As part of my Guest blog series for authors and fellow bloggers I am proud to present another guest blog spot. I am very excited andthe author of
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What possessed me to write Devil’s Night Dawning
By Damien Black
Devil’s Night Dawning, the first book in the Broken Stone Series, is an epic fantasy with some very dark, demonic undertones that brings together themes and ideas from a range of genres.
From the start, I knew I wanted lead characters who were a bit different: so as a counterpunch to the usual wizards and warriors I decided to have protagonists who hunt witches but aren’t allowed to kill – Horskram and Adelko, monks who belong to an order that specialises in fighting supernatural beings and magic users. Fantasy seems to be going through an extended ‘bloodthirsty anti-hero’ phase, and I thought it would be refreshing to have lead characters who are virtual pacifists. Likewise, where fantasy is often polytheistic, I wanted my heroes to be devout monotheists – in contrast to the pagan warlocks they fight. Religious conflict is definitely a strong theme in this book – whether you believe in any god or not, it is undeniably a fascinating topic.
Tapping into medieval religion meant channelling its accompanying superstitions, so I was determined that this would not be a cosy world, where elves and humans talked to each other in familiar fashion, or the existence of the supernatural was dubious and things were mostly ‘normal’. This was going to be a creepy setting, with lurking horror around every corner but nothing too obvious: goblin hordes or fire-breathing dragons, no; ghosts, demons and evil spirits, yes.
In this respect I had HP Lovecraft and Michael Moorcock in mind as much as JRR Tolkien or George RR Martin when I wrote the first draft of Devil’s Night Dawning. I wanted the idea of something palpably evil bubbling just under the surface, a fragile world built on the ancient ruins of previous empires, each one less powerful than the last. The oldest of these is the Varyan civilization built by a race of sorcerer-kings, whose unrestrained use of magic nearly destroyed the world they once ruled. So understandably most latter-day mortals in my world are going to be pretty mistrustful of warlocks!
I think this is one of the core themes of the book: knowledge and where it can lead you, for good or ill. Violence, guilt and repentance also interest me: as a former knight and crusader who has turned pacifist and monk, Horskram embodies this. Loss of innocence is another theme that interests me, and this is represented by his understudy Adelko, who is presented as a kind of unlikely hero, a naive youth whose curiosity gets him into far more trouble than he bargains for.
As for the more gung-ho chivalry stuff, I simply couldn’t resist! As a teenager I loved reading Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur and Sir Walter Scott’s The Talisman and always knew that one day I would write my own tale replete with knights and castles. I thought it would be interesting to take this kind of extrovert theme [battles, derring-do, duels etc] and intertwine it with the much darker horror aspects of the story [hauntings, possessions, demonology etc].
Writing the more chivalrous characters threw up an unexpected surprise too – I found they contributed some humour to the story. For instance, I think Torgun, the ‘perfect knight’ character, comes across as being quite amusing: he’s such an advocate of the chivalrous code he almost seems absurd to a modern, sceptical reader. And Vaskrian, the hotheaded squire who wants to be just like Torgun, is an example of how burning ambition can really bend your head out of shape! Again, I think there is something slightly funny about him from a modern perspective, as someone who constantly gets into scrapes just to prove how brave and strong he is. But there’s a darker side to chivalry too, inevitable when you explore the violence that goes with it.
Gender issues were also something I wanted to address. The standard fantasy answer to gender imbalance is to have badass women-warriors who fight just as well as the men. True, I’ve also done this with Anupe, the Amazon-like heroine who turns up later in the narrative, but I also wanted to portray a strong female character who has to operate within the confines of a misogynistic pseudo-medieval society. Adhelina is something of an idealist and an intellectual, determined not to be bullied by the less intelligent and violent men who seek to control her life. In her I hope I’ve managed to present a female character who can be strong without a) picking up a sword and aping the menfolk or b) opening her legs for them. It seems to me that women in fantasy nowadays are often portrayed as sex objects or victims of sexual violence, and I wanted to steer clear of this as much as possible. Likewise, I wanted to stay away from using the ‘f’ word or writing gratuitous sex scenes – our genre is replete with both now, and a change can be refreshing.
I also wanted to work an element of crime and mystery fiction into the story. I used to read a lot of Arthur Conan Doyle, and I loved the way Holmes would gradually piece together the plot using his deduction. I wanted to have Horskram and Adelko go through a similar process as they try to deduce who and where their enemy is. And given that they are trying to do this whilst avoiding being killed by agents who serve said enemy, I’d say there’s an element of a thriller in there too!
Most of the nomenclature is based on real-life languages, both modern and ancient. For the inhabitants of Northalde and Vorstlund I’ve used a mixture of Germanic and Nordic names; the characters from the kingdom of Thraxia have mostly Celtic/Irish names. I haven’t kept to this strictly by the way! Sometimes I’ve just let my imagination run free, and this is what I love most about the fantasy genre – it allows you to merge creativity and research to your heart’s content.
So there you have it, Devil’s Night Dawning: a blend of supernatural horror, high fantasy, detective fiction and chivalric romance. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
For as long as he can remember, Damien Black has been blessed and cursed with a hallucinogenic imagination. His sleep is disturbed by strange dreams that he struggles to remember upon waking, glimpses of worlds where superstitions are reality and prayers might actually work.
The only cure he knows for this malady is writing, an auto-exorcism he performs on himself daily. Over the years, these scribblings have evolved into horror-strewn tales that plot a winding course through the tropes of fantasy fiction.
In 2012 Damien debuted with An Urban Pentagram, a collection of short horror fiction set in his home city of London. Four years on, his first full-length novel has taken him far beyond the mortal plane, as he plots a course through the dark realms of his subconscious. Devil’s Night Dawning is the inaugural chapter of the Broken Stone Series, and even now he is moving beyond it to the next stage of his remarkable voyage. He hopes you will enjoy the journey with him!
When he can drag himself away from recording his otherworldly experiences, Damien is liable to pick up a guitar and belt out a clutch of Old Nick’s tunes, singing like a fallen angel waiting for a stranger at a crossroads. Writing and music aside, he also finds time to share his views on many other diverse subjects at the Devil’s Letters.
For centuries, the monastic Order of St Argo has stood between the mortal vale and the dark forces of the Other Side. Now a mystery warlock seeks an ancient power to rule realms, and only two of its witch hunters can stop him – if they can stay alive long enough to identify him…
When young novice Adelko is assigned to legendary adept Horskram, he rejoices at the chance to lead an adventurous life. An adventurous death isn’t what he had in mind – but it comes calling when they learn of a sorcerous theft, one that could bring ruin on the Known World. They suspect a demonologist at work, but don’t know anything for sure.
Whoever it is knows who they are and wants to silence them – permanently. As they flee from one danger to another, their homeland erupts into civil war – the rebellious southern barons have reunited and want to dethrone the King of Northalde. The world they know teeters on the brink of a momentous struggle that will reshape it forever…
High fantasy meets gothic horror in this gripping tale of suspense, conflict, faith and magic – the first part in an epic saga of sweeping proportions.