Author Kelly Gay is here today to talk about her debut urban fantasy novel, The Better Part of Darkness, which officially releases on November 24, 2009.
Kelly has graciously offered to give one lucky commenter a chance to win an autographed ARC of The Better Part of Darkness, coverflat, and a bookmark. Details are listed at the end of the post.
DFT: Could you start things off by telling us a little about the book?
The story takes place in Atlanta about a decade after the Revelation, the discovery of heaven-like Elysia and hellish Charbydon. Atlanta has become a crossroads of sorts, a thriving melting pot of races, all based upon our myths of heaven and hell, and then some.
My heroine, Charlie Madigan, is a divorced mother of one and her job with the Integration Task Force puts her right in the middle of the off-world population. It’s her job, along with her partner, Hank, a siren from Elysia, to see that everyone obeys the law, but when a new off-world drug is released in Underground, her daughter is targeted, and her ex-husband makes a fateful bargain to win her back, there’s nothing in heaven or earth (or hell for that matter) that Charlie won’t do to set things right.
DFT: What motivated you to write The Better Part of Darkness?
I dreamt up Charlie back in 2004. I love the idea of the self sufficient, resilient woman, one who has not only outer strength, but the inner strength to defeat whatever life throws at her. She might not think she’s strong at all, but no matter how weakened or how much she’s lost, she still manages to push to her feet and stand. I see women in real life do this, to continue on despite incredible devastations and obstacles, and it amazes me. I was really motivated to explore that strength and perseverance. I wanted to ground my heroine, to give her a sense of realism, and to explore the complexities involved with taking a very capable UF heroine and giving her a pre teen child. Once I had the notion to make her a single mom, everything else seemed to fall into place. Things got very complicated, very intense, and very real – even amid the off-world population in which she lives.
DFT: Tell us something about your research process and the choices you make when creating the story.
Ah research. Research can be dangerous for me. I do initial research around the same time as the story is stewing in my head. I write notes and often find that research leads to some awesome plot ideas and world building. Once I have a solid idea of my story, I start writing. I’ve learned that if I break to research something, I’ll lose myself in surfing the web and reading research books. So, I just make a ‘research’ note in my manuscript and continue on with the actual writing until the end.
As far as choices. Hmm. The directions my stories take are part of the whole ‘stewing’ and note-taking process. I make a lot of decision then, working out the whole choices/results/consequences dynamic. Of course, there are a lot of things I can’t plan out beforehand in my mind. I have to write in order to figure it out. I love it when certain paths/choices make themselves known as I’m writing, and those are great ‘aha’ moments and often lead to very intriguing outcomes.
DFT: What influences and inspirations (both literary and non-literary) did you draw from while writing The Better Part of Darkness?
The first authors to inspire me and whose work still inspires me are Anne Rice, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Mary Stewart, Margaret George, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Alexandre Dumas, and Mary Shelley, just to name a few. I realized, as a young teen reader and writer, I had a deep, deep love of all things supernatural and fantastical. Later on, as my writing progressed and I ventured more and more into contemporary fantasy and urban fantasy, I’d say the actual genre inspired me – that whole strong, capable woman idea. I read a lot of Emma Bull, Simon R. Green, and Laurell K. Hamilton, and then Kim Harrison’s first Rachel Morgan book came out… Those authors really made a big impact on me.
DFT: Who is your favorite character in this book, and why?
I love them all and for different reasons, but if I had to pick one, it’d be Charlie. I like to think that she’s a pretty complex, realistic character. I’m invested in her. I care about her. And, I hope others end up feeling the same way.
DFT: Do you have a long-term plan or goal for this story universe? What happens next?
When I began the first book, I had a long term goal for Charlie and the city of Atlanta, which could complete itself in a fourth installment if I had to. I’d like to see Charlie’s story go for another few books at least. There’s so much to tell! There are a few characters you’ll meet in THE BETTER PART OF DARKNESS and the sequel that I’m itching to learn more about, too. It’d be great fun to focus on a few of them and write their stories…
DFT: What other projects are you working on that you would like to tell us about?
I’m really excited about a new young adult series in the works, which takes place in a post apocalyptic-like U.S. city. Very creepy and dark. Gives me chills just thinking about it!
DFT: If you could choose only one, which would you choose: for The Better Part of Darkness to be award-winning, or for The Better Part of Darkness to be bestselling? Why?
More than anything, I wish for this story to entertain people, to grab hold and not let go until the last line is read. I wish for folks to become invested in my characters, to root for them, and to want to see what happens next. And I guess the best indicator of that is the book selling well.
DFT: What books would you like your own work to match or surpass (in terms of writing, impact/influence, popularity/sales, or awards)?
When I dream and hope, I don’t think in terms of other books, but more in terms of appealing to the same fans as other urban fantasy authors. I’d love to see this book take off, to be one of those books that people talk about and tell all their friends about. I’d love for this books to appeal to urban fantasy fans across the board and to have it reach beyond the genre and snag some new readers, too.
DFT: What was the path to publication like for The Better Part of Darkness? Was it difficult to find an agent and a publisher?
The path as an author was long, years of manuscripts and hundreds of rejections, but the path for this particular book wasn’t too crazy. By the time I started submitting it, I’d become routine in my approach: New manuscript revised and polished. Hunt for agent. Exhaust the agent pool. Sigh in frustration. Sit down and write a new manuscript. Start search all over again.
I did feel a sense of excitement for BPOD when I was finished writing it. It was unlike anything I’d written before. But then the rejections started coming in just like always. Thankfully, after about four or five months of submissions and rejections, I secured representation. I did a set of revisions followed by another smaller set of fixes and then it was off to editors. Pocket was in our first round, and expressed interest at the end of the first week.
DFT: What books/genres do you read when you have the chance? Any must read authors or series?
Oh, yes, lots of must reads! I love historical fiction in the vein of Margaret George. I don’t reread a lot of books, but Anne Rice, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Mary Stewart are authors I enjoy rereading. I love ancient lit – Homer and Herodotus are all time favorites – this might seem odd unless you knew, at the age of eight, I’d sit on my bedroom floor and plot out Odysseus journey on old National Geographic & Time Life Books maps. I’m a big fan Sherrilyn Kenyon, Janet Chapman, Kresley Cole, Gena Showalter, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Susan Donovan… In UF: Kim Harrison, Vicki Pettersson, Ilona Andrews, Jenna Black, Lilith Saintcrow, Jackie Kessler… the list is so long! I read a lot of history books – mostly ancient history. I have hundreds of books on ancient civilizations, mythology, etc. And I love conspiracies and ‘hidden’ archaeology ala Graham Hancock. Those kinds of books really spark my creative mind.
DFT: What is your definition of a “bad writing day”? How do you deal with bad writing days?
A bad writing day for me is a no writing day. Any day that I sit down and write, whether it be 500 words or 5,000 — good or bad or a struggle – what matters is that I ‘went’ to work and did my job. Sure, I have tough days and days where the work is lousy, but it’s still progress, it’s still me working or pushing beyond a tough spot into something better.
DFT: Do you have a particular writing process or any writing rituals?
Not anything too bizarre. Just a quiet place to work, without too much outside light because that, along with the PC glare, messes with my eyes. I start the morning off with coffee (this is a must), checking email, doing my regular Internet sweep, and then I start writing. Every day is different. Some days I’ll get a chapter done, some days only a couple pages. After lunch, if things aren’t flowing, I’ll switch to revising the same manuscript or I’ll work on revisions from my editor if I have them. I tend to write new material in the first part of the day and like to do revisions later and at night. I give myself weekends and evening off to spend time with my family. But if I have quiet time, the kids are away, and I’m inspired, I’ll sneak in some writing time or promo work then, too. Bonus!
DFT: If you could be any paranormal creature. Which one would you be and why?
Is a very human-like fae an option? Immortality without physical aging. Magical fae powers. Immune to the side effects of too much chocolate, pizza, and cheesy fries. Yeah. That would be nice, wouldn’t it?
DFT: Thank you Kelly for taking the time to stop by.
One lucky commenter will have a chance to win an autographed ARC of The Better Part of Darkness, coverflat, and a bookmark.
To enter, leave a comment below answering the following question:
If you survived the Revelation, which side would you want to be on? The heaven-like Elysia or the hellish Charbydon?
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 everyone.
5. Please include your email address in your comment.
6. Giveaway ends Monday, November 23rd at 11:59 PM EST.
7. The winner will be picked with the help of Random.org.
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