SW: For my first question: This book felt infinitely more complex than the first one in the series. Did you do something different in planning out this book that allowed you to create such a more complex plot?
DBC: Thanks. I did have a lot of elements I wanted to bring into this book and I agree with you that this made for a more complex narrative. I think in part this is a result of knowing the characters and the world better, and having a better feel for the magic system. And I think as well that I came to this book more confident in the voice and the conceptual underpinnings of my story. As a result, I was willing to take more chances and really build on the foundation I’d put down with the first book. I actually find that this is the case in many of my series. The first book introduces the reader to the various story elements, but it also introduces me to them, so that in the subsequent volumes I can dive in and do more.
So this time around I introduced some new characters who will be around for future books, I expanded on the “were” concept, and I delved into other types of dark magic that Jay is going to have to deal with as the series goes on. As a result, I have a more complex story, and so many possibilities as the project moves forward.
SW: Why can’t Justis see the color when the magic is being cast? Why only an afterimage?
DBC: The casting of a spell happens in a scintilla of time — it’s as sudden as thought, as fast as light. And so I suppose that if there was a way for the eye of a conjurer to slow down action the way a movie camera can, he or she might be able to see the magic as it’s being cast. But the human eye doesn’t work that way, and magic doesn’t show up on mechanical lenses. So it seems that the colored glow appears after the fact.
The other thing is, magic isn’t accompanied by a flash of light, or something like that. I think that would be too cheesy. As a result, one moment the glow isn’t there, and the next it is. But again, that is in large part a function of how fast magic happens.
SW: Why the double “ss” in both Fearsson and Hesslans? Is this meaningful?
DBC: You know, it’s really not. I liked the double “ss” in Fearsson when I first came up with the name a long time ago. I liked the idea of him being “fears son,” as it were. But when I made up Patty Hesslan’s name I didn’t even think about the recurrence of the “ss.” I’m sorry. I would love to tell you that there is some deep significance to it, and that I was harkening back to some ancient Celtic naming tradition for druids, or some such, but it was purely accidental.
SW: You have beautiful descriptions of the desert. Is this something that came to you because of your research or did your love for the area drive you to set the story there?
In a way, the setting is an artifact from an older magic system that I had thought to use with this series. I had in mind something that drew heavily on the desert setting. But I rewrote the first book in the series a couple of times, and in one of the revisions totally revamped the magic system. At that point, I could have moved the series to another setting, and it wouldn’t have mattered so much.
But (and this gets to the crux of your question) I have spent a good deal of time in the desert Southwest. I’ve camped and hiked and birdwatched in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and southeastern California. I love this part of the country, and have really enjoyed writing about it. I was very happy to set the story in the Southwest when I thought I needed to for my magic to work, and even after that was no longer the case, I remained committed to writing about that part of the country. There is, I believe something magical and compelling about that stark, austere, dramatic landscape. I think it lends itself to the kind of stories I’m writing in this series. And I love being able to draw upon my knowledge of desert flora and fauna to bring an element of authenticity to my descriptions. So thank you. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed the desert descriptions. I’ve really enjoyed writing them.
SW: When Justis casts a spell in Bear’s house, he uses “the three of us, the room we were in and a thick blanket.” Why does the “three of us” count as one element and not three individual people?
DBC: One of the key characteristics of the magic system is the fact that every conjurer brings to his or her magic a unique way of conceiving spells. For Jay, it works best when he recites — out loud or to himself — a litany of elements that make up the casting. Which is a fancy way of saying that it matters less what he says than how he, on a personal level, perceives the spell. The number of elements is important — as he says, “there is power in certain numbers.” Spells with three or seven elements work best. But an element is not the same as an object.
So, if he needed to do so as a mnemonic device, or to get the number right, he COULD count the three of them as three separate elements. But in this case, he doesn’t need that. His spell is designed to dampen their conversation, to keep Saorla from hearing it. And so it is more convenient for him to think of the three of them as a single unit, since they represent a single conversation. The most important thing — as Namid is trying to teach him — is that he concentrate and visualize. The rest is all a matter of personal style.
SW: Congratulations on such a great book!
DBC: Thanks so much, and thanks for the questions!
David B. Coe/D.B. Jackson is the award-winning author of eighteen fantasy novels. Under the name D.B. Jackson, he writes the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy from Tor Books that includes Thieftaker, Thieves’ Quarry, A Plunder of Souls, and, the newest volume, Dead Man’s Reach, was released on July 21. Under his own name, he writes The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, a contemporary urban fantasy from Baen Books. The first volume, Spell Blind, debuted in January 2015. The newest book in the series, His Father’s Eyes, comes out on August 4. He lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.
Note: Book provided by author. Opinions are my own.