Please join me in welcoming author Deborah Coates
to Let Them Read Books!
I'm a fan of urban fantasy, but Wide Open is described as a "rural" fantasy, and having grown up in the boondocks, that idea really appealed to me! Check out my review of Wide Open and read this insightful Q&A with Deborah, then enter to win your own copy of Wide Open!
From the Back Cover:
When Sergeant Hallie Michaels comes back to South Dakota from Afghanistan on ten days' compassionate leave, her sister Dell's ghost is waiting at the airport to greet her.
The sheriff says that Dell's death was suicide, but Hallie doesn't believe it. Something happened or Dell's ghost wouldn't still be hanging around. Friends and family, mourning Dell's loss, think Hallie's letting her grief interfere with her judgment. The one person who seems willing to listen is the deputy sheriff, Boyd Davies, who shows up everywhere and helps when he doesn't have to.
As Hallie pushes for answers, she attracts more ghosts--local women who disappeared without a trace--and discovers a disturbing pattern. Now she needs to not just figure out what happened to Dell but to make sure no one else shares her fate, even as it becomes clear that someone who wields an unimaginable and ancient power is working against her, and will stop at nothing to prevent her from finding the truth.
The American Midwest seems to be an underused setting in contemporary fantasy writing. Why did you choose to set the present-day story of WIDE OPEN in South Dakota? What about the Midwest—culturally, geographically, etc.—did you find narratively appealing?
I'm not a native Midwesterner; I grew up in western New York. When I moved to Iowa I found things that were really, really different and things that were surprisingly similar. We can say that the Midwest is less urban, though the majority of the people in the Midwest live in cities. It's true, lots of those cities are small, but Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City are all Midwest cities. Even though a lot of the people in the Midwest are urban or suburban dwellers, there's also a lot of land, a lot of space between places. More so in the High Plains states like South and North Dakota than Iowa, but even Iowa has its big open spaces.
So, what do I find appealing? A large part of it is the space and the ways people live in all that space. Another part is that I agree with you that we don't use the Midwest and the High Plains as settings in contemporary fantasy very often and I wanted to show it to people because you can spend a lot of time going back and forth across the country and never see South Dakota or northern Iowa or southern Kansas at all. I think place affects story and the Midwest has lots of stories I'm particularly interested in telling.
Urban fantasy is currently having a moment in contemporary speculative fiction. What are your thoughts on the kinds of stories that you can tell with urban fantasy versus those that you can tell with “rural” fantasy?
Just today I saw someone in an unrelated comment thread claim that there was no such thing as contemporary fantasy, it was all urban fantasy. Which, I think it's obvious, I don't agree with. But, I love urban fantasy and particularly its potential for telling stories. Different cities have different personalities and I think those different personalities determines the sorts of stories that work best in those cities. Similarly, a particular rural setting plays a part in what stories get told there. There will always be more people in an urban setting than a rural one. There's more structure, more infrastructure--more police, firefighters, emergency services--more ways to be noticed, but also more ways to hide. All of that can change the story that you tell and how you tell it.
Could you talk about your choice to invoke the magical and folkloric traditions of multiple cultures in the novel?
There's a lot of urban fantasy that chooses one specific magical, folkloric, mythological, or religious tradition and builds the particular supernatural phenomena for the world of that book around that one tradition. That particular mythology or folkloric tradition gets considered and expanded upon in depth, but the world of the book loses all those other magics. I think that approach can work really well, but I wanted to look at an approach that would recognize all (or at least many) of those traditions and the history that accompanies them and say, those are what they are; they exist and they've always existed and there's a certain balance between them and the world we see every day.
In WIDE OPEN, however, the particular evil that Hallie ends up combatting twists all those traditions and tries to use them for powerful ends while avoiding the culture and grounding that makes them what they are--perversion magic as it's called in the book, because it perverts the other traditions it's pulled from. There's a reason, in the story, why that's something that isn't done and shouldn't be done.
What was your approach or strategy to the worldbuilding process? To what extent did you develop the universe of WIDE OPEN off the page?
Most of my worldbuilding is developed as I go, that includes Taylor County, the towns and the ranches as well as the magic and the ways that magic is used. That usually means that it takes me a few drafts to figure out the specific details and particularly to figure out how and why certain things happen. I'll usually know the event that happens--burning a building, say--before I know how it happens and what it means to the way things work in the world I'm creating.
This can be frustrating, but ultimately it works for me. Sometimes I have to step away from the writing and go for a walk while I try to work out how this important thing that I know is going to happen in the story actually happens and what that means for other parts of the story. What's really fun for me is that sometimes something I put into the story earlier because I thought it would be interesting turns out to be the answer to the problem I'm trying to solve.
Thank you, Deborah!
Would you like to check out this "rural" fantasy?
Enter to win it!
Thanks to TOR, I've got one copy up for grabs. To enter, simply leave a comment with your email address. This giveaway is open internationally and ends at 11:59pm on Thursday, March 29, 2012. Winner will be chosen at random. Thanks, and good luck!
This giveaway is closed and the winner has been selected.
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