The Artwork of Withered + Sere: Illustrator Blake Dorner.
I think it was around 2012 when I read my first TJ Klune book. It was amazing, to say the least, and I’ve been keeping up with every book he released since. Burn, like many people, is the book that really got me, though. It was everything I had wanted since I was an awkward little preteen foaming at the mouth for a good m/m fantasy. So, of course, I had to draw Felix and Seven. I posted the images to Facebook and luckily TJ saw them.
Fast forward a couple years and I get a message from him asking if I had any interest in illustrating some books for him. My body practically vibrated with the word yes.
I’ve been drawing since I was 11. I remember it all starting when I walked downstairs to my brother’s room to find my Dad and him watching an anime called Naruto. The obsession was immediate, and I started drawing, trying to recreate the characters. I drew every day, a notebook and pencil always with me. Slowly, over the years, my interests become more then anime and my style evolved. But I’ve always been really into drawing images with some sort of story. Comics and narrative illustration have always kept me going. So when I got the chance to draw for one of my favorite authors of all time I knew without a doubt that I hadn’t wasted a single moment with all my sketchbooks.
If you look back through the aged pages of my Deviant Art account or the far reaches of my Instagram, you’ll find that for the most part my illustrations are really clean. I like clean lines and smooth gradients. But after my first read through of Withered + Sere I knew I had to push myself to create something a little messier. I wanted to match the decayed, harsh world that TJ so beautifully created. I knew there needed to be messy textures, broken walls, dirty skin, well-worn clothing, and blood. All things I wasn’t entirely comfortable with making but nothing about this book warranted comfortable, so I pushed myself to find the right textures and style to match. Luckily Photoshop has hundreds of brushes for me to spend hours playing around with. I was given a lot of freedom to do what I wanted with these, and I tried not to let that go to waste. I really wanted the lighting in the illustrations to tell the emotions of the characters and show a sort of process. In one of the illustrations, and in all honesty probably one of my favorites, I was illustrating one of the darkest moments of Cavalo’s life. It had to show where he was and where he was going so I had him running in from the day into the shadow of a tree where everything came crashing down. It’s one of the darkest moments I’ve ever drawn, but I’m glad I was able to get it done and show the devastation of those couple seconds.
It was a pretty incredible experience getting to work with TJ. Getting to work on this project still feels like a dream when I think about it. TJ is probably one of the nicest human beings alive, but anyone who follows him already knows that, so that made the entire process like talking to a friend, despite my incessant awkwardness.
My drawing style has changed a bit since I started working on W+S. It has allowed me to be freer in my style and just the whole creation process in general. I’m insanely grateful to be a part of this story. I can’t wait for everyone to read Withered + Sere and Crisped + Sere. It has been an intense journey, to say the least.
Withered + Sere Blurb:
Once upon a time, humanity could no longer contain the rage that swelled within, and the world ended in a wave of fire.
One hundred years later, in the wasteland formerly known as America, a broken man who goes only by the name of Cavalo survives. Purposefully cutting himself off from what remains of civilization, Cavalo resides in the crumbling ruins of the North Idaho Correctional Institution. A mutt called Bad Dog and a robot on the verge of insanity comprise his only companions. Cavalo himself is deteriorating, his memories rising like ghosts and haunting the prison cells.
It’s not until he makes the dangerous choice of crossing into the irradiated Deadlands that Cavalo comes into contact with a mute psychopath, one who belongs to the murderous group of people known as the Dead Rabbits. Taking the man prisoner, Cavalo is forced not only to face the horrors of his past, but the ramifications of the choices made for his stark present. And it is in the prisoner that he will find a possible future where redemption is but a glimmer that darkly shines.
The world has died.
This is the story of its remains.
Review by Elaine White
Book – Withered + Sere
Author – T.J. Klune
Star rating – ★★★★★
No. of Pages – 280
Cover – Gorgeous!
POV – 3rd person, 1 MC
Would I read it again – Yes
Genre – Apocalyptic, Alternative Future/History, a dash of Steampunk and a dash of LGBT
** I WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK, BY THE AUTHOR, IN RETURN FOR AN HONEST REVIEW **
WARNING: cannibalism, rape – both mentioned very briefly and not in detail.
This is my first T.J. Klune book and it wasn’t what I was expecting. As a post-apocalypse novel, it was truly fantastic. This isn’t your usual pandemic/zombie end of the world story. In fact, it doesn’t really include either of those aspects. Though certainly, there is cannibalism and sickness caused by radiation, but those are after-effects of the apocalypse. As a gay romance novel, it’s still good. I mean, there’s not much romance to speak of, but the relationship that forms between Cavalo and the others in the book – most importantly Bad Dog, SIRS and Luca – are truly phenomenal. You feel the friendship, comradery, the slow burn romance all so brilliantly.
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you anything about the actual plot without giving away spoilers. I’ll tell you this, though – it begins with a present day-ish world. It’s a vague 3rd person POV (in which there are no names, only nameless faces). It’s about what happens after the world ends. Duh. You knew that from the blurb. Oh, and there’s a super super slow burn romance.
Anything else I can say? Well, there are a few instances where we’re told about events that will be later reflected upon or happen in the future. It’s not often enough to get annoying, but it’s just enough to let you know stuff is going to happen and you had better be prepared for it.
As for everything else, the writing was great, the world was fantastically build and with a lot of attention to detail, the characters were all relatable in their own way and somewhat familiar. This may not have been the author’s intention, but I definitely saw a little of Sherlock Holmes in the analysis of potential fight moves (the Robert Downey Jnr one, of course). And, there was a distinct hint of crazy about SIRS that totally reminded me of Ben from Treasure Planet. None of that is bad. These characters were still unique, the advance thought process of the fight scenes still rang true to the character. All of this is good stuff. A little bit of something familiar or recognizable in a novel like this is never a bad thing.
When it comes to romance, there is no explicit on page sex. Ever. There are two brief mentions of MF sex and no MM at all. This works! Trust me. The first physical MM stuff happens at the 84% mark and it’s appropriate.
Overall, this is an incredible storytelling novel about what would happen if and when the world ends for whatever reason. It’s about survival instincts, looking inside yourself, insanity and fighting for what you believe in. It’s about bees, Dead Rabbits, SIRS and a Bad Dog. And, no, I’m not crazy.
Read it. You won’t be disappointed.
Dreamspinner Press Publications: https://www.dsppublications.com/books/withered-sere-by-tj-klune-240-b
When TJ Klune was eight, he picked up a pen and paper and began to write his first story (which turned out to be his own sweeping epic version of the video game Super Metroid—he didn’t think the game ended very well and wanted to offer his own take on it. He never heard back from the video game company, much to his chagrin). Now, over two decades later, the cast of characters in his head have only gotten louder. But that’s okay, because he’s recently become a full-time writer, and can give them the time they deserve.
Since being published, TJ has won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Romance, fought off three lions that threatened to attack him and his village, and was chosen by Amazon as having written one of the best GLBT books of 2011.
And one of those things isn’t true.
(It’s the lion thing. The lion thing isn’t true.)
Facebook: TJ Klune
DSP Publications is a boutique imprint producing quality fiction that pushes the envelope to present immersive, unique, and unforgettable reading experiences.