Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Guest Blog and Giveaway with Jane Kindred Author of the Looking Glass Gods Series
Top 10 Authors Whose Darkness Inspired Mine
My Looking Glass Gods series is a fairly dark epic fantasy, particularly the latest book, Idol of Blood. I’ve always followed the standard advice to heap challenges on your character. I could have sworn it was Stephen King who said it, but I can’t find the exact quote—something along the lines of “imagine the worst thing that can happen to your character…then make it ten times worse.” So in Idol of Blood, I did. Here are ten authors whose writing helped me find the darkness in my own:
10. Stephen King (yes, you knew he had to be in this list)
What I love about Stephen King is how he writes about the worst things—and the most unimaginable ones—that can happen, and yet manages to make it entirely believable. I had to sleep with the lights on while reading It, because evil clowns waiting to drag you down into the sewers with them? I was totally on board. His love for his characters is also evident—he’s not torturing them just for the shock factor—but he spares them nothing.
9. Laurell K. Hamilton
When I read Hamilton’s first Anita Blake book, Guilty Pleasures, I found the stark violence almost jaw-dropping. The descriptions of the squish of blood in the carpet around Blake’s tennis shoes as she examined a mutilated torso seemed almost out of place with the sassy, sarcastic voice of her stuffed-penguin-loving character, but it totally worked. She’s since proven she can go much darker.
8. Nancy A. Collins
Collins’ Sonja Blue vampire series is well crafted and intensely dark. It was difficult to get through her books due to the sexual violence that occurs, but even so, I couldn’t stop reading. Sonja Blue’s vengeance against the ones who’ve wronged her—and those she sees wronging others—is deeply cathartic. Those characters totally have it coming.
7. Anne Rice
Anne Rice really knows how to prolong internal character misery and to take characters that seem callous and irredeemable, and then show us more, making them completely understandable and sympathetic. I could completely relate to Akasha in Queen of the Damned.
6. JK Rowling
At first glance, the Harry Potter books are fairly light reading, but the deeper we get into the story, the darker they become. One of the things I admire about Rowling is how she doesn’t spare characters out of sentimentality, which would be easy to do, particularly in YA. Some of the people Harry loves—and readers love—have to die. If they didn’t, Harry and his friends wouldn’t become the heroes they become.
5. Lynn Flewelling
Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner books are traditional epic fantasy with a sweet romantic subplot, but there’s a lot of darkness in them. My favorite is Shadows Return, in which the main characters are relentlessly tortured for almost the entire story. I devoured that book in one sitting. There was no way not to become immediately invested in what happened. And The Bone Doll’s Twin was a work of brilliance.
4. Jacqueline Carey
All the Kushiel’s Legacy books are fairly dark, an inescapable consequence of having a main character who’s an anguisette—someone who has a magical capacity for deriving great pleasure from great suffering. But what happens to Phèdre and Joscelin in Kushiel’s Avatar, and Imriel’s trilogy that follows from that book, are about as stunningly dark as anything I’ve ever read. The unspeakable things that happen to Imriel in his childhood—and how his sweet nature survives through it all—make him the most sympathetic, appealing, and powerful character in all of her books. I’m still in love with him.
3. Storm Constantine
With her Wraeththu series set in a post-apocalyptic world, a dark undertone is inescapable. But Constantine manages to create a hopeful future—and a new kind of humanity and sexuality—out of what’s left of a seemingly hopeless world. Like Anne Rice, she also shows us the other side of characters whom we initially see as being self-serving through another character’s eyes, making their actions more understandable, and adding layers of complexity as their stories go on.
2. Tanith Lee
I read Lee’s Blood Opera series while working on the original draft of Looking Glass Gods. Her luscious prose and the sensuous treatment of the dark events and questionable actions of her characters made the story irresistible and compelling even as some of it repelled. I definitely attribute the darkness that developed in my character MeerShiva at the end Idol of Blood and throughout Idol of Glass to Lee’s influence. Her books gave me “permission” to let Shiva be who she needed to be.
What would any writer be without Shakespeare’s influence? Hamlet is the quintessential, original “goth” who inspired my youthful and enduring love of wearing black and pondering morose concepts like whether the fear of the “undiscovered country” might be the only thing keeping a person from ending their suffering in this life.
Inspired by these authors, I delved deep and gave my characters in Idol of Blood plenty to ponder. You may be surprised by how some of them answered Hamlet’s soliloquy.
Idol of Blood
Looking Glass Gods
Genre: Dark fantasy
with erotic and romantic elements/
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Date of Publication: June 23, 2015
Number of pages: 232
Word Count: 80K
Cover Artist: Kanaxa
The price of revenge may be her sanity…and the lives of those she loves.
No longer haunted by memories of her life—and death—as the Meer of Rhyman, Ra looks forward to a quiet existence with her lover Jak in the Haethfalt highlands.
Having made peace with Ahr, her consort from her former life, Ra can finally explore her new relationship, free of the ghosts of the past—until she unwittingly unearths Jak’s own.
Out of instinct, she uses her Meeric power to heal the pain of Jak’s childhood trauma.
But all magic has a price, and Ra’s bill has come due.
Succumbing to the affliction inherent in her race, Ra flees to the mountain ruins where her mother’s temple once stood. As the madness takes hold, she resurrects the ancient city of AhlZel in a tremendous act of magic that seals her fate—and threatens to destroy those who would give up everything to save her from herself.
Product Warnings: Contains dark themes, violence, gender-bending sex, and recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse.
Since the light was beginning to lower, they set up camp, only a dozen leagues from the green riverbanks of Rhyman. Jak and Geffn lay on either side of Ra, a peculiar triad of necessity, and Geffn, fatigued, was asleep almost instantly.
Ra curled away from him toward Jak beneath her blanket, eyes seeming to glint like a cat’s, though nothing else was visible in the darkness. “We haven’t really had a moment alone since…” The soft murmur trailed off. Jak knew precisely what moment Ra meant. Before they’d left Rhyman; before Ra had disappeared in the night to rescue little Pearl—a Meerchild bred in captivity and kept in a cage by the prelate of In’La; before Ra had set fire to the temple there, and the prelate with it, Jak had thrown caution to the wind and climbed into bed with a goddess. The commitment to celibacy Jak had tried to maintain since before Ra’s arrival in Haethfalt had been tossed aside like a cheap shirt.
After returning to Rhyman with Pearl, Ra had made no further overtures toward Jak, and Jak hadn’t presumed to make any toward Ra.
“It’s all right. We don’t need to—” The weak protest died on Jak’s lips as Ra’s descended on them. Her kisses had a tendency to take one’s breath away, as if she gathered it all into herself, holding it, holding time, before giving it back.
When she finally let them both breathe, Ra slid beneath the blanket and rested her head on Jak’s breast. “I could deepen Geffn’s sleep.”
Jak considered it for a rash moment before squelching the thought. “No. That wouldn’t be fair to him.” That was an understatement. Screwing one’s new lover while asleep next to the jilted lover whose heart one had recently broken would be in bad form, to say the least. And it would add more to that invisible price Ra must be paying if she were to expend magical energy when she had so little physical energy to spare. “We’ll have time enough when we get home.”
“Home.” Ra snuggled closer. “That sounds very nice. I’ve never had a home before. Just a temple.” She said the word as if it meant “jail”. While she spoke, however, her hand moved down Jak’s arm with feathery strokes, dipped over Jak’s hip and across Jak’s belly, and played at the loose drawstring waistband, fingers just inside it.
Jak placed a hand over Ra’s, meaning to stop her, but Ra entwined their fingers and slid them lower. As if it were an act of self-pleasuring, Ra used Jak’s fingers to delve deeper and press against the supple flesh, tentative, leisurely motions encouraging Jak to show her how to proceed.
“When we return to Mound RemPetaJakGeffnMelKeirenRa—” She murmured the absurdly long name of their Haethfalt household as if they were only having a quiet conversation—“I’d like to make a quilt by hand.” She drew Jak’s fingers in a complex pattern, up and down, over and across, doubling back in infinity symbols that ended in sharp, insistent points, like the edges of rings bisecting each other. “Do you like this pattern?”
Jak shivered and breathed ascent as Ra pressed Jak’s fingers into the center point of the bisection. Her motions became smaller, tighter and more definitive.
“Some little rosettes where the squares join,” Ra whispered. “One. Two. Three. Four…” She demonstrated. “With a diamond in the center. Right…there.”
Jak had to grab the blanket and bite down on it to keep the sweet little crooning howl Ra had inspired from escaping audibly.
“And another, there.”
Jak struggled not to thrash, rationing sharp rhythmic breaths into the fabric of the blanket.
“And then just there.”
In the grip of a wave of pleasure so intense it was almost unbearable, Jak clutched Ra’s hand so she could no longer effect her blissful torment, the other hand digging into the bedroll as pantomimed moans were buried in the crook of an elbow.
“Perhaps in peacock blue with threads of gold,” Ra continued as if she hadn’t just destroyed Jak utterly, her other hand casually stroking once more up Jak’s arm. “The colors of Ludtaht Ra. Though it may be time for new colors. I’ve always liked indigo.” She nestled against the hollow of Jak’s neck, putting a little kiss there before relaxing with a sigh to match Jak’s heaving breath. “Does that work for you?”
It took a moment to remember how to swallow and speak. “Work for me?” Jak let out a nervous, whispered laugh. “Just about killed me. I’m crazy about it.”
Jane Kindred is the author of epic fantasy series The House of Arkhangel’sk, Demons of Elysium, and Looking Glass Gods. She spent her formative years ruining her eyes reading romance novels in the Tucson sun and watching Star Trek marathons in the dark. She now writes to the sound of San Francisco foghorns while two cats slowly but surely edge her off the side of the bed.