Word of warning: this interview might get embarrassing! I am going to try and keep it cool but I enjoyed Tal Bauer’s A Time to Rise thoroughly and while I am going to try and keep things professional, there is a very good chance that my inner fangirl is going to show. I’m not even slightly apologetic — A Time to Rise checks my reader preference boxes on every level. If you enjoyed Thorns and Fangs, then I thoroughly recommend that you check A Time to Rise out.
Welcome back to the blog, Tal! It has been about two months since our last interview (Tal Bauer: Enemies of the State). How have those last two months been?
Tal: BUSY!! Oh my goodness! Time is FLYING by! My students are totally insane, the administration at the refugee school is bonkers, and I’m trying to balance teaching and writing. Err… well, writing is taking a back seat until summer time. I dearly miss writing.
But! In the interim, my students have been accepted into university, trade schools, and colleges; two earned US citizenship; two won the Gates Millennium Scholarship (!!!!!), and we had Prom for everyone. So it’s been a blast.
A Time to Rise is a hard book to describe! A paranormal romance with strong thriller, horror and erotic elements, solidly grounded in both history and modern Rome as well as the Vatican City … First off, I cannot believe how well you blended all of these elements into such a cohesive and compelling story! Secondly, how would you describe your story?
Tal: Oh my goodness, another good question!
Hmmm… I started off saying it was a “paranormal” because it had all the paranormal elements. Vampires, light magic/paranormal elements, the etheric… but then I realized it DIDN’T fit paranormal boxes either. There are no “true mates” in this. It’s not fluffy, which some people consider to be a hallmark of current paranormal. It is angsty – another possible hallmark.
While this aspect isn’t as pervasive in this book within the series, the entire series that this book is apart of – The Apocalypse of the Angels – is an angelic/demonic kind of paranormal story. A retelling, if you will, of Genesis, and how that impacts the modern day. (Sneak peek!!!)
I also didn’t realize, when I wrote it, how close to “horror” I was getting. However, based on the feedback from my ARCs, I slid the story into the “horror” category as well.
What I hope the reader feels is a paranormal, creepy, spooky vibe, and that there’s a lot more to this universe that they can sense and feel, and want to explore.
And, I want to note that it’s NOT a religious work or piece. This is NOT a story with heavy-handed religious themes. In fact, I went out of my way to try and portray a “warts and all” view of organized religion. The good, the bad, the great, and the truly ugly. With no preaching.
At first, I thought A Time to Rise would be completely dissimilar to Enemies of the State, your first novel with NineStar Press. But as the Pope took on a greater role in the story, it occurred to me that the camaraderie and relationships formed by the Swiss Guard might not be worlds away from those of the President’s bodyguard. What will fans of Enemies of the State find to enjoy in Time to Rise? What is new?
Tal: …. You caught me. J
A major theme in nearly every one of my works is that camaraderie and intense male relatinoships that form. It’s something that is deeply important to me as it has been something that had a major impact upon my life and upon my dear friends’ lives as well.
What will fans of Enemies like?
There are strong male bonds of friendship and fidelity. There is a secret being kept from the heroes, and an investigation to uncover the truth. Men who will stop at nothing to save the day, to do what’s right, and, at the end of the day, sacrifice everything for their love. Ultimately, that’s what I write – exploring the limits of friendship, fidelity, love, and commitment. Where are the limits? What happens when you go past those limits? Do you fall? Or do you…. Rise?
The two things that made A Time to Rise for me was the dynamic between your characters — Alain, Cris and Luca especially — and the history infused in the book, whether that of the Swiss Guard, the Knights Templar or that between the characters themselves. Which makes me insanely curious — which came first? Characters or setting?
Tal: You’re on it with the questions today! J
I knew I wanted to write a story about the Swiss Guard. I had the idea in my head about The Apocalypse of the Angels, and it had been marinating for … five or so years. I combined them one day, sitting in my car on my amazingly-long commute, and viola. A Time to Rise was born. So I’m not sure what the answer is.
Both feed into each other. Both are mirrors of each other. The history of the characters is mirrored in the antiquity of the place. You can feel the pull of time on everything – on the locations, on the characters’ souls, on their relationships.
And, the Vatican itself is called The Eternal City. A place where time has no meaning. Where peoples’ actions live on for millennia after they’ve lived and died. I tried to pull that sense of history into the story, and anchor both the characters and the setting – and of course the plot – into that sense of longevity.
Let’s talk about Alain. You are not kind to Alain in this book — actually no one is kind to Alain, not his fellow Guards, even his contemporary and once best friend Luca, not the vampires (then again, when are vampires kind to anyone?), not Lotario, the priest who works alongside Alain in his solitary crusade against the supernatural, not the Vatican priests … Not even Alain himself! His burden is great and that he has borne it for twelve years, with only three people who have any idea of what he faces … The fact that he has continued his work as long as he has is amazing! But those twelve years have taken a toll on him, and he has a tough struggle ahead of him still. Did you have any difficulties in writing a character whose past experiences have caused him to actively close himself off from others?
Tal: Again with the amazing questions. J
Actually, that’s pretty close to home. I used to be very much that way. Writing Alain was more of a process of tapping into my past. Alain didn’t start out actively wanting to push people away, but after years and years of doing so, it becomes second nature. It becomes safe. It’s easier to keep people at a distance than it is to welcome them in, especially if there’s any risk involved. Risk to them, or to you, either physically – in Alain’s case – or emotionally, as was my situation. With my former career, I didn’t want anyone close.
Of course, all that is different now.
Cris’s ability to cut through Alain’s walls and keep pushing him again and again was fantastic to see. I enjoyed how Cris’s experiences mirrored Alain’s so well, allowing the reader to see how well suited they are before the characters do. Cris’s own brush with darkness and his struggles to find his place within the guard brought to life exactly what Alain dealt with those twelve years on his own, but Cris never felt like an echo. His brashness and anger were a really welcome counterpoint to Alain’s defeat and despair. Despite his youth and ignorance of what is really going on during a lot of the story, Cris is a force to be reckoned with. Cris is thrown head first into an entirely new world, and I cannot wait to see how he grows into his new role as the series progresses. What qualities does Cris have that are going to come into play in the future?
Tal: You nailed it! His ferocity, his tenacity, his anger that propels him more than Alain’s quiet despair. Alain operated from a place of mourning, and that motivated him to move forward. Cris moves from a place of frustrated rage, a burning need to mold his world to the way he wants it. I think that’s both a generational difference and a psychological difference.
Cris, moving forward, will pull on that frustration and his endless tenacity, as well as his thirst for taking the world and bending it to meet him where he exists.
You’ve mentioned in conversation with me that Lotario seemed to be a reader favourite. I am not going to buck that trend by saying that I really enjoyed the priest’s general hostility towards the world, tell-it-like-it-is indifference to common courtesies, and no-nonsense attitude towards Alain and Cris both. In fact, seeing Lotario in the role of teacher was one of my favourite moments of the book! My main question is about Lotario’s battered car. How long has he had it? Is he going to be forced to replace it after a certain hot-wiring incident?
Tal: LOL! I think he’s probably owned that Bug for the length of his priesthood. At least 20+ years. And I’m quite positive it’s not the first time it’s been hotwired. Perhaps there’s a roadtrip in the future, bringing the Bug back to Lotario?
Rome — from the Guard’s barracks and Alain’s musty office within the Vatican City to the Campo, crowded streets, river Tiber and the sewers of Rome itself — almost counts as a character itself. I know you’ve travelled extensively — you must have visited Rome, right? Tell us about how your travels played into the story.
Tal: Thank you! I love making the settings truly vivid and alive for my readers. I wanted the atmosphere to be drenched with Rome, with antiquity, and with a hazy, otherworldly kind of feeling.
I have travelled quite extensively, and I do try to pull all of those locations into my stories. In this instance, the Vatican and Rome was the main setting. I always want to make my readers feel like they are transported to a new location, and that the book wraps them up in the new place completely.
I am a really big fan of vampires that scare. I thought I did a pretty good job of that in Thorns and Fangs, but your vampires turn up the fear to a whole new notch (they live in ossuaries in sewers!). I loved it. The entire mystery surrounding the vampire nest and the lone vampire and the effect on the city was fascinating, an incredibly satisfying twist on vampire lore. I cannot wait to see how the vampire element impacts the characters in the continuing story, but since it would be hard to comment on that without spoiling us for upcoming installments, how about telling us what inspired your vampires?
Tal: I always liked the old-school vampires. The vampires from the horror classics and from the truly spine-chilling myths and legends of old. I did a lot of research in Ye Olde Vampire Mythos from around the world, and reading about the fear of the vampires from the original source texts – medieval journals, poems, myths, and stories – really brought it home how terrifying the vampire mythos was. I wanted to tap into that element for this novel. Something preternaturally eerie and fear-inspiring.
Vampires are not the only supernatural element in A Time to Rise (even if they are my favourite and thus my focal point). So rather than asking you for your favourite vampire recs (books, movies, TV), I’m going to ask for your favourite paranormal works or those that left the biggest impact.
Tal: I’m going to show off my HUGE nerd bone here and say that it’s a bunch of medieval source texts and ancient writing on the vampire legends. Those are by far my favorite!
My final question is purely for fun: you’ve got a day and night in Rome and by some exceedingly unlikely turn of events, one of the characters of A Time to Rise is your tour guide. Who would you most like to have show you the hidden sights of Rome and why?
Tal: Ooooo…… J I’m going to say Luca. And I’ll leave it at that.
Thanks again, Tal — this has been a blast! For readers wanting to keep up to date, Tal is active on facebook sharing life-stories and writing news and also enjoys talking to people on Goodreads. Feel free to get in touch or ask a question — I can attest to the fact that Tal is a lot of fun to chat with!
History says the Knights Templar were destroyed in 1307.
History is wrong.
Vampires haunt the sewers beneath Rome, revenants desecrate graveyards, ghouls devour helpless passersby, and incubi stalk dark alleys and seedy nightclubs in Italy’s capital. Deep in the Vatican, a brotherhood exists, sworn protectors of the earth, and they stand firm against monsters from the dark depths. Operating in secret and silence, they protect our world from the sinister, the etheric, and the evils that exist beyond the Veil.
But it’s a lonely life, and Alain Autenberg knows that more than most. His lover was ripped from him years ago, and he vowed never to get close to another soul again. Even when the loneliness presses down on him, and his empty heart cries out for something more.
Something more comes in Cristoph Hasse, a new soldier arriving in Rome to serve in the Pontifical Swiss Guard. Young, brash, and fitting in at right angles everywhere he goes, Cris struggles in the murky, deceptive labyrinth of the Vatican. Propelled forward by a past he can’t understand, Cris collides with Alain, and both men crash headfirst into the darkest secret of the Vatican…and of the world.