Author Q&A: Craig Schaefer (of the Daniel Faust series)

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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.

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Craig Schaefer’s books have taken readers to the seamy edge of a criminal underworld drenched in shadow (the Daniel Faust series), to a world torn by war, poison and witchcraft (the Revanche Cycle), and across a modern America mired in occult mysteries and a conspiracy of lies (the Harmony Black series).

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.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Feature Characters Who Are Criminal Heroes

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Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s top ten is about books that feature characters who are criminal heroes. I have a penchant for bad boys in books. They tend to be more unpredictable and entertaining. Many of them live a life of crime. I’m okay with that. I love the dichotomy of the good and bad internal struggle. To be honest some of them don’t have much of a struggle; they’re just bad, but dark and dangerous is fun too. So here is my list of my top ten books with criminal heroes. To be clear the term hero is used extremely loosely.

The Long Way Down by Craig Schaefer

Genre: Urban Fantasy

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Daniel Faust is one of my favorite criminal heroes ever! He definitely does things that are bad but still retains a moral code which keeps him from going to the dark side. Just so you know these books get better as they go along.

The Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne

Genre: Historical Romance

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I enjoyed the hell outta this one! Dorian Blackwell is a rich and cunning thief. He is not a nice man, but if you dig deep enough he has layers. This is historical romance with a darker twist.

The Sordid Promise by Courtney Lane

Genre: Dark Romance

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This is my favorite book on this list. It’s really dark and demented, so it’s not for everyone. Eric is an asshole with a capital A, but there’s something alluring about him. If you’re looking for something on the dark side that’s original, read this.

The Heartstone Thief by Pippa DaCosta

Genre: Fantasy

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Curtis Vance made his living as a thief. In typical Pippa DaCosta fashion, he had highly questionable morals. A unique plot and good world building made this an entertaining read.

Sex, Lies, and Nikolai by R.J. Lewis

Genre: Romance

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Nikolai’s life revolved around shady criminal dealings. Compared to many of the others on this list he’s a good guy. This book sucked me in from the start. I’ve never read any other books by R.J. Lewis, but I need to rectify that soon.

Fear Me by B.B. Reid

Genre: Dark Romance

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Once again this a not a book everyone will like. It is dark. The characters are in high school, but this is not young adult. Keiran Masters is an asshole with loose morals and a dark and shady past. His redeemability is questionable at best. I promise you Keiran is memorable!

Blood Bound by Rachel Vincent

Genre: Urban Fantasy

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This was an urban fantasy with a mafiaesque theme. All of the characters lead disreputable lives. Cam was a character that I learned to love over the course of the book. Cam leaned more towards the good than bad side.

Menace by J.M. Darhower

Genre: Dark Romance

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Lorenzo Gambini is not a good guy, but I couldn’t help but love him. This is one you won’t want to put down!

Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt

Genre: Historical Romance

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The Duke of Montgomery’s unscrupulous escapades began in other books in the series. By the time his book came around I was surprised to discovered how much I liked him despite the despicable things he’s done.

King by T.M. Frazier

Genre: Dark Romance

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People seem to either love or hate this book. I liked it although I’ve liked the subsequent books in this series less and less with each one. King was intriguing. He walked a fine line between good guy who does bad things and all around bad guy.

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Wildfire (Hidden Legacy #3) by Ilona Andrews

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The newest book in the Hidden Legacy series has just been released and some of us have already read it, of course. And loved it! Just when you think it can’t get any better, it gets better! Here is our interview-style review of the book and the series overall.

What are your overall thoughts about Wildfire?

Shelly: I thought it was so great, I could fangirl all day and  night. So much happens and its nonstop action and very plot-driven. Sergeant Teddy (the super-intelligent and genetically enhanced grizzly) and Zeus (the lion tentacle creature from the arcane realm) were such cool new “animal” characters. A lot of pieces of the puzzle were resolved, but there is still so much more left to discover!

Kira: I feel like the odd man out because I didn’t love this. It was wicked good but my least favorite in the series so far. The plot was great, and I love the direction the series is going. Victoria Tremaine was full of surprises. There were a couple of things that annoyed me with this. I’ll discuss those later on.

Do you have a favorite character?

Shelly: Well, Rogan of course. But, I really like so many of the supporting characters. Cornelius, and all the Baylors…

Kira: Hands down it’s Rogan. No one else even compares. Grandma Frida is cool too.

If you were a Prime, what ability would you have?

Shelly: If I could be a combination of a Summoner and then have the ability to communicate and control what comes out of that realm (like Cornelius’ House does with regular animals), I’d go for that one. Psionics and aegis are cool too.

Kira: Of all the abilities I’ve seen so far, I want to be able to teleport only as long as I could do it for long distances. It’d be great for getting out of dangerous situations. Traveling would be so much easier. Like they showed in Burn for Me, if thievery is your thing that is easier too. It would also be sweet to be a mnemonic and have nearly perfect memory recall.

If you were stuck on an island, which Baylor would you take with you and why?

Shelly: I think I’m gonna go with Arabella, only because of all the characters, I think she would be able to get me OFF the island. I wouldn’t want to be stuck on an island for ever (maybe just a nice sunny day). Even if we had to swim away, she could protect me from sharks.

Kira: Grandma Frida. She’s funny, witty, caring and protective. The woman is crafty as hell. She’d probably know how to take whatever random materials you’d have on an island and know how to build something from it.

Are there any criticisms or issues you had with Wildfire or the series in general?

Shelly: The ex drama and angst over Nevada and Rogan’s relationship was my one sore spot. Even considering that, it wasn’t heavy-handed and I could deal with it (and I’m allergic to drama).

Kira: The relationship ambivalence with Rogan and Nevada got on my nerves. The two of them clearly love each other, but Rogan is convinced Nevada will regret their relationship if their children aren’t primes someday. Since he planted that seed of doubt in her mind in White Hot, it kept popping up in her thoughts. Neither of them showed interest in other people, but Nevada had another guy expressing interest in her. Rogan’s ex was around for the whole book, creating lots of drama.

Genetics has been spoken about quite a bit in regards to magical abilities. It’s been emphasized that primes are more likely to come from two strong primes, otherwise the power weakens. Certain abilities are much more compatible than others, so two people without similar abilities are likely to produce children with weaker or no abilities. So why the hell is Nevada’s family loaded with people with special talents? Her dad had no abilities. Her mother and grandmother aren’t incredibly powerful. I’m not even sure if they have abilities or not. If they do it must be related to their military type of skills. This is a wild guess, but that magic doesn’t seem like it would be compatible with the magic from Nevada’s father side of the family. Between the father having no abilities and the mother not having considerable power, how did they produce three powerful kids? I know it’s possible the way genetics work. Sometimes things skip a generation, but it doesn’t seem like the most plausible scenario that all 3 kids are powerful with rare abilities. It’s not just them either. Leon has a rare and powerful ability, and Bernard has his own powerful ability. The two of them are cousins. Where did their abilities come from? With everything we’ve been told about how the magic passes genetically, this entire family is an anomaly. I’d like an explanation for this that’s better than genetics are random.

Who should get their own spinoff in this world (character or House)?

Shelly: I am really fascinated with the arcane realm that the Summoners pull these monster-like creatures from. I would love to learn more about Summoning and this strange other world. I think there could be a good trilogy’s-worth of material focusing just on a Summoner House. I would devour read that!

Kira: Catalina Baylor seems like she’d be a good choice for spinoff. I’d love to know what she can really do with her siren powers. Every ability has such depth to it. There must be more than simply luring people to her. It seemed like something was going on behind the scenes with her in Wildfire. It definitely seemed like there was mutual interest with Catalina and Alessandro Sagredo.

Any last thoughts?

Shelly: This series, in my view, shows how much the Andrews have grown as writers and is very indicative of their style. The humor, the action scenes, the world-building, and even the way they make a character come to life the minute they are on the page… it sounds cheesy, but it’s magical. They write amazing villains too. Victoria Tremaine was fantastic in this and stole all her scenes. This is book depression territory, it’s so good!

Kira: I am so happy there will be a fourth book! I love Nevada and Rogan. I’m not ready for their story to be done yet. It would be great to have a book where they can work together as a couple without doubts about whether or not they’re right for each other. This world Ilona Andrews has created is fascinating. Look how crazy everything is, and most of the characters we’ve met are just from one part of Texas.

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Ilona Andrews and Jeaniene Frost Book Signing!

I went to the Ilona Andrews and Jeaniene Frost book signing on July 27th. The three of them are awesome people! It was a great experience. Gordon and Ilona are hilarious. They had the crowd laughing the entire time. Between being awestruck and my natural introvert tendencies I had no clue what to say to them when I was getting my books signed. They were cool as hell so it didn’t matter.

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They were kind enough to sign more than one copy of a book. I got Jeaniene Frost to sign Halfway to the Grave. I was damn lucky I had that. Most of the Jeaniene Frost books I own are ebooks. I didn’t want to go to a signing and not get a book signed by her. She gave me a cool bookmark advertising the Night Huntress series!

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Gordon and Ilona signed the hardcover copy of Wildfire I bought to get access to the event. They also signed two other paperbacks I brought with me.

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I did record some of the discussion but didn’t have enough space on my phone to record the whole thing. I listened to the recording before writing this, but some things are just based on my memory. I have tried to paraphrase things as accurately as possible. There are a few quotes below which were taken directly from what I recorded.

Jeaniene Frost

What are her favorite characters or her favorite ones to write?

Her favorite character tends to be the one she is writing at the moment. Right now she is researching for an Ian book. Writing him will be difficult because he is “beyond [her] comfort zone.” She writes with a vague plot in mind but most of the story develops during the writing process. Where Ian ends up is a mystery right now, even to her.

Vlad:

She has done a considerable amount of research on vampires. Originally she didn’t want to include Dracula aka Vlad Tepesh in her books. Researching the real Vlad Dracul inspired her. The name Ilona was mentioned in her books as a wife of Vlad’s. Many people thought this was a shout out to Ilona Andrews. It was not. The name Ilona was used because it was historically accurate.

Inspiration for the Night Huntress series:

She had a dream about a couple fighting and they intrigued her. She began to lay backstory to those people. She delved into why they were arguing and why they felt the way they did about each other and what brought them to that point. Eventually a novel was developed. She had no idea at the time that it would become a series.

Possible works in the future:

She is thinking about writing a book or books on Kate from the final Night Huntress book. Chances are Cat and Bones would have small roles in those.

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Next up:

They are currently working on the last Kate Daniels book where according to Gordon “cool stuff happens.”

They will be doing other books in the Kate Daniels world. Kate and Curran will make appearances but won’t ever be the main characters again.

Next up is Hugh d’Ambray!!!!

After that is the next Innkeeper Chronicles book.

TV Shows:

They would like to have one of their series be turned into a TV show, but there haven’t been any offers. They surmise that it may have to do with the amount of magic used in their books. To make it look good on the screen it would involve a fair amount of CGI which could get costly. They’re definitely open to the idea of a TV show.

How do they write together?

They plot out their books first. Ilona usually writes the first draft. It’s a highly collaborative process for the two of them. They go through everything together and discuss dialogue and fight scenes. Sometimes they recruit their kids to act out certain scenes.

What are their favorite characters or their favorite ones to write?

Ilona: Her favorite character constantly changes. She enjoys writing Desandra because “the woman has no filter.” She likes writing all of the protagonists and used to like writing Aunt Bea. “It’s hard to pick a favorite because they are all amusing in their own way.”

Gordan: Curran is the easiest to write. It’s hard to write Jim because they don’t really know what he’s thinking. Basically it sounds like they don’t dig deep to figure out what makes him tick. He also likes writing Cornelius from Hidden Legacy.

Where did the name Baylor come from?

They chose it because it is a common name in Texas, and that is where the Baylors live.

***Spoilers below for those who are not up to date with Kate Daniels and Hidden Legacy.***

Roland (from Kate Daniels):

No character has one side to them. They thought it would be more interesting to have Roland be more than just a bad guy. There is a part of him that genuinely loves Kate. There’s also the part of him that is obsessed with power. Unfortunately for Kate that is the side of him that tends to matter the most to him. They may love each other but they’ll never have a normal relationship.

Hidden Legacy Series:

They tried to wrap everything up in Wildfire. The publisher wanted a word count that did not go over a specific amount, and they couldn’t cover everything and stay within that word count. The publisher may extend the contract for them to write a fourth Hidden Legacy book if the sales for Wildfire are good. Regardless they will write a fourth book in the series even if they have to self publish. They confirmed there definitely will be at least one more book.

Catalina’s magic (from Hidden Legacy):

Her magic was revealed at the end of White Hot. Nevada had explained that it didn’t work on the people who already love her. Rogan seemed unaffected by it. They explained that he loves Nevada and already views her family as his family, which is why he didn’t get sucked into her story like everyone else. When she used her magic for the trials at the end of Wildfire, only one person was affected by her magic. Ilona explained that Catalina can target specific people with her magic. So it can be one person or a group. It entirely depends on how she wants to use it.

***HUGE SPOILERS for future books. Read at your own risk! You have been warned.***

Hugh d’Ambray:

They want to self publish Hugh’s book before the final Kate Daniels book because for his appearance in the final Kate book to make sense the readers need to know what has been going on with him.

In Hugh’s book, he’s at a low point in the beginning of the book. Somehow he ends up in an arranged marriage, and they develop feelings for each other. Apparently she gives him a hard time. He gives her a hard time back. They continue in this cycle, and this ignites their curiosity for each other.

Hugh and his wife show up in the last Kate book. Kate and Curran are confused because they still view him as the bad guy. Somehow everyone else knows what has transpired with Hugh and that he is okay now. He is there to fight with them against some common enemy. Whether that is Roland or not, I don’t know.

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Q & A with Author Pippa DaCosta!

Hey guys, guess what?!? Scorpion Trap released today!!!

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Once upon a time I was a newbie blogger. I had a dream of some day getting the chance to talk to the most amazing authors of our day. I would just get to sit and bask in the glow of their genius. I never thought that I would actually get the chance this soon. Or that it would be with the amazing Pippa DaCosta! It was better than I could have expected. So you should all go buy her book to say “Thank You For Being So Awesome!” I’m only kind of kidding. Scorpion Trap is the fourth book in the series, so you really should buy the first three too.

Okay, I’ll stop rambling now. Here is just a bit of insight into the brilliance that is Pippa DaCosta:

Abby: In See No Evil you blew our minds with your visions of the Duat. What exciting new world building can we expect from Scorpion Trap?

Pippa DaCosta: Scorpion Trap takes Ace and Shu out of their comfort zone and dumps them in Egypt. I absolutely loved writing the location. If I can squeeze any of my personal experience into my books, I jump at the chance. I went to Egypt many years ago and visited some of the sights mentioned in Scorpion Trap. Who would have guessed that over ten years later the taste, the heat, and the smells, would all find their way into Ace’s story. But as for the little nuggets of ‘fantasy’ world building, it’s difficult to say without drifting into spoiler territory. I can say that we learn more about Isis, her past, and how the gods must have lived long ago. One of my favourite aspects of Ace’s world is how he talks to the magic of the old world through ancient buildings. We see a lot more of that in Scorpion Trap too.

 

Abby: Rumor has it that we will get to see more of Curtis Vance. Is this true? Is there a chance The Heartstone Thief will be the start of a new series?

Pippa DaCosta: I love Curtis. I think he’s one of the nicest anti-heroes I’ve written, which is saying something! The Heartstone Thief took a long time to write compared with my other series’. The world building and the story arc are vast but because of the foundation already in place, there is definitely potential to continue the story into more books. I did deliberately leave a few little threads dangling with the hope that I could go back to the series later. I can’t say when a sequel will happen, but I have a new notebook (I buy a new notebook for every new story) and my notes in place, so I do hope that I can return to Curtis Vance sometime this year.

 

Abby: Speaking of things we can expect to see in the future, we have a few hopeful ideas. Will we get to read more Science Fiction from you? What are the chances that there is a delightfully violent vampire series bouncing around in your mind?

Pippa DaCosta: Okay, well, clearly you’re reading my mind as I have a little secret project I’m working on that is a scifi AND fantasy mash-up, and it has vampires (and shifters and fae – because if I’m going to put vampires in space then I might as well throw everything else in there too). It sounds as though that will deliver pretty much everything you want. If you’re after more scifi such as Girl From Above (as are the many, many readers who email me weekly!) then I really can’t make any promises. I would love to continue writing in that world but the characters all went through such a steep character arc that I don’t think any new plot idea could better the existing four books. If a new idea comes along – as it sometimes does with old characters – I’ll jump at the chance to go back to Girl From Above. So yes, new books coming, with vampires and space (whoo hoo!), but probably no new books from any existing scifi series’.

 

Abby: Which of your characters has the most unpublished back story? Can you share any details with us?

Pippa DaCosta: It has to be Shukra – the demon sorceress from the Soul Eater series. Cursed to Ace’s side (kinda like his reluctant sidekick – don’t ever tell her I said that) she has masses of backstory. We know her as the blackest soul Ace has ever hunted in Duat. A soul so black, so evil, that he personally tracked her down. That’s bad, with a capital B. There’s a little mention in Serpent’s Game (book #5 – currently in the first draft stage) where Ace explains his first official job as an investigator for hire. One of Shukra’s demon-pals decides to lord it over medieval London. Shukra tries to warn her old drinking buddy but it doesn’t go well, and ultimately we end up with the Great fire of London (it’s interesting to note that Ace doesn’t come out of that job all squeaky clean either 😉 ). Shukra has been tamed a bit since then, but she has so much backstory that she could almost have her own spin-off series – if villains were allowed to have their stories told. Unfortunately she has a black soul for a reason. I don’t think her backstory would have a happy ending!

 

Abby: It isn’t easy to write morally ambiguous characters that readers will not only find believable, but will champion as well. Yet, I believe that all of your main characters are like this while still being vastly different. What’s your trick to balancing the haunted with the monster?

Pippa DaCosta: I write very close to the ‘acceptable’ line when it comes to anti-heroes, especially for urban fantasy which often centres around a heroic wise-cracking main character. As soon as I began this writing journey, I knew I wanted to do something different with the genre. I wanted to dirty it up, make it real. Muse was the first of my characters to really walk that line between heroic and gritty. Her being half-demon gave me some leeway to play with her darker side. Something as simple as sleeping with two of the male leads in the first book of a series. That just doesn’t happen in urban fantasy. She has since been called the Jessica Jones of urban fantasy, and I think that’s true, especially considering her abusive past. No doubt about it, when we join her in Beyond The Veil #1 Veil Series, she’s about as screwed up as they come. To make a character feel real, as an author, it’s my job to build them up, give them layers. Those layers turn them from cardboard cutouts into real people. If they’re too good or too bad for no apparent reason, then that’s not going to be interesting or entertaining. I need to give the characters reasons, motives, for being as they are. They each need a killer backstory and a weakness. Muse has a lot of power, but she’s crippled by her past. Akil is a fantastic villain, but it’s not until the second book in the series (Devil May Care) when we see him at his lowest, that we really begin to feel for him. Stefan starts out heroic, but it quickly goes wrong. Curtis Vance from the Heartstone Thief isn’t just a thief, he’s had to survive on the streets, later being picked up by a whore-house madam – his past is perhaps the most tragic of all. Every main character has depth to them, a reason why they are who they are, and it’s often brutal because life isn’t all fluffy bunnies and rainbows. By the way, fluffy bunnies and rainbows have no place in urban fantasy unless they’re mutant bunnies and rainbows with rabid leprechauns waiting to chew off the hand attempting to steal the gold.

 

Abby: Now for a critical question. We need you to settle one of our oldest debates. Who is better Team Akil or Team Stefan? Please note that I’m Team Stefan, and I’m greatly outnumbered. I would appreciate all the help I can get. 😉

Pippa DaCosta: Ugh, this is a tough one. Oh my gosh, yah know what, I love Akil. Who wouldn’t, right? BUT, Stefan goes through hell in the Veil series. Literally and figuratively. He fights every single step of the way. He only ever wanted to be the good guy. He never asked for anything, just the chance to prove himself. Besides Muse, he has the most incredible story and for that, I think I’m team Stefan. Still, Akil. Yah know. Akil is what he is. Complicated and yet simple at the same time, devilish, bad… so very bad and yet alarmingly good – or was it all for his own machinations

 

Abby: Possibly the most important question you will ever be asked about your writing. At least in my opinion, because weapons are important. If you lived in one of your worlds, what would be your signature weapon?

Pippa DaCosta: Oh, if I had to pick an existing weapon, it would be Alysdair from the Soul Eater series. That sword is epic. It EATS SOULS. Dude! C’mon. But if it’s my random choice, probably a crossbow. I’ve dabbled in archery (and fencing). Swords are too predictable and all up-in-your-face slashy, plus a gun beats a sword. So I’m going with a crossbow. You don’t have to get too close to use a crossbow. And some throwing knives tucked down the boots. You can never be too careful.

 

Abby: Since you told us anything goes, would you say tequila or vodka is better for inspiration?

Pippa DaCosta: Ah-ha, this is where I prove that I’m the exception to the rule that authors drink copious amounts. I don’t drink alcohol (that one time at London Book Fair shall not be mentioned). Or, perhaps, what I should say is that I’m an impossible lightweight. One whiff of tequila and I’ll be asleep on the table, or the floor, I’m not fussy. So neither would be great for inspiration. At least, not for me. Although I do sometimes get ideas from dreams, so there is that. *Ace says vodka.

 

Abby: Lastly, I feel the need to warn you that I’m mostly asking this just because the other MacHalos didn’t think I would. But it needs to be asked. Would you say that you were born awesome, or were you genetically modified post-birth to mass produce written pieces of glorious scrumptiousness?

Pippa DaCosta: Definitely genetically modified. I blame my genes. I’m part gypsy, part Irish, part Jewish. Lots of parts make a very unusual whole. That sounds so wrong, but you get the idea.

 

A very special thank you to Pippa for agreeing to answer a few questions for us! And to all the MacHalos who contributed to these interesting questions.

 

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