July 13, 2015

Midnight in the Subway of Good and Evil: an interview with T. Frohock, author of "In Midnight's Silence"

T. Frohock has turned a love of dark fantasy and horror into tales of deliciously creepy fiction. Her other publications include everything from novelettes to short stories. She is also the author of the novel, Miserere: An Autumn Tale. Her newest series, Los Nefilim, is coming from Harper Voyager Impulse and debuts in June 2015 with the novella, In Midnight's Silence.

T. lives in North Carolina where she has long been accused of telling stories, which is a southern colloquialism for lying.

In Midnight's SilenceThe fate of mankind has nothing to do with mankind …

Born of an angel and a daimon, Diago Alvarez is a singular being in a country torn by a looming civil war and the spiritual struggle between the forces of angels and daimons. With allegiance to no one but his partner Miquel, he is content to simply live in Barcelona, caring only for the man he loves and the music he makes.  Yet, neither side is satisfied to let him lead this domesticated life and, knowing they can’t get to him directly, they do the one thing he’s always feared.

They go after Miquel.

Now, in order to save his lover’s life, he is forced by an angel to perform a gruesome task: feed a child to the daimon Moloch in exchange for a coin that will limit the extent of the world’s next war.  The mission is fraught with danger, the time he has to accomplish it is limited…and the child he is to sacrifice is the son Diago never knew existed.

A lyrical tale in a world of music and magic, T. Frohock’s IN MIDNIGHT’S SILENCE shows the lengths a man will go to save the people he loves, and the sides he’ll choose when the sidelines are no longer an option.

Gef: What was the allure for you to set a story in the lead up to the Spanish Civil War?

T: A lot of it had to do with the conflict itself. I wanted to establish my characters and their world during the transition between the death of the monarchy and the beginnings of the Second Spanish Republic. Because the wars of the angels and daimons mirror the wars on earth, part of my reasoning was to familiarize the reader with the politics of Spain that preceded the actual war.

Being in Spain in the early thirties was like being a pressure cooker with no one minding the stove. Politicians were embroiled in ideological differences and refused to compromise. The tensions between those who wanted to maintain the status quo and those who wanted to move forward into a more egalitarian society simply built until cooker exploded.

One of my characters, Guillermo, is the king of Los Nefilim, and he is watching all of this, knowing that the technological advances of the 20th century are changing the social dynamics of Spain. The country was moving away from a feudal system and into a more democratic landscape. Like the Church and the landowners in Spain at that time, Guillermo is anxious over the new developments. Unlike them, he isn’t resisting the reforms, but he is approaching these new ideas cautiously.

Diago, on the other hand, is much more of a socialist, and he is one hundred percent for the Republic. Between the two of them, they are trying very hard to hold Los Nefilim together, not just through the spiritual war of the angels and the daimons, but also the mortal conflict, which is also dividing members of Los Nefilim into differing ideological camps.

Gef: Was the setting what came to you first for this series, or was it Diago and Miquel, or was it something else?

T: The characters came first and were initially introduced in a different novel, which didn’t sell. That story was also set in Spain (in 1348), and provides the backstory for Los Nefilim. In that book, I introduced Guillermo, Diago, and Miquel.

However, their adventures were always meant to be part of a series, and I did initially intend to bring them up through the Spanish Civil War. So when I was asked to write a novella, I talked to my agent about using Guillermo, Diago, and Miquel. Instead of writing another epic fantasy, I wanted to simply bring them into the 1930s. She said go for it, and In Midnight’s Silence is the result of that effort.

Gef: What was it about In Midnight's Silence if anything, that you approached differently from Miserere?

T: Miserere was based more on religion than history. While I tried to stick very close to canonical texts when forming my bastions, I wasn’t as worried about presenting things from a historical perspective. I had a lot more leeway to screw around with the facts. Miserere was more of an individual’s story toward redemption. It was also meant to be epic fantasy with a hint of horror—heavy on the epic, light on the horror.

In Midnight’s Silence, on the other hand, is more of a contemporary horror story. It’s closer to what I really want to write and the kind of story that I enjoy telling.

Gef: How much of a balancing act is it when introducing supernatural elements into a historical tale that may rely on key points of accuracy?

T: It’s really difficult. I mentioned somewhere else that in dealing with a political landscape as volatile and shifting as that of Spain during the Spanish Civil War, I ended up glossing over some parts so the reader didn’t get overwhelmed with an info-dump.

The thing I try to keep in mind is this: I want the history to be as accurate as I can possibly get it and the natural world, for lack of better, has to follow the laws of the time period. The supernatural has to follow the rules I’ve established for my world. I can go batshit crazy with everything in between.

Gef: Did the research phase turn into a bit of a rabbit hole for you? At what point in the process does the research kick in? From the get-go, or after you have a working draft?

T: I researched quite a bit before I started, but most histories only tackle the big picture items. Then I had to research minutiae, such as the history of Barcelona’s metro. That made for some changes. For example: in my first draft, I had Diago carrying a subway token, but the Barcelona metro used tickets in the 1930s. So at the last minute, I had to make a big change to the story based on that one fact. I did a lot of research on the fly, too.

I’m working on a political timeline so I don’t get messed up. I’m still holding my breath and waiting for someone to say: YOU GOT THIS WRONG.

I have nightmares about that.

Gef: Who do you count among your writing influences?

T: Definitely Tanith Lee, I’ve loved her particular brand of fantasy/horror for years. She was so lyrical and dark. Her stories are like poetry.

Robert McCammon. His novel, The Wolf’s Hour, was a big influence on me when I was a beginning writer back in my twenties. He mixed history and the supernatural so beautifully.

Those are the two coming to the top of my head today.

Gef: What do you consider to be the saving grace of historical fantasy?

T: I think it’s wonderful for people like me—the older reader. The history gives a meatier tale that allows for political intrigues. You can still have a very human story, but the people are grounded in societal conflict, which tends to make for a higher concept novel.

Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

T: I think the worst piece of writing advice that I ever received was about the snappy opening. THERE MUST BE ACTION, ACTION, ACTION.

I disagree with that. I think the opening of a story sets the tone and the author’s voice. Yes, definitely, you want a strong opening, but action is not the only way. Nor does it have to be catchy like a bloody jingle.

I want to feel like I’m reading a story, not a commercial.

Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?

T: I have no guilty pleasures. I love graphic novels, and I don’t consider them guilty at all. I love campy vampire movies and serious art films and all the movies that span in between. I love urban fantasy and literary novels. I don’t think of any of it as guilty. All the things I love are simply different expressions of my personality.

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?

T: I’ve just finished the second Los Nefilim novella, Without Light or Guide: Los Nefilim, Part 2, which is set for publication on October 10, 2015. I will soon begin on the third novella, The Second Death: Los Nefilim, Part 3, which is set to be published next spring. I’m hoping that Los Nefilim does well, because then I’ll get to write more. I’ve got a couple of novels in the background that haven’t sold yet, and I’ve also got a couple of short stories set in Los Nefilim’s world that I’d like to write.

If folks would like to keep up with me, I’m on Twitter quite frequently. I also write a newsletter, which goes out when I have news. People can sign up for the newsletter at my blog. And, of course, the blog. Pop over and say hi sometime. I’d love to see you!

T. Frohock

In Midnight’s Silence (Los Nefilim: Part I)

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