BLOG TOUR Day Two: Monstrous Devices by Damien Love – A Hotel Rooftop, Paris.

If you’re looking for an action-packed, fantasy thriller then Monstrous Devices by Damien Love , published by One World imprint, Rock the Boat, is for you – publishing in paperback on 1st April. Today is my stop on the blog tour and I’m delighted to be hosting a quick Q & A and sharing an exclusive extract from the story!

When Alex receives an old tin robot in the post, the note from his grandfather reads: “This one is special”. But it doesn’t take Alex long to suspect that the toy is more than special – it might also be deadly. Just as things are getting out of hand, Alex’s grandfather arrives, whisking him away into a world of strange, macabre magic. From Paris to Prague, they flee across snowy Europe in a quest to unravel the riddle of the little robot. Will Alex work out the robot’s secrets before it falls into the wrong, wicked hands?

An assured debut, Monstrous Devices has all the ingredients of a sure-fire hit with the next in the series available next month. Darkly entertaining, this middle-grade novel will keep you on your toes, with creepy robot villains, an eccentric grandfather and a likeable protagonist in Alex. Author Damien Love shares some more of the inspiration behind the book today.

Welcome to the blog Damien!

Portrait of Sunday Herald TV critic Damien Love Photograph by Colin Mearns 20 January 2017

As a child, did you have a relative who inspired you, like Alex’s grandad? A few people have asked that, but, no, not really, not in that way. Alex’s grandfather wasn’t inspired by anyone in my family; there are elements in there of some other people I know…but they don’t know that, so I won’t say who they are. Really, though, I think that when you get down to it, most writers would probably end up confessing that all their characters actually become more like reflections of aspects of themselves – even the villains.

What was your favourite scene to write, and why? Oh, that’s a tough question. I’m not sure there is one that I could single out. But there’s a sequence I was quite happy with ¬– without giving away any spoilers, there’s a scene in Monstrous Devices where the boy at the centre of the story, Alex, gets attacked in a lonely field in the middle of the countryside. The scene started out as a kind of tribute to a very famous scene in one my favourite films, North by Northwest (i.e. I stole it from there), but I think I did an okay job of bending it all around until it fit into the scheme of Monstrous Devices and begin to work as its own thing, too. Plus, I was once advised to drop that scene from the book because there was “too much action”. So I kind of feel protective of it.

Post lockdown, where would you most like to travel? Like a lot of people, the relatively short trips to meet family and friends again are the ones I’m looking forward to most. Beyond that, I’m not sure – I wouldn’t mind going to Prague again someday, though. It’s been a long time since I was there.

An extract from Monstrous Devices: Hotel Rooftop, Paris

Turning onto the landing below came the tall, broad figure of a man wearing a long black coat and large black hat. When he lifted his face to them, Alex, struck numb with horror, saw it was made of dull metal. Painted eyes. A wire grid for a mouth.

It began climbing the stairs.

“Life-sizer,” his grandfather grunted, turning back up.

There was only one more flight of stairs. It led up to a small, bare half-landing, containing a cupboard door and an iron ladder bolted to the wall, beneath a ceiling hatch. His grandfather was up and through it in a flash of grey, hauling Alex after him. A huge attic, old and dark, musty and empty. They crouched under high slanting roof beams while his grandfather worked with another spool of wire, tying the hatch shut as best he could. He twisted on his heels, searching the dim space around them.

“Nothing to block it with,” the old man muttered, running a hand over his brow. He took Beckman’s little gun from his pocket, weighed it for a second, then threw it far off into the shadows.

“What are you doing?” Alex gasped. “We need that!”

“Never liked guns. C’mon: onward and upward. This way.”

Alex already knew where they were headed. Halfway along the attic, a single skylight glowed dimly, just low enough to reach. Just big enough to fit through. Snow was falling steadily as they climbed out onto the enormous roof.

His grandfather made him go first, crawling away from the window up the steep slope. The cold black tiles were slippery under Alex’s feet. There was little to get a grip on. But, clawing

and scraping, sliding back then scrabbling on, they made it to the pitch of the roof, where they stopped, sitting facing each other on the peak, breath misting the sharp air. A frail full moon pushed through the wisping clouds, staining the rooftop silver.

Freed from concentrating on the climb, drawing breath, Alex’s mind flooded with panic, then a stunning sense of disbelief. He became aware of the raw ache in his throat, his shaking limbs.

The sky was enormous above him.

“What did I tell you?” his grandfather said. He was pointing off behind Alex’s shoulder.

Turning his head, across the stretching roofscape Alex saw the Eiffel Tower, not far away, strangely clear, lit up gold and black, its blue searchlight strafing the swollen cloudbanks.

He turned back. The scream he felt building came out as a sigh. He sagged.

“Yes. That’s very pretty. Tell you what, shall I get my phone out and you can take a picture with it behind me? We could send it to Mum. That would be a nice surprise for her.”

“That’s the spirit. Have to keep your sense of humour about you. Now.” The old man dug in his coat pocket. “Sweet?” He held out the open tin.

“Well, why not. We’re on holiday. Thanks.”

“Sugar’ll do you good. Much-maligned stuff, sugar.” His grandfather squinted, tilting the tin in the weak blue light. “Bit of a Russian Roulette, taking a boiled sweet in the dark. Can’t see what you’re going to get. Ah well, nothing ventured.” He popped one in his mouth and rattled it around his teeth.

“Blackcurrant again! Must be my lucky night. What did you get?”

“Lime,” Alex said. It tasted surprisingly good.

They sat there in silence, sucking sweets on the high snowy roof in the Paris night, smiling stupidly at each other.

“So, now,” his grandfather said. “I should probably tell you the plan, give you something to look forward to.”

“Oh, do we have a plan?”

With thanks to Rock the Boat for inviting me to participate in this blog tour. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour and follow more of Alex’s adventures in second in the series, The Shadow Arts coming soon.

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