I’ve done a lot of research for books, some requiring more than others. I learned a ton about three masted clipper ships and sailing for The Black Ship. I also learned all kinds of sailing lingo—did you know the phrase “beating a dead horse” is from sailing? So is “slush fund.” Oh, and on of the key ideas that the book revolves around is this one: “third time is a charm.” Only it wasn’t a lucky thing at all. It was terribly unlucky. So ironic given how the idea has mutated today into a good thing.
For my Horngate books, I had to do a lot of research on places and folklore and how to do certain things. Like for instance, angels. Turns out that in the Christian Bible, there are only two named angels. And yet there are thousands of angels in religious literature. There are hierarchies and jobs that the various angels do, and of course some are fallen and some are not.
So in choosing my angels, I decided to stick with real ones. Thus Xaphan was really the angel that lit heaven on fire. And Tutresiel is an angel of the sword. There’s not a lot written about either that I could find, so I was free to embellish as I wanted. I like to stick with the folklore as much as I can. Of course, for some stories, there are many legends, so I have more room to make changes or focus where I want.
But there are some things you can’t research. You just have to use your imagination. I created demons in Blood Winter. There are so very many descriptions of demons from all sorts of literature, that I could pick almost anything. None of them really appealed to me though. So I created my own. These are slimy and stinky with long hooked claws and when you cut them apart, they either collect back together into a stronger-then-before demon, or each piece generated a new on—a bit like a hydra. It also reminds me of Jason in the story of the golden fleece when he sewed the dragons teeth and grew an army of warriors.
What I like about the demons is that they are not particularly demonic. More like the sharks of the unnatural world. They exist, they are vicious, they have to live, and mostly they do what comes natural to them. Their nature is to be dangerous and violent, but they are not particularly evil. Only in so much as the good guys are against them. They are bad because of the havoc they wreak, but not because some evil overlord is directing them.
Unless he is.
Oops. Yeah. Did I give something away? Ahem. Well that brings me to the research on serial killers and cults that I did for this book. Serial killers intrigue me, but more so are those who are sociopaths. They feel no empathy or guilt, which normal people simply cannot comprehend. They do what they do because they are bored or because they enjoy power, but they have no sense of valuing life in general or in specific. They are generally unfocused and easily bored. They must escalate to continue enjoying their ‘work.’ The strangest thing about them, and the most dangerous, is that they easily mimic normalcy. And they use it to manipulate and dominate. They are very hard to pick out. I read about psychologists who went into prisons to interview known sociopaths, and were totally blinded by their charm and charisma.
The thing is, 1 in 25 people is a sociopath. That doesn’t mean serial killer or any killer or at all. But it does mean someone who doesn’t feel guilty or empathy. That means that they have no compunction killing a dog or cat if it is annoying them, or doing harmful things to other people if it’s convenient or makes their lives better. They are usually hungry for power and enjoy manipulating and messing with people.
Okay, so what does that have to do with anything at this point? Well, first, reading about them made me look around where I work at the day job and start counting people and wondering how many were sociopaths. Great way to develop a bit paranoia, that sort of research. Going to work is a bit stranger than it used to be.
The research also made my bad guy much more real to me. It made me understand that he could have emotions and he could have relationships, but that everything was driven by this egomaniacal need for power and admiration. He could not have empathy or guilt, and both are so fundamental to what we understand human nature to be that I can’t wrap my head around such a person. I tried hard, but I even so, the character was absolutely alien to me. As much as cockroaches and spiders. Maybe more so.
One of the reasons that I love writing (and reading), is that I get a chance to learn new things and experience other lives. With writing, I get to turn that new knowledge into something cool and share it with readers. It’s one of the best parts of writing.
Books in the Horngate Witches series in the order they should be read:
Bitter Night – Kindle Version ONLY $1.99
Crimson Wind – Kindle Version ONLY $1.99
Shadow City – Kindle Version ONLY $1.99
“I was raised on a cattle ranch in Northern California (outside a town called Lincoln which is now part of an enormous sprawl). I taught myself to ride a horse at the age of six, as no one had the time to teach me—they were all busy learning how to irrigate, how to cajole an angry bull into another field, how to pull a calf… Afraid of heights, and absolutely sure I was going to die, I managed to scramble up on the back of a very patient and lazy strawberry roan destrier, and plod off into the sunset.
Thereafter, I spent much of my early life on horseback, or so far buried into a book that the rest of the world ceased to exist (much to the annoyance of my family—it took several attempts to get my attention). We all had very specific jobs on the ranch and mine was horses and cattle—out rounding up at dawn. And since I rode bareback, my standing request was to wake me up 5 minutes before everyone else headed for the barn—time enough to dress and eat my Wheaties, and no sleep time wasted on saddling.
After high school, I attended college after college, racking up a BA and MA in creative writing and a Ph.D. in literature and theory. My very patient and supportive husband traipsed across the Midwest and back to Montana for me (though my husband insists that he’s been running and hiding and I just keep finding him), where I now teach at the University of Montana-Western. We also a son Q-ball, who in our humbly unbiased opinions, is the most wonderful son ever produced, and a daughter, Princess Caesar, who is the most wonderful daughter ever produced.
I have a fascination for the Victorians, weather, geology, horses, plants and mythology, I like spicy food, chocolate and cheesecake, and I have an odd sense of humor. (Or so I’ve been told. Often.) Incidentally, the Pharaoh is in fact my real name, and oddly enough, is of British origin.
Some of my current favorite sf/f writers are Ilona Andrews, Carol Berg, C.E. Murphy, Patty Briggs, Lynn Flewelling, Rachel Caine, David Coe, and Anne Bishop.”
•¸¸.•*¨*•☆ •¸¸.•*¨*•☆ •¸¸.•*¨*•☆ •¸¸.•*¨*•☆ •¸¸.•*¨*•☆ •¸¸.•*¨*•☆
Learn more about Diana Pharaoh Francis below:
To read reviews of this author’s work go here.
Mad Libs, my blog: http://difrancis.livejournal.com
•¸¸.•*¨*•☆ •¸¸.•*¨*•☆ •¸¸.•*¨*•☆ •¸¸.•*¨*•☆ •¸¸.•*¨*•☆ •¸¸.•*¨*•☆
a Rafflecopter giveaway