We love your protagonist, Tara. Where did the idea for her come from, and do you have any stories, insights, or trivia about her you’d like to share?
I’m glad you like her! She showed to the book more or less in her final form. I see her as a sort of Determinator—a bulldog of an investigator, whose biggest problem is that she might go to far pursuing her goal, or step on someone in the process. Also, there aren’t enough honest-to-god sorceresses in the books I read. Tara has power, likes it, and uses it.
Three Parts Dead features a very unique twist on gargoyles. What was your inspiration for the gargoyles?
You know, a funny story about those gargoyles—the suggestion that they be gargoyles came from a friend, Alana Abbott. I’d been running through different personifications for Seril’s Guardians (werewolves in an early draft, for example), but when she mentioned gargoyles as an option, instantly a bunch of ideas connected: the cities, the poetry, the watching, the parallel with the Blacksuits (and by extension with Batman)—I grabbed the idea strong as I could, and in rewrites the gargoyles came to life.
Would you share a bit about your writing process with us?
One word after another, day after day! These days I’m experimenting with backwards-outlining—writing by the seat of my pants for an act or two with an ending in sight, then figuring out how what I’ve done so far connects to the ending I have in mind. I love coffee shops, too. I’ll hit up one of the local shops with my laptop, grab a cup of coffee and a glass of water, and write a scene or two. At this point I think and write pretty well in scenes—wrap up the day with a dramatic moment, then ruminate for a while, and return to the work the next day for a fresh arc.
Your novel has such a fully developed universe, mythology, and magic system. How did you come to develop it? Was this all plotted out beforehand, or did it develop as you wrote?
Both. I had a general sense of the world’s history—the God Wars, for example, and some of the major philosophical movements, and the general principles of the magic system. A lot of Alt Coulumb took shape as I worked. It helped to have strong characters introduce me (not to mention other characters) to the people, places, and concepts that were important to them.
When you write, do you like to play music in the background to get you in the right headspace, and if so, what did you listen to while writing Three Parts Dead?
I long ago lost the art of writing fiction while listening to music with words in, unless it’s stuff I’ve heard so often the words have disappeared. I wrote HUGE sections of Three Parts Dead listening to Clint Mansell’s soundtrack for The Fountain—the soundtrack combines creeping dread, over-the-top cathartic climaxes, and haunting slow piano moments. The emotional range and mood fit mine while I write perfectly.
Also, I listened to a lot of Cake. Especially “Shadow Stabbing,” for obvious reasons.
You end Three Parts Dead in a way that leaves it intriguingly open for sequels. What do you plan on exploring in future novels in the series?
There’s a whole world and history out there to explore. My next book, Two Serpents Rise, is set in the Craftsmen’s city of Dresediel Lex, on the other side of the continent from Alt Coulumb, and deals with the victor’s side of the God Wars—what happens when you kick your pantheon to the curb, and the sacrifices that need to be made regardless of who’s holding the knife. I have another book in my editor’s hands now that’s set on an island balanced between the gods and the world of Craft, and I’m working on some stuff taking place in the history of the world. And of course I want to revisit Tara and her friends, and make their lives even more horrible. And I’ve been pondering a rough timeline for the God Wars themselves…. The ideas continue to flow.
What else can we expect from you in the future?
A bunch of stuff. I’m working on a comics project that has me very excited, as well as a mobile interactive fiction game set in the Craft universe. I’ve also contributed a short story to xo Orpheus, Kate Bernheimer’s excellent, and forthcoming, anthology of myths, and I’m working on some short fiction of my own. I keep busy.
Pre-order Two Serpents Rise (coming out Oct. 29)