Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Not too long ago, Simon McCaffery tagged me to join into The Next Big Thing, a blog thread in which various writers discuss their latest projects.  Simon was tagged by Weston Ochse.  This week you can also check out Scott Bradley and Peter Giglio.

Next week, I'll pass the buck to Brian Hodge and Cindie Geddes.  More likely than not, Glenn R. Sixbury will be playing, too.

On with the fun...

What is the working title of your book?

The novel was recently released.  It was always called ACHERON HIGHWAY.  I thought it was a great title and the publisher agreed.

Acheron Highway, the second Jonthan Shade novel

Where did the idea come from for the book?

ACHERON HIGHWAY is the follow-up to MODERN SORCERY.  While I make sure the books function as stand-alone novels, they are part of a series.  One of the plot threads I intentionally left unfinished in the first book dealt with the character Sharon, who is actually Charon.  During the plotting of MODERN SORCERY, I found myself wondering why Sharon left the Underworld.  We learned that she wasn’t supposed to leave and that she had originally been a he.  They want her back.  It occurred to me that it would be fun if she ran away to get out of a relationship.  As I set things up so that Persephone wasn’t really kidnapped and that she took over and runs Hades, it made sense that she and Charon could have had a long-term relationship.  Persephone wants her lover back, so she sends souls back to Earth to find Charon.  Naturally, these souls can’t possess living people, so they take dead bodies.  They know Jonathan Shade is the best link they have to Charon, so that seems like a good place to start.  However, I wanted the story to be about more than that.  If the dead won’t stay dead, what consequences would that have?  What if a necromancer took a woman’s heart and because the dead won’t stay down, she didn’t die?  That seemed like a fun thread to follow, so that’s how it played out.

Which genre does your book fall under?

Urban fantasy.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

For Jonathan Shade, I’d go with Jensen Ackles.

For Kelly Chan, I always saw Michelle Yeoh

For Esther, I might go with Ellen Page.

For Miranda, I’d cast Naomi Watts.

For Brand, I’d cast David Boreanaz

What is the one sentence synopsis for your book?

Jonathan Shade is hired to hunt down the necromancer who literally stole a woman’s heart.

Will your book be self published or represented by an agency?

The book was published by Sky Warrior Books, a smaller press that also published authors including John Dalmas, Alma Alexander, Laura J. Underwood and others.  They focus on e-books, but also release trade paperbacks.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About a year, but there were extenuating circumstances.  My father had just passed away and I was the personal representative (executor) of his estate.  That limited my writing time significantly.  It also postponed dealing with the grief.  There were entire sections of the book I had to cut and pitch because they simply didn’t make sense, so the revision process was pretty wild.  The first two thirds of the book changed a lot, but the last third of the book came out strong and I didn’t change much beyond minor clean-up.  Once I found the ending, the last third practically wrote itself.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

MODERN SORCERY got a lot of comparisons to Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series.  Oddly enough, I wrote the first draft of what became MS about the same time Butcher sold STORM FRONT.  I didn’t think I’d have a market for the series since I was blending genres.  With ACHERON HIGHWAY, things turn a bit.  The next book in the series, DRAGON GATE will be yet another major shift in direction.  If the series goes past book three (I do have the next three in my head) it will be a lot harder to find comparisons.  I don't mind starting comfortably in the Urban Fantasy realm, but I have to do my own thing.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I was under contract, so I didn’t have a choice.  Hmm?  It’s easier to say what inspired the series.  I’ve always loved mystery and suspense, and I’ve always loved fantasy.  I wanted to blend the genres, so I wanted a private investigator who handled cases dealing with the paranormal.  I looked at the mystery/suspense writers I was reading and enjoying: Robert Crais, Robert B. Parker, Dennis Lehane, Janet Evanovich, Harlan Coben, etc.  One trend is that the hero (or heroine) has a protector - Elvis Cole has Joe Pike, Spenser has Hawk, Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro have Bubba, Stephanie Plum has Ranger and Morelli (she needs two protectors because she gets into a lot of trouble), and Myron Bolitar has Win.  What they have in common is male protectors, so I gave Jonathan Shade a female protector.  Her name is Kelly Chan and she’s a magically engineered assassin.  I always liked that Mike Hammer and the old style PIs always had a secretary, so I gave Jonathan a ghost from the 1920s as a secretary.  I figured it would be fun, and so far, it’s been a blast.  One thing that was important to me was that Jonathan Shade not have any magic.  Harry Dresden is a wizard, so he's got a slight advantage going up against the things that go bump in the night.  Shade is immune to magic (otherwise, he'd have been killed early on), but other than that, he's just a regular guy.  My other rule for the series was no vampires.  That came on even stronger when it seemed like 99 out of 100 urban fantasy books featured the fanged dudes and dudettes.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

At the risk of having people looking for some kind of twist ending, I will say that the ending of ACHERON HIGHWAY will knock your soul right out of your body.  Normally, when I write something, I see only the flaws, so I keep thinking I should have done better.  With the ending of this book, I feel I nailed it both with the coolness factor and on the emotional front.  I find it’s tough to please myself with my own fiction, but this one did it for me.