I am very pleased to welcome Sean Cummings here to DarkFaerieTales.com to talk about Shade Fright, which is the first book in his new Valerie Stevens urban fantasy series. The book was just released on March 1, 2010 and you can read Chapter 1 here.
Sean is giving one lucky commenter a chance to win an autographed copy of Shade Fright. Details are listed at the end of the post.
DFT: Could you start things off by telling us a little about the book?
Sure thing. Shade Fright is about a civil servant named Valerie Stevens who likes to think of herself as an alchemist, but she’s actually an apprentice mage. She works for Government Services and Infrastructure Canada because in Canada EVERYONE wants to work for the civil service – it’s part of our culture here, don’t ask me why. So when I started writing I thought, “if this was real, would my heroine be a private eye like John Taylor or Harry Dresden?” Being Canadian, I thought it would be far more interesting if she worked for the government, particularly when the Canadian government in my book is up to its ears in the supernatural.
Valerie isn’t glamorous, she isn’t butch, she doesn’t wise crack, she likes to get the job done, primarily by brokering a resolution to a problem. Unfortunately she’s learning there’s some seriously bad people out there who are part of a shadowy organization called The Conclave. These guys use magic for everything from terrorism to global insurrection and with the help of Fifty-Dollar Bill, the ghost of former Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King, and her best friend Caroline who happens to be a zombie, she’s about to learn of a plot to wipe out everyone in Calgary.
DFT: What motivated you to write Shade Fright?
It sort of fell out of my head and onto my keyboard. I wrote the first draft during the 2007 Labour Day weekend. I participated in the 3 Day Novel Contest where you have the long weekend to pump out a book, mostly to see if I could do it, really. Things just started flowing together nicely as I pumped away at the keyboard while sucking back about five gallons of coffee and after seventy-two hours of non-stop writing, I had a complete draft, so I rewrote it again and really liked the characters and the plot. I also wanted to write a uniquely Canadian urban fantasy – there’s not a lot out there in the way of urban fantasy where Canada is front and center, so that was a central motivation for sure.
DFT: If you could describe your main characters with only 3 words, what would they be?
Valerie Stevens: frustrated, powerful, curious
Caroline the Zombie: Wise cracking, vulnerable, tortured
D.T.: Wise, Patient, Methodical
Fifty-Dollar Bill: Annoying, eccentric, honest
Dave Webber: Befuddled, loyal, smitten
DFT: Tell us something about your research process and the choices you make when creating the story.
Research meant spending a lot of time in the Canadian encyclopaedia to make sure I had my facts straight about Mackenzie King. He was the longest serving Prime Minister in the British Commonwealth and is known as Canada’s greatest Prime Minister, but here in Canada, we don’t really spend a lot of time celebrating our achievers which means Canadian history, believe it or not, isn’t really taught with any relish in the school system. It was a tough choice to use Mackenzie King’s ghost and I’m sure there are purists out there who might read the book in horror when they see how I’ve turned one of Canada’s greatest national leaders into a sidekick to a sorceress.
I also had to do some research into our political system for the overall back story. I spent a lot of time pouring through various books on the occult and magic so that I could create a believable way of explaining Valerie’s abilities and the way in which magic actually works.
DFT: Do you have a long-term plan or goal for this story universe? What happens after the sequel, Funeral Pallor?
I do indeed have a story arc for about six books right now, whether or not I actually write the next four will depend entirely on whether or not the first two are successful – I hope they are. Funeral Pallor deals with zombies, the one after that will focus on Vampires and political assassination – there is Valerie’s dark equal who is pulling the strings in The Conclave so she will make an appearance in book three. The series will ultimately wind up with a showdown between the two and some of the characters in the first two books won’t be around to see what happens, sadly. I will offer this much, The Conclave’s ultimate goal has to do with the end of days.
DFT: What influences and inspirations (both literary and non-literary) did you draw from while writing Shade Fright?
My first inspiration and influence goes wayyyyy back to the 1970’s when I was a boy living in northern Ontario. I was (and still am) a comic book nut and while I loved superheroes, I chanced comic book put out by Marvel called “Werewolf by Night”. For me, that was the starting point for urban fantasy because here you had a guy who could change into a werewolf living in a major city and battling supernatural bad guys. I was hooked and I wish they would bring the series back, it was that good. I love reading Simon R. Green and Jim Butcher, so both authors influence what I write, but ultimately, my biggest influence is Canada itself. I really wanted to put out a series that is rich with Canadian factoids and my hometown of Calgary is featured prominently.
DFT: Who is your favourite character in this book, and why?
Easily my favourite character to write about is Fifty-Dollar Bill. He’s annoying as hell, manipulative and bothersome, but he’s crucial to the entire series because as readers will find out, it’s his fault that Canada is up to its ears in the supernatural. He is, quite frankly, the key to the entire back story for the series and he lays it all out in Shade Fright.
DFT: Which character was the most difficult to write?
Valerie Stevens. Period.
I’m a guy whose main character is a woman. I wanted to get her right and frankly, I’m still learning precisely how to do that because of my gender disadvantage. She’s a complex character who is thrown into a series of events she has no control over. She’s immensely powerful and hasn’t even scratched the surface of what she’s capable of doing. She’s feminine to a point, but she’s also not at all butch. She’s actually an amalgam of a number of women I served with when I was in the Canadian Forces.
DFT: Do you have a favourite scene or line from Shade Fright?
My favourite scene is probably when Valerie kills an ogre with nothing more than grain dust and a small bag of white phosphorus. My favourite line is when Dave is driving Valerie to the climactic battle at Nose Hill Park and he says: “Well of course there’s a zombie, there has to be a zombie.”
DFT: What other projects are you working on that you would like to tell us about?
I’ve completed a novel about a teen witch and her geeky boyfriend called Poltergeeks. It’s a fun little romp and it’s being looked at by quite a few agents, actually. Snowbooks has it as well as Lobster Press here in Canada, so I think it might wind up published in the not too distant future. I’m working on the outline for a spin-off book from Funeral Pallor involving a newly introduced character named Tim Reaper. He’s a grim reaper who got kicked out of his order for causing the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 because he was bored and he’s a bounty hunter/assassin/investigator. He’s completely amoral and will work for anyone, but in Funeral Pallor he learns that he has to choose sides.
DFT: What is your favourite fairy tale, and why?
That’s an interesting question. I think my favourite fairy tale isn’t a fairy tale at all, actually. From a very young age I was struck by the overall theme of redemption in Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant. It is, for me at least, one of the most beautifully written pieces with a powerful message of hope and love.
DFT: What question are you never asked in interviews but wish you were?
Hmmm … how about: What do you think is going to happen in the last book of The Dresden Files? (How can you tell I don’t get interviewed very often.)
DFT: What books/genres do you read when you have the chance? Any must read authors or series?
Must reads – Every Harry Dresden book. The Nightside series. Everything Robert J. Sawyer and Tanya Huff have ever written. Anita Blake until Obsidian Butterfly. Boy’s Life by Robert R. McCammon. The Stand by Stephen King. John Saul up to The God Project. War Day by Whitley Strieber and James Kunteka. Fellow Snowbooks author Thomas Emson’s Maneater is a fantastic new take on werewolves – I highly recommend it. I loved Nancy Holzner’s Deadtown and I might start a petition for Tina to get her own book series. I can’t wait to read Erin Kellison’s Shadow Bound when it comes out this summer.
DFT: What is your definition of a “bad writing day”? How do you deal with bad writing days?
Bad writing days for me are generally days when I’m distracted by too much noise, believe it or not. I get up at 3 AM to write because it’s silent at home and on the street outside. Distraction usually leads to me cursing at my keyboard for thirty minutes, so I just get up and walk away because I just know I won’t produce anything substantive if I have a knot in my face.
DFT: Do you have a particular writing process or any writing rituals?
Coffee. Read the news. More coffee. Rinse and repeat.
DFT: If you weren’t writing, what would you want to be doing for a living?
That question should be “if you didn’t have a day job, would you like to write for a living?” The answer would be yes and that’s my goal. J
DFT: Describe your typical day.
3:00 AM get up and shower, get dressed, coffee. Write until 6AM. Go to work. Come home. Watch a bit of TV and read the blogs. Go to bed at 8PM. Read for 30 minutes and back at it the next day.
DFT: Describe yourself in 5 words.
Comical. Brooding. Snarky. Genuine. Hopeful.
DFT: Which urban fantasy world would you like to live in, and why? i.e. The Hollows, etc.
I think I’d get a kick out of living in Sookie Stackhouse’s world and I would like to go on a bender with Jason because he reminds me of me at that age. (I’ve grown up since then, fear not!!!)
DFT: If you could be any paranormal creature, which one would you be and why?
Oh definitely a vampire because I could glamour beautiful women and wear a tux to bed. It would rock! (I’d be a friendly neighbourhood vampire, though. I would only feed on really really bad people.)
DFT: Thanks Sean for taking the time to stop by.
One lucky commenter will have a chance to win an autographed copy of Shade Fright .
To enter, leave a comment below answering the following question:
What is the name of the main character in Thomas Emson’s fantastic werewolf novels “Maneater” and “Prey”?
1. +1 entry for answering the question (required).
2. +2 entries for becoming a follower of this blog and Dark Faerie Tales on Twitter.
3. +3 entries for tweeting about this contest, blogging about it, linking via your sidebar etc…(please tell me where!).
4. Giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian residents ONLY.
5. Please include your email address in your comment.
6. Giveaway ends Tuesday, March 30th at 11:59 PM EST.
7. The winner will be picked with the help of Random.org.
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