Tag Archives: demons

Author Interview: Tim Susman

I met Author Tim Susman at WorldCon in San Jose.  I think you’ll agree he is an interesting author with a good story to tell.  Please welcome him to No Wasted Ink.

Author Tim SusmanHi! I’m Tim Susman, a gay male American writer (he/him) currently living in the San Francisco Bay Area with my two partners and our dog. I studied business and engineering in college before moving on to zoology in graduate school and then starting a career as a database systems consultant that led to jobs as a product manager and a project manager. After being laid off in 2010 I took up writing full time and have been doing that ever since.

When and why did you begin writing?

In college, a friend of mine asked me to come up with a story for a birthday present she wanted to give me. I think in retrospect she just wanted a couple of paragraphs because when I presented her with a full-blown story she didn’t know what to do with it. The college SF magazine did, and I joined the SF club that fall. I read voraciously as a child, and I think I started writing because I wanted to tell my own versions of the stories I’d loved best.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

Probably when that first story was published in my college magazine. Seeing something in print with my name on it, hearing that other people liked the story and wanted me to write more, made me feel confident about calling myself a writer. It would be almost twenty more years before I’d call myself an author, though.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

My latest book is “The Demon and the Fox,” the second book in the series “The Calatians.” Set in 1815 in an America with magic colleges that is still a British colony, the protagonist, Kip, is the first in a race of magically created animal-people (Calatians) to become a sorcerer himself. In “Demon,” he searches for the perpetrator of a mysterious attack that killed many of America’s best sorcerers. While on this task, revolutionary sentiment grows around him, but even though his people are subject to prejudice and abuse, he worries that he’ll lose his opportunities to become a sorcerer if he turns against the British Empire. If he can solve this mystery, though, he’ll be a hero and much more secure.

What inspired you to write this book?

I had been thinking about parental responsibility, and wanted to explore it through several lenses: first, through Kip’s relationship with his own father; second, through the relationship between the Calatians and the humans who created them; third, through the relationship between the colonies and the Empire that founded them. Each of these relationships in the books takes a different view of the responsibilities a creator or parent owes to their children.

From an aesthetic point of view, I love writing in historical eras, and I love writing about animal-people. I have wanted to write a magic book for a long time, but worried that my engineering background would make my magic too “science-y.” I worked for a while to come up with a magic system that felt magic to me.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I focus more on character interaction and dialogue than on lengthy descriptive passages, but I also like to play around with different styles.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

Kip is an animal-person with the traits of a fox, and the first in the series is called “The Tower and the Fox,” so I wanted the rest of the series to be thematically linked. In this book, a demon is responsible for the attack, but Kip also summons a demon to help him in his search and begins to learn more about their world, so I wanted the title to focus on the demon as well as our protagonist.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Mostly what I discussed above: to think about our responsibilities to those who depend on us, or those over whom we have power.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know or events in your own life?

Generally no, although everyone in my life creeps into my books in one way or another.

What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?

Ray Bradbury’s lyricism was an early influence. Madeleine L’Engle and Susan Cooper’s very personal stories of fantastic magic have stayed with me ever since I discovered them at an early age. Kij Johnson’s beautiful language and emotion were inspiring. David Mitchell’s imaginative and meaningful stories are some of my current favorites. Kazuo Ishiguro’s grasp of the human experience is something I strive to approach in my own work.

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

Laura Garabedian is a friend of mine and a fantastically talented artist. I’ve admired her fantasy illustrations for years and was delighted to have the chance to work professionally with her.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I have this paraphrased quotation on my desk from William Faulkner: “Don’t bother being better than others. Be better than yourself.”

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Just a very heartfelt thank you.

The Demon and the Fox Book CoverTim Susman
Mountain View, CA


The Demon and the Fox

Cover Artist: Laura Garabedian
Publisher: Argyll Productions


Book Review: Sorcerer’s Son

Book Name: Sorcerer’s Son
Author: Phyllis Eisenstein
First Published: 1979

Phyllis Eisenstein was born in 1946 in the city of Chicago, and has lived in Illinois for most of her life. During the time that she attended the University of Chicago, she attended one of the weekly meetings of the city’s science fiction fandom and met her future husband, Alex. They were married in 1966 and remained in Illinois until her husband, a member of the US Air Force, was posted in Germany. She followed him to Europe and they remained there for three years, returning to Chicago after his honorable discharge from the service.

Once the couple returned home, Eisenstein took up writing professionally. Her husband became her writing partner on several of her books and short stories. Her first two stories published in 1971. Heartened by this, she returned to college to gain a BA in anthropology from the University of Illinois.

After publishing several novels, including Sorcerer’s Son, Eisenstein became a writing teacher. At first she assisted author Roger Zelazny at the Indiana University Writer’s Conference in 1977. She went on to teach at the at Michigan State University, Oakton Community College of Skokie, and the Writer’s Digest School. For twenty years she was on the faculty of Columbia College Chicago, where she taught classes in general science fiction, fantasy and an advanced science fiction writing course. Eisenstein received an “Excellence in Teaching” Award from CCC in 1999 and remained on the faculty for another ten years before she retired. Eisenstein split her later years of teaching at CCC to also working full-time in advertising. She is currently the executive manager of copy editors at a large Chicago advertising agency.

When Eisenstein retired from teaching in 2009, it was with the intent to return to writing. She is continuing to focus her attention on short stories and novellas, although a new novel series is in the works. Her latest short story is called Sunstone and appears in George R.R. Martin’s 2013 anthology Old Mars.

Sorcerer’s Son begins when the sorceress of Castle Spinweb, the beautiful Delivev Ormoru, rejects the advances of the sorcerer Smada Rezhyk. Demonmaster Rezhyk suffers from paranoia and assumes that if a woman refuses to marry him, then it is because she is secretly plotting his destruction. Rezhyk summons his favorite demon, Gildrum, and bids the demon to go to Delivev, seduce her, and get her pregnant. In the pregnant state, a sorceress’s power is diminished and Rezhyk plans to use this time to prop up his defenses from the attack he is certain is to be coming. Delivev does not realize that the child she carries is biologically Rezhyk’s. Instead, she believes it to be the son of the young knight she rescued at her gates and fell in love with. Instead of aborting the child, as Rezhyk had assumed, she carries the baby to term.

When Delivev’s son grows up, Cray Ormoru determines that he will become a knight like his father and sets out on a quest to discover why the man mysteriously disappeared, breaking his promise to return, and thus broke his mother’s heart. Along the way, the demon Gildrum watches over him, as he has done throughout Cray’s life and aids the knight want-to-be on his quest. The demon has become humanized through all his years of interacting with human beings. Gildrum feels love for Delivev and he has come to love Cray as if he were his own son. Yet, Gildrum is bound as a slave to the demonmaster and is not free to return to them although he would wish it.

As Cray follows the cold trail of the knight he believes to be his father, the conclusions he learns about the man become impossible. He realizes that as a knight, he will never learn the truth about Sir Melor (Gildrum) and that the only way to learn the information he wants is to become a demonmaster and force a powerful demon to answer his question. Cray turns to the only demonmaster that he knows, Rezhyk, and asks to become his apprentice.

Rezhyk accepts Cray as an apprentice, intending to not teach him anything, for the sorcerer fears that Cray is Delivev’s means to exact revenge on him. However, Gildrum secretly teaches Cray the knowledge that he needs to become a demonmaster so that Cray might free him from bondage. The story moves into new directions at this point that is not only logical, but is emotionally believable, leading to a satisfying conclusion.

Phyllis Eisenstein is an easy author to overlook. While she has published six novels and around 40 short stories, most of which are in major science fiction magazines, because the bulk of her work was published in the late 1970s and 1980s, new readers might not be as aware of her as an author as they should be. Sorcerer’s Son was the first Eisenstein novel that I read and it has stuck in my mind ever since. I honestly believe it is her best novel overall. While it is a simple coming of age story, the novel expands into concepts of slavery, love, and the loss a parent feels when a child matures and leaves home. The feelings that it engenders in the reader are strong and if you are a lover of fantasy novels, this one will not disappoint. If you are an adoptee, it will resonate with you even more.

Sorcerer's Son Book CoverSorcerer’s Son is difficult to find, although it has undergone several reprints by Del Rey down the years. You can purchase used copies on Amazon or search through your favorite used book store for a copy. I still have a first edition copy in my stacks, but I purchased it new back in 1979 when it first came out. Sorcerer’s Son is the first book of a trilogy, the second novel, The Crystal Palace, continues the story of Cray Ormoru and both books can be found in an Omnibus that was published in 2002. The third novel of the trilogy, The City in Stone, was completed by the author, but due to her publishing company going out of business, the book became orphaned and was never published. It is my hope that one day it will be and we can finish reading the story about Sorercer Cray Ormoru at long last.

The Book of Elementals

Sorcerer’s Son (1979)
The Crystal Palace (1988)
The Book of Elementals (omnibus of Book I and II) (2002)
The City in Stone (completed but unpublished)