Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Author Spotlight: Frog and Esther Jones

Introducing husband-and-wife paranormal/urban fantasy authors Frog and Esther Jones (I'll be reviewing their novel Grace Under Fire in a few weeks):

1. Tell us a little about yourself.
Esther and I have been married for almost eleven years now.  We met at college, married right after graduation, and then she tolerated me through law school.  Now we write books, review books, and practice law.

2. When did you start writing, and why?
Purely by accident.  My wife, Esther, began doing writing prompts with a friend of hers.  One thing led to another, and eventually she was entering the writer’s competition at Spocon.  She and I were commuting to work together at the time, and we began talking about this world where people could rearrange force and matter.  Working such magic was necessary to hold the world together, but it was also considered evil and felonious by the population at large.  We conceived of criminal organizations called “Groves” who operated much like the mafia of prohibition times, trying to keep the fabric of reality together.

Honestly, I was driving and talking, just trying to pass the time.

Then I read her short story, and I was amazed.  “Honey!”  I called down the stairs.  “This is crap!”

A discussion ensued, the details of which I am sure we can simply gloss over.  The result of this discussion, though, was that I ended up editing her story prior to submission.  We went over it a couple of times, and we produced a much better story along the same lines.  It won the competition.

The problem was, it didn’t deal with hardly any of the major issues we’d invented.  It was far too short to touch on the entire world we’d built.  The next day in the car, we realized that we were a heck of a team for writing, and The Gift of Grace series was born.  Now apparently I’m a writer.

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
The Gift of Grace is an urban fantasy series.  We went with that based on the “write what you know” theme.  Our story is set in the Inland Northwest, largely in the Spokane Valley and surrounding areas.  We often take road trips to look at what’s actually there in order to incorporate it into our book.  The mall-fight scene that we’ve got posted as a sample chapter actually came from Esther, our Proofreading Panda, and I walking around the mall to get a sense of what could happen in the fight.  Every store described is exactly in the right place (or, at least, for 2011.  Stores change).  Later on we have a big set piece at the Post Falls Dam, which was great fun to go check out.  That dam is pretty interesting in the way its set-up, and the canyon after it was just...

No, you know what?  Just read the book.  You’ll see it.

We’ve got some other, more standard fantasy pieces waiting in the wings, and I’ve been trying to get some writers together for a shared-world anthology of fairies in cyberpunk, but The Gift of Grace consumes most of my writing time these days.

4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
We’ve got a number of short stories in assorted anthologies.  Book 2 of The Gift of Grace is entitled Coup de Grace, and it’s coming out later this year.

5. "Welcome To My Worlds": Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
Well, we’re dealing with an urban fantasy, so at its root the world doesn’t look a whole lot different than our own.  The major difference is, of course, the existence of magic.

Now, magic at its base involves manipulating the substance of reality, called the Weave, in order to transport something (force and/or matter) from point A to point B.  That’s it.  Our magicians are called “summoners,” because that’s the only kind of magic they can do; they cannot create, they cannot destroy.  They can only move forces and matter around.

Now, summoning is important because of that Weave I mentioned.  It’s the thing that holds our reality together, but like any woven fabric under stress it gradually frays.  Summoners have to exist in the world in order to continually keep the Weave in good repair, lest we get invaded by other worlds or unravel the reality of this one.

That said, the populous at large doesn’t really grok that.  So summoning’s been felonious ever since Hoover blamed the Depression on summoners (one of the few catastrophes that can’t be laid at their feet, as far as we know).  So illegal, underground organizations called “Groves” have sprung up like a magical mafia, intent on preserving the world while getting away with this serious crime.  Of course, the problem with illegal, underground organizations is they end up looking like and being run a lot like the Mafia, which tends to be less than forgiving or gentle.

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
Well, the book begins with Grace Moore.  Grace was born into the Grove system, and she’s a smart-mouthed and savvy summoner.  She was born without a great deal of talent for the magic, but she’s made up for it with rigorous study.  Grace is a hard worker, and proud of it.  She’s also a devout foodie, and at many points throughout the story Grace will summon a gourmet meal in from a restaurant out of her little black book of restaurants.  On the other hand, Grace is not exactly a “people person,” and in a system like the Grove that’s the sort of thing that gets you sent on a suicide mission.  Which is what happens in Chapter One.

Our other main character is Robert.  Now, Robert’s parents died in what I assure you was a perfectly-normal-not-to-be-suspected incident.  As a result, he’s been raised in the foster care system, not the Grove.  He’s got a massive amount of latent power, but at the beginning of the book he doesn’t know it.  In fact, he’s adopted the popular belief that summoning is a great evil.  Of course, when his heart gets broken and then the local jock steps on it, he does something rash that kicks off the plot properly.  Robert means well, but he’s got some impulse control issues, and above that his abandonment issues have abandonment issues.

Beyond them, we have Detective Frank Allen and Captain Carlenos, the law enforcement officers who are tasked with dealing with the problems.  They aren’t stupid, and they aren’t hapless.  They’re skilled law enforcement officers doing their best to do the right thing, in the best way they know how.  As the novel progresses, their beliefs are challenged as much as Robert's, and they’ve got some pretty critical choices to make before the end.

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
All references to Redwood that occur beyond chapter 7 of that book are the sole fault/credit of our editor, SA Bolich, who has developed an odd attraction to the character.

8. Blog/site link, and where your book is available.
Book is available at:
Fun bonus!  Sky Warrior Books, my small press publisher, is participating in the July Smashwords sale, July 1-31, 2013: enter the coupon code SSW25 for a 25% discount.

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