We are super-honored to have an author Q&A with Craig Schaefer, who writes the Daniel Faust, Revanche Cycle, and Harmony Black series (links below in author bio section). Mr. Schaefer is one of our FAVORITE authors at the MacHalo group and blog, so we couldn’t be more delighted that he said YES to our request. We HIGHLY recommend all of his books.
The Daniel Faust series is gritty urban fantasy about the seedy paranormal underworld.
The Revanche Cycle is epic fantasy with tons of betrayal and intrigue, witches and corrupt politicians.
Harmony Black is secret government groups fighting paranormal crime with a heavy dash of conspiracy and magic thrown in.
So let’s get down to it.
Q: Which of your series would you recommend new readers start with?
A: I’d love for everyone to start with the Revanche Cycle, because that’s my personal favorite, but I’ve learned (the hard way) that a lot of urban fantasy readers have no interest in epic fantasy — which is the main reason the Faust/Harmony books are my bread and butter while the Revanche books…aren’t.
For UF readers, I’d suggest starting with the Faust series, specifically with The White Gold Score. While it’s technically book 1.5, beyond a couple of references it pretty much stands alone, and it was written much more recently. Every writer evolves (or should evolve) and I’d like to think I’m a much better writer today than I was when The Long Way Down came out, so it makes for a better introduction to my work.
Also, it’s a novella, so if you hate it, at least you didn’t waste much time on it.
Q: What is your favorite series and/or character you have written?
Favorite series? The Revanche Cycle, hands down. Favorite character? Ooh, that’s a lot tougher. That definitely changes with my mood. If I had to narrow it down to a core few, though? Renata Nicchi, the “ordinary barmaid” who shows the world what “ordinary” people are capable of, has to top the list. Jessie Temple, constantly at war with the forces of darkness both outside and within herself, and mostly winning. Nessa Fieri – gleefully and unrepentantly wicked, capable of immense cruelty and ferocious love – rounds out the top three.
Also, honorable mention for cannibal fashion designer Fredrika Vinter. Freddie’s scenes (along with her long-suffering BFF Halima) are always so much fun to write. (“Naturally, dahling.”)
Q: ✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans) wants to declare her undying love for Daniel Faust and is a huge fan. She wants to know if there will be a Jessie spinoff and if Harmony Black and Daniel Faust will ever have a crossover with both characters being featured in a book?
No current plans for a Jessie spinoff. Jessie is a really tricky character in some regards; I’ve never shared this before, but one of the earliest very-partial drafts for the first Harmony Black novel (it ran out of steam around five chapters in) had her as the POV character instead of Harmony. The problem can be summed up by the scene in HB where she and Harmony endure a psychic parasite’s nightmare vision and she says, “That’s what it’s like in my head all the time.”
She’s funny and fierce, but that’s partially a shield to keep her friends from seeing the stuff she has to fight to keep a lid on, every waking moment of the day. This is a woman who was raised by a serial killer and forced to participate in her father’s crimes, without any kind of a moral compass until she was rescued in her early teens. Throw in the occult contagion from the King of Wolves and, well, it’s a lot easier to write about her from a slightly removed perspective; going first-person could take things from “just dark enough” to “way too dark” in a hurry.
Yes, there will absolutely be a Harmony/Faust crossover at some point. There’s already sort of one coming up in next year’s Wisdom’s Grave trilogy, where both characters make important appearances, but in a supporting-cast role. I really want to do a crossover that’s all about the two of them, I just haven’t figured out the best way to write it yet. Considering some people only read one of the two series, and I try to keep them as stand-alone as possible for that reason, I have to really think about what I can do with it plot-wise and which story elements I can resolve in a crossover that some readers might not be interested in picking up.)
(I will say, whether Harmony and Daniel make peace at last or not, you know we’re gonna see their respective teams square off and go a few rounds. I’m not a big fan of superhero tropes in general, but sometimes you just have to see who would win in a fight…)
Q: Several of us have noticed you write amazing female characters. They are strong, independent, no “damsels in distress.” Is this a conscious effort on your part or do you just naturally have an affinity for bad-ass females? 😊
Thank you so much! Yes, it’s a very conscious effort. As a writer and a feminist, positive representation is really important to me. Note that “positive” doesn’t mean “only positive character traits.” I don’t set out to create flawless, all-powerful Mary Sues, because that’s just as bad as wilting damsels in distress; both reduce female characters down to playing pieces and plot coupons. God save us from “kick-ass heroines” whose entire personality is 1) spunky/snarky and 2) they know kung fu, which is often exactly what Hollywood foists off on us.
My aim (I don’t always get it right, but I try) is to write female characters with authentic voices, inner lives, strengths and flaws. Which is really the standard we should all expect of any character of any gender, in all of our media, so the simple fact that it’s notable proves why it’s so important. It shouldn’t be extraordinary, it should be the baseline.
Ultimately, I write about the women in my life. No, I don’t hang out with murderous witches or mob bosses (as far as I’m willing to admit in public), but the heroines and villainesses of my fantasy novels draw their roots from the real women around me – from their struggles, their triumphs, their hopes, fears and joys. They’re my inspiration.
Q: Do you have any plans for a new series or book you can share with us?
This coming January will bring the first book of the Wisdom’s Grave trilogy, a special event crossover between all of my existing series. Fresh from the pages of the Revanche Cycle, Nessa and Mari – reborn as college professor Vanessa Roth and police detective Marie Reinholt – find each other once again in modern-day New York. Just like hundreds of times before, they’re cursed to meet, fall in love, and die, reenacting an ancient and forgotten fairy tale. But things are a little different now: someone’s spoiled the plot.
Forewarned of their fate, Nessa and Marie have one chance to break free, find the source of their curse, and demand justice. This time, they’re writing their own ending.
My initial outline notes described the trilogy as “a rock and roll road trip to the edge of the multiverse, with black magic and bullets.” The first book is with my editor as we speak; it’s arguably the darkest thing I’ve ever written, and absolutely isn’t going to be to everyone’s taste, but the trilogy is a passion project of mine so it had to get written.
Q: How long do you see your current two series running?
The Faust series will probably run twenty books or so, but the series outline has a lot of wriggle room so it can grow or contract based on what the fans want and how its momentum feels. (Yes, I know how it all ends. The final scene of the final book is already written – I wanted to have a goal-post of sorts to keep me focused – though it’s doubtlessly going to get a full rewrite by the time we actually get there.)
The Harmony series is more open-ended. I’ve got three possible ways to wrap the series up, and I haven’t decided which one I like best yet. I’d say we’ll see at least five more books, and we’re nowhere near properly setting up any of the three endings. My readers know I’m a big fan of playing the long game…
Q: Are we going to get more from the Revanche world – and anytime soon? Any little spoilers you can share?
I don’t know if we’ll ever go back for a book set exclusively in the Revanche setting, but I can tell you (and you heard it here first) that book two or three of the Wisdom’s Grave trilogy will definitely see our antiheroines taking a jaunt back “home.”
Maybe I can share two tiny spoilers. One: Hedy will be back. The Mouse is her mother’s daughter, and when the Owl needs her most, she’ll be there. Two: two particular characters from the final chapter of Queen of the Night will not be in it. They earned their ending, and they really did live happily ever after, or at least as happy as a contented life with the person you love can be. They are the only two characters I consider officially out of my keyboard’s reach. They won.
Q: What are a couple of your favorite books and authors?
If I had to pick an all-time favorite author, I’d have to go with Elmore Leonard. An absolute master of his craft, in the vein of two of my other favorites, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Amazing dialogue, lean and stripped-down prose, all three wrote purring and sleek engines of fiction. I’m nowhere near that good, but if I keep working hard, someday I might get close.
I also have to give a shout-out to an author I’ve only recently discovered and I’m eagerly plowing my way through her back-catalog. Mo Hayder is a top-notch crime/suspense writer, and her book “The Devil of Nanking” is amazing. It gave me the same goosebumps I got from reading “Silence of the Lambs” for the first time. Dark, sinister, depraved…you know, all the stuff I like.
Cold Spectrum, book four in the Harmony Black series, is released on October 31, 2017.
Despite this, people say he’s strangely normal. Suspiciously normal, in fact.
Schaefer lives in Illinois with a small retinue of cats, all of whom try to interrupt his writing schedule and/or kill him on a regular basis. He practices sleight of hand in his spare time, though he’s not very good at it. His home on the Web is www.craigschaeferbooks.com.
Craig Schaefer on Amazon.