a ritual? I think the real answer is, re-reading the bits of the story that I wrote last time. I tell myself that is functional (I’m reminding myself where I left off and the tone I was using), but it’s really little more than a ritual.

What was your favorite scene in Gateways to write and why?

**Mild spoilers here.**

Long before I got the idea for the plot of Gateways, I created the world in which it’s set. The world includes magic and I wanted characters to be able to see prophecies. But I wanted prophecy to be done differently from other fantasy novels. I wanted to avoid the trope where a prophecy comes true only because of what the characters have done to try to prevent it, which you see everywhere from Oedipus to Harry Potter (I say that as a fan of Harry Potter, by the way). That’s something I’m proud of in Gateways.

Anyway, the earliest idea for a scene that I ever had was for a character to see a prophecy in which they see themselves, seemingly in the present, and armed men are sneaking up behind them. The character opens her eyes, turns around, and the men are there, come to arrest her – a prophecy, but one that came true mere seconds after it was seen. I can’t tell you why I loved this idea so much, but I thought it was such a cool scene that I included it in every story idea I had. Of which there were several; I rejected at least three story ideas before coming up with Gateways.

I also have a somewhat compulsive need to write stories in order. Chapter 1 first, then Chapter 2 and so on. So by the time I actually sat down to write this scene, which happens later on in Gateways, I had literally been waiting to write it for almost three years. Finally doing it was probably the biggest thrill I’ve ever had as a writer.

What would YOU like your readers to know about Gateways or you in general?

My favorite line from a review of Gateways is, “The book is a fantastic blend of war strategy, political relations, mystery, and magic. There is something for everyone here.” I hope my readers will realize that this is more than just a fantasy novel, and in fact, I’ve gotten quite a bit of praise from people who don’t normally like fantasy. It’s a novel where none of the combatants in the war are the “bad guy;” the main antagonist is the war itself.

What's one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?

Don’t give up ... and surround yourself with people who will help you to not give up. (Was that two pieces of advice?) Seriously, I probably never would have finished Gateways had it not been for a few very supportive friends who kept asking me when they could read more of my novel. 

What would you love to write that you haven’t?

I’m a bit of a sucker for YA novels and I would love to write one, if I can get myself up to the challenge of writing something very different from my normal style.

Do you have a favorite author?

I don’t really have a favorite author, but my biggest influences in the fantasy genre are George R.R. Martin and Guy Gavriel Kay. I think you’ll spot some of those influences in Gateways.

What is your favorite quote?

“Everything in moderation, including moderation.” (Anonymous)

What genre of books do you read for pleasure?

All sorts. I try to read a mix of fiction and non-fiction. Primarily it’s fantasy on the fiction side and a mixture of history and psychology books on the non-fiction side, but I will also read anything that crosses my plate and sounds interesting.

What’s the most amusing thing that’s ever happened to you?

That would have to be the time I accidentally rode a bicycle into the Atlantic Ocean.

It was only amusing in hindsight. At the time, it was better described as freaking cold. Also, wet.

“Isn’t the Atlantic Ocean, well, big?” you say. “How could you bike into it by accident? Didn’t you, you know, see it coming?”

Yes. Like a train wreck about to unfold.

Picture this: I’m riding a rented beach bike, one of those sturdy monsters with wide tires to grip on sand, a one-speed bike that you pedal backward to brake. This is only my third or fourth time on a bicycle in the entire last decade (but I still mostly remember how to do it ... it’s like riding a bicycle). My girlfriend is on another one of these beach bikes, and her brother and his girlfriend are riding, I am not even kidding, a tandem bike ahead of us. We are riding on the beach, alongside the ocean, when slowly it starts to dawn on us that there’s a little pool of water that’s formed between us and the rest of the beach, cutting us off from the beach. At this point we could have turned back and circled around the pool of water ...

... but the tandem bike was pressing forward so we followed it, thinking that they must see a place where the pool gets shallower and we can cross it.

Only there isn’t one. It gets deeper and deeper, and the stretch of beach we’re on between the ocean and the pool is becoming less a beach and more a sandbar. And the tide is coming in.

Soon our sandbar is swallowed up. The pool is just part of the ocean now. The tandem bike cuts hard to the right, trying to cross the water back to the beach, but the water is so deep by now that the bike just sinks. So I think, I’m not bailing like they did, and instead of veering off to the side, I power my bike forward straight into the ocean.

I have to admit, that's pretty funny! What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

My biggest hobby and passion, even more than writing, is swing dancing: partner dancing to the big band jazz music of the 1930s and 40s. In addition to the dancing, I’ve spent a lot of time as a dance organizer, and just recently stepped down as president of a not-for-profit swing dance organization.

Wow Brian, that sounds fabulous! If all TV shows were real, what show (all time) would you most like to live in?

This is difficult since I rarely watch TV, but I think I’m going to go with Glee. Not the first couple of seasons when they were constantly getting slushies in their faces, but the later seasons when you can spend your entire high school career hanging out with your friends in messy love triangles and singing to each other, then become instant successes in New York City and continue doing very little other than singing to each other.

By the way, if you’re ever in Toronto and want to go for karaoke, I am so down.

I just might take you up on that!
J Do you have another book on the horizon? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease? 

I’m working on a novel that’s very different from Gateways. It’s set in the real world, at my alma mater, and it’s generally about swing dancing, online harassment and mental health. It’s still in the very early stages, so there’s no timeline for the release as yet, but here’s a bit of a teaser:

She made her way back to the staircase, a sudden exhaustion dragging her steps. Behind her ears the tempest roared. She took a deep breath, imagined that she was sitting across a table from Leo with a pair of tens in her hand, and wiped her face blank. You do better with people around. This is going to help. She hoped that was true. They had all seen the video, they had all seen inside her, and she was about to face them. 

The moan of a saxophone carried down the stairs toward her. She could hear the steady plucking of a bass, the sharp melodies of a piano, the pounding of a drum. You can do this. The music was a magnet. One step, then the next, the letdown growing fainter as it ran up against the barrier the notes were weaving.

Her steps grew slower, more measured. She thought about the video again and a wave of fear passed through her. She remembered how painful it had been last night, watching her folly in front of everybody. Only Zack had been considerate, inviting her downstairs, and she had refused him. Zack will be here tonight, too, she reminded herself. It’ll be okay. 

The music froze, and for a heartbeat there was silence. Then the saxophone was reaching for her, the piano guiding her steps, the trombone beckoning her onward. 

Sophia Peretz stood taller, took a deep breath, and pulled open the door.
Very cool - Thank you! And now it's time for some . . . 

Cafe Random-Ness

Power suit or blue jeans? Suit

Plotter or Panster? Plotter

Print or e-Book? E-book

Coastal walks or extreme sports? Coastal walks [But not coastal bike rides anymore! See above.]

LOL! Cookies or cupcakes? Cupcakes

Super hero or super villain? Villain

If I had a free afternoon I’d . . . What is this “free afternoon” you speak of? Probably take a nap, then go out in the evening!

The smell of what takes you back to your childhood? Fresh cut grass

You suddenly realize you live in a haunted house. Do you:

  1. Run screaming for the door. 
  2. Bravely go to a church, load up on holy water and try to get rid of the ghost. 
  3. Set up ghost hunting equipment to capture phenomenon.
  4. Deny you have a ghost and just let it scare the bejesus out of your visitors. 
I'd have to go with #4!

Could you tell us five random facts about yourself?

  1. I wrote my first book at age 4 and it was about baseball. 
  2. In my day job I’m an employment lawyer (which may have influenced why I wrote a novel that has so much to do with negotiation). 
  3. I’ve travelled to Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean, but have never lived outside of Ontario.
  4. I will eat pretty much anything except olives. 
  5. I’ve been swing dancing for 12 years, and earlier this year went to the largest swing dance festival in history in New York City.

Thanks so much for stopping by to chat today, Brian. It was an exceptional interview!

About Brian Gottheil

I’ve been writing as a hobby since, at the age of four, I penned an epic about my then-favourite sport, the charmingly mis-spelled “baceball.” I’m more of a basketball fan these days, but I have kept up my love for writing throughout.

I live in Toronto, Canada, or as we Torontonians like to call it, “the centre of the universe.” I’m just joking about that … mostly. I’m writing a novel at the moment in which the main character hates Toronto, so that’s been a bit of a challenge. At one point she describes it as a “frenetic smogscape.” To each her own, I suppose.

In my day job, I work as a labour and employment lawyer with Bernardi Human Resource Law (visit us at I practice labour and employment law, which I think is fascinating and covers everything from union certifications to human rights issues, employment contracts to severance packages, and court and tribunal work to harassment investigations.

Outside of work, while I’m less enamoured than I once was with “baceball,” I’ve replaced it with a hobby and passion that I find even more creative, exciting, and easy to spell: swing dancing. 

The Giveaway
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