The American fantasy author talks history, urban fantasy and Deadly Curiosities
This is a guest blog by Gail Z Martin, writer of the Deadly Curiosities Adventures series, whose new book Deadly Curiosities will be published by Solaris in July...
The 370 year-old antique shop Trifles and Folly is the heart of Deadly Curiosities , my new urban fantasy novel from Solaris Books. The shop’s most recent proprietor, Cassidy Kincaide, is a psychometric whose magic enables her to read the history of objects by touching them. And her business partner is Sorren, a nearly 600 year-old vampire who is part of a secret Alliance of mortals and immortals dedicated to protecting the world by keeping dangerous magical and supernatural items out of the wrong hands.
I was a history major in college because I knew I wanted to write fantasy books someday. And I’ve always enjoyed going to museums, old cemeteries, restored homes, and living history sites like Williamsburg, Virginia. Although I don’t claim any magic of my own, those places always seemed just a breath away from the past, as if by closing my eyes and listening very closely, I might hear whispers from long ago.
My father loved antique shops and shows, and quite a bit of my childhood involved outings to dim, dusty places packed with cast-off treasures. Even then, I used to while away the time by selecting an interesting object and making up a story about it to amuse myself. I would imagine who owned it, and how it came to be in the shop.
I grew up around old stuff that was not necessarily valuable, but certainly unusual. Some of the items had been handed down through the family, so they came with a story. Other pieces caught my dad’s fancy, and he dragged them home with him. When he passed away and we cleaned out the overstuffed house, I found Halberd axes, flintlock rifles, huge bear traps, iron mechanical banks, and lots of clocks. Some of those items found their way into Deadly Curiosities with a little embellishment and some new magical properties.
Charleston is one of the oldest cities in the United States, so it has a rich history to draw from for the book’s setting. Plantations and pirates, gentlemen, strumpets, duels—it all happened in and around Charleston, including a devastating earthquake, numerous plagues and the first shot in the Civil War. I fell in love with Charleston when I visited several years ago, and thought it was a great setting because of its history and because it hadn't been the site of a lot of urban fantasy.
I use Voodoo (or as many practitioners prefer, Voudon) a lot in Deadly Curiosities . People associate Voudon with New Orleans, but most African slaves came through the Charleston harbor, so it’s not a stretch to think that the practices of Africa and the islands might have secretly taken root in the city. Slave owners who moved from New Orleans to Charleston due to marriage or business would certainly have brought their servants with them, and those servants would have kept their practices in their new location. So I do a lot of research on Voudon, wanting to be accurate and also wanting to respect the beliefs of modern practitioners. But as with the history of Charleston, I also take some "artistic liberties" when necessary.
Sorren, my nearly 600 year-old vampire, also brings a lot of history to the book. In Deadly Curiosities the novel, Sorren has been protecting the world from dark magic for almost 500 years, so he is at the top of his game and very powerful. In my Deadly Curiosities Adventures short stories (appearing in anthologies and also individually on Kindle, Kobo and Nook), we meet Sorren at several different points in history, working with mortal partners through various antiques and curio shops. Several of the stories are set in Belgium back in the 1500s when Sorren is newly turned and new to the Alliance. Several more of the stories are set just after the American Revolution in Charleston, with Cassidy’s many-times great-ancestor Evann, Trifles and Folly, and Sorren’s thief-pirate partners Dante and Coltt.
It’s been fun to explore how Sorren changes over the centuries, since some of the short stories are told from his perspective. Writing stories set in different time periods and different countries requires a lot of research. Finding just the right old objects, exploring Charleston’s history for places and historic events that work with the story and getting the details right on magical ritual, plants, gems and objects also takes study, which I enjoy.
One of the best parts of being a writer means that researching all kinds of cool stuff actually counts as work!
Gail Z Martin writes epic and urban fantasy, steampunk and short stories. She is the author of the Chronicles Of The Necromancer series, the Fallen Kings Cycle series and the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga series of epic fantasy books, as well as the Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy world. And coming in 2015, Iron And Blood , a steampunk novel, co-written with Larry N Martin. Gail is a frequently contributor to US and UK anthologies. She also writes two series of ebook short stories: The Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Adventures . Find her at ChroniclesOfTheNecromancer.com , on Twitter , on Facebook , at the Disquieting Visions blog and GhostInTheMachinePodcast.com . She posts free excerpts of her work on Wattpad and you can preorder Deadly Curiosities on Amazon.co.uk (opens in new tab) .