Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Harvesting by Melanie Karsak: Character Interview and Excerpt


Character Interview with Layla Petrovich, the protagonist of The Harvesting
Hello Layla! Thanks for stopping in today and agreeing to answer a few of my questions.  Let's begin. Ready?  Tell us about your family.

What can I say? I was raised by my grandmother, Vasilisa Petrovich. Grandma Petrovich has always been there for me. Even before my mom ran off, she used to take care of me. My mother was never really very maternal. Most of the time, I felt like I was a burden to her. Grandma is the one who raised me. Many of the people in Hamletville were a bit wary of Grandma. I have to admit, she was eccentric, bossy, and psychic: quite the mix. Some of the attitude toward my grandma got deflected onto me, but I tried to ignore it. After all, it was almost always just my grandma and me. 

What is your favorite meal?

When I lived in DC, I liked to try different foods. My favorite restaurant was Levantes, a Mediterranean restaurant near Dupont Circle. I loved their Turkish pide, grilled lamb, and dolma--stuffed grape leaves. But when I was homesick, I always craved Grandma’s cooking. Nothing made me feel better than the smell of her pirozhki baking in the oven.

If you could share one last message with someone who has died, what would it be?

I would tell Ian thank you. My Grandma knows I loved her; I don’t need to tell her that. Things between Ian and I became complicated. I would want him to know how much I appreciate what he has done for all of us.

Who should play you in a film? 

People sometimes tell me I look like Olivia Wilde. I don’t think I am nearly that beautiful, but I appreciate the compliment.

What makes you happy?

There were things that made me happy before the world went to hell: my work, being with my students, training for fencing matches. Now, things are different. Now I feel happy when the people around me are safe and have something to eat. I feel happy when I see Frenchie’s girls smiling. I feel happy when Jaime and I have a peaceful moment together. I know that our happiness is fleeting, so I try to hang on to every minute.

What one word best describes you?

Determined. I am determined to keep everyone safe from the undead—of all varieties-, I am determined to find us shelter, I am determined to understand the psychic gift I have inherited, I am determine to help us survive.

Is there a saying you particularly like? If so, what was it?

My grandma once told me that “fools are not sown, they grow by themselves.” I think we are surrounded by people who give off false impressions, trying to hide their foolish ways. I am too quick to trust people, but it never takes long for someone’s true nature to reveal itself. Fools are fools, no matter what disguise they wear.

The Harvesting   
The Harvesting Series, Book 1
Melanie Karsak
Genre: Horror/Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Steampunk Press
ISBN-10: 1479327247
ISBN-13: 978-1479327249
Number of pages: 394
Word Count: 71000
Cover Artist: Michael Hall Photography

TV interview with book info:

Book Description:

When mankind finally consumes itself, can any spark of humanity survive? Layla fights to keep those she loves alive when the zombie apocalypse unfolds, but she soon learns that zombies are not the only problem. With mankind silenced, those beings living on the fringe seek to reclaim power. Layla must learn who to trust, fast, if she hopes to save what is left of our kind.

Chapter 1
“If you ever need to slice someone’s head off, this is the blade you want,” I said as I lifted a curved sword off the table in front of me. “We’ve been practicing épée and foil so far, but tonight I want to introduce you to the sabre.” The practice sabre’s curved blade reflected the orange streetlight shining in through the window. A grant from the Smithsonian where I worked allowed me to teach my two passions: ancient weapons and their arts. “The sabre is a slashing weapon,” I continued and then lunged, showing the wide-eyed and excited students a few moves. “And in general, it’s my favorite,” I admitted with a grin.
The students laughed.
“Is that why you have it tattooed on your arm?” Tyler, one of my best fencers, asked.
My hand went unconsciously toward the tattoo. The ink was a sword interlaced with other once-meaningful symbols. “That’s not just any sabre,” I said, mildly embarrassed. “Here, let me show you. I brought something special tonight.” Setting the training sabre down, I lifted a rolled bundle. I laid it down on the table and unrolled it to reveal weapons in various elaborate scabbards.
“Some are épée, foils—you can tell by the hilt—a broadsword, a claymore, a katana, a scimitar, throwing daggers,” I said, pointing, “but this, this is a Russian shashka.” I pulled the shashka from the bundle. “It’s like a traditional sabre, but has no guard. She’s light, single-edged, wielded with one hand, and good for stabbing or slashing. Not awkward in close quarters like a Scottish claymore, but it will kill you just as dead,” I said with a smile. I unsheathed the weapon and gave it an under- and over-hand spin around my head, shoulders, and back.
The students grinned from ear to ear.
I put it back in its scabbard and handed the shashka to them. “Pass it around, but keep in mind it is sharp enough to cut a blade of hair in half.” I then turned my attention to Tyler. “Now, since you’re so interested, let’s see how you do with the sabre.” I tossed one of the training swords to him.
Tyler, already in his gear, jumped up and lowered his fencing mask. “But you’re not in gear,” he said.
I shrugged. “Hit me--if you can.’”
We stood at the ready, made the ceremonial bow, and began. Tyler was not overly aggressive, which is partially why he was so successful. He waited for me, moving slowly. He was smart, quick, and often tried to over-tire his opponent.
I waited, dropped my sword a bit, and let him make the lunge. He took the bait.
The swords clanged together, and we clashed back and forth across the strip. He lunged and slashed while I dodged and blocked. He was fast. I was faster. When he lunged again, I ducked. With an upward movement, I went in.
“A hit,” Kasey called.
They clapped.
“Man, that’s what you get for taking on a former state champ—and the teacher,” Trey told Tyler with a laugh.
Tyler pulled off the mask and smiled at me.
Just then, my cell rang. I would usually ignore it, but something told me to answer.
“Everyone pair up and start working with the training sabres,” I said and pointed to the sword rack. I went to my bag and grabbed my cell.
Before I could say hello, she spoke.
“Layla, Grandma needs you to come home,” my grandmother’s voice, thick with Russian accent, came across through static. I was silent for a moment. My grandmother lived 500 miles away, and she never used her telephone. With the exception of her T.V., she hated technology. She’d cried and begged me to take away the microwave I’d purchased for her one Mother’s Day.
“Grandma? What’s wrong?”
“Come home now. Be here tomorrow,” she said. She hung up.
I lowered my cell and stared at it. Confused and worried, I dialed her back. The phone rang, but she did not answer. I had obligations: practice, bills to pay, groceries to buy, tons of work to do, and a date for god-sakes. But my grandmother was the only one I had left in the world.
“Sorry, guys. Emergency,” I called to my students.
Disappointed, they groaned.
“Sorry. Let’s pack it up for the night.” My hands shaking, I slid the shashka back into the bundle and rolled up the weapons. What had happened? Maybe Grandma was sick. Maybe she had some problem. Or maybe she had seen something.
The monuments on the Mall faded into the distance behind me as I made my way to my Georgetown apartment. It was Friday night. Wisconsin Avenue was packed. The upscale shops and restaurants teemed with people. In the crowd you could see the mix of international tourists, Georgetown students, and designer-dressed hotties headed to clubs. I sighed. For the last month I had turned myself inside out trying to get the attention of Lars Burmeister, the German specialist the Smithsonian had brought in to consult on our new medieval poleaxe exhibit. He had finally asked me to dinner; we were going to meet at Levantes, a Turkish restaurant near Dupont Circle, at nine that night. I had dreamed of authentic dolma and a chance to sit across from Lars somewhere other than a museum. I had even bought a new dress: black, strapless, come-hither.
I circled my block three times before I finally found a parking space. Regardless, I loved Georgetown. It was early fall. The mature trees had turned shades of deep red and orange and were losing their leaves. The air was filled with an interesting mixture of smells: the natural decay of autumn, dusty heat from the old cobblestone streets, and the mildly rancid odor of too many people. In my 4th floor attic apartment of an old Brownstone, I could occasionally catch the sweet scent of the Potomac River. It reminded me just enough of home.
The apartment was ghastly hot. The small, one-bedroom had been closed up all day. I lifted the window and let the noise of the city fill the room. The street lamps cast twinkling light across my apartment. The weapons I had mounted on the wall, swords, shields, axes and the like, glimmered. I peeled off my sweaty practice clothes. Pulling a bag from the closet, I threw in several changes of clothes and a few other supplies. On my coffee table, my laptop light blinked glaringly. An overflowing email inbox, an article on bucklers that needed editing for a peer-reviewed journal, and a PowerPoint on Medieval Russian swords for a presentation for next week’s symposium all called me. My coffee table was stacked with paper. I was flooded with work; half my department was out on sick leave. There was a bad flu was going around. Thankfully, I had not yet gotten sick.
I pulled my cell out of my bag. I stared at the phone for a moment; Grandma’s recent call was still displayed on the screen. I dialed Lars’ number. My stomach shook when he answered.
“Guten abend, Lars. It’s Layla.”
“Ahh, Layla, good evening,” he replied.
I loved his German accent. He’d learned English from a British teacher; he said arse with a German lilt. It made me smile. I could tell by his tone he was trying to hide his excitement. I didn’t let him get far. I told him I had been called away for an emergency. I could sense his disappointment.
“I’ll be back by Monday. Let me make it up to you. Dinner at my place Monday night?”
He agreed.
“Gute nacht,” I said as sweetly as possible, hoping I had not pissed him off, and stuffed my phone into my bag. I stared out the window taking in the view. I did not want to go back, not even for a weekend. I loved my life. Hamletville was an old, ghost-filled place: too many memories, too much heartache. Yet I knew my grandmother. If she said I needed to come home, then I needed to come home.
I closed the windows, slid on a pair of jeans, a black t-shirt, boots, and a light vest. I looked again at the display on the wall. At the center I had crossed two Russian poyasni or boot-daggers. One dagger had the head of a wolf on the hilt. The other had the head of a doe. I grabbed them and tossed them in my bag. I then headed back downstairs and into the night. It was the last time I would lay eyes on D.C. for many years.

About the Author:

Melanie Karsak, steampunk connoisseur, white elephant collector, and caffeine junkie, resides in Florida with her husband and two children. Visit the author at her blog,, to learn more about upcoming projects.


Melanie Karsak said...

Thanks for having me, Laurie!!

moe77099 said...

I love that shirt

katsrus said...

Your book sounds really good. Great cover. Loved the interview.
Sue B

Peggy Martinez said...

Great giveaway! Can't wait to read the book! :)

helen may said...

Sounds like a good book. Would love to read it!

Courtney_Elena said...

Awesome giveaway! Sounds like a great read!

Lori Mitchell said...

Thanks for the giveaway!