Thursday, March 18, 2010

Guest – Anthony Francis

(By day Anthony Francis studies human and other minds to design intelligent machines and emotional robots; by night he writes fiction and draws comic books at the collision point of hard science and pure fantasy. He was inspired to study artificial intelligence by Douglas Hofstadter, to become a writer by Isaac Asimov, and to write urban fantasy by Laurell K. Hamilton and Richard P. Feynman. He got his Ph.D in AI and his brown belt in Taido from Georgia Tech; he currently supports his out-of-control reading and writing habits by working at the Search Engine That Starts With a G. Anthony lives in San Jose with his wife and cats but his heart will always belong in Atlanta.)

Hello, world!

I'm Anthony Francis, the author of Frost Moon, an urban fantasy published by Bell Bridge Books. When I started writing Frost Moon, I decided to create something I would want to read - an adventure that was magical and sexy and fun, but with a little edge of realism that made the magic more believable. A novel with a heroine who herself was magical and sexy and fun, but who didn't begin her adventures already endowed with the power to dispel the forces of the darkness with her quick wit and kung-fu grip. Someone who had every reason to go diving into the world of magic - but who dives in out of her depth and has to learn to swim. So was born Dakota Frost, and the alternate Atlanta of the Skindancer series.

So what is Frost Moon about? Someone is skinning the tattooed every full moon - and Dakota Frost, Atlanta's best magical tattooist, has just met a werewolf who is either the killer ... or possibly the killer's next victim. Tall, edgy, and beautifully tattooed herself, Dakota Frost can bring her marks to life through the magical art called skindancing, a skill which makes her the object of many people's desires. The killer wants her ink; the werewolf wants to be inked. A man-in-black wants to protect her; a young orphan wants to be protected by her. A skeptic wants to challenge her skill; she wants to meet that challenge. And it's all going down in Atlanta just before the full moon.

I had fun writing it, and I hope you have fun reading it. But I hope you get more out of it than that. The surface of Frost Moon is a just-ever-so-slightly over-the-top action adventure universe, but beneath that surface are two firm principles. The first principle is that if magic was real, then magic would be real, woven in deep with Nature's laws. In the Skindancer universe, magic was hidden in secret for centuries by wizards pretending to be scientists; but the counterculture movement of the 1960's it began to break free, creating Dakota's world where vampires work with the police to maintain law and order and magical tattooists get licensed at City Hall.

The second principle is that if I didn't make it up, it should be as accurate as possible. Almost all the places in Frost Moon are real parts of Atlanta - not just the bookstores and restaurants and nightclubs but also the more obscure touches, from the statue of Lord Buckhead in Storyteller Square down to the keypad leading to the APD offices on the upper floors of City Hall East (I had a friend go check). And if some nefarious person were to, say, inject a shifter with silver nitrate to thwart their change, I can guarantee you that the hypodermic filled of silver nitrate will look like it's actually filled with silver nitrate and not with mercury ... and that the injection will have more of an effect on the shifter's life than just delaying the shifter's change until the next chapter.

And I can also guarantee that Dakota herself will change. She's tall, cocky, on the edge of arrogant; but the first time someone faces a real fight it can change you. Frost Moon leaves both scars and gifts on Dakota's body, psyche and life, and I'm going to enjoy exploring how those change her in future books.

I hope you enjoy them too.

-the Centaur, Wednesday March 17, 2010

FROM DEBRA-- Anthony must slave in the real world of computers but he will be checking in during the day to hear what you guys think of world building and how important you think accuracy is to readers! And of course to see if you have any comments about his “girl” Dakota Frost.

18 comments:

Michele Hauf said...

SOunds like an awesome read, Anthony!

Cindy Gerard said...

Welcome Anthony.
Dakota has me very intrigued!! Sounds wonderful.

Cindy Gerard said...

gorgeous cover, btw!!!

Debra Dixon said...

Cindy-- Thanks.

Anthony Francis said...

Michele, Cindy - thank you! I hope you enjoy reading it and that you come to like Dakota.

Debra's cover is pretty amazing - lots of people have commented to me on it. I think it shows up better in the printed copy than it does on the computer screen.

On the inside, you can also see a drawing of Dakota by yours truly.

Thanks again!

catslady said...

I love variety and this book sounds uniquely different - a good thing :) I'm also a stickler for truth in writing. I love to learn while reading an enjoyable book. I heard one author say once that she just made things up that in my opinion should have been real - one example was a plant - how hard would it be to have a real plant (it wasn't pertinent to the story), but then I had to wonder if she had researched anything.

Debra Dixon said...

Catslady-- I do think there is a an authenticity that comes through in writing regardless of whether the detail is just a plant or something pivotal to the plot. There is a specificity to the "chosen" that you just don't get with the "slapped together."

lois greiman said...

Anthony, your work truly does sound fascinating. Imaginative and unique. As does your life, actually. Best of luck with both, and thanks for joining us.

Helen Brenna said...

Hey Anthony and welcome! Love the cover and book concept.

Movie?

Anthony Francis said...

Lois, thanks for the compliment on both the book and the life - the life can get interesting at times and I hope people find the same thing true of the book. Thanks again and great to be here...

Anthony Francis said...

Catslady, you're right. There's nothing wrong with making something up from the whole cloth if it's thought through, but a lot of times it seems like people are neither thinking nor researching. Urban fantasy actually seems better than some other fields as it encourages concrete settings. For me it's a lot of fun tracking down all the little details... thanks for your comments!

Anthony Francis said...

Helen, thanks! I hope you like the inside as well!

ForestJane said...

I enjoyed this book very much! If I could have a magical tattoo of a butterfly that would move and flutter around, I might actually get some ink. Don't want to give too much away, but my favorite character is a cat. Did I hear you are planning a YA series on her?

MarthaE said...

This sounds like an awesome adventure read and I love how you give her room to grow! I love series. :o) Best wishes to you for success!

Anthony Francis said...

ForestJane, if I could get a tattoo that moved around I'd get one too! (Maybe a dragon :-). And yes, the cat you're thinking of is going to get her own YA title and hopefully series...

Anthony Francis said...

MarthaE, thanks. I really enjoy series like Patrica Brigg's Mercy Thomson and Laurell Hamilton's Anita Blake. I avoid free-floating critiques of other people's works, but one thing I've noticed in some series is that while the heroes are quick on their feet dispatching monsters or avoiding danger, they're slow to adapt to the broader situations around them, so sometimes it seems they're dealing with the same emotional grief novel to novel.

One of the things I want in the Skindancer series is to constantly challenge Dakota and bring her out of her comfort zone so she constantly has to change and adapt. The way I put it to my writer's group is: Dakota's first idea is always wrong and she always has to figure that out and grow beyond it. Not quite true as stated, but it gives you an idea of what I want to do with the character. Things will happen that change her life forever but like the rest of us she will adapt and move on - maybe not at the end of each book, but surely one or two books later.

Thanks for weighing in!

Christie Ridgway said...

Wow. Worldbuilding like that is such a phenomenal skill. Which is why I write contemporary romances set in California (where I live ).

As a guy, how was it to write from a woman's point of view?

Anthony Francis said...

Christie, you're right ... that's why I set Frost Moon in Atlanta (where I lived for 18 years).

As for writing from a woman's point of view ... I am married to power tool girl, and we sometimes joke that she's the guy in the relationship and I'm the girl. And maybe that helped a little. :-)

But the real answer is I did research, read books, interviewed a number of women, asked specific questions when I was worried I was beyond my knowledge, and otherwise did my best to get my head in the right place before I let Dakota bust out with her own voice. And believe me, even though she stole my favorite coat-vest, she has her own voice.

But after all that, what helped the most was my beta readers, many of whom were women. No matter how much you research, there are things which just surprise you and which only a sharp eye by someone more intimately acquainted with the issues can help.

-Anthony