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imPerfect Magic (The imPerfect Cathar #1) by C. N. Rowan



#DarkHumor, #Supernatural, #Mystery,

After hundreds of years of dying, you'd think I would've perfected it by now...

One moment I'm a heretical priest in the twelfth century, hunted, hated...The next, I'm waking up in the nearest corpse. Stuck in a cycle of instant reincarnation, popping back up like a tarnished penny.

Fast forward eight hundred years, and you might think I’ve learned a thing or two. Nope. All I've learned is how to die far too easily, far too often.

Now my territory in the South of France is under threat and I find myself trapped by impossible angel-made runes. If the angels have gone full red lightsaber evil, it might not only be my territory in danger, but the whole of reality itself...

I need to stop whoever is behind this, and now. After all, you can’t come back to life, if there’s nothing left to come back to.

"imPerfect Magic" is the first book in "The imPerfect Cathar" series, a darkly funny supernatural suspense following a trio of immortal heretics. If you can't wisecrack while death is on the line? Well... perhaps you're not dying right.

This book contains strong language, dark humour and graphic violence.

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Available in #KindleUnlimited

4 out of 5 (very good)

Independent Reviewer for Archaeolibrarian - I Dig Good Books!

A great start to this series and I can't wait to read the next installment. The transition between past and present is pretty good. You know exactly when it's happening with a cheeky side note to go with each chapter. I don't feel the weirdness that you sometimes get with going back and forth and I love that. The characters are well written with their own personalities that go well together considering backgrounds, age differences etc.

One character that gets me is Franc, (spoiler bad guy) the only way I can describe the way he speaks is gobbledegook... it hurts my brain but it really makes him stand out.

Definitely a young adult read with some of the descriptiveness and combines magic and religion which is something different and intriguing.

** same worded review will appear elsewhere **

* A copy of this book was provided to me with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book, and the comments here are my honest opinion. *


Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I can certainly tell you about myself. A little? Okay, I’ll try to rein in my natural verbosity!

My pen name is C.N. Rowan, which is spectacularly unoriginal, seeing as how it’s my actual name as well. Originally from Leicester, England, I must have charmed one of the Norns in a previous life – or else I’m the equivalent of car-crash TV for them, as they huddle round their skeins, mouths agape, with a bowl full of popcorn – because I now live in the south-west of France, near Toulouse. As well as being an author, I’m also a rapper and a sound engineer, and have managed several acts over the years.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

Try to climb the vertiginous heights of my TBR pile! Primarily, it’s all about family time. I’m lucky to have two utterly insane children who are not such much bundles of energy as an entire laundry wash-house, stacked to the rafters, of energy, so they keep me on my toes. I still keep active with my music and I love cooking as well. There are lots of other things I’d like to do, but somebody needs to invent some additional hours and insert them into my day first, please.

Do you have a day job as well?

I do, although if I tell you about it, I’d have to kill you. Not because I’m a spy, or anything like that. There’s no way you can prove it. I know. I destroyed all the files. Allegedly.

What was your favourite book as a child?

Oh my goodness, that’s like asking me which of my children is my favourite now. ALL OF THEM. ALL OF THE BOOKS. No, I did love so many. Lord Of The Rings was my jam. I absolutely adored The Borribles by Michael De Larrabeiti, which doesn’t get anywhere near as much love as it adores. Really, it was the first Urban Fantasy for kids, and ran to the darker side. Basically, neglected kids would grow pointed ears and run away to London to stay kids forever. But the authorities don’t like it, so they have a squad who goes around cutting their ear tips off. If they do, the borribles forget their lives before and start growing older, forced to become adults. Creepy, funny, edge of the seat stuff.

When was that point in your life that you realized that being an author was no longer going to be just a dream but a career you were going to turn into reality?

That’s a great question! I think I’m still only just getting there. I have an amazing support network of authors, and they’re the ones who keep telling me how great what I’ve written is, and that it’s going to be a success. Imposter syndrome runs deep in us all, but I can see it. I can see the quality of what I’ve written, even through the heavy weight of self doubt, and that fills me with such positivity. This is going to be a reality. I’m manifesting it, every day, and putting the grind in to make it happen.

What book do you wish you had written?

There’s so many! I think I’d have to go with the Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula Le Guin. Either that or anything by Neil Gaiman. Sandman. Yeah, Sandman.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

With a cornucopia of a back catalogue, full of intriguing and entertaining tales. And hopefully an audience who are still waiting for the next one to drop!


When did you start writing and when did you finish your first book?

I’ve always written, although lyrics and slam poetry has been my main medium for the past twenty years. I’d various book ideas I had kicking around, but this was the first series that really gripped me and demanded to be written. After releasing a new album in 2021, I decided 2022’s creative project would be to write a book. I started in January 2022 and by December I had written the first six… first drafts anyhow. Whipping them into shape has been another story entirely!

How did you choose the genre you write in?

Urban Fantasy has been my main form of escapism for a very long time, and it was a natural avenue for me to head into. I love reading it, so why not write it?

Where do you get your ideas?

This first idea came from living in the south-west of France, in Cathar country, and a book my brother bought me called ‘A Perfect Heresy’ which is a brilliantly written history of the Albigensian Crusade, and the Good People. When I read about their beliefs – particularly the reincarnation aspect – the idea just struck me, planted a seed that niggled as it grew and demanded to be written.

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

I haven’t so far, although there are definitely times I’ve had to drag myself through sections of a book, sure every word I write is hot trash. The pleasure is that often, given some space and time away from it, I come back to find it of really excellent quality, and that motivates me next time I hit a period like that.

Are you a planner or a pantser?

I think I’m a plantser, a mixture between, although having discussed it with other writer friends, there’s some debate. I write a general outline, a couple of pages of A4, and I then use that as a guideline for each book. I also have a very definite plan as to where everything is going to – and concluding at – for the series – so I’m following that. But I’m happy to vary around, and follow where my characters lead me.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

Knowing what on earth I’m doing! I’d initially thought to go traditional, but by the time I started shopping about the first book, I’d completed the first draft of the second and was well into the third. I realised that, if the first book didn’t sell, those stories would be lost, the rights owned by someone else, so I decided to go the self-publishing route. I was lucky enough to get wonderful advice from a plethora of other authors, both traditional and self-published, and I dug into all the resources available. The group 20booksto50K, and David Gaughran’s Starting From Zero free course were both immensely useful.

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?

I’d love to have written the eighth draft, after the developmental edit where I rewrote over a quarter of the book, the very first time! No, in all seriousness, not at all, it helped me to grow and learn so much about the process. I’ve blossomed along with my little word garden of a tome.

Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?

Not yet, and hopefully not at all, thanks to the joys of being indie!

How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

I’m very active on Facebook, both on my page, my readers’ group, and other groups. I’m planning to run Facebook and Amazon ads, but only once the series is established.

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

It’s the story of Paul Bonhomme. Centuries ago he was a Cathar Perfect (or priest), now he’s a Talented magic user, holding Toulouse as his territory along with his team – Aicha Kandicha, immortal Moroccan warrior princess and Druze and all round badass; and Isaac The Blind, inventor of Kabbalah who shares his body with a Bene Elohim angel. Paul reincarnates in the nearest dead body each time he’s killed, which doesn’t do wonders for his sense of self-preservation. When a shit wizard manages to capture and torture him using angelic runes inside Toulouse itself, a mystery unfolds that might just threaten the whole of existence, as they hunt for a dangerous puppet-master who kills with the power of an angel. Is it someone they once knew? And what price will they have to pay to find out?

In terms of giving you an idea of the writing style, it’s been described as ‘If Terry Pratchett wrote The Dresden Files’, and I’ll be applying that label to it for the rest of existence with the biggest, proudest grin on my face, thanks very much.

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

Not real life experiences of mine, but the real places and history are fundamental. The Albigensian Crusade – when the church set out to wipe out the Cathars over a hundred years, creating the Inquisition as they went – is flashed back to, as are other fascinating historical occurrences in the eight hundred years between the Crusade and now during the series. Aicha Kandicha is a figure from legend – the Moroccan bogeywoman used to scare kids – who it now looks like was a real figure from 9th Century Al-Jadida. Isaac the Blind really was the inventor of Kabbalah, and really did invent it in Montpellier, just over on the coast from Toulouse, at the same time as the Cathar heresy was prevalent in the Languedoc region. The book is packed with real people and events from French history and mythology, as well as actual, visitable locations throughout the south-west of France and beyond. All given my own unique spin, of course!

What was your favourite chapter (or part) to write and why?

My favourite part to write was their encounter with Lou Carcoilh. A genuine myth, supposed to live under the hill of the town of Hastingues, Lou Carcoilh means The Snail, and is a cross between a gastropod and a shaggy dragon, with hundreds of tentacles that run off his mouth. Lou is a firm favourite of a character, both of mine and everyone that’s read the book so far!

How did you come up with the title?

I was initially working under the title of the series – The imPerfect Cathar – which I loved because it was the idea of having previously been a Perfect (a priest for them). Now not only is Paul quite the opposite – definitely imperfect! – but must remain so, if he’s going to stay tied to the mortal plane. Once I knew I wanted a different title from the series for the first book, coming up with the riff on imPerfect for each book of the series seemed the logical choice!

Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?

There’s so many of the characters I’ve created I want to go and write separate stories for! My creations are very voicey, and a lot of them are demanding I write them too. But we’ll see once I finish the first series!

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Do the research. Read as many resources as you can. Talk to other writers and exchange critiques so as to grow together. Build your community. Listen and be open to criticism.

What does your protagonist think about you?

I think Paul would like to have a few words in my shell-like about all the bloody misery I keep inflicting on him.

Would he or she want to hang out with you, the author, his creator?

He’d probably like to hang out with me. Or hang me. Over the edge of a bridge. With a river full of ravenous crocodiles beneath.

One or the other.

What has been the toughest criticism you’ve been given as an author?

Hmm. Probably that my writing was too floral. Coming into writing books, I was confident in my ability with words, but not to tell stories, certainly not to be funny. Trimming away all the fat, making it something fun to read that moved apace, that’s been a learning curve. The books are infinitely better for it.

What has been the best compliment?

Probably the ‘Pratchett writing the Dresden Files’ one. Although ‘I want to read the next one’ is the best compliment a writer can ever have!

Which character speaks the loudest, to you? Do any of them clamour to be heard over the others?

Aicha speaks to me. She’s so amazing. Every one of my beta readers has come back to tell me they’ve fallen in love with her. She’s flawed and fatal and just so damn cool.

What sort of Starbuck’s coffee would your characters order? Simple coffee or some complicated soy-non-fat-extra-espresso-half-caff-nightmare?

Paul would order the most complicated thing he could think of, just to irritate the hell out of Aicha. Who’d then poke him in the eye with the wooden coffee stirrer.

What sort of writing environment do you create? I.e. music or not? Pen and paper or laptop/PC?

I write on my laptop, without music. Just concentrating on writing the words down. I am a bear of little brain and easily distracted.

Is there a certain type of scene that is harder to write than other? Racy? Love? Action?

Up until now I’ve not written anything racy, or really even any romance. I suspect I’ll find those very difficult, if I ever do decide to try it.

Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Thank you. What else can I possibly say? Thank you, beyond all measure that I can express, for supporting me on this madcap adventure, and making it possible.

Is there one subject you would never write about? What is it?

My personal life. That’s mine. My imagination is for everyone else, but that belongs to me and my family.

Do you have any strange writing habits? Like writing in the shower?

I don’t think my laptop would like that much! I do tend to thrash out plot kinks while I’m driving and then bombard my wife with a million Whatsapp voice messages!

How important are the names in your book?

Very. If I didn’t have names, I’d have to get very descriptive! I kid, but no, I’ve always approached them with care.

Did you choose them based on how they sounded or looked, or was it completely random?

Almost all the names are real people, or genuine figures from folklore, so that made the naming easy. The exception is Paul Bonhomme, the main character. Paul, I went for, because I was thinking of a sort of reverse Road to Damascus moment, and I wanted a name that worked for Anglophones, works in France, and existed back in the 12th Century. Bonhomme means Good Man in French, which is what the Cathars called themselves – the Good Christians, or the Good People. Cathar was a label applied to them later, referring to the Cathari – the Pure Ones – who were a gnostic sect from about a thousand years before the Crusade.

Do you read your reviews?

I have done up until now. That may change once I start getting some negative ones!

Do you respond to them, good or bad?

No, apart from sharing the good ones to my followers.

What is your least favourite part of the writing or publishing process?

The editing. Once the book’s written, I want to fool myself into believing I’m done with it. In reality, the hard work’s only just about to begin. When I see the changes on the other side of it, though, it’s totally worth it!

It’s been a strange, unbelievable journey to arrive at the point where these books are going to be released into the wild, like rare, near-extinct animals being returned to their natural habitat, already wondering where they’re going to nick cigarettes from on the plains of Africa, the way they used to from the zookeeper’s overalls. C.N. Rowan (“Call me C.N., Mr. Rowan was my father”) came originally from Leicester, England. Somehow escaping its terrible, terrible clutches (only joking, he’s a proud Midlander really), he has wound up living in the South-West of France for his sins. Only, not for his sins. Otherwise, he’d have ended up living somewhere really dreadful. Like Leicester. (Again – joking, he really does love Leicester. He knows Leicester can take a joke. Unlike some of those other cities. Looking at you, Slough.)

With multiple weird strings to his bow, all of which are made of tooth-floss and liable to snap if you tried to use them to do anything as adventurous as shooting an arrow, he’s done all sorts of odd things, from running a hiphop record label (including featuring himself as rapper) to hustling disability living aids on the mean streets of Syston. He’s particularly proud of the work he’s done managing and recording several French hiphop acts, and is currently awaiting confirmation of wild rumours he might get a Gold Disc for a song he recorded and mixed.

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