Give a warm welcome to Brantwijn Serrah , author of Into Nostra. Recently released on January 18, 2018!
Author, tell us a little about writing this story. Was it fun or difficult? Do your characters always act as you expect? Are you a plotter, or fly (write) by the seat of your pants?
The stories of The Pact and Into Nostra started—as most of my stories do—with music. I was walking my sweet dog Tasha (who, sadly, has since gone over the rainbow bridge), and listening to my iPod on random, when I first met Serenity Walker. She was a teenage girl, living and working in a mountain tavern, and on that night she was studying the homework her mentor Jack had assigned her. Her song was Moonlight Shadow, by Mike Oldfield. “Caught in a riddle that Saturday night / far away on the other side / he was caught in the middle of a desperate fight / and she couldn’t find how to push through…”
The music told me her story: a budding student who watched helplessly as her best friend and teacher was murdered in a midnight shootout. She couldn’t save him. And that’s how Serenity Walker started walking with me.
This series takes inspiration from many other places as well, naturally. Serenity’s ill-fated mentor Jack Chamberlain is something of a blending of two of my own literary heroes, gunslingers Jake Chalmers and Eddie Dean, from Stephen King’s Dark Tower. The myth and magic Serenity studies derive from Norse rune study, a little bit of tarot, and even some good old Dungeons and Dragons-style role-playing. Even the world in which the story takes place—a fantasy realm somewhere in a semi-steampunk cowboy west—falls into a geography I drew up using a campus map from my college years as a basis for lines, distance, and relation (the most important thing to note, however, is that the world of Geiral is not drawn to scale).
But the most fun thing about this series, for me, is that the characters almost all represent some of the most meaningful people in my life. It’s interesting to note that of all my characters, Serenity Walker feels the least like a version of me. But her grizzled trail partner Jonah is most definitely a reflection of my husband. Her band of rescuers in the desert are analogues of my close college friends. The bandit Bowen, introduced in Book Two, is my fun-loving, smart-ass brother. Not everyone in the world of The Pact is a direct shout-out to a real-world person of importance to me, but those who are have become a way for me to share the wonderful people who color my little corner of the world, in what I hope is an epic story of adventure worthy of their spirits.
As for the difficulty of writing it, it surprises me to admit The Pact and Into Nostra both flowed very easily for me, once pen was put to page. The early books in this series have, in their initial stages, come to me with a comfortable, natural feeling of progression. Each was written as a project for National Novel Writing Month, which I expected to be much more difficult than other works I’ve undertaken. I expected the pressure of a deadline and a word quota to kill the fun of writing for me, to suck the life out of the storytelling. Serenity and her people never let that happen, though. Sometimes the plot would be planned in advance, usually with the help of more music to set a mental stage for me, where scenes would unfold and take shape. Sometimes the characters would take hold of the reins and charge straight ahead for the gorge—only to find a smooth trail across at the last minute. No, the only hard part, plot-wise, has been figuring out how to finish it all. Eventually Serenity’s journey must come to it’s conclusion. She just… hasn’t gotten around to telling me how that will pan out.
without warning and made straight for Serenity in quick, purposeful strides.
The wide, swooping brim of a black cowboy hat hid her eyes; long silver hair
streamed out behind her like a pale, gossamer banner. The lithe curves of a
predator couldn’t be hidden underneath her black corset and boiled leather
leggings—sleek animal fur lined the tops of her boots, tribal moccasins dyed
with deep ink and painted with runic markings along the seams.
to identify the symbols as the marks of a killer, but she had no time to move.
All along this fighter’s arms danced a swirling dark energy, a kind of magic
Serenity had never seen before: the shadowy swarm of a hundred darkling faces,
crackling and howling like flames. Her mind flashed in panic back to the fehu
tapestry in Eclipse, guarding the weaver’s blackest arts, and just as the woman
raised both fists over her head to bring them crashing down on Serenity, D’aej
seized control and ducked the body out of the way.
her like a cow on the train tracks, he shouted across their bond, his anger
echoing off the walls of her skull. Get moving!
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