David B. Coe is another fantasy author whom I met through the work before meeting him in person. I have the clearest memory of reading and recommending David’s books when I had my bookshop. Imagine my joy (and relief!) when I discovered he is a truly lovely guy as well as an entertaining writer. I have read Spell Blind, the first book in his new urban fantasy series, and it’s a great addition to the genre, highly recommended. It now gives me great pleasure to share this Q&A David and I did recently, to celebrate the upcoming release of his two new books: His Father’s Eyes (August 4) and Dead Man’s Reach (out now) …
Tell us about your love affair with speculative fiction: when it started, how it’s progressed over the years, which books, authors and experiences have influenced you throughout your career.
I was eleven years old and attending a sleepaway summer camp. My parents thought I would enjoy doing theater and so I tried out for a play with a weird name and got the lead part playing a character who had an even weirder name. The play was a dramatization of The Hobbit
, and I, of course, played Bilbo Baggins. I loved the role and the story, and upon returning home started reading the book. By the time I’d finished, I was hooked. I read Lord of the Rings, next and knew then that I wanted to read as much fantasy as possible. A few years later, I read Stephen R. Donaldson’s first Thomas Covenant trilogy, and realized that I wanted to spend my life writing fantasy. The books were so strange and dark; the lead character both repelled and intrigued me. I was fascinated by the possibilities. If Donaldson could do this with his series, what might I do with books of my own? I’ve since fallen in love with the books of Guy Gavriel Kay. I think he is the author who has most influenced my work stylistically. I could go on. I have so many friends who write professionally, and I’ve read so much terrific speculative fiction over the years. But really those are the three who shaped my professional development the most: Tolkien, Donaldson, and Kay. You started out writing otherworldly/epic fantasy. What was the attraction there? In what ways did those stories scratch your storytelling itch?
I think in large part it was the influence of those three authors I just mentioned. The works that informed my creative ambitions were also epic, alternate world fantasies, and so that was what I wanted to write. Early on, I never even considered writing anything else. My heroes wrote epic, so I would, too. It helped that before embarking on my writing career, I had earned a doctorate in history. I understood how history worked, how economies, cultures, and societies developed. My degree was in environmental history, and so I even had a sense of how the physical terrain and climate of a nation might shape the human institutions that grew up in that setting. I felt comfortable creating worlds for my stories, and I was eager to see what I might come up with as I blended my historical background with my passion for magic and fantasy. Tell us about the series you’re writing under your pen name D. B. Jackson. How did the spark of that series ignite, what enchants you about it, why do you think readers will enjoy it, and what can we look forward to in the latest installment?
As D.B. Jackson, I write the Thieftaker Chronicles
, a historical urban fantasy set in Boston during the 1760s and 1770s, on the eve of the American Revolution. Ethan Kaille, my lead character, is a conjurer and a thieftaker, the 18th century equivalent of a private detective. Each book is a stand-alone mystery blended with some key historical event, with a little bit of magic thrown in — so again, I get to blend my love of history and my love of fantasy. This newest installment, Dead Man’s Reach
, coincides with the Boston Massacre in March 1770. The books are tremendous fun to write, in part because of the challenge each represents. My goal is to blend my fictional elements — my characters and magic system, the murder mysteries and narratives — with actual historical happenings, in a way that seems completely natural and seamless. I don’t want my readers to know where the history ends and the fiction begins. The inspiration for the series actually came to me years ago, as my wife and I were preparing to live in Australia for a year. I read Robert Hughes’ fine history of Australia, The Fatal Shore
, which traced Australia’s origins as a penal colony. In the early chapters, while discussing the British law enforcement system of the 18th century, he went on at some length about thieftakers and some of the colorful and corrupt personalities who roamed the streets of London “solving” crimes. I knew then that I wanted to write books about thieftakers. It took a few years — I had another series to write — but eventually I came back to that inspiration and wrote Thieftaker
, the first book in the series. The rest, as they say, is history. You’ve also got a new series started in your David Coe persona: this time urban fantasy. What prompted the shift to this subgenre? Tell us about the different demands of writing urban fantasy, compared with epic fantasy and alternate history fantasy. What delights you about this series?
Yes, under my own name I am writing a contemporary urban fantasy series called The Case Files of Justis Fearsson
. Again, I get to mix magic and mystery in a series of stand-alones, which I really enjoy. The magic system in this one is different from anything I’ve done before. My lead character, Justis Fearsson, is a weremyste. Every month on the full moon, and the nights just before and after, he loses control of his mind and his magic. And slowly, these moon phasings, as they’re called, are driving him permanently insane, just as they did his father, who is also a character in the series. These books are the first novel length works I’ve written in first person, and I just love the voice of the series. Part of that is the fact that they’re set in our world and in our time. For once, I get to write books about people driving cars, using modern technology, speaking in a modern, natural lexicon. It was very freeing, which was the whole point. I started writing these because I wanted to change things up a bit, to try something new. I like jumping around among different subgenres. I think it keeps my writing fresh. It certainly keeps me from ever feeling bored with my work. I’ll go back and write more epic and more historical, but these books have been tremendous fun. The newest volume, His Father’s Eyes
, which comes out on August 4, includes a chapter from the perspective of Jay’s delusional father that may well be the best piece of writing I’ve ever done. ***** 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, was 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. http://www.DavidBCoe.com http://www.davidbcoe.com/blog/ http://www.dbjackson-author.com http://www.facebook.com/david.b.coe http://twitter.com/DavidBCoe