📚 IN DEPTH ✏
URBAN DARK FANTASY
Brother Sebastian is halfway up a mountain in Vermont, hell-bent on interrogating an old woman in a shack, when he gets the order to abandon his quest for personal vengeance. He has to find a missing Inquisitor, or, more likely, his remains. He’s reluctant, to say the least. Not only will he have to stop chasing the best potential lead he’s had in years, this job—his first solo mission—will mean setting foot in the grubby black hole of Providence, Rhode Island. And, somehow, it only gets worse…
If he’d known he would end up ass deep in witches, werewolves, and ogres, and that this mission would jeopardize not only his sanity but also his immortal soul, he never would’ve answered the damn phone.
When did you start writing?
On this series, I started the first one about ten years ago. I’m not sure if I will ever use it, it’s a kind of Origins story. Once I wrote it I was kinda hooked, I realized there were many, many more stories about Sebastian that needed to get out. I wasn’t in a hurry, and I took my time, hence the slow pace. Since then I finished with my fourth novel in the series. It’s funny I wrote my first book long before I’d ever heard of any of the other authors that write along similar lines. The first time I read Larry Correia, Junior Inquisitor was with my editor. I wish I’d read him earlier, his creation of a useful silver bullet is better than mine.
Well I still quibble with the horror genre tag, because I’m not trying to scare anyone. I’m just exploring what would happen if people suddenly were able to do magic. Following that question I had some answers but also more questions. Where would this ability come from, would it uplift the human spirit, or bring out our worst impulses? Then, if they were bad, who would stop them? If all magic users were good I have a Happiest Elf kids story, which for me would be dull. I could have made witches and warlocks both good and evil, but that’s been done. So I went with evil. From that everything kind of sprang forth. How would someone who is evil and very powerful act? What kinds of spells and energies would they have, how would they get more power, how would they act towards each other and regular people? Everyone who’s evil needs some minions, so what would they have and how would they get them? I ended up with this very dark tale about a group of monks who were waging a guerrilla war on evil made manifest. So it’s dark urban fiction that’s almost horror. The “almost horror” modifier came along because apparently I scared some of my beta readers.
What research did you have to do?
Quite a bit on Providence, it’s been a long time since I’ve been there. And lest anyone think I hate Providence, I do not. I just needed a decent sized town for creatures of madness and mayhem to run around in. I could have picked Worcester, New Bedford, even Hartford. I went with Providence. I also spent time learning about the different orders of monks, so that part of the story would be authentic. On weapons I had a lot less research to do since I’ve used weapons ever since high school and quite a bit throughout my twenty-eight years in the military. I’ve been over to Iraq twice, Afghanistan, three times for the military, and spent about a year in Afghanistan working for a private security firm. Every bit of equipment the Inquisitors use I have experience with, the same with their tactics, which made it easy to describe but boring to read. Most of the time when there is a fight people focus on what is right in-front of them. To give a story any kind of continuity and avoid “Well if you remember Bob,” or “”Tell me again what happened when the Ogre attacked,” dialogue I had to expand Brother Sebastian’s peripheral awareness. At the same time I didn’t want to descend into omnipotence, so it was a balancing act.
Why dark urban fiction almost horror?
I was really stuck trying to shoe-horn in my story into a genre, because it just didn’t quite fit. I’m not trying to scare anyone, act as a warning to the populace at large on the dangers of Cthulhu, or teach a moral lesson like horror usually does. At the same time if you have a group of people who have powers that can and usually do harm regular people, your story is not going to be a happy one. Bad things will occur, people will die, and mayhem will run rampant. It’s not dystopic, for most people magic never enters their lives and they go about quite happily unaware it actually exists. Those that do, however, experience all kinds of terrible events and traumas. Set more or less today that kinda makes it urban fiction, minus the romance. So dark urban fiction almost horror.
Are Wiccans witches?
Not in my books; completely different types of people and motivations. In my world witches are unrepentantly evil, more or less crazy, sacrifice innocents to gain power, and generally nasty all around. Witches will sometime prey on Wiccans, but they could just as easily go after a Girl Scout Troop, or the Moose Lodge.
But witches visit places Wiccans are.
Of the few Wiccans I know, all of them are fiercely independent. Which works well for them and is fine for society, as it is now. But if we change things up and people are viewed as herd animals, predators are always looking for the weak, the unlucky, and those alone. Individuality in this situation is counter-productive. From the predator’s perspective, it is much easier to stalk a single cow that has wandered away from the herd than it is to try and separate one away from the group. That’s what witches are; predators, and how they see us, as prey. Those who are alone, or weak or venerable and easily seduced, or won’t be missed are the targets of witches.
Are there only evil women?
Of course not, in my first book, the two biggest sources of pain for Brother Sebastian, the protagonist, are both male; warlocks. There are different types of magic users, ones that have different skills or focuses, which I will reveal in due time, and some of the sub-types of magic users may be more male or female centric, but they are all nasty vicious people bent on blood lust and chaos. Evil is pretty much an equal opportunity recruiter.
Why aren’t there good magicians like Harry Dresden or Harry Potter?
Those are differently worlds with different rules. Jim Butcher has within his series, The White Council and the Laws of Magic to reign in true evil. That kinda sorta works for Harry Dresden, but that does leave a lot of room for abuse as Harry’s mother pointed out. If you notice in Harry Potter, Arthur Weasly, as nice as he is written, makes remarks about how clever Muggles are for inventing things like electricity and phones because they don’t have magic. Like they’re an occasionally bright child, there is a kind bigotry of low expectations. This is shown pretty clearly when the Minister of Magic visits the Prime Minister, and of course how Dolores Umbridge acts towards non-humans. There is some real nastiness in the margins of Harry Potter’s world, and I think the stories are better for it. The other difference is in both of those worlds, one is born into magic or not, and they grow into their power, no one reads a strange book and has magic unleashed upon them as in my world.
I took, I think, a harder, and more realistic approach as to what would happen if there was magic. It’s power. People rarely handle power well, especially if they get it suddenly. A decent comparison is when people win the lottery. They tend to go a bit crazy with all of the new possibilities open to them now they are a millionaire.
Imagine you had the power, magically, and from across the room, to slap someone who was rude, maybe they’re yammering away on their cell-phone in public, perhaps they’re driving like a jerk, maybe talking during the movie, cutting in line, whatever. Now if you could do that, and no one would know that it was you doing the slapping, and there was no way you’d be punished by the law for doing so, would you be tempted?
Even if you never slapped anyone, but knew you could, how would your attitude change towards regular people? Would you start to hold them in contempt, just a little, because you had abilities they did not? How would your attitude change towards following the law knowing you were above it?
Now toss in some evil entities encouraging you to do more than just slap around people who get in your way and you have a real monster being created.
Does the Government know about witches?
No. First off remember most people can’t see magic, just the aftermath. Could you see a politician getting up in front of the cameras and saying, “magic is real,” and not be laughed off the stage? What modern government could admit there was a problem that most people can’t directly see, can’t measure, and that the government couldn’t fix? Following that logic I deduced that they deliberately turn a blind eye to magic, engaging in wilful ignorance. Further to avoid panic, or worse yet looking incompetent, they would silence those who point out that there is a problem. Bureaucracies are very self-protective, ask any whistle-blower, pointing out the Emperor has no clothes leads to punishment, not acceptance.
Even if you did convince people there was magic, witches, and evil made manifest, what do you think would happen? Would people pick up their pitchforks and start weighing suspicious characters to see if they weighed as much as a duck, or would they seek witches out, hoping for favours and power?
Why can’t the Government hire those that can see magic?
I had thought about it. Larry Correia’s does this with his Monster Hunter series, the protagonists are in league with a shadowy part of the government to eradicate monsters and suppress monster uprisings. Works for him, I’m more cynical. In my mind if you have ten government employees who know about monsters and it’ll be news in a week. Governments and conspiracies just don’t work out. Remember if two people having consensual sex in the White House can’t keep it secret, how would it be possible that an entire agency, or bureau, or department could hide the existence of the supernatural?
With Rick Gualtieri’s Bill the Vampire series, the vampires have bribed off cops and various important government officials to keep quiet, and that could work to a point. However, I’m not cynical enough to think that would work well long term either. Now these are their worlds and they say what does or does not work, but for me I figured that a shadowy guerrilla war between evil and the Church worked. Witches stay out of sight because they fear being captured/enslaved/ sacrificed by more powerful magic users, and the monks do so because no one would ever believe them, and some politicians would actually work to keep the knowledge of magic quiet to prevent spreading fear or exposing government incompetence.
Why wouldn’t people believe in magic?
We live, for better or for worse, in a culture that follows scientific principles, and reason more or less. How would you even measure magic? “I’m going to sacrifice ten kittens and compare how much power our trapped witch receives versus the ten puppies we sacrificed yesterday?”
Imagine how the law would react – “Yes officer, the neighbourhood bully was drunk again and bothering everyone here at the block party. Ms Crabtree came out and he knocked her down. She pulled out a stick and said some funny words and he fell over dead. I think she’s a witch and you need to arrest her for witchcraft and murder.”
Or a defence attorney – “So you think my client is a witch and that piece of wood is the murder weapon? Okay please show the court how that works. Fire a spell out of it. Nothing big, say knock over the water pitcher.”
That’s the point, if we had magic users they would be outside out the law as we have it constructed. Never mind that jails couldn’t hold them, what would be the charge, how would the rules of evidence apply?
Unless you want a world filled with witches doing as they pleased, you have to checks to this power. That’s why in my world you have Inquisitors fighting them in secret.
Why straight up good versus evil?
I went old school, if you read events and tales from before the modern era, say up until WWI that’s the way things were portrayed. There was good on one side and then evil on the other. Industrialization started to alter the way we saw the world and our roles. It introduced complexity, and forced people to face a changing, more nuanced world, but it was the mechanized butchery of WWI that had the real effect. It shook people’s belief in themselves and in how they perceived others. Instead of black and white the grey was focused on, it was always there, but now it rose to prominence. This trend continued slowly, replacing the hero with the anti-hero, the uncertainty of motives swamping story telling in all of its forms and now in life. Instead of good guys doing bad things to bad people for timeless ideals, we have, for the most part, questionable people doing bad things to other questionable people because a code has been broken, a trust betrayed, an action needs to be avenged.
All well and fine, and what we are now used to, because that is closer to real life. We do things for personal reasons and situationally, not from a larger sense of what is right or wrong. However, what happens when you take someone used to nuance, to complex motives, and who understands the grey in us, and put them in a black and white world? They know what they must do, but are not really mentally equipped to deal with the, “she was bad so I killed her,” kind of abruptness. How does a person who doesn’t feel righteous, lead a righteous life; how do you purge evil when you’ve spent most of your life looking at the grey and not at the black and white?
Why Catholic Monks?
I needed a group that was world-wide, large enough that they could have a secret society with in them and old enough that they could have been battling evil for a very long time. I also need to explain from where the darkness comes without copying anyone. Larry Correia uses the Cthulhu mythos, Harry Potter is fairly agnostic, religion is rarely mentioned, except Christmas. Rick Gualtieri has a hint of Catholicism with the Templars protecting the Icon from the icky vampires. Jim Butcher has a bit more Catholic mythos with Angels and Knights of the Cross, so I went further; full on Catholic. Again I did that before I’d read any of these guys, and they are all worth reading, it just worked out that I was in a niche that no one else was occupying.
Tell me about these Illustrated Excerpts and the book cover, where did you get them?
I have the best editor possible, Danielle Fine. Not only did she make the story infinitely better, she helped create the cover and then did the illustrated excerpts for promotional efforts. Remember I’m new at this and had no idea how to do marketing. She and a few other authors took me under their wings and helped guide me along. For the artwork, I’d like to say it was a collaborative event, but I have no artistic skills. I gave Danielle my vision of what “right” looked like and with a bit of back and forth, okay a lot of back and forth, she made it happen. Of course, now with all of my nit-picking, I owe her some tequila. Probably several bottles.
So where are you now in your series?
The Soulless Monk, the next in the series is with my exceptional editor Danielle Fine. I just finished The Witch’s Lair, which is number three. Give me a few weeks to a month to do rewrites and checks and then that’s off to the editor. I’ve also made a tentative start on the next novel after The Witch’s Lair. I can’t reveal its name as it gives away too much.
I also have a few short stories other, featuring second lead men that I’ll probably be adding to The Soulless Monk and The Witch’s Lair for additional fun for the reader.
When are they coming out?
The Soulless Monk, the second book, will be out by fall, if not sooner, but there are lots of factors like re-write times; the wife and helper dog and their willingness to put up with my antics that will have to be considered. How many copies and how quickly they are sold of Junior Inquisitor will have an impact. From those sales I’ll be paying my editor. I’m hoping to sell a lot as she gets real cranky when it comes to her money, and she does such a good job it feels wrong to try and pay her in kindness and with my good looks.
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