My guest today is author Anthony Francis whose debut urban fantasy novel, Frost Moon, was released on March 1, 2010. Frost Moon is also part of my Debut Urban Fantasy Reading Challenge. You can read an excerpt here.
Five lucky commentators have a chance to win a copy of Frost Moon. As always, details are listed at the end of the post.
by Anthony Francis
This guest post was originally supposed to air in early May. It’s not early May. What happened? Well, a lot was going on then – I was trying to finish the final draft of BLOOD ROCK before sending it to Bell Bridge Books, trying to keep my head above water at the Search Engine That Starts With A G, and trying to keep up with my life with my longsuffering wife, cats and friends. During that frenzy, hundreds of emails piled up, including the thread where I and Angela were talking about when I could post. So this post is about something important that I’m not too good at: finding the right balance.
But not about finding it in life. Finding it in your writing.
FROST MOON is filled with juxtapositions and contradictions. FROST MOON is set in a realistic Atlanta filled with fantastic magic. The protagonist, Dakota Frost, is a hard-core skeptic who’s also a working magician. Her former best friend is a Christian vampire; another close friend is a blind witch specializing in the magic of pictures. Dakota is a liberal who starts dating a conservative; the book is filled with similar conflicts between religion and the scientific method, or normal expectations and alternative culture.
These conflicts aren’t vanilla versus ice cream; they’re divisive topics, things that matter to people – their morals, their ethics, their core beliefs. Choosing one side over another will alienate half of your readership – and I’m not worrying about that as a marketing concern, I’m worried because I’ve ticked off a large group of people I want to read and enjoy my book, a book I hope they’ll get something out of. So how do you find the right balance?
Some people do that by taking the vanilla route: removing all the conflicts. That’s sometimes appropriate, but in my experience what happens more often is the author will SEEM to avoid politics until their own political views creep through. Others take the chocolate route: picking a side, black or white. I, on the other hand, prefer a mixed approach: cookies and cream – build the conflict straight in to the story. As I research, I come across conflicts, and when I do I try to find the best possible arguments, pro or con, or the most important issues that illuminate the conflict. And then, I find a place for all those voices in the story.
Sometimes that’s easy. As a Christian, I’ve always been a bit disturbed by the idea that if you become a vampire you’re suddenly, instantly damned, and crosses will set you on fire – what happens to free will, to the power of God to forgive? This isn’t a burning political conflict that bothers anyone, but it is a potential contradiction deep in the vampire myth I wanted to explore. So I created the Christian vampire Savannah Winters, and the idea that in the Dakota Frost universe, your ability to turn a vampire with a cross depends less on your faith than the vampire’s hostility.
Sometimes it’s a bit harder. Dakota is an uber-liberal – a bisexual, tree-hugging, in-your-face tattoo artist, who tells you her political views almost from the first line. I can’t whitewash that; that’s her voice. So I tried to balance this by creating Philip, her love interest in the story, as a composite of several conservative and libertarian friends of mine. Again and again in FROST MOON I use him as a counterpoint for Dakota. Even small details about Philip illustrate these conflicts, like his Prius, which Dakota likes – but he drives not for green reasons but for energy independence. Little details like these helped the book go over well with my early beta readers, several of whom are quite conservative.
And sometimes, you have to give up. I’m a scientist, and Dakota shares many of my scientific, skeptical instincts. But she also has a strong religious core, a stubborn nugget of faith that never deserts her in times of crisis, even if she thinks that most of the trappings of religion are woo-hooery. And I did explore those issues in the story … but not too much. Dakota’s skeptical instincts very much had to be at the forefront, overriding the religious concerns. And many of the potential religious conflicts – for example, some Christians find tattooing to be sinful – are simply not conflicts for the vast majority of potential readers, and spending time exploring these issues was not helping the book. So in the end, I had to let some conflicts go.
That’s finding balance: figuring out what’s important. Finding the conflicts, where one important thing opposes another. Giving a voice to the arguments, on the left and the right. And, sometimes, based on what’s important, simply letting some things go.
Anthony Francis is a computer scientist by day and a writer every free minute he isn’t spending with his wife and cats. He’s been writing science fiction since he was a child, but fell in love with urban fantasy five years ago and started work on what became the Skindancer series featuring magical tattoo artist Dakota Frost. The first book in the series, FROST MOON, came out this March, BLOOD ROCK is expected to come out this year, and he’s hard at work on LIQUID FIRE. In all his writing but especially the Skindancer series, Anthony loves mixing hard science with pure fantasy and seeing what comes out of the stew. His Ph.D work at Georgia Tech focused on artificial intelligence for information retrieval, and he currently works at “The Search Engine That Starts With a G.”
Five lucky commentators will have a chance to win a copy of Frost Moon.
To enter, leave a comment below answering the following question:
If you could have a magic tattoo, what would you get and what would it do?
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 Tuesday, August 24th at 11:59 PM EST.
7. The winner will be picked with the help of Random.org.
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