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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Guest Post: The Power Of Two by D.B. Jackson

I have two novels coming out this summer -- different series, different publishers, different pen names. DEAD MAN’S REACH, the fourth installment in the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy series, which I write under the name D.B. Jackson, comes out from Tor Books on July 21. HIS FATHER’S EYES, the second novel in my contemporary urban fantasy series, The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, will be published by Baen Books on August 4. I write the Fearsson books under my own name, David B. Coe.

At first glance, the two series would seem to have a lot in common, and in some respects they do. Both feature magic-wielding investigators as their primary point-of-view characters, both consist of stand-alone novels that are linked by developing character arcs. Both are written in the noir tone for which urban fantasies are known. And there are other similarities as well, relating to some of my secondary characters and the details of my magic systems.

These similarities don’t bother me, and though some readers of both projects have commented on the shared qualities of the books, they don’t seem to be bothered by them either. Because despite all that they have in common, the Thieftaker novels and the Fearsson books are quite distinct in terms of tone, voice, and setting. And it should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I attribute their unique qualities to the point of view from which each story is told.

The Thieftaker serie (THIEFTAKER, THIEVES’ QUARRY, and A PLUNDER OF SOULS) are set in pre-Revolutionary Boston, and I have gone to great lengths in each book to make my recreation of that city and that time as authentic and historically accurate as possible. The setting plays a key role in each narrative, as I tie my fictional plot lines to actual historical events. I have my fictional characters interact with historical figures (Samuel Adams, Thomas Hutchinson, Joseph Warren, and others) and I do my best to write my dialogue as well as my internal monologue in something that approximates the Colonial vernacular. (I can’t make the language of the characters too representative of 18th century speech, because to do so would render my books almost unreadable for a twenty-first century audience.)

Readers of the Thieftaker series experience the books through the perceptions, emotions, and intellect of Ethan Kaille, my conjuring thieftaker -- the 18th century equivalent of a private detective. His point of view, honed by a difficult life of imprisonment, forced labor, and an injury that left him partially lame, is dark, serious, but also tinged with a wry humor. But all of his narration is done in close third-person point of view. Close third places just a bit of distance between my character and my readers, allowing me to insert brief and hopefully unobtrusive explanations of key historical events and circumstances. The narrative voice is unmistakably Ethan’s, but it also leaves room for just a touch of exposition.

The volumes of the Case Files of Justis Fearsson (SPELL BLIND was the first novel; the third, SHADOW’S BLADE, will be out next year) take place in modern-day Phoenix, Arizona, a city in which I’ve spent a good deal of time, within a region I have visited often. Again, I have made every effort to portray the city as accurately as possible, but for obvious reasons that is a much simpler task with contemporary Phoenix than with 1760s Boston. I don’t have to research modern culture and technology the way I did Colonial industry and society. In writing the Fearsson books, I can paint images for my readers in broader strokes. That doesn’t mean, though, that my setting is any less important than it is in the Thieftaker novels. Quite the contrary. The desert setting -- the heat, the aridity, the striking landscape, flora, and fauna -- provides me with recurring visual themes, imagery I can use again and again to reinforce my narrative twists and turns.

And in Justis “Jay” Fearsson, my magic-wielding private detective hero, I have a powerful point of view character. Jay is a weremyste. Every month, around the full moon, he loses his mind, while at the same time the power of his magic is enhanced. Think Jekyll and Hyde meets the Wolfman, with spell magic and murder mysteries thrown in. The moon phasings, as these periods of lunacy are known, cost Jay his job as a cop and eventually will cost him his sanity, just as they have his father. Because there is less to explain in the Fearsson books, and because I wanted to make the power of the phasings a visceral experience for my readers, I have written the Fearsson books in first person point of view. The distance between my protagonist and my readers is almost non-existent. His emotions, thoughts, and sensations color everything my audience experiences. And that voice, that intimacy, is part of what makes the series work. It’s also what makes the books so much fun to write.

Two series, two settings, two protagonists, two very different reading experiences. Various elements of narrative come to bear on each of the novels we write. Character, plot, and setting are always important, but they shape our books in distinct ways. For the Thieftaker books, my setting dictates the voice by pushing me toward that close third-person point of view, and it shapes the plotting, by combining historical events with my fictional storylines. With the Fearsson books, my character and the unique magical circumstances of his life create the overriding imperatives, steering me to first person point of view and an intense psychological subplot that forms my narrative core.

Working on the two projects simultaneously is both challenging and fun. Challenging because shifting between two such different voices can be a bit jarring at times; fun because it keeps me from ever growing bored.


Official D. B. Jackson Author Website
Official David B. Coe Author Website
Pre-Order Dead Man's Reach HERE
Order The Thieftaker Chronicles HERE
Order The Case Files Of Justis Fearsson HERE

GUEST AUTHOR INFORMATION: David B. Coe/D.B. Jackson is the award-winning author of eighteen fantasy novels. Under the name D.B. Jackson, he writes the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy from Tor Books that includes Thieftaker, Thieves’ Quarry, A Plunder of Souls, and, the newest volume, Dead Man’s Reach, which will be released on July 21. Under his own name, he writes The Case Files of Justis Fearsson, a contemporary urban fantasy from Baen Books. The first volume, Spell Blind, debuted in January 2015. The newest book in the series, His Father’s Eyes, comes out on August 4.

He lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.


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