Tag Archives: guestbloggers

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

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!

 

Tina Connolly versus The Heroine Question

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.

 

Karen Miller answers Heroine Questions

Posted on July 15, 2015 by

falcon throneKaren Miller was a spec fic fan long before she started writing her big fat fantasy novels. There’s every chance you’ll find ‘Scotty Beamed Me Up’ on her headstone once she’s gone. Right now she’s working on the 2nd book in her ‘The Tarnished Crown’ epic fantasy series.

Book 1, ‘The Falcon Throne‘, is on sale now in hardcover and paperback.

Is there a literary heroine on whom you imprinted as a child?

Casting my mind back to the dim, dark past of childhood … there are several female characters with whom I formed a strong bond. Lucy from the Narnia series, Norah from the Billabong series and Anne of Green Gables.

You’re the second person to mention Anne! Can you remember what it was she, Norah and Lucy did or what qualities they had that captured your affections and your imagination so strongly?

Lucy was in the first proper fantasy novels I ever read, when I was around eight. I loved her because she was brave and steadfast and she stuck to her guns even when her siblings doubted and mocked her.  Norah Linton, from the Billabong series? Probably readers beyond Australia have never heard of these books, but they’re pretty remarkable. They’re set in country Victoria prior to world war I, start with Norah in school and follow her life through to adulthood, marriage, having a child. While being very much of their time, Norah is never victimised or second-classed because she’s a girl. She’s courageous, loving, compassionate and honourable. She lives on the land, with all the challenges that contains, does war work in London, has adventures. Her mother’s dead but she has a loving father and brother and her brother’s school friends, all of whom treat her like a person first and foremost. She’s an animal lover and so am I, and to this day when I re-read the series there are books or parts of books that I can’t read because the author doesn’t sugarcoat life on the land and it’s genuinely distressing!

Lastly, Anne of Green Gables. Again, these are books of their time so some things need to be read in context, but even so — Anne is a rocket. Fearless, determined to be herself no matter the opposition, a passionate lover of books and believer in the power of the imagination. These three heroines spoke – and to this day still speak – to parts of my soul and provide hope that it was and is okay to be that kind of person.

How does she compare to the female characters in your work? Is she their literary ancestor? Do they rebel against all she stands for? What might your creations owe her?

Interesting! I’d never thought about it but in a sense these characters have strongly informed some of the female characters in my work. I try not to write any character as strictly a hero or a heroine. While some people end up with more ticks in the ‘good guy’ box, rather than the ‘bad guy’ box, and vice versa, I believe we are all of us a mix of good and bad and on any given day, faced with a particular challenge, one side or the other is going to win out in how we deal with it … and it’s not always the side we want, or that society wants. Also, characters will interpret themselves and their choices in the most favourable light – as we all do! – so while they see themselves as heroic, the objective observer – and other characters – see the opposite. And, as I said, sometimes we act heroically in our lives and sometimes we do take the easy or the dishonourable or the coward’s way out … and usually my characters do both at some point, depending on the circumstances. Even my villains do the right thing now and then! But those heroines I fell in love with as a child certainly have helped me to shape my own understanding of what makes a person heroic, at least for me, and that understanding informs my writing to this day.

How do you feel about the word heroine? In these posts, I am specifically looking for female authors’ female influences, whether those women they looked up to were other writers or Anne of Green Gables. Does the word heroine have a purpose that isn’t served by equally well by hero? 

Hmmm. Hero/heroine — it’s one of those gendered differences that carries so much baggage. What a male character might do that’s seen as heroic is often likely to be condemned when done by a woman. The different expectations/standards attached to men and women in most of the world’s societies persist and inform opinions on what makes someone heroic.  I certainly think of those 3 favourite female characters as heroic – and by extension, their creators, 3 great female authors. In many ways they managed to create heroic girls who weren’t simply fake boys. They shared some characteristics with ‘male heroism’, but in other ways they were great young women in ways that only a woman can be. Too often, these days, female heroes are simply men with boobs. The element of empowered femininity has been stripped away, which isn’t good.

There are certainly ridiculous elements to dramatised heroines. If she’s not Buffy with supernatural powers your average woman is not going to take down a strong, fit and trained man. Girl power only takes you so far. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the genuine and legitimate differences are physical, not ephemeral. Qualities of character are unisex – courage and honour are not gendered  (though there is a subset of the male population that would like us to believe they are.) Likewise unheroic acts aren’t gendered although, again, there are some folk highly invested in making us think they are. That’s what comes of raising boys as primarily defining themselves as not-girls, with all the gendered bias and stereotyping that entails.  On this score, I’m not sure it’s possible or even desirable to eliminate the female version of ‘hero’, for either gender. But we do need to make it very clear that some acts will always be heroic, no matter which gender performs them.

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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 Charlene Challenger, Gemma Files, Caitlin Sweet, and Jessica Reisman.

Also about this post: As I have mentioned, writer Alex Bledsoe recently asked about my use of the gendered word, heroine, in this series. I could have gone with hero, true, or “female heroes” since I was looking for women authors’ female influences. To be honest, my initial inspiration came from my ever-mature desire to make tacky-sounding drug jokes: Gemma Files on Heroin! Oops! Heroine! That kind of thing.

I hope to get up a post that takes the answer further than “I pun, therefore I am.” And I have folded a question about this word into the later interviews; you can see Karen’s answer here.

Charlene Challenger tackles the Heroine Question

Posted on July 8, 2015 by

20140728_180543Charlene Challenger is a writer and graduate of Ryerson Theatre School. Her first novel, the young adult fantasy The Voices in Between, was published by Tightrope Books in 2014. Her work is also featured in Stone Skin Press’s Gods, Memes and Monsters: A 21st Century Bestiary. She is currently working on the sequel to Voices. She lives in Toronto. You can find her online at www.charlene-challenger.tumblr.com.
I asked her: 

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?

Who was she? Honestly? Cinderella. She seemed so perfect, so wonderful, and she didn’t even have to try. She endured abuse and emerged triumphant, with a handsome prince and a kingdom of her own.

Can you remember what it was she did or what qualities she had that captured your affections and your imagination so strongly?

She was what I thought I had to be as a child: beautiful, sweet-natured, effortlessly kind.

How does she compare to the female characters in your work? Is she their literary ancestor? Do they rebel against all she stands for? What might your heroines owe her?

My characters certainly owe their ability to face adversity to Cinderella. But they never go gently into that good night. They’re not always graceful, they’re not always kind. And they’re never defined by their beauty (or lack thereof).

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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.

Also about this post: A friend has recently asked about my use of the gendered word, heroine, in this series. I could have gone with hero, true, or “female heroes” since I was looking for female influences. To be honest, my initial inspiration came from my ever-mature desire to make tacky-sounding drug jokes: Gemma Files on Heroin! Oops! Heroine! That kind of thing.

I hope to get up a post that takes the answer further than “I pun, therefore I am.” And I have folded a question about this word into the later interviews; you’ll see other writers examining it, too, in a few weeks’ time.

Caitlin Sweet gets onto the Heroine thing

Posted on June 24, 2015 by

Huens-LloydAlexander18x30Caitlin Sweet is the author of three adult fantasy novels: A Telling of Stars (Penguin Canada, 2003), The Silences of Home (Penguin Canada, 2005), and The Pattern Scars (Chizine Publications, 2011). The Door in the Mountain (Chizine Publications, 2014) is her first young adult book, and it is on the shortlist for this year’s Sunburst Award, whose jury says:

Sweet has fashioned a gorgeously dangerous world ruled by equal parts beauty, magic, violence, and the whims of gods.

The sequel, The Flame in the Maze, will be published in fall 2015. Her first three books were nominated for Locus Best First Novel, Aurora, and Sunburst Awards; The Pattern Scars won the CBC Bookie Award in the Science Fiction, Fantasy or Speculative Fiction category.

I asked, first:

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? Who was she?

Eilonwy, daughter of Angharad—the high-spirited princess of the House of Llyr, who tossed her red-gold hair all the way through the five books of Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles.

Can you remember what it was she did or what qualities she had that captured your affections and your imagination so strongly?

I was seven when I first encountered Eilonwy. At the time I believed I might, in fact, be a princess from another world who’d been dropped off on this one, and left here far longer than intended, due to some cataclysm or other. Eilonwy was the princess I yearned to be. I knew it the moment I heard her voice and saw that red-gold hair: she was young, smart, quippy, beautiful, and royal, thrown in with a ragged band of misfits and swept up in adventures that got her dirty and wounded. When the men around her whined and moaned, she was undaunted. I thought this undauntedness was absolutely wonderful.

I re-read the Prydain books many times, over the years. When I was fourteen, I thought, “She’s the only one of the companions who’s female: of course she’s beautiful and smart and young. Of course she had to end up with the handsome young man, who of course turned out to be a king. Also: she stamps her foot a lot. And her eyes do a great deal of flashing.”

But analysis and cynicism always passed, as I read and re-read. These were my friends. The longing to slip into their world with them has always been there—even now, flipping through pages (when the longing is, of course, thickened with a healthy dollop of nostalgia).

How does she compare to the female characters in your work? Is she their literary ancestor? Do they rebel against all she stands for? What might your heroines owe her?

Not a single one of my female characters is like Eilonwy, because my worlds are nothing like Prydain—none of my published worlds, anyway. I did write a book when I was seventeen that featured a bunch of high fantasy tropes, and a young woman with red-gold hair, whose name was Aelwen.

That’s as close as I got. (It was, admittedly, pretty close.) I went out of my way to avoid tropes, in my later writing. Though there are a queen and a princess in my second book, the former is psychopathic, and the latter falls in love with an enemy captive and dies tragically, setting in motion a string of hideous events. Come to think of it, a queen and princess also feature in The Pattern Scars—but there’s absolutely no quippy undauntedness about them. (The princess never even learns to walk, let alone quip. Plus, she’s blind.) Aaand, as it happens, my Cretan books, The Door in the Mountain and The Flame in the Maze are centred around a deeply unlikeable princess who twists everything she sets her twisted mind to. The royalty thing does seem to have stuck.

Beyond that, though: no Prydain.

Eilonwy was the person I wished I could be when I was seven, and certain that magic had to be real. My own female characters are the people who intrigue me, now that I know it isn’t.

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When not working on her own books (which, sadly, is most of the time), Caitlin Sweet is a writer at the Ontario Government, and a genre writing workshop instructor at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. She lives in Toronto with her family, which includes a science fiction-writing husband, two teenagers, four cats, a hamster, a bunch of fish, and a passel of itinerant raccoons.

If this interview leaves you hungry for more about Caitlin Sweet, check out this post by Peter Watts, here, about the Sunburst nod.

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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. The link will take you to the other interviews, with awesome people like Martha Wells, Jane Lindskold, and Gemma Files.

Also about this post: A friend has recently asked about my use of the gendered word, heroine, in this series. I could have gone with hero, true, or female heroes. To be honest, my initial inspiration came from a desire to make puns: Gemma Files on Heroin! Oops! That kind of thing. I hope to get up a post that takes the answer further than “I pun, therefore I am.” And I have folded a question about this word into the later interviews; you’ll see other writers talking about it, too, in a few weeks’ time.