Alyx Dellamonica

An interview with Thieftaker Chronicles author David B. Coe @davidbcoe

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Posted on July 24, 2015 by

CoeJacksonPubPic1000David B. Coe/D.B. Jackson is the award-­winning author of eighteen fantasy novels. Under the name D.B. Jackson, he writes the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy from Tor Books that includes Thieftaker, Thieves’ Quarry, A Plunder of Souls, and, the newest volume, Dead Man’s Reach, which was released on July 21.

Meanwhile, under his own name, David writes The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, a contemporary urban fantasy from Baen Books. The first volume of this series, Spell Blind, debuted in January 2015. The newest book , His Father’s Eyes, comes out on August 4.

He lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita.

When he’s not writing, he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.

You have a couple of releases this summer. What can you tell me about them?

Yes, I have two books coming out under two different names, in two series, from two publishers, which is all a bit odd. The first, which came out on July 21 is Dead Man’s Reach, the fourth volume of the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy that I write for Tor Books under the name D.B. Jackson. The series is set in pre­-Revolutionary Boston and features a conjurer and thieftaker (sort of an 18th century private detective) named Ethan Kaille. Each book is set against the backdrop of some key event leading to the American Revolution. The action in this newest one coincides with the Boston Massacre.

The other novel coming out this summer is called His Father’s Eyes. It’s the second installment in a contemporary urban fantasy called The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, which I write under my own name for Baen Books. Jay Fearsson, my hero, is a weremyste. He’s a runecrafter, who can cast a variety of powerful spells. But every month, on the full moon and the nights immediately before and after, he goes temporarily mad, even as his power grows. Eventually the cumulative effect of these moon phasings will drive him permanently insane, as they have his father, who’s also a weremyste. As the title of the new book suggests, the relationship between Jay and his dad is central to the story, which also involves, a failed terrorist plot, a series of ritual killings, and an encounter with a werecoyote who lives in a single­wide trailer.

So two series, two identities . . . Does that get confusing?

200DeadMansReachWell, I’ve been known to sign the wrong name in the occasional book, but other than that, not really. The two series have certain things in common ­­ both protagonists are conjuring investigators, the books in both series are stand­alones loosely linked by my character arcs, and both rely on certain urban fantasy tropes: the ghostly spirit guide, the noir voice, the powerfully ambient setting.

In other ways, though, the books are very different. In part because one is historical and the other is contemporary, the narrative voices are quite distinct. And from a writing perspective, each story presents unique challenges. So it turns out that when I’m writing as D.B. Jackson, I feel very much immersed in that world, and the same is true when I’m writing under my own name. Plus, shifting between the two keeps my writing fresh.

Urban fantasy is sometimes thought of as a subgenre dominated by female authors writing female protagonists, and yet here you are writing two series in the genre, both featuring male heroes. Why go that route?

I was aware of the dynamic. There are a few prominent examples of men writing about men in the field ­­ Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden books, of course; Kevin Hearne’s Iron Mage series; Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim novels. But they do seem to be the exceptions, and I can name so many female authors doing terrific work in urban fantasy: Kim Harrison, Laurel K. Hamilton, Patricia Briggs, Faith Hunter, C.E. Murphy, Kat Richardson, and many more.

One of the reasons I chose the D.B. Jackson pseudonym when I first started writing UF, was that I wanted to use a gender­neutral pen name. It used to be that women in fantasy and SF had to “disguise themselves” by camouflaging their names as I have. Today, in a welcome turnabout, it’s us guys who have to do that, at least in this subgenre.

But I also think that there is room in urban fantasy for all of us, male and female. I try to draw my heroes as honestly as I can. I make them well­rounded. They have a dark side, they have a sensitive side. They can act like typical guys, but they can also be tender, loving, vulnerable. In short, they’re not “male characters” so much as they’re people. And I surround them with strong female characters ­­ colleagues, rivals, love interests ­­ who are realistic and balanced as well.

Tell us a bit more about that. You are writing in two distinctly different time periods, the colonial era and the present ­day. Do you find that you need to treat your female characters in the two projects differently in order to make the books realistic?

Without trying to be glib, the answer is both yes and no. Yes, in that I make ALL my characters a bit different in the Thieftaker books. They speak differently, they have different sensibilities, their day­to-­day concerns are not the same as ours. In order for those books to ring true, I have my characters speak in something that approximates an 18th century lexicon (while still making their dialog decipherable for a modern audience), and I make them behave and dress in ways that are appropriate to their time. So, for instance, my female characters all wear dresses. (Except for Sephira Pryce, Ethan Kaille’s rival in thieftaking, who wears breeches and a waistcoat, as would a man working in the streets. I’ll get to Sephira in a moment, because she is a special case.) In the same way, I do not have women in positions of political power, because there were no women in such offices in the 1760s.

But in other ways, the women in the Thieftaker books are every bit as strong and independent as women in the Fearsson books, and this comes as something of a surprise to some people. The fact is though (putting on my hat as history Ph.D.) the strict circumscribing of women’s societal roles, something we generally associate loosely with “the past,” was a nineteenth and early twentieth century phenomenon. Women in the eighteenth century had far more freedom, socially, sexually, economically, than their counterparts a century later. And so having Kannice Lester, a young widow who is Ethan’s love interest, own and run a tavern is perfectly legitimate historically. Janna Windcatcher, another tavern owner, is also black and free, which makes her somewhat unusual, but my no means anachronistic in pre­-Revolutionary Boston.

The most unusual character is Sephira, who as a thieftaker and, essentially, a criminal, steps farthest from any examples I have found in the historical record. Honestly, I’m fine with that. Yes, I took a liberty with her, but she is such a fun character I really don’t care.

Having Ethan’s rival be a woman ­­ brilliant, ruthless, kick­ass, beautiful, overtly sexual ­­infuses their interactions with a crackling energy, and gives incredible power to all of my plot lines.

The one thing I did in the Fearsson books that I didn’t do in the Thieftaker series was have openly gay characters of either gender. In The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, Jay’s closest friend and former partner on the police force is Kona Shaw, an African­-American woman involved with Margarite Santos, a lawyer in the D.A.’s office. The reason I don’t have openly gay characters in the Thieftaker novels is that I didn’t know how to address the issue in a historically accurate way. Reliable records on the position of gays in colonial society are pretty hard to come by.

In every other way, though, the distance between the female characters in the Thieftaker books and those in the Fearsson books is far less than some might expect.

What’s up next for you after this summer’s releases?

Layout 1There’s still one more Fearsson book in the pipeline: SHADOW’S BLADE will be out next May. And I have been collaborating with Faith Hunter, author of the New York Times bestselling Jane Yellowrock books on a crossover project that combines her universe with the Thieftaker world. We released a novelette earlier this summer and we’d both like to write more in that mash­up world.

But aside from that, I’m not sure yet. I have an idea for a new epic fantasy, but it still needs a lot of prep work before I’ll be ready to write it. So I suppose I’ll be diving into that when the summer’s over.

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As you can imagine, twice the number of pen names means there’s a whole lot of David B. Coe to be had on the Internet! As David B. Coe, he’s got a website, blog, Facebook page and Twitter feed, as well as an Amazon author page.  Then as D.B. Jackson, he’s also got a whole other separate website. Enjoy!

 

Three good things, surprise Thursday edition

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Posted on July 23, 2015 by

photo by Kelly Robson

photo by Kelly Robson

Tomorrow I have another author interview coming up on the site, this one with David B. Coe, who has a book out this week and will tell you all about it tomorrow! So today I am having an early go at the three great things posts I’ve been (somewhat) getting up on Fridays, to celebrate the random and not-so-random sources of joy in my week.

What’s tricky about this is that I’ve already bibbled a bit about the awesome run to the African Lion Safari and Niagara Falls, and getting to reconnect with dear friends in the process.

What else happened? Here’s three things:

One: Lovely people have been offering up bouquets of support for various projects. A relative texted me this morning, just to let me know he’d pre-ordered A Daughter of No Nation, for example, and a couple of friends are reading the third book in the trilogy, The Nature of a Pirate, to let me know if the plot cogs in the mystery are 1) sufficiently mysterious; and yet 2) not overly opaque. One of them mentioned diving into a second read a week later, which is above and beyond the call and much appreciated; the other wrote me out of the blue to quietly hint he’d love a shot at the unpolished manuscript, even though it’s been taking me a hundred years per page to read his current novel. The last couple of rounds of notes-from-editors on some of my upcoming stories have been insightful, too. Good readers make the sausage tastier.

People are wonderful, in other words, and I am incredibly blessed.

Two: As I was teaching this week, I came up with the following analogy, which I think holds up even without the conversation that sprung it, and which I can probably turn into a whole essay at some point.

Making up POV as you go is as valid as any kind of pantsing, but at some point you will have to decide who’s telling your story. Once you do, you’ll know how the narrative voice will handle your various characters’ names. Once you know that, you can clearly establish how each character generally refers to the others, and be consistent from there.

Imagine being a professional driver of some (improbably) generic stripe. Imagine that each morning you get up, go to a parking lot, and get to choose between driving an ambulance, schoolbus, limousine, hearse, taxicab, an armored car, a catering truck… you name it. The thing you do with your day is, arguably, more or less identical: you’re operating a motor vehicle. But which of the vehicles you choose–an apparently simple and innocuous decision–is going to determine whether you’re spending the day surrounded by preschoolers or rushing to the scene of an accident.

In all of the above cases, weaving all over the road is unprofessional. But choosing a vehicle at random and then trying to figure out if you’re transporting a coffin or picking up Robert DeNiro at the airport… one could argue that it’s a bit outlandish.

Figuring out which POV you’re going to use to drive the story isn’t innocuous. Don’t underrate it.

Three: My good friend and teaching guru Linda Carson teaches a color course at Waterloo University, which means among other things that she has one of the coolest boards on Pinterest. She asked me to do her an Instagram favor this week, and a side effect of that was that I found out about this. Human ingenuity in the pursuit of cool beauty makes me happy. I expect this will make you happy too.

Tina Connolly versus The Heroine Question

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Posted on July 22, 2015 by

Tina_Connolly-author-headshot1-colorTina Connolly is the author of the Ironskin trilogy from Tor Books, and the Seriously Wicked series, from Tor Teen. Ironskin, her first fantasy novel, was a Nebula finalist. Her stories have appeared in Women Destroy SFLightspeed, Tor.com, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and many more. Her narrations have appeared in audiobooks and podcasts including Podcastle, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, John Joseph Adams’The End is Nigh series, and more. She runs the Parsec-winning flash fiction podcast Toasted Cake.

She is originally from Lawrence, Kansas, but she now lives with her family in Portland, Oregon.

Is there a literary heroine on whom you imprinted as a child? A first love, a person you wanted to become as an adult, a heroic girl or woman you pretended to be on the playground at recess?

Oh, totally. Some of my favorites: Aerin of Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown, Anne and Emily from L.M. Montgomery’s books, several of the theatre-loving girls in Noel Streatfeild’s series (particularly Sorrel from Theatre Shoes), and Menolly in Anne McCaffrey’s Harper Hall trilogy.

What it was they did or what qualities did they embody that captured your imagination?

Sometimes they knew what they wanted, and sometimes it was more an inchoate yearning to do something. Stubborn. Anne having to deal with floods of emotion when struck by beauty (what is it, how do you transmute it into something). But despite being a lovely person, she didn’t particularly do anything with her creativity, not lasting, anyway, which made me end up identifying more with Emily, even though I didn’t want to be a writer as a child. The artistic heroines of Streatfeild’s books learn that you have to work at your craft, which was always a valuable lesson.

Aerin has to deal with a wild sort of magic running through her, and figure out how to make it useful, to help her country. (Not to mention the stubbornness of going through the scientific process, trying a billion different tweaks to her fireproof ointment till one works.) Menolly has to make music, and when she can’t, she runs away, not so much out of a well-thought out plan, just that the urge to create drives you on.

How do these women compare to the female characters in your work? Are they your heroines’ literary ancestors?

That is a really interesting question, because I don’t think I’ve written a heroine (in my books, at least) driven by the creative process yet (though I keep saying I want to write one.) All my heroines are stubborn, yeah. I was thinking it through and so far all my book heroines are driven by the urge to help, to set something right. There is something that they identify with, something that makes it personal.

In my newest book, Seriously Wicked, heroine Cam is stuck living with a *seriously wicked* witch.

When the witch summons a demon, he accidentally gets into the new cute boy at school. So Cam is determined to help the boy in distress, since it’s a little bit her fault, and even more it’s just flat-out empathy for someone else getting roped into the same awful things she’s roped into every day. So she’s stubborn, like me, and like my favorite heroines. I was realizing the other day that another trait we share is that Cam is certain she can juggle it all, keep all the balls and plates spinning. Stop the witch’s schemes and still get an A in Algebra.

I do want to write a creative-process-driven heroine, though. I just need to find the right SF-nal setting for it….

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Tina Connolly’s website is here, and you can find her on Twitter and on Facebook.

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About this post: The Heroine Question is my name for a series of short interviews with female writers about their favorite characters and literary influences. Clicking the link will take you to all the other interviews, with awesome people like Jane Lindskold, Gemma Files, Caitlin Sweet, and Jessica Reisman.

 

Lions and rhinos and bats, oh my!

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Posted on July 21, 2015 by

imageThe first person I met when I went to university orientation, back in 1985, was Christina: a voracious reader, Henry VIII aficionado and fellow theater geek who joined the student newspaper the same day I did. We laughed, we learned, we did a bunch of shows… and, in the fullness of time, we eventually graduated. Due in part to the mixed miracle that is Facebook, we have remained connected.

Xtina came to Toronto with her husband Scott last weekend, and by way of celebrating Kelly’s birthday took us on Sunday to the African Lion Safari in Cambridge. Ontario friends, I am surprised that it was a couple of Alberta kids who told us there were lions, omg lions, within easy driving distance. To say nothing of the rhinos.


We rounded out the day with a quick run to the Devil’s Punchbowl and then went on to the Vegas-for-families tourist explosion that is Niagara Falls. The splendid natural impressiveness of all that falling water did, once again, transcend the horror of the crowds and the tourist tack.

(I will note for the record that Niagara Falls has the most sewerific Starbucks bathroom I have ever seen. Scott will back me up on this, so you don’t need a photo.)

The full photo set is here.

Interview Links – Speculating Canada, and more!

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Posted on July 20, 2015 by

got the feverOne of the things that went live while I was away at Readercon was an interview with me, Kelly, David Nickle and Madeline Ashby on the Speculating Canada podcast. The theme of the interview was writer couples. Derek Newman-Stille is a great interviewer, and I think I can safely speak for us all when I say we had a lot of fun talking to him.
And here’s Kelly, talking about “Waters of Versailles” on Angela Slatter’s blog.
Last week, Barnes and Noble listed A Daughter of No Nation for presale. At the same time, a couple of my fans noticed the page I’d added to this site for the book. Some of those tweeted their excitement about the description of the book I had provided.
For those of you who may have missed that, here’s the link.
What was interesting about the Barnes and Noble listing was that even though ADoNN isn’t in bookstores yet, I was gratified to see it already has a People Who Bought This Item Also Bought line-up, which includes Victor Milan’s The Dinosaur Lords and J. Kathleen Cheney’s The Shores of Spain: A Novel of the Golden City as well as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
Does this mean anything? Nothing portentous, perhaps. It does mean a few people are keen to have the book as soon as it can possibly be had, and that is very gratifying indeed.

 

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