Sunday, April 7, 2013

Blog Tour {Q&A, Excerpt & Giveaway}—Soul Meaning by A.D. Starrling

Joining us today is A.D. Starrling, author of Soul Meaning, book one of the supernatural thriller series Seventeen.
We had the pleasure of interviewing A.D. Starrling. We also have an exclusive excerpt of Soul Meaning,
and you can enter to win one of 20 copies of the book plus some swag!

Soul Meaning
A.D. Starrling
Book #1 of the Seventeen series
Publication: July 12th 2012 by AD Starrling
Genre: Supernatural Thriller

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A half breed immortal. An international manhunt. A race against time to stop a terrifying plot that threatens to kill millions. The gripping, action-packed debut novel by AD Starrling and the first in the supernatural thriller series Seventeen.

‘My name is Lucas Soul.
Today, I died again.
This is my fifteenth death in the last four hundred and fifty years.’

The Crovirs and the Bastians. Two races of immortals who have lived side by side with humans for millennia and been engaged in a bloody war since the very dawn of their existence. With the capacity to survive up to sixteen deaths, it was not until the late fourteenth century that they reached an uneasy truce, following a deadly plague that wiped out more than half of their numbers and made the majority of survivors infertile.

Soul is an outcast of both immortal societies. Born of a Bastian mother and a Crovir father, a half breed whose very existence is abhorred by the two races, he spends the first three hundred and fifty years of his life being chased and killed by the Hunters.

One fall night in Boston, the Hunt starts again, resulting in Soul’s fifteenth death and triggering a chain of events that sends him on the run with Reid Hasley, a former US Marine and his human business partner of ten years. When a lead takes them to Washington DC and a biotechnology company with affiliations to the Crovirs, they cross the Atlantic to Europe, on the trail of a French scientist whose research seems intrinsically linked to the reason why the Hunters are after Soul again.

From Paris to Prague, their search for answers will lead them deep into the immortal societies and bring them face to face with someone from Soul’s past. Shocking secrets are uncovered and fresh allies come to the fore as they attempt to put a stop to a new and terrifying threat to both immortals and humans.

Time is running out for Soul. Can he get to the truth before his seventeenth death, protect the ones he loves and prevent another immortal war?

Summarize your book in tweet size. 140 characters or less.
A half breed immortal must evade an international manhunt while attempting to stop a terrifying plot that threatens to kill millions.

Where did you get the idea for Soul Meaning?
Soul Meaning initially saw life as a short story that made the shortlist of the British Fantasy Society Short Story Competition a few years ago. The idea for that short story came from a vivid image of the number 17 painted in red on a black rock on a sandbank in the middle of a shallow lagoon in Mauritius. That’s where I’m from. I mean Mauritius, not the sandbank. And yes, to this day, I still kick myself for not taking a picture of that rock. The red paint looked like dripping blood.

After discarding various story ideas around the number 17, I thought, ‘Death. What if I write about a man who can die up to seventeen times?’ That day, Lucas Soul walked into my head, a living, breathing character with a voice. His first words to me were, ‘My name is Lucas Soul. Today, I died again. This is my fifteenth death in the last four hundred and fifty years.’ I felt I kind of had to tell his story after that introduction.

What was the most fun part of writing it?
Oh God, I can think of so many things! My personal favorite was seeing the story come to life before my eyes, and hearing my characters dictate where they wanted the plot to go. They did and said things that surprised me, the author. It’s an amazing feeling when that happens.

What was the most challenging?
The research. There was a lot of it. Trying to limit the time I spent on that was tough. As was trying not to spew it all out on the screen. I tried to limit the info dump. Fortunately, the research material didn’t go to waste. I put interesting bits of it in the Bonus section of my website.

You earned your MD prior to writing your novel. Did your experience as a Pediatrician influence or help you in any way? Will possible readers find medicinal or scientific elements mixed with the supernatural?
When people first hear that I’m a doctor and an author, they ask whether I write non-fiction medicine books, or even fiction books based in the world of medicine. And people in the writing-publishing industry are always saying, ‘Write what you know.’ Fortunately, the story ideas that come to me are never about that world! Otherwise they would mostly be along the lines of, ‘Baby was born. Baby pooped/peed/puked on me. Baby went home.’ Before considering medicine as a career however, I also pondered a degree in biotechnology and genetic engineering. Now THAT I find intensely fascinating, as well as scary. Fascinating because it’s a field that will bring answers to many questions in the medical world. Scary because of the potential ethical, philosophical, and religious implications for human society if the use of this technology is not carefully applied and monitored.

There are some science elements to the story, mixed with a careful cocktail of history, religion, and the supernatural.

Is there anything from the book you hope the readers will pick up but might not?
The clues to the next book in the series. Although I have written the second novel with the intention of it being readable as a stand alone book, I think people will get more out of it if they read Soul Meaning first.

Are you currently working on another book? Will you share some info about it with us?
King’s Crusade, the second book in the series, is currently being polished before its release in the next three months. The cover has been finalized (I hope readers love it as much as I do!), the manuscript has been worked on by two editors, and I’m waiting to submit to my proofreader and formatters.

Now, what to tell you without letting the cat out of the bag? The second book is probably not what people will expect it to be. Readers will get more glimpses into the convoluted history of the Crovirs and the Bastians, the two immortal races behind the series Seventeen. The fight scenes are intense. The story mostly takes place in North Africa and Europe.

Oh, and I’ve started the third book in the series, which will be out in 2014. Clue: that story begins in the 16th century and is based, in part, on true historical events.

Describe your writing routine. Is there anything you like to do or must have before letting your fingers fly across the keyboard?
The Routine.

I’m a late riser because I’m very much a night owl. My brain seems unable to switch off before the witching hour. So, here’s what I usually do after I get up. Shower, 10 minutes on JTX Fitness vibration plate, breakfast while watching BBC News, a two mile walk weather permitting, 60-80 minutes of social media and dealing with emails, edit prior day’s writing for about 1 hour, lunch, write new material for 3 hours, 10 mins on JTX Fitness vibration plate, dinner, 30 mins social media catch up, 2 hours writing new material, read in bed, sleep.

The Must Haves.

1. I have to listen to music while I’m writing. I usually compile a playlist for every book that I write just before I begin or during the early part of the writing process. I will listen to that playlist on repeat while I’m working on that book, inclusive of all rewrites, edits, and proofreads. I’ll even have it in the car on long drives, while I’m subconsciously thinking about where to take the plot next. There are two reasons for listening to music. One: it will inspire many of the action scenes in the book. For example, there are two epic fight and chase scenes in the second book that are each based on a particular song. Two: it’s classic Pavlov conditioning. After my brain is used to that playlist, hearing it will immediately throw me back into the story, and allow the writing to flow.

2. I must also have a hot drink by my side, usually tea. My current favorite at home is Twining Everyday. If I’m writing outside in a coffee shop (I occasionally do this at the rewrite stage if I’m waiting for an appointment), I love a Chai tea or latte. I’m also trying out the Nescafe Coffee Collection at home.

What’s the scariest part about publishing a novel?
Worrying if readers are going to like it! Although I ask friends and colleagues to be objective if they wish to review the book, and not be afraid to give me constructive criticism, they will be biased to a certain extent. That’s just human nature. Still, I truly appreciate their feedback. I’ve never asked my relatives to review my books as I feel that is far too close for comfort and will lack objectivity. The opinions of readers that have no connection with me count a lot more. They are the true judge and jury of my writing.

What's the one best piece of advice you would give to an aspiring author?
Okay, this will have to be a three-part answer!

If you want to make your living as a writer, you need to treat it like a business. Forget any notion you may have about landing a 6-7 figure publishing deal with your first novel, quitting the day job, and moving into your mansion. For the vast majority of authors, it’s a long hard road (we’re talking years here), and many never manage to make their living entirely from their writing.

Research the publishing industry at length before you dip your toes in it. It has undergone significant changes in the last ten years, with the pace increasing dramatically in the last half decade. It’s still changing. There are a lot of amazing people out there giving great advice and talking about their experiences on their blogs and websites. You will find some of the messages conflicting but you will soon learn to see the wood for the trees. I now know so much more than I did in 2006, when I initially made the decision to return to writing. My learning curve grew exponentially when I decided to self-publish in early 2012, and has increased even further after the book came out last year. If you are offered a contract by an agent or a publisher, have it looked at by a contract attorney. Do not sign anything unless you are absolutely certain you understand every single word in that document.

I honestly don’t mean to put anyone off by saying the above. I love writing. It’s my dream job. But every occupation has its pros and cons, be it medicine or writing. Take the rose-tinted glasses off and see it for what it really is, in today’s fast changing publishing industry. If you are passionate about writing and are willing to make the necessary sacrifices, then do it. Life’s too short for ‘what ifs’. My career in medicine teaches me that on a regular basis.

If there was one book everyone should read, what book would that be?
This is such a tough one. I thought long and hard about this, dithering between two authors who have written books that will stay with me forever, namely Clive Barker and Dean Koontz. Barker won because of his terrifying, bonkers-weird, and most wonderful imagination. Two of his best works in my eyes are Imagica and The Great and Secret Show.

It was hard deciding between the two but I would have to go with Imagica for a spectacular, breathtaking experience. It’s a big, complex book, so allow yourself some time to read it.

A peek inside Soul Meaning

I woke up in a dark alley behind a building.
Autumn rain plummeted from an angry sky, washing the narrow, walled corridor I lay in with shades of grey. It dripped from the metal rungs of the fire escape above my head and slithered down dirty, barren walls, forming uneven puddles under the garbage dumpsters by my feet. It gurgled in the gutters and storm drains off the main avenue behind me.
It also cleansed away the blood beneath my body.
For once, I was grateful for the downpour: I did not want any evidence left of my recent demise.
I blinked at the drops that struck my face and slowly climbed to my feet. Unbidden, my fingers rose to trace the deep cut in my chest: the blade had missed the unusual birthmark on my skin by less than an inch. I turned and stared at the tower behind me.
I was not sure what I was expecting to see. A face peering over the parapet of the glass and brick structure. An avenging figure drifting down in the rainfall, a bloodied sword in its hands and a crazy smile in its eyes. A flock of silent crows, come to take my unearthly body to its final resting place.
Bar the heavenly deluge, the skyline was fortunately empty.
I pulled my cell phone out of the rear pocket of my jeans and stared at it. It was smashed to pieces. I could hardly blame the makers of the device: they had probably never tested it from the rooftop of a twelve-storey building. As for me, the bruises would start to fade by tomorrow.
It would take another day for the wound in my chest to heal completely.
I glanced at the sky again before walking out of the alley. I found a phone booth at the next intersection, closed the rickety door behind me and dialled a number. Steam rapidly fogged up the glass wall before me. There was a soft click after the fifth ring.
"Yo," said a tired voice.
"Yo yourself," I said.
A barely suppressed yawn travelled down the line. "What’s up?"
"I need a ride," I replied. "And a new phone."
There was a short silence. "It’s four o’clock in the morning." The voice had gone blank, devoid of all traces of emotion.
"I know," I muttered in the same neutral tone.
The sigh at the other end was audible above the pounding of the rain. "Where are you?"
"Corner of Cambridge and Staniford."
Fifteen minutes later, a battered tan Chevrolet Monte Carlo pulled up next to the phone booth. "Get in," said the figure behind the wheel. I opened the door and climbed into the passenger seat. Water dripped onto the leather cover and formed a puddle by my feet. There was a disgruntled mutter from my left. I glanced at the man beside me.
Reid Hasley was my business partner and friend. Together, we were co-owners of the Hasley and Soul Agency. We were private investigators, of sorts. Reid certainly qualified as one, being a former Marine and cop. I, on the other hand, had been neither.
"You look like hell," said Reid as he manoeuvred the car into almost nonexistent traffic. He took something from his raincoat and tossed it across to me. It was a new cell.
I raised my eyebrows slightly. "That was fast."
He grunted indistinct words and struck a match. "What happened?" The orange glow of a cigarette flared into life, casting shadows under his brow and across his crooked nose.
I transferred the data card from the broken phone into the new one and frowned faintly at the bands of smoke drifting towards me. "That’s going to kill you one day."
"Just answer the question," he said testily.
I looked away from his probing gaze and stared blindly at the dark tower at the end of the avenue. "I met up with our new client," I muttered.
Reid looked at me expectantly. "And?"
"He wasn’t happy to see me."
Something in my voice made him frown. "How unhappy are we talking here?" he said guardedly.
I sighed. "Well, he stuck a sword through my heart and pushed me off the top of the Cramer building. I would say he was pretty unhappy."
Silence followed my words. "That’s not good," said Reid finally.
"It means we’re not gonna get the money," he added, clearly heartbroken by the news of my recent passing.
"I’m fine by the way. Thanks for asking," I said wryly.
He shot a hard glance at me. "We need the cash."
Unpalatable as the statement was, it was regrettably true. Small PI firms like our own had just about managed before the recession. Nowadays, people had more things to worry about than what their cheating spouses were up to. On the other hand, embezzlement cases were up by a third; unfortunately, the victims of such scams were usually too hard up to afford the services of a good detective agency. As a result, the rent on our office space was overdue by a month.
Mrs Trelawney, our landlady, was not happy about this: at five foot two and weighing just over two hundred pounds, the woman had the ability to make us quake in our boots. This had less to do with her size than with the fact that she made the best angel cakes in the city. She gave these out to her tenants when they paid the rent on time. A month without angel cakes was making us twitchy.
"I think we might still get the goods if you flash your eyes at her," said my partner thoughtfully after a while.
I stared at him. "Are you pimping me out?"
"No. You’d be a tough sell," he grunted as the car splashed along the empty streets of the city. He glanced my way. "This makes it what, your fourteenth death?"
Further silence followed. "Huh. So, two more to go," he murmured.
I nodded mutely. In many ways, I was glad Hasley had entered my somewhat unnatural life, despite the fact that it happened in such a dramatic fashion. It was ten years ago this summer.
Hasley was a detective in the Boston PD Homicide Unit at the time. One hot Friday afternoon in August, he and his partner of three years found themselves on the trail of a murder suspect, a Latino man called Burt Suarez. Suarez, who worked the toll bridge north-east of the city, had never had so much as a speeding ticket to his name before: he was later described by his neighbours and friends as a gentle giant who cherished his wife and was kind to children and animals. That day, the giant snapped and went on a killing spree after walking in on his wife and his brother in the marital bed. He shot Hasley’s partner, two uniformed cops and the neighbour’s dog, before fleeing towards the river.
Unfortunately, I got in his way.
In my defence, I had not been myself for most of that month, having recently lost someone who had been a friend for more than a hundred years. In short, I was drunk.
On that scorching summer’s day, Burt Suarez achieved something no other human, or non human for that matter, had managed before or since.
He shot me in the head.
Sadly, he did not get to savour this feat as he died minutes after he fired a round through my skull. Hasley still swore to this day that Suarez’s death had more to do with seeing me rise to my feet Lazarus-like again than with the gunshot wound he himself inflicted on the man with his Glock 19.
That had been my fourteenth death. Shortly after witnessing my unnatural resurrection, Hasley quit his job as a detective and became my business partner.
Over the last decade we have trailed unfaithful spouses, tracked down missing persons, performed checks on employees in high profile investment banks, took on surveillance work for attorneys and insurance companies, served process to disgruntled defendants, and even rescued the odd kidnapped pet. Hasley knew more about me than anyone else in the city.
He still carried the Glock.
"Why did he kill you?" said Reid. The car had stopped before a set of red lights. "Did you do something to piss him off?" There was a trace of suspicion in his tone.
I grimaced and scratched my head. "Broadly speaking, he seemed opposed to my existence," I murmured. The rhythmic swishing of the windscreen wipers and the dull hiss of rubber rolling across wet asphalt were the only sounds that broke the ensuing lull. "He called me an abomination that should be sent straight to Hell and beyond," I added drily and paused. "Frankly, I thought that was a bit ironic coming from someone who’s probably not that much older than me."
Reid crushed the cigarette butt in the ashtray and stared at me with narrowed eyes. "You mean, he’s one of you?"
I hesitated before nodding briefly. "Yes."

Interested in Soul Meaning? Pick up a copy on
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A.D. Starrling

Her Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
AD Starrling was born on the small island nation of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean and came to the UK at the age of twenty to study medicine. After five years of hard graft earning her MD and another five years working all of God’s hours as a Paediatrician, she decided it was time for a change and returned to her first love, writing. Soul Meaning is her debut novel and the first in a supernatural thriller series entitled Seventeen. She currently lives in Warwickshire in the West Midlands, where she is busy writing the second novel in the series while drinking gallons of tea. She still practises medicine. AD Starrling is her pen name.


  1. This sounds very interesting with several different elements involved. I am also with you on authors - I have all of Stephen King's and Dean Koontz's books, mostly hardbacks and a few of Clive Barkers. I've read The Great and Secret Show, but not Imagica - will have to try that one! Thanks for the giveaway!
    Bonnie Hilligoss/

  2. Thanks for the giveaway! :) Your book sounds GREAT!

  3. Thank you so much for having me on here today Raina! :D And thank you everyone for your lovely comments!

    AD Xx

    1. Of course, Anjanee! You're quite welcome. Thank you for taking the time to answer with your insane schedule. I've had fun chatting with you. Good luck with the remainder of the tour and book two's upcoming release. ;)

  4. Sounds great! Thank you for the giveaway!

  5. Soul Meaning (and Seventeen as a series) sounds like a really cool concept. It's a different mythology from anything I've read recently, so I'm definitely interested in giving it a shot :)

  6. Sounds great and the cover book was very cool!! I liked it!!

  7. Thanks for stopping by, everyone! Wishing you the best of luck for the giveaway, and I hope you enjoy Soul Meaning if you get your hands on a copy.

  8. This book looks fantastic! Cannot wait to get my hands on it!

  9. i love the cover of soul meaning...i hope i win the book..
    thx u so much ^^