Can you tell us a little bit about the books… beyond the back cover copy?
Dark Light of Day is about Nouiomo “Noon” Onyx, a 21 year-old postgrad magic user who must choose between death or training to be a Maegester — a sort of modern-day, magical knight-bailiff. The story’s as much about Noon’s magical and romantic struggles as it is about her academic ones.
Fiery Edge of Steel is Noon’s first field assignment. Her and her investigative team sail to the Shallows, a poor fishing community in eastern Halja, to investigate some mysterious disappearances. It’s a story that’s full of magic, mystery, passion, demons, and a plot twist or two.
In White Heart of Justice, I wanted the challenges to be even bigger and the consequences for making mistakes to be more extreme. Noon faces competition from her peers, but this time their competitive arena is more deadly than ever. And it’s not just one person or one outpost at risk; it’s all of Halja. Noon faces numerous demon adversaries, as well as “other miscellaneous atrocities made of blood, bone, metal, and/or magic.” Nearly everything in the book is broadened, deepened, or intensified: the magic, Noon’s relationships, her choices, and their effects.
In Pocket Full of Tinder, Noon heads north to Rockthorn Gorge, a bustling mountain town where so many demons live, it’s often referred to as a “demonic anthill.” Once there, she’ll have to deal with bunyips, argopelters, and hidebehinds; snallygasters, skunk apes, and splintercats; a giant lizard, rare swan, and Ari, the drakon who broke her heart… not to mention the enigmatic bomber who threatens them all. Noon’s magic continues to evolve in unexpected ways. New characters are introduced and old characters return. It’s a story of love, impermanence, sacrifice, and survival.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself… beyond your bio?
I’m an eclectic night owl who loves Sour Patch kids, Twizzlers, organic salads, Vitamix smoothies, my Keurig coffee brewer, wine, books, and movies. I also love to hike, bike, and hang out with family and friends.
What was your inspiration for the series?
Noon was very loosely inspired by the Egyptologist Evelyn “Evy” Carnahan from the movie The Mummy. I was having lunch with a bunch of writers during the time when I was seeking inspiration for a new project. I was still practicing law and I sat next to a librarian. We each shared with the other that we felt our day jobs were fairly pedestrian and not necessarily something that could be tapped into to create a dynamic, otherworldly character. I then mentioned Evy as an example of a wonderful librarian character, who found love while battling the undead, despite her bookish ways. So that conversation got me thinking… If Evy could do it, maybe another similarly bookish lawyer character could do it too.
What do we need to know about the world Noon lives in?
The stories take place in Halja, a fictional country with a circa 1900’s technology level. Halja’s biggest city is New Babylon, which was built on top of the ancient battlefield of Armageddon.
Even though the stories are set in a post-apocalyptic world where “the demons won,” the stories aren’t dystopian fiction. And there are no zombies, aliens, plague, war, or other catastrophic event that the characters are trying to survive. Noon’s just trying to survive the day-to-day, as well as chart a course for her future.
There are two types of demons in Halja: regulare (scary, but they follow the rules) and rogare (terrifying rule breakers who wreak havoc and cause harm).
Why demons (versus vampires, werewolves, or some other supernatural creature)?
Demons can be anything I need them to be. They are the ultimate “supernatural play dough” for writers.
What sort of research have you done?
For Dark Light of Day, I did some legal research. I didn’t obsessively concern myself with legal accuracy (demons and due process don’t always mix), but I wanted to use enough legal terminology to establish the “school of demon law” milieu I was trying to create. That said, no one needs a law degree to read the book. The real story in Dark Light of Day is Noon’s emotional journey. I also researched antique apple varieties to create the ensorcelled Empyr wines. That was fun! And I researched all sorts of demons and deities from around the world, as well as various religious myths and holidays. I played fast and loose with most of it.
For Fiery Edge of Steel, I wanted to explore the themes of love, betrayal, knowledge, death, and duty. To set up those themes, I opened the book by recreating a Haljan version of the 16th century execution of Arnaud du Tilh, the man who impersonated the French peasant Martin Guerre. I also researched several fairy tales, lullabies, hymns, and poems, some of which made their way into the story in one form or another.
For White Heart of Justice, I researched circuit courts, ancient swords, bailiffs and bounty hunters, London’s Crystal Palace, Mata Hari, mushing commands, mines, slip passages, and underworld deities. I also used Saturnalia and the Lord of Misrule as inspiration for a Haljan Festival of Frivolity.
For Pocket Full of Tinder, I researched the Colossus of Rhodes, the Siege of Colchester, the Sixth Labor of Hercules, energy access for the poor in urban areas, and the Icarus myth. I also did a lot of research on dams that did not make it into the book, including visiting Conowingo Dam, reading David McCullough’s The Johnstown Flood, and watching DamNation, the 2014 documentary that advocates for the removal of dams. Legal concepts I touched on in this book include allodial title and the Domesday Book, which was a land survey commissioned in 1085 by William the Conqueror.
Can you tell us about your “path to publication”?
I’ve been a lifelong reader so, at the outset, I had that love of books and the written word that every writer must have. When I reached the point in my life when I decided I wanted to try writing a novel, I just started writing. Those first scenes weren’t even close to a novel, but you have to start somewhere. Over a number of years, I took workshops, online classes, attended conferences, and read at least a dozen books on novel structure, character development, worldbuilding, etc. When I read other authors’ books, I started paying more attention to how they were written. I kept writing. Eventually, many years later, I was able to write a manuscript that was good enough to attract the attention of several agents. Leaving the practice of law to write about it (albeit with an interesting twist) was risky, but it paid off.
What challenges did you face while you were trying to sell Dark Light of Day?
One of the biggest challenges was the character’s age. Noon is a student trying to survive a crushing course schedule. She has parents who don’t get along and boy troubles. The book is also written in first person. So, initially, we pitched it to some young adult editors.
But Noon’s twenty-one. She’s an adult. And, though she struggles with some of the things that YA protagonists often struggle with, many of the scenes and themes were written with an adult audience in mind. So I was delighted when it sold to Ace, one of Penguin’s adult science fiction and fantasy imprints.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Read in the genre you want to write in – and outside of it. Read non-fiction. Sign up for workshops, take classes, and get involved with a writer’s group. Keep writing! Don’t be afraid to submit or publish your work, but make sure it’s truly ready to be submitted or published. Don’t give up or get frustrated. Learn from constructive criticism. Celebrate small accomplishments and enjoy the process as much as the product.
What’s next for Noon?
There’s going to be a fifth book. What happens after that depends on readers! If you want more Noon Onyx books, please: (1) buy the books; (2) write reviews; (3) email me and tell me your thoughts!
Pocket Full of Tinder will also be available for purchase on Nook and CreateSpace on or about December 15, 2016. Digital review copies will be available on NetGalley via SFWA from November 15, 2016-December 15, 2016.