I recently had the chance to meet fellow urban fantasy author Rebecca Chastain. She had the wonderful idea of doing an interview swap. I’ll be featured on her site today as well answering the same questions she answered below. Make sure to check out the excerpt of her book, A Fistful of Evil, as well!
The easiest answer is that I wanted to create a world that readers had never seen before. More specifically, I did not use the usual urban fantasy tropes because they don’t fit in the world of A Fistful of Evil. The protagonist, Madison Fox, can see souls and she works with a soul-based magic. In this world, the supernatural is based on an ancient structure of good fighting evil, with all of the creatures operating and wielding magic in the same sublayer of reality. In my mind, that’s vastly different than a world that produces magical creatures independent of their soul’s alignment. For example, werewolves are pure magic, but they could be good or evil; in other words, they don’t fit into the rules of my world.
What role does humor play in your urban fantasy novels?
Give me a fantasy, give me a paranormal romance, give me an action-adventure sci-fi. I’ll take them all straight, but I much prefer them with a splash (or dousing) of humor, and I don’t think I’m alone in my preferences. So I wrote a novel that lights the darkest, most intense moments with a few chuckles. Madison Fox is courageous, determined, and proactive, with a soft spot for animals and a penchant for attracting evil. She’s also a little bit sarcastic, a little bit clumsy, and prone to embarrassing herself in front of attractive men. With Madison as the lead lady, A Fistful of Evil is an urban fantasy with plenty of action and laugh-out-loud moments.
When you sit down to build your novel’s world, how do you start?
I have written six novels to date (only two publishable), and every single time the story comes to me through the main character first. Once I know who my protagonist is, and what her magical abilities are, then I play with the world. Plot points are typically those that force the protagonist to face her fears and overcome her weaknesses. The rest of the world is anything I can think of, the more bizarre the better, and always with the idea of making life difficult for the protagonist.
When you finish the first draft, are you close to publishing? How much more work is left before your novel is polished?
So much work! I am a heavy outliner, so before I write a novel I know exactly where it’s going, every scene that’s going to be included, and the major character arcs. However, writing a novel can take anywhere from one month to four, and along the way tone and pacing can get jumbled. Also, new ideas will have created new scenes or require changes to earlier chapters. I’ll typically take a first draft through three or four major edits that involve intensive rewrites of various scenes and chapters before doing another one or two polishing passes. Polishing is checking grammar, looking for repeated words or phrases, and confirming that every word is the best and correct choice.
Who or what inspired you to become an author?
I have always loved reading. In fact, reading was used as a privilege that could be revoked for bad behavior when I was a child. Talk about a severe punishment! And if reading a story was fun, creating my own was even better. In the seventh grade I wrote a story for a contest (and won second place). I knew then that I wanted to be an author. It only took another two decades for me to make my dream a reality.
A Fistful of Evil synopsis:
Madison Fox just learned that her ability to see souls is more than a sight: It’s a weapon for fighting evil. The only problem is she doesn’t have a clue what she’s doing.
On the positive side, her money problems are over, she’s possibly discovered her purpose in life, and her coworker is smoking hot. On the negative side, evil creatures now actively hunt her, and deadly experiences are becoming the norm.
When she thinks it couldn’t get worse, a powerful evil sets up shop at a local hotel’s video game convention, and it’s got its eye on more than the gaming geeks: it is hungry for Madison’s soul. Madison needs to become an expert illuminant enforcer overnight to save her job, her region . . . and her life.
If Stephanie Plum fought evil with magic, it’d look a lot like this.
Links to buy A Fistful of Evil:
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MV8VQ70l
Rebecca Chastain is the author of the fantasy novella MAGIC OF THE GARGOYLES and the urban fantasy novel A FISTFUL OF EVIL, which is an Amazon Top 100 Fantasy Bestseller in the United States, Australia, and Canada. She has found seven four-leaf clovers to date, won a purebred Arabian horse in a drawing, and once tamed a blackbird for a day. She has been employed as a VHS sales clerk, bookshelf straightener, government pseudo-employee, professional finder of lost sporting goods, and strategy guide wrangler in the video game industry. Dreaming up the absurd and writing stories designed to amuse and entertain has been her passion since she was eleven years old. She lives in northern California with her wonderful husband and two bossy cats.
Links where you can be found on the Internet:
Twitter: @Author_Rebecca or https://twitter.com/Author_Rebecca
“Pull over here, Madison. You look for evil, I’ll look for firemen,” Rose said.
“That’s hardly fair,” I grumbled. I pulled over in a turn-around space near a fire station. We both got out. I studied the scenery. A few homes across the road. A lot of BMWs, Corvettes, and Cadillacs zooming past on Auburn-Folsom Boulevard. A field behind the fire station with a couple of hedges and a patch of blackberry brambles. I did my own quick search for firemen. I could really do with a dose of handsome.
“Is there some evil, maybe over there?” Rose gestured to the fire station. “Maybe we should take a closer look.”
“What would we tell them we’re doing?”
“I think your car was sounding funny.”
“No, it wasn’t—oh. I see where you’re going with that.”
“You’re a quick one.” She rolled her eyes at me.
I blinked. Primordium replaced color, daylight, and familiarity. I braced my hands on my knees and stared at the gray dirt at my feet until gravity rebalanced itself. I took a quick peek at the sky. The cerulean cloudless expanse had been swapped with black—solid, unrelieved black. I could still feel the sun on my face, though I couldn’t see it in the sky. For all I knew, I was looking straight at it.
I shuddered and made a point not to look up again. Instead, I scanned the fire house. There were people upstairs and something small and white just inside the bay doors. A cat? I turned to look at Rose. She glowed a pretty, opaque white. It was nice to know that not everyone who worked for the CIA looked like they had a sun stuck up their ass. Unlike Kyle, Rose’s features looked like they were cast out of pure white marble, not radiating light. She was also in possession of one of the cleanest souls I’d seen in a long time, aside from my own and Kyle’s. Even if I was dangerously deep in a world I knew nothing about, it was reassuring that I was on the good side.
Now why hadn’t I thought to look at Mr. Pitt’s soul?
Because you’re trying not to use this sight, remember?
Too late for that.
I scanned the field. Only the blackberry brambles glowed. They were bright white, a mound of light with tendrils stretching across the dead field. Normally blackberry bushes tended to look sinister with all their thorns and the tenacious, mindless way they choked out other plant life. Now they looked like a beautiful oasis in a field of death.
I knew there had to be wildlife moving among the dead grasses, but the dark stalks were too dense for the small white bodies of rodents and birds to be visible from a distance.
I was about to switch back to normal vision when I saw it. Close to the edge of the fire station, hopping along unaware of my presence, was an imp. It was a little field mouse of an imp; I would have missed it if I hadn’t been looking so hard.
“There’s an imp over there.” I pointed.
“Oh, goodie. Maybe I can peek in a window. And maybe they’ll be having a naked wrestling contest.”
Rose sashayed across the gravel, heading straight for the imp.
“You can’t see it, right?”
“Nope. Take your time.”
I trailed after her. In its own dark and sinister way, the imp was remarkably cute. The ones in the restaurant had looked like chinchillas, and this one was a baby one. Adorable. I flashed back on the prominent memory of the creatures jumping at Kyle. Maybe I’d overreacted. He hadn’t seem the least bit frightened. Maybe they were just cute. All I would have to do was . . . whatever it was that Kyle had done. Squint or something. Instincts would kick in, and poof, no more imp.
Unfortunately, the only instincts babbling in my head were the ones telling me I needed to go the other way, not toward the harmless-looking fluff of evil. Don’t quit before you try, I scolded. You got this job because people knew you could do it. Get busy proving them right. I tiptoed closer.
Rose was oblivious in her hunt for more tangible prey. I was starting to believe my own hype, too. It’s so small. How bad can it be?
Then the imp turned, cocked its head, and started to bounce straight at me, ignoring Rose.
“Shit. Kyle was right. It recognizes me.” I froze.
Rose turned to look at me, incognizant to the fluffy bundle of evil bopping our way. “Of course it does, silly. You’re staring at it.”
It slowed and came to an alert stop near Rose’s feet, but its little glowing eyes never left me. I forced myself to kneel.
“What are you trying to do? Get all buddy-buddy with it?”
“It’s very small. I can’t do my thing standing.” My thing? If only I knew what that was.
I gave the imp my best squint. Nothing happened. I pictured laser beams of goodness shooting from my eyes, melting the imp to a puddle of goo. Still nothing. How had Kyle done this? I should have spent less time rolling on the coffee shop floor and more time watching.
I tried a wide-eyed glare, a blink, a wink. Nothing.
“Are you flirting with it?”
The imp shuffled forward. Up close, it was even cuter. I’d been right when I thought of a baby chinchilla. It was covered in soft down and had dainty ears and delicate feet that seemed too small to support its weight. I reached out for it very slowly.
“Hi, little fella.”
“Don’t go getting crazy ideas about taming the bugger. You’re not an Illuminea.”
I glanced at Rose. The imp opened its mouth in a perfect round circle the size of my wrist. Row after row of ebony shark teeth glinted, impossibly long. Oh, shit. Piercing little eyes blinked at me. We jumped at the same time. The imp aimed for my throat. I aimed for a few miles straight behind me. We both missed—me by a much larger margin.
“What’s happening?” Rose demanded. She backed up quickly. The imp pounced again, and this time I saw tiny razors at the tips of its paws.
“Get back! It’s attacking!” I’d landed on my butt in the dirt when I’d jumped. I didn’t have time to stand now. Scrambling on all fours, I scooted back, avoiding several pounces. With the third pounce, I kicked it. When my foot connected with the scrap of hell spawn, the imp slowed, like it was moving through water. Only the water was my foot. I screamed.
“That’s it. Get it!” Rose cheered.
I rolled frantically to my knees and leapt to my feet. The imp was a few feet behind me.
“Get in the car,” I yelled. I grabbed Rose’s arm and pushed her in the direction of the safe haven known as my Honda.
“What’s here? I don’t feel anything. What is it?”
The imp jumped at me. I lurched to the side, swinging my hips out of its high-flying reach.
“Are you dancing?” Rose gawked. She was half in the car. Good enough for me. I sprinted for the driver’s side. “Shoot. I hate being in the dark.” Rose slid into the car and we slammed our doors at the same time. I watched the imp hop toward the bumper in the rearview mirror. I fumbled blindly with my seat belt, starting the car with the other hand.
“Hey, look. There’s a fireman,” Rose said.
The bright glow of a man came into view in my mirror. I thrust the car into gear and squealed onto the road. Gravel sprayed up under the car. I remembered to look for traffic at the last possible second as we bounced onto pavement. Then I glued my eyes on the rearview mirror and watched until I could no longer see the wee evil creature.
“You totally dusted him! And he was cute!”