An Interview with Author and Editor, Danielle Ackley-McPhail / Part 4 of 6

This week, Dani and I conclude discussing her Eternal Cycle novels and turn to her other faerie series, the Wild Hunt MC. (Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.)

Considering that some readers look to fantasy fiction for escape, do you struggle with balancing the realistic elements of your story—death and other losses, damaged relationships, abuse and victimization—with a desire to keep things from getting too grim?

The heart and soul of my fiction is the ability to make people care. To invest them in the characters I introduce and engage them to the point that they want to journey with them, no matter what they face. I write because I have tales to tell. I can hope the reader will appreciate those tales, but I can’t let them dictate the path they take…it would steal the life from the words. And…by the same consideration…I find many people find comfort in reading those harsh experiences the characters go through for several reasons. One, it is not their life so when the reader closes the book they can appreciate that this is a hardship that they did not have to go through. Two, the dark aspects in life and fiction give definition to the triumphs. Yes, we hurt for the characters that are hurting and mourn those who are dead, but there is great satisfaction in reaching the triumph conclusion with the characters you have followed through to the end. More importantly, we as readers learn from the choices these characters make and the way they face the consequences of those choices. While not always comfortable, there is satisfaction in that.

DAMInt_HalflingThe Eternal Cycle books are urban fantasies, but they include many elements of epic fantasy, including some very exciting, well-depicted combat sequences. Many of your characters come alive in new ways or reveal their character during these sequences. Are you harboring a secret desire to write an epic fantasy full of armies and earth-shaking battles?

Why…thank you. I always worry about the battle scenes. Glad to hear they come across so well. I toy with the idea of epic fantasy from time to time, but my writing style is more intimate. I like to get into the characters’ heads. I want you to care about all of them, and trying to do that in an epic setting is daunting to say the least. Time, however, is the biggest obstacle in my way. It takes time and effort to create the kind of backdrop needed to properly develop an epic fantasy realm. Thought has to go into every detail. Things need to make sense and weave together in a believable fashion. I am so overloaded that I just haven’t had the time or focus to put that much effort into such a project. In fact the first novel I tried to write is still in a box somewhere because it is exactly that kind of book. Someday, perhaps. But for now I set my stories against the backdrop of an established world any reader would recognize and build or diverge from there.

Much of what takes place in The Eternal Cycle books bridges the past and the present. What most interests you about how the past intersects with and/or shapes the present?

Decisions shape our lives. They are the most powerful tool at our disposal. Unfortunately we are often blind to which are significant and which are not, or what eventual outcome they may lead to. We may never know, but it still remains that the past is continually affecting the present, whether we realize it or not. In the context of the novel, decisions made millennia in the past culminated in the events Kara must deal with. Much like a tapestry—and my novels in general—it is an intricate weaving of thousands of threads that come together to shape a living work of art. You make the best decisions you can. Sometimes you know even as they are made that they are the wrong ones, but in the end it is the only real power we have as individuals. Our mettle is proven in how we deal with the outcome.

Events come full circle by the end of Today’s Promise, but as the story deepens and grows richer, so does the mythology you created for it. It feels like the decisions made, the battles won or lost, and the characters’ sacrifices in the trilogy will resonate deeply in this world, that we’ve seen only the tip of the iceberg. Any plans to explore those possibilities in future works?

I don’t know where I might venture in the Eternal Cycle universe, but it is pretty safe to say there will be something, eventually. I’ve already dabbled with a few ideas. Certainly unexpected ideas. There is an anthology called Fantastic Futures 13 that contains my story “Forever and A Day.” Both Beag Scath and Kara are featured in that story…along with Kara’s granddaughter. Most surprising of all is that this is a science fiction story, and it ties in to another reality of mine found in the science fiction short stories “Travellin’ Show” and “The Devil’s Own Luck,” which follow Paolo, a Romani boy living in space. Sounds odd, I know, but it actually works and I am quite excited about these seed stories that will eventually make up the novel Forever and A Day. There will likely be other books following some of the collateral storylines from the Eternal Cycle series, but they haven’t spoken to me yet the way this urban fantasy-science fiction mash-up has.

DAMInt_RedcapThe Eternal Cycle books represent only one of the richly detailed fantasy worlds you’ve created. You’ve also written a number of stories and two novels—The Halfling’s Court and The Redcap’s Queen—set in a world of faeries and mythical creatures centered around motorcycle gangs and biker faeries. Tell us about the main differences and similarities between the two worlds.

With the Eternal Cycle series I had the very specific goal of exploring Celtic mythology. So many Celtic-themed books play fast and loose with the actual mythology and I found that dissatisfying. Because my goal was so specific that very much governed my telling of the story. With the Bad-Ass Faerie Tale novels my only goal was to have fun with some really tough faeries! Those books were based on short stories that originally appeared in the Bad-Ass Faeries anthologies where we attempted to de-Disnify the faerie. If you read the original legends they are mischievous, malevolent, and warriors. We wanted to bring the faerie back to those original roots so we paired faeries with something people automatically considered bad-ass. For me that was bikers, and then roller derby. Other people did mobsters, pirates, vigilantes… whatever you could think of that was tough.

What makes the world of the Wild Hunt bikers different from Kara’s world is that I had more room to play. I didn’t need to religiously follow the details of a particular myth cycle. Other than that, they are actually the same world. In fact, I think I might have loosely linked them at some point.

Next Week: It’s all about science fiction, steampunk, and collaborations!

To follow Danielle’s projects, learn more about her, or buy her books, please check out her website and visit her Amazon author page. Also, look for her on the convention circuit where she’s a steadfast con presence up and down the east coast.

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