I’m thrilled today to welcome Diana Pharaoh Francis, author of the just released Bitter Night (Book 1 in The Horngate Witches Series). You can read my review for Bitter Night HERE. Also check out my Contests & Giveaways section on the left sidebar for your chance win Bitter Night.
Diana Pharaoh Francis is an American author and professor. She teaches literature and writing at the University of Montana-Western, and resides in Montana with her husband, son, daughter, and an oversized lapdog. Some of her current favorite sf/f writers are Ilona Andrews, Carol Berg, C.E. Murphy, Patty Briggs, Lynn Flewelling, Rachel Caine, David Coe, and Anne Bishop.
Once, Max dreamed of a career, a home, a loving family. Now all she wants is freedom…and revenge. A witch named Giselle transformed Max into a warrior with extraordinary strength, speed, and endurance. Bound by spellcraft, Max has no choice but to fight as Giselle’s personal magic weapon — a Shadowblade — and she’s lethally good at it. But her skills are about to be put to the test as they never have before….The ancient Guardians of the earth are preparing to unleash widespread destruction on the mortal world, and they want the witches to help them. If the witches refuse, their covens will be destroyed, including Horngate, the place Max has grudgingly come to think of as home. Max thinks she can find a way to help Horngate stand against the Guardians, but doing so will mean forging dangerous alliances — including one with a rival witch’s Shadowblade, who is as drawn to Max as she is to him — and standing with the witch she despises. Max will have to choose between the old life she still dreams of and the warrior she has become, and take her place on the side of right — if she survives long enough to figure out which side that is….
ATUF: You have a wonderful FAQ on your website. One question asks what readers can expect from your books: “That with every book of mine they read, a puppy finds a home, a fairie gets its wings, and an inch of ice returns to the arctic.” Does that hold true for Bitter Night?
DPF: Of course. I deal in magic, don’t you know.
ATUF: The concept of Shadowblades/Sunspears was one of my favorite aspects of Bitter Night. I likened them to vampires in my review. Did they inspire your creation?
DPF: To a certain extent, they did. I like a lot of things about vampires, but I don’t like having to stick with the traditions and conventions. Also, I wanted beings who could have their own mythology and history. Vampires also don’t seem to have quite the right temperament to be Sunspears and Shadowblades.
ATUF: There is a lot of realistic military like interaction between the Primes and their Blades. Did you do a lot of research into the armed forces to portray this accurately?
DPF: I picked the brains of some people who know a lot about fighting, but then I have also done a lot of research over time for my books and I did some more digging for these as well. But when I think about fighting between Blades and Spears, I think that they have no rules, because any sort of weakness (like fair play) can lead to death and defeat. They all train in a plethora of styles and a lot of it is along the lines of Krav Maga, which is based on street fighting and figuring out how to neutralize the enemy quickly and efficiently.
ATUF: Angel mythology was something you took liberties with (to great success I think), turning them into slaves as much as Max herself. Are we going to learn more about them in future Horngate Witches books?
DPF: Yes, for certain. There’s a lot that I didn’t reveal about them. I have a story in mind for Tutresiel that I would love to tell. With any luck, people will like the books so much, they’ll demand more. Both angels are such fun characters and deserve more page time. I want to give it to them.
ATUF: In addition to the previously mentioned Angels, some of the other creatures in Bitter Night include: Hags, Redcaps, and Witches, etc. Are there other paranormal creatures in Max’s world that we’ve yet to see?
DPF: Most definitely. I had a kelpie in this book and had to take him out, but hope to bring him back in the future. Also, there are some other beings that will be showing up. There is so much great folklore and fun critters to write about that I can’t help but mine that richness for the books. What’s nice is that the folklore leaves a lot of room for my interpretation and therefore integrates well into my stories.
ATUF: You’ve mentioned your affinity for flawed heroes/heroines on your website. How important is the theme of character redemption in your books?
DPF: I think it’s really important. I’m also concerned with the notion of honor, and how hard it can be to be honorable in real world situations where things aren’t black and white and where the right decisions aren’t easy. My characters are frequently broken and flawed, and they are usually forced into those hard choices. Figuring out who they want to be is a part of how they grow and change. Many have also done things that they aren’t proud of, things that they feel guilty about. Or should. That’s where redemption comes in. Do they want to be better than that? Do they believe they can be? And what are they willing to do to get there? And what they have to do is frequently grim business.
ATUF: What motivated you to tell the story of Bitter Night from both Max and Alexander’s perspectives? Was one character easier to write than another?
DPF: Max is easier to write. Alexander is more difficult, but I think that’s because Max is so vibrant to me. Alexander’s humor isn’t so biting or sarcastic and for some reason, I’m better at biting and sarcastic. Or an affinity for it, apparently. I wrote in the dual points of view for several reasons. One is that I wanted to show each of them from both inside their heads, and from other people’s perspectives. I wanted to show that their individual reactions to situations and people were perhaps skewed and that they were flawed and vulnerable people. I think it gives the story a different sort of dimension.
ATUF: I was imagining Katee Sackoff (from Battlestar Galatica fame) as Max while reading Bitter Night only to find out she’s your pick too (check out Bitten By Books interview with Diana for the rest of her dream cast). Do you have actors/actresses in mind when you start a novel?
DPF: Sometimes. I try to put a face with a person. To be honest, the Katee Sackoff thing came later after Max was written. Max is really based on a person I saw one a bus in Iowa almost 20 years ago now. Her face still sticks with me and I wondered who she was and what she was doing and why. Her expression stuck with me more than anything else.
ATUF: In your interview with Doug over on ScifiGuy.ca, and on your website, you revealed that Pharaoh is your real middle name. There has to be a story behind that.
DPF: It’s British, and apparently there are a lot of Pharaoh’s over there. I have no idea how the family came by it. When I was over there a few years ago, we went to the town where my great great grandfather’s had lived and there was a lot of evidence of Pharaoh’s in the area. So not much of a story really.
ATUF: I have a feature here on my blog called Genre Swap Saturday where I spotlight a non-urban fantasy and answer two very specific questions. Will you pick one of your previous straight fantasy books and answer for us:
Diana chose The Cipher (A Novel of Crosspointe, Book 1)
Distant member of the royal Rampling family, Lucy Trenton’s ability to detect majick has embroiled her in a dangerous intrigue that threatens her very life. Her only hope lies in her most persistent suitor, ship captain Marten Thorpe, but Lucy isn’t sure she can trust him…
- Why you, an urban fantasy lover, might like this book:
DPF: It’s got something of an urban fantasy feel, in many ways. It’s set in a world that is reminiscent of Victorian England and as with Bitter Night, it’s told from two points of view, both Lucy and Marten, and she’s tough, but not in the traditional sword and sorcery sort of way. It’s one of my favorite books I’ve written.
2. Why you, an urban fantasy lover, might not like this book:
DPF: It’s got a lot of action and a great story, but it’s definitely set in an alternate world and time period and it does not have the contemporary language that you might expect. Still, give it a whirl!
DPF: Thanks for having me! These questions have been a lot of fun.
Diana Pharaoh Francis
Mad Libs, my blog: http://difrancis.livejournal.com
Books by Diana Pharaoh Francis:
1. Path of Fate (2003)
2. Path of Honor (2004)
3. Path of Blood (2006)
1. The Cipher (2007)
2. The Black Ship (2008)
3. The Turning Tide (2009)
4. The Hollow Crown (2010)
Bitter Night: A Horngate Witches Book (2009)