Author Interview: Diana Pharaoh Francis

We at Badass Book Reviews are very excited to welcome author Diana Pharaoh Francis!  Ms. Francis is known for her fantasy writings, the Path Novels and the Crosspointe Chronicles, and my personal favorite, the urban-fantasy series Horngate WitchesBlood Winter, the fourth book in the Horngate Witches series, releases on Dec 26, 2012.  Pre-order your copy today!


Join us below in sharing your thoughts on Diana’s guest post and her Horngate Witches series.

BadassBookReviews:  Welcome to our blog, Diana. Can you give a short overview of the Horngate Witches world for any readers new to the series?

Diana Pharaoh Francis:  Thank you for having me today.  The Horngate Witches series is a story of friendship, betrayal, and romance, set against the backdrop of the magical apocalypse. Imagine that all the magic and creatures of folklore and all the enchanted forests and magical places have returned to the world with a vengeance, and the guardians who don’t want humanity to survive.

BaBR:  Without getting too spoilery, can you tell us about your favorite scene, or maybe the one that was the hardest to write, from Blood Winter?

DFP:  The not too spoilery one is the tough part. One of my favorites is showing Max and Alexander struggling with their relationship. She doesn’t quite know what to do and he’s getting a little impatient. So there’s this scene where it all hits the fan. One of the things I like about it is that first, they aren’t alone so there are other characters horning in on the scene, and it happens in the middle of a terrible attack by the bad guy. So they have to have this explosive moment right in the middle of another explosive situation, with their friends poking at them with sticks. It was lovely fun to write.

BaBR:  Your main character Max is a Shadowblade for the witch, Giselle. How did you come up with the idea for the Shadowblades and the Sunspears and their relationship to the witches? Initially, these defenders made me think of vampires without the unfortunate blood drinking habit. Did you have any specific fantasy or science fiction paradigms in mind when you were developing their mythology?

DFP:  I actually developed them for another book, but I realized that I wanted to write about them, so I did. I really liked the idea of characters that were tied to night and day—it really limits their powers, even though they are superhuman. It gives them a vulnerability that others don’t have. They have to worry about when it gets dark and when it gets light and the length of the night and the day. I realize vampires do too, but they tend to be highly sexualized and focused on blood. I wanted my warriors to be tied to the elements and to the powers that come from their witches. I also envisioned how difficult it would be for the Shadowblades to work with the Sunspears, and yet they are bound together as warriors. I didn’t draw on any mythology for them, however. I wanted them to be fresh and without any preconceptions.

BaBR:  The characters in your books deal with extraordinary situations constantly, but their actions are always sensible and realistic. How do you continue to write grounded, believable characters that the audience can connect with while still continuing to deepen the mythology and fantastic nature of your world and the powers within it?

DFP:  I like my characters to be very real. They are ordinary people thrust into extraordinary lives and situations. But Thor is still a Texas good ole boy, Max is still a college girl taken out of place and time, and Alexander is still governed by his roots in outdated manners and ways of looking at the world. All of them had lives before, and they want to have some of that ordinariness of life still. Like for instance, eating together, joking over the table, playing games, watching movies . . . It doesn’t happen often, but each cherishes those moments. So as long as they stay true to themselves, they stay grounded. I should add, also, that they don’t take themselves overly seriously. They don’t let each other have swelled heads. They laugh a lot, even when it’s gallows humor.

BaBR:  In the third book, Shadow City, a beloved character met his unfortunate end. Did you have any worries about killing him off? Have you had any backlash or support from fans of the series?

DFP:  I cried. I didn’t know he was going to die and then it was absolutely natural for the book, and I cried the whole time I wrote it. I haven’t had a lot of backlash, but I’m not sure anybody really believes he’s actually gone. He is. I miss him though, and so does everyone else. It colors things in Blood Winter a fair bit.

BaBR:  Is there anyone in your life that served as an inspiration for your characters? Just for fun, who would you cast as your main characters (especially Max, Alexander, Giselle, Niko, and Scooter) if the books were turned into a movie?

DFP:  There are always real life people who inspire characters. Or at least elements of them. As for casting, I think I’d like Katee Sackhoff or Tricia Helfers for Max.  Alexander was modeled after the actor Cliff Simon. For Giselle, someone like Kristin Chenowith would be amazing—petite, sweet, and vicious as hell when need be.  I thought Scooter would be someone like Taylor Kitsch, or possibly Chris Hemsworth, but with all that mystical weirdness of a young Gene Simmons. Oz was modeled on Brendan Frasier. Yum. And Niko . . . casting him is tough. Christian Kane would be pretty perfect though. Thor could be played by Philip Winchester, and Cam Giganet would be a good Tyler.  

BaBR:  How many books do you have planned for the Horngate Witches series? Since you have such an amazing cast of characters, would you consider writing novellas or short stories from other character perspectives in the future?

DFP:  Blood Winter is the last, and I think it wraps up the story line really well. I’m very pleased. I’d definitely consider some short stories or novellas. While this storyline is done, there are still other stories to be told and I’d like to visit some of those.

BaBR:  You were a traditional fantasy writer when you first started as an author. What drew you to write an urban fantasy series? Did the change from the traditional, epic fantasy worlds to the more modern worlds of urban fantasy have any effect on your writing process?

DFP:  I am still writing epic fantasy. I love both. In fact my urban fantasy is more contemporary epic fantasy more than anything else. I don’t know that my process changed because of writing different things, but it definitely has changed over the years. I knew exactly what Bitter Night was about and the plot and characters before I wrote it. Blood Winter, on the other hand, was a complete mystery. I had some images, but mostly I started writing to see how the story ended. Shadow City and Crimson Wind were a mix of both styles of writing.

BaBR:  What books are currently on your personal “To Be Read” pile?

DFP:  *snorting tea through my nose and then howling with laughter* What isn’t on my pile? I have soooooo many. Within reach, I have Sharon Shinn’s Troubled Waters and I am not caught up with my Ilona Andrews’ books at all—I think I have two Edge books and the latest Kate world book about Andrea to read. Also, David Coe’s The Thieftaker and so many on my Kindle that it isn’t funny. I have shelves and shelves of TBR.

BaBR:  After the release of Blood Winter (Dec 26th, mark your calendars!), what is next on your plate? Tell us what 2013 has in store for you.

DFP:  I’m working on several things and trying to get them ready for publishers. A couple are epic fantasy, a couple of urbanish sorts of fantasy, though in my own peculiar way. And I’m working on another Crosspointe book. Plus, I have some story ideas swimming around that I’d like to write.

BaBR:  Diana, thank you again for stopping by Badass Book Reviews. Remember, Blood Winter, the newest release in the Horngate Witches series, releases on Dec 26, 2012.

DFP:  Thanks so much for having me!! And happy end of the world today! Or, Happy Solstice!

Thank you Diana for giving us a little Horngate Witches info and for telling us what you’ll be up to in the new year. I, for one, cannot wait to see what new stories you have to tell.  Don’t forget to pick up your copy of Blood Winter on Dec 26!

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