Good morning, urban fantasy aficionados! I started this blog post with my hand one key to the right, and thought I was typing in French. For one glorious moment, I assumed that I had inherited some kind of alien mutant translating power, but realized my mistake. As I am now distraught over my own mediocrity, it’s time for an interview with Sharon Bayliss, author of the newly released Destruction.
JP: First off… give us your elevator pitch for Destruction.
SB: Destruction is a dark wizard family drama. When David’s missing children are found, they claim that their abuser had been a dark wizard. He believes they use this fairy tale to cope with their trauma, until David discovers that dark magic is all too real.
JP: A father dealing with his children’s trauma… sounds like this is targeted for an adult reader, as opposed to Young Adult or even “New Adult.”
SB: Yes, that’s right. It’s just a regular old adult book. :) Although, the book is written in dual perspective between the father and his teenage son, so people used to YA will enjoy it too. I’m sure I’m offending the genre police with my odd blend.
JP: Did you find it challenging writing a POV from a male protagonist?
SB: No. I don’t like writing characters that are too much like me. I think my voice is stronger when I step outside of myself. Or, I have deeply seeded gender issues. Who knows? In any case, so far all my books have had male protagonists.
JP: Unlike high fantasy and far-reaching science fiction, urban fantasy benefits from a universe set in a world more similar to reality. What part of your world-building do you feel is the most unique versus other settings in the genre?
SB: As opposed to creating a detailed fantasy world, I worked very hard to make my setting as realistic as possible. In many ways, the story was based on the question, “If wizards were real, what would they be like?” My wizards are a reasonably normal family living in the U.S., so they do things like make jokes about Harry Potter and wonder how their magic fits in with their Christian upbringing. Although I love dramatic wand fights as much as the next guy, the magic in The December People Series is more subtle. It’s about bending the fates to the wizard’s will. If you want someone dead, you don’t just say, “avada kedavra.” A killing spell would cause your victim to get in a car accident or have a heart attack. My intention is to make the reader feel like these people could be their next door neighbors or their own family, and easily imagine how they could realistically blend with our real world.
JP: Let’s talk about your publisher, Curiosity Quills Press. How long have you been with them, and how would you describe your experience with this “hybrid” publisher?
SB: I actually signed my first book with Curiosity Quills Press almost two years ago! Whoa, time flies. I have certainly enjoyed working with them. They have a supportive, helpful network of authors, editors, and marketing types, and some kick-ass cover artists. I am proud to have a publisher that’s willing to invest in me and stand behind me and my stories.
JP: Destruction is the opening salvo in your December People series. How far along are you with sequels? Do you plot out entire overarching plot trajectories, or do you take these book-at-a-time?
SB: I’m currently writing book 3! Sometimes I can’t even believe it myself. Book one started out as a stand-alone, so I wasn’t thinking of larger plots at the time…until I started writing the end. I knew that there was no way I was stopping there! I loved my characters way too much.
However, for a while now I’ve known there would be four books in the series, one for each season. So, I have been working off a larger plot arc for the series. However, I only plan out major plot points. I leave the rest to the characters. I love just putting them in situations and see what they do. They always offer up surprises and plot twists I don’t expect. Sometimes I can’t stop writing because I want to see what happens next!
JP: So would you describe yourself as a “plotter” or a “pantser?”
SB: I’d describe myself as a “plontser”.
JP: As your series deals with morality and ambiguity, for my last question I’m going to toss a heavy philosophical grenade directly into your lap. How do you personally define “Evil?”
SB: Wow, that is a heavy question. Fortunately, I’ve had plenty of time to think about this while writing the series. If I had to define “evil,” I would say that it is any choice (an act or an inaction) that harms another person for selfish purposes. Obviously, that definition still includes a lot of gray and variation in severity. I believe there are some acts that are always evil regardless of situation or intent, like abuse, rape, and violence driven by hate, or anytime someone powerful knowingly harms someone less powerful just to see them suffer, as in bullying.
As you can probably guess from just a basic understanding of the story, The December People Series is intended to overtly defy the black and white conception of good and evil that you find in most traditional science fiction and fantasy. In the series…as in life…evil is about what you do, not who you are. And although some characters certainly do more evil than others, all of them are capable of both evil and of good, and you can expect them all to do a little bit of both, regardless of what type of wizard they are.
Thanks for the enjoyable interview!
On a personal note, I wanted to host Sharon during her blog tour because her universe is my particular brand of vodka… an urban fantasy that holds its cards close to the vest of reality as we know it. So, scoot on over and get your copy of Destruction.
Here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite:
David and his family plus Samantha stood in a circle around a small pile of unlit firewood in the backyard. They stood arranged by age: David, Amanda, Jude, Patrick, Xavier, Samantha, Emmy, Evangeline, and then of course, David again, all twice as thick with jackets and scarves. The air felt hard with cold, a determined cold that seeped through all of David’s layers. They held candles—but no matches—in their gloved hands. The family had gone through the house turning off lights. All of the lights. They even turned off the red lights glowing on electronics. They had unplugged the entire house. However, David could see easily. An orange haze of light peeked up from the trees. Millions of lights lit up the world all around them. Darkness didn’t exist in the middle of Houston.
As soon as they had managed to arrange themselves into a circle, the kids got quiet without David or Amanda instructing them to. Wizards standing in a circle felt significant to David. When they got in that position, they snapped into place. The air became denser around him and he was rooted to the spot, as if with extra gravity. But he didn’t feel confined. He felt powerful. He plugged into an energy source he didn’t even know existed. His fingers had an itchy, tingly feeling. He knew he could do magic.
The paper in Amanda’s hand crinkled loudly as she held it close to her face. She had done her research, which David found endearing and impressive. She had talked to Samantha and Evangeline and some of the witches Penelope’s mom knew, and had created a ritual designed specifically for them, as the matriarch of the family should. The matriarch of the family always directed group spell casting, because she understood her family’s magic, the purpose of each family member, and knew how to keep them in balance—a tall order, since Amanda didn’t know much about some of the newest members of her family and knew even less about magic. But, David had never known Amanda to say she couldn’t do anything, so why start now?
Amanda owning this task shocked the kids, but not David. He knew her better than anyone did. Thus, he knew her mind and the rest of her often disagreed. Her left brain dug her feet into the ground and wouldn’t budge. That part of her would say things such as, “We’re not practicing magic,” and “We’re divorced,” until kingdom come. She would say it. She’d believe it. And she’d do the opposite, because occasionally the parts of her not governed by her left brain would break free. David may not be able to sway the left-brain side of her, but he could influence her other side, and he thought that maybe he had actually convinced her of something, for once.
And, part of Amanda had really wanted to be convinced, because wizards stayed wizards, no matter how many years they’d been indoctrinated otherwise. They listened to forces that had nothing to do with logic or reason, making them stupid, reckless, destructive, and exciting. And they liked to play with fire. Literally and figuratively.
“How I am supposed to read this in the dark?” Amanda asked. “How do people do this?”
“You’re supposed to have it memorized,” Evangeline said.
“Your eyesight is terrible,” David said. “Let me see it.”
She thrust the paper out of his reach. “Back off.”
“Why don’t you just let Evangeline or Samantha speak?” David said. “I’m sure they have some stuff memorized.”
“No,” Amanda said. “It’s supposed to be me. My words.” Amanda let out a shivery sigh. “I’m sorry. I know I’m not supposed to do this.” She took her phone out of her pocket and turned it on. She illuminated her paper with the dim blue light.
“First we honor the darkness,
For in darkness, our eyes are not distracted by the flash and flare of Mundane sights
So, only in darkness can we truly see.
In the silence of the deepest night, our ears are not assaulted by Mundane sounds
So, only in darkness can we truly hear.
In darkness, we are unable to see danger and are rendered vulnerable
So, only in darkness can we truly feel.
We do not believe that light exists in spite of darkness. We believe that light exists because of it.
Darkness is the only fertile ground for light. It is the only garden where light can be sown.
So, now we experience the darkness. Use this time in the dark and quiet to use your deeper senses. Experience what you are called to experience. The answers wait for you in the darkness. Do not deny them.”
And then, she fell silent.
David couldn’t hear the cars on the highway anymore. He couldn’t hear the music playing down the street. He could hear only the breathing of the others in the circle. And the sky…the orange haze disappeared and the sky reminded David of the one over Big Bend. Millions of stars set against a perfect pitch black. The moon cast a crisp, blue light on the scene. With her words, or perhaps with some other magic deeper than words, she had called the darkness. David pictured it as a bubble around them.
The quiet didn’t feel as awkward as David would have expected. No one giggled or even coughed or sighed. His lungs felt larger. He could breathe. This darkness didn’t feel frightening. In fact, David couldn’t remember ever feeling so safe. The darkness was the foundation that everything else was built on. The garden where the universe grew. The simplest, most basic thing in existence. And it was spectacular.
He supposed that was the answer that waited for him. That darkness in itself was not evil. Darkness was peace. Potential. Home.