1) This novel has quite a mix-up of culture – Native American, Armed forces/special ops, and of course, the supernatural factions mixed in. I know you enjoy sci-fi novels, but was there anything else in particular that drew you to these elements?
I’d call it hybrid vigour. The Urban Fantasy (UF) genre itself is a hybrid, formed from genres like horror, Sci-Fi, romance, and now spawning sub-genres of its own. I find enormous energy in this chaos, so one of the guiding forces behind my world building was to braid in mythos from multiple, unusual sources. These weren’t chosen randomly, so, for instance, the Native American background has specific roles to play, both in the Adept (magic users) culture, and the Were culture.
However, the Special Forces backstory had a different motivation. One of the features of some UF that ruins my reading enjoyment is ‘unexplained unreality’. It’s difficult to describe in general terms, but the core is that, even in UF, unreality can be stretched too far. The specific trope here is the 17 year-old waitress who suddenly, overnight, becomes incredibly self-confident and a kick-ass martial artist, able to stare down bad-ass werewolves and fight off hungry vampires. Bleh. So Amber, my heroine, has a 10 year history at the sharp end of covert black ops to give her the necessary backbone and skillset to do what she has to do in the story. I also found the military background a rich source of material for questions that arise in the books such as trust, betrayal, patriotism, teamwork, leading by example and individuality.
2) I like the new take on vampires. who are not called vampires, of course – they’re Athanate. Can you tell our readers a bit more about them? What inspired this twist?
Thank you. Yes, my choice to twist the vampiric element of the world resulted in the Athanate. There are lots of reasons for being dissatisfied with taking standard vampires, and many writers have edged away from them in their books. For example, the romantic element…romance with an animated corpse? Eww. That’s necrophilia. Lots of writers now split their vampires into ‘live’ and ‘dead’. Similarly, they divide them into ‘good’ and ‘bad’. None of this is the standard vampire, so I’m not doing anything others haven’t done, though I may have taken it a bit further. I certainly put a lot of effort in to make them real, consistent and interesting. It’s been fun making their culture and my problem really has been what to leave out. In the next book, should I include the Game of Dominion, a sort of chess game I devised for the Athanate to illustrate their political thinking? Or Ptolomeus, the black cloaked, blind librarian with his Dark Library of ancient, fading scrolls in the basement at Haven?
3) So why Denver for the setting? Why not anywhere else?
I love Denver, even though I’ve never lived there. My visits date back to 1976, and I remember thinking then that it was a wonderful setting, a brash, outdoor city with the high plains on one side and the mountains on the other. Over time, as I revisited and found out more, the character of Denver has grown on me. It’s a fascinating place with, again, a vigorous hybrid culture. One of my disappointments in my books is I’ve yet to find space to make Denver more of a ‘character’ in its own right as opposed to Anytown, USA. Maybe I’ll crack that as I go on. I am the first to admit I’m still learning my trade as a writer.
4) There are many external forces against Amber here, although I think the one that made me hurt for her the most was her sister’s – ahem, poor attitude, shall we say. Why does Amber’s sister dislike her so much? There’s embarrassment and a need for social niceties on the sister’s side, but is it more than that?
I wanted the story to have mirrors between the large scale events that affect the whole community and the small scale personal events which affect just Amber. Her sister, Kath, provides some of that personal level. Yes, there is more to Kath’s arc than the apparent pettiness, envy and spite, but these dark reasons emerge as part of the series arc. What I will say is things get worse, much worse, before they get any better!
The series now comprises :
Raw Deal : a prequel novella
Sleight of Hand : Book 1 of the Bite Back series
Hidden Trump : Book 2 of the Bite Back series
I am writing Wild Card which will be book 3 and should be published in October this year.
I don’t want to give too much overview, but the question for the entire series is : how long are the paranormal communities going to remain hidden from the rest of humanity?
To explore that, I first have to explore the Athanate, Were and Adept communities themselves and I expect to be finishing the majority of that exploration in book 4. Then I’ll deal with the disagreement between factions about whether or not they should come out in the open, and finally how they chose to do so.
My estimations of how many words or books are needed to deal with any element of the story haven’t been good so far, so please take this with a pinch of salt: there are at least 9 books in the Bite Back series, and possibly 12.
I also have another prequel short story in draft, as well as a companion series, which tells the tale of Bian, one of the more unusual characters in Sleight of Hand. I’ve sketched out a story arc of about 5-6 books for Bian.
Anything else? Well, dozens of ideas! A young adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy hybrid, a coming of age Epic Fantasy, a couple of irreverent stand-alones, including a steampunk and a non-paranormal story of a Country & Western bar called the Hey! Wayne.
I’ve no idea if I’ll do it all, or when. Do drop in on my blog at www.athanate.com, where I speculate about writing schedules every month, as well as providing teasers (opening chapters of Bian’s Tale for instance) and comments about the process of writing and publishing as an indie. I enjoy feedback and constructive criticism on the blog or Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/TheBiteBackSeries) and make every effort to respond.
Mark Henwick was born in Africa and left out in the sun too often.
Sleight of Hand can be found at: