Saturday, June 16, 2012

Interview with Arshad Ahsanuddin

Today we have Arshad Ahsanuddin, whose book Starlight is free on Amazon until the 18th, as a visitor here on the Indie Book Blog. First why don't you tell us a little about yourself.

I am a practicing hematopathologist, a physician who specializes in using microscopic and laboratory data to diagnose diseases of blood, bone marrow, and lymph nodes, such as leukemia and lymphoma. I also write what might be described as futuristic-sword-and-sorcery-gay-vampire-soap-opera-supernatural-thrillers, crossing genres between soft science fiction, urban fantasy, and non-explicit gay paranormal romance. Not exactly an intuitive marriage of professions.

What three words would you use to describe yourself?

Creative, passionate, methodical

What prompted you to write about vampires?

Because they’re cool, and have a much more diverse and varied presentation than most other science fiction/fantasy archetypes. Also, I started writing the story during the Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel heyday. More information on my attitudes towards vampires were described in a guest blog post I put together originally for Red Tash (

Where did the idea of the conflict with the Sentinels come from?

Any story thrives on conflict, whether driven by internal personal demons to overcome or external villains to defeat. Vampires as a race are too powerful to exist unopposed in our world, or they would have killed or enslaved us all by now. In fact, the background mythology of the story, described in Sunrise, indicates that was exactly what happened when vampires were first created, and it wasn’t until the Sentinels arose to oppose them that humanity had a fighting chance to survive.

In a way, they’re just like any other predator. Left unchecked, they would hunt their food supply to extinction and then starve. The prolific nature of humanity aside, there had to be a predator to winnow the vampire population to manageable numbers for even a supernatural ecosystem to survive.

Have you found anything that helps to separate your books from the legions of paranormal romance novels on the market right now?

Well, there’s the fact that the romance storylines are mostly focused on gay characters, though there are two books in the series, Radiant Burn and Moonlight, that deal primarily with straight main characters. However, there is a strong tradition of paranormal romance in LGBT fiction, probably driven by internalized marginalization of the gay community, and subconscious identification with the otherness of supernatural predators in relationship to humanity.

On the flipside (Do people still know what that expression means in the iPod era?), the books are complex on many levels, with deep backstory and intricate, simultaneous plot threads. Many readers find my books to be excessively confusing at first, which some find to be off-putting. I prefer to think of them as challenging, with a commensurately higher pay-off in the end.

How many books are you planning for the series?

The primary novels of the Pact Arcanum series are complete: Sunset, Sunrise, Moonlight, and Starlight. Two intervening novellas are also complete: Radiant Burn (book 2.5) and The Best of Times (book 3.5). I am currently working on a novella designed to fit between books 1 and 2, that focuses on the character of Icarus in Sunset, who has significant backstory that is not well explored in the other books of the series. I am also toying with the idea of a fourth novella to act as a coda to the series, told from the point-of-view of one of the secondary characters on the opposing side of the war.

Once those are completed, I plan to flesh out my ideas for a prequel trilogy to tell the story of that first conflict that destroyed the world when the vampires and Sentinels first came into being, but that’s more of a long term project, and probably won’t see print until next year at the earliest.

You have some pretty awesome designs for the various house seals. Where did you get all the ideas for the symbolism and the art?

The seals were drawn from the text, and were used as symbols to underscore various archetypal themes associated with specific characters. The artwork was first created by me, and then adapted by my illustrator, Craig Payst, whom I met through a fraternity sister (Yes, sister. It was a very interesting fraternity. He took my initial, clumsy designs and put a more artistic spin on them, which I modified slightly to come to the final product. The entire process was described in more detail in one of my early blog posts:

What author is your biggest inspiration?

Neil Gaiman was my biggest inspiration, due to the depth and range he displayed in the Sandman comic book series, which I collected faithfully since the first issue came out in 1988. I also found his more traditionally formatted fiction to be of extraordinary quality, and two of the crowning jewels in my library are the signed, limited editions of Neverwhere and American Gods.

A close second would be Guy Gavriel Kay, who wrote my favorite high fantasy series of all time, The Fionavar Tapestry (The Summer Tree, The Wandering Fire, The Darkest Road), for the beauty of the language, and the complexity of the plot and background mythology.

I'd like to thank Arshad for taking the time from his day to answer some questions with us. I wish you the best of luck with all of your writing endeavors, I know I'll be following them all.

So everyone do yourselves a favor and check out this book series.  It remains one of my favorites that I have read since starting this blog, remember this book is free this weekend only!


  1. Hmm... apparently the book is only free for the US and Canada?

    1. I'm honestly not sure on that one. I always assumed it went across all of the various amazon platforms when an author did a free promo. I know sometimes it takes the US version of amazon till mid day to get updated though so it may be a timing issue for whichever one you are having trouble with.

    2. You're right! Just checked again and it is indeed free for me as well :)

      Cheers! Love your blog.

  2. Glad you were able to get the book free, thanks for the kind words about the blog.