Happy Wednesday, everybody! I’ve been delighted by the reception The Superheroes Union: Dynama is getting, and running around dealing with release-week details keeps me very busy right now. But I wanted to take a few minutes to share an interview with another fantastic writer with a fantastic book.
Together with Heidi Belleau, Violetta Vane is the author of The Druid Stone, a plotty, engaging, and very hot M/M urban fantasy. I was lucky enough to get to beta read an earlier draft for them, and I knew then that whatever publisher picked it up would have a pretty phenomenal novel on their hands, so I’m really excited to be able to introduce you to them and their writing.
I understand you have a new book out this month. Tell us a little about it.
No, you tell me about it! You edited it, after all. Hah! For those not in the know, we sent The Druid Stone to Ruth as we were writing it, chapter by chapter. Her comments went above and beyond beta-ing. She gave us extensive comments on things like sentence structure, for example. We incorporated most of these comments, and the book was much stronger for it. Our editor at Carina, Lynne, also helped make this a better book.
The book we sent to Carina needed a little light trimming, but it was already tight and solid, and for that we thank Ruth.
Now, as for the book itself? It’s an epic urban fantasy m/m romance. I don’t think there’s ever been another book written that’s quite like it. This is a love story but it’s also a plot-heavy, time-travelling, island-hopping, mind-warping odyssey. There’s sex and violence and also a lot of thoughtful stuff about cultural identity.
How did you decide to write “urban fantasy” that isn’t set in an urban area?
The label “urban fantasy” is kind of silly, honestly. But genre names rarely make sense. They grow organically, and we just have to accept them. Books that were called “urban fantasy” back in the early 1990s are much different than those carrying the label today. I think the only reason urban fantasy got called urban fantasy was that “low fantasy” sounds a bit pejorative. But that’s what urban fantasy is: a genre of stories with fantastic elements set in a world not very different from our own, as opposed to high fantasy, which is set in a world much different from our own. Whether or not it takes place in a city is practically irrelevant. The city stands in for modernity, for non-magic.
I think urban fantasy shares a lot of DNA with superhero comics and movies, which have larger-than-life characters set against a normal background. The central dilemma of superhero comics is that these larger-than-life characters always have to save the world, and in saving the world, they change it somehow. But if they change it too much, it stops being our own recognizable world! That’s why comic books are always getting rebooted. I don’t think they’re really rebooting the characters; they’re rebooting the world. Like the next Avengers movie is never going to explore the sociopsychological aftermath of an alien attack on New York City. Both UF and superheroes are a special kind of wish fulfilment: we want to experience the strange while keeping the same.
The Druid Stone does have some parts that take place in cities, but it’s mostly set in a small town. Modernity and layers of history are still crucial. And we even attack the question of… what happens when you can really change the world? I can’t give away any more than that, but you know what we’re talking about ;)
What’s your favorite part of the book?
I think my favorite part of the book, in a subtle way, is that moment near the end when Sean opens the church doors and steps out onto the street. It’s a quiet moment, unlike all the high drama before, and it’s very melancholic. But to me, there’s a lot of meaning packed into that second in time.
Of the fiction you’ve published to date, which is your favorite, and why?
I have a soft spot in my heart for Hawaiian Gothic. I don’t think it got a lot of reader traction, at least not for the foreseeable future, but we’re very proud of it. The story accomplished everything we wanted it to do. It also gives me a great sense of satisfaction to know that we took a lot of risks with it, and they paid off artistically.
What are your research methods?
We did a ton of research for The Druid Stone. We research all our stories extensively. For any subject, we like to start off with general sources and back it up with at least one expert source that sites primary sources, and depending on the subject, we’ll go to the primary source. For our Roman historical that we just finished editing, those are easy to get to. I can go right to the Perseus Project and do a keyword search on, say, Plutarch’s writings. We also use academic databases like JSTOR—even though we don’t have a subscription, the abstracts and snippets are often enough to point us in the right direction.
The folklore from The Druid Stone is based as closely as possible on real folklore. SacredTexts.com has a lot of great public domain research up. Many books from the early 20th and late 19th century that collected Irish oral culture are up there, searchable, in their entirety. Of course, you have to get creative with spelling variants to do good searches, since Irish spelling can vary quite a bit! Finnbhearra, for example, can be spelled about five different ways.
Sometimes we’ll start with Wikipedia, but whenever you’re doing anything in-depth or controversial, you have to check the sources that Wikipedia cites.
Never, ever, ever rely on Yahoo! Answers or Wiki Answers, its clone. The most hilarious example of why not is right here:
Q: How did romans prepare and cook there food?
A: The romans usually used a microwave. They heated up thing like hot pockets and jimmy dean. There favorite was the meatball sub hot pockets
If you could go back in time to meet anyone in history, who would it be?
I’d be too worried about paradoxes to do any sort of deep or traumatic or family history stuff. So I think I’d be a Ziggy Stardust groupie circa 1973. Something utterly frivolous and sexual!
You can buy The Druid Stone direct from Carina Press or from any major online bookseller.