My apologies to Lynne Cantwell. I promised to participate in a blog tour on the writing process, and my post was supposed to appear Monday. Life interfered on a number of levels – not the least of which is me madly editing my next book, so it will release on time at the end of the month. Anyway, this post was supposed to appear Monday instead of today. Hopefully Lynne, who recruited me, will think of this as just extending the party a bit this week. You can follow her blog at http://hearth-myth.blogspot.com.
I’m supposed to discuss what I’m working on, how it differs from other works like it, and why I’m writing it. They’re all good questions.
My current project is the third book in the Wolf Dasher series, Roses Are White. In his third adventure, Wolf is pitted against Dexter Rose – the world’s greatest assassin, a man who uses magic to make himself look like anyone, so he can get close enough for the kill. Rose has been hired to murder three members of Alfar’s coalition government, culminating with the president. Wolf must unravel the killer’s clues so he can get there ahead of him and prevent him from completing his mission.
As the description suggests, I’m marrying a couple of different genres in this novel. The series has the flavor of a James Bond-style thriller. The villains are megalomaniacal, the plots are always world-shattering, and all the characters larger than life. However, it’s set in a fantasy world. Alfar is the land of elves. Steeped in religion and magic, the country is a dangerous place where several factions war for control of its destiny. Swords and sorcery are the primary means of conflict resolution.
Roses Are White is a bit of a departure from the first two books in the series, State of Grace and Red Dragon Five. Both of those are espionage thrillers. This third book is more a mystery, with a race against time to stop the killer before he can strike again. Even so, the entire series diverges from fantasies and thrillers in that it combines the tropes of the two genres into something new.
So why write this kind of book? There are several reasons, some commercial, some artistic.
First is that I’ve always wanted to write a spy thriller, but I just don’t have the requisite real-world knowledge about the intelligence communities to write something authentic. Of course, I could always do some research, but I’m not sure I want to attract any undue attention from the NSA.
And truthfully, what I really wanted to write was something in the style of the James Bond movies. That doesn’t require knowing anything about spies. You just have to understand the elements of a Bond film.
So I set my series in a fictional world, wherein I have all the knowledge necessary about the politics and the repercussions. It also gave me the opportunity to write stories with magic and monsters, and that’s really my forte.
But Wolf’s world isn’t completely unfamiliar. Alfar and neighboring Jifan are fictional representations of the political strife in the Middle East. Neither represents any particular world hotspot, but if you read the news, you will feel the echo of Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and the Cold War. The danger represented by fundamentalist terrorists, and the schism between Islamic sects is woven into the action and into the culture of these fictional nations I write about. Wolf’s world is recognizable, even though it’s completely made up.
I’ve long felt fantasy (and other forms of speculative fiction) is a vehicle for authors to discuss real-world issues. I use the Wolf Dasher series to explore the current dysfunction of partisan politics in the U.S., the danger of religious extremism, and in Roses Are White, I take on the big topic of racism.
I quite specifically try to avoid taking a side. If you read carefully between the lines, you can pick out my personal positions. But I very studiously try to present multiple sides of an argument fairly. Wolf’s enemies are sympathetic to a degree. His allies are not always the kinds of people you want to root for. And even Wolf himself makes mistakes and doesn’t quite know where he should fall on certain lines. My hope is that, when a reader has finished one of Wolf’s adventures, he or she has something to think about.
At the same time, these are not philosophical treatises. They are thrillers that work in the James Bond film mode. Wolf’s adventures are action yarns designed to keep the reader turning pages well past bedtime.
In that way, I hope they are a very unique kind of book. I design them to be highly entertaining pieces of fiction that have something to say.
It’s possible I’m arrogant. Only readers and critics are truly able to comment on the literary worth of any particular book. But writing is about design and intent. Hopefully, I’m making an impact with what I create.