As you may have gathered from my early review of Karina Cooper’s All Things Wicked (which hits stores today), I’m a bit enamored with her Dark Mission series. She has the attributes I look for in all my favorite authors: precise writing, remarkable character development worth getting invested in and both creative and gritty world-building. So, of course, I had to pick her brain on just how New Seattle was formed, what makes her characters a good match and real uses for pyrokinetic abilities.
Vampire Book Club: Your Dark Mission novels are clearly paranormal romance, but the urban fantasy elements add this gritty influence to the love story. Was your goal to write a genre crossover or is that just what the characters needed?
Karina Cooper: It would be so fabulous to say that I sat down with the great big organized plan and then, lo!, it came true. Sadly, that’s giving myself way too much credit, and I’d be a liar. When I first dreamed up the idea for the Dark Mission, all I thought was that it’d be a paranormal romance in a post-apocalyptic setting. The first time someone mentioned “urban fantasy feel” to me, it came from my not-yet agent. In the throes of wanting to impress, I glibly said, “Er… okay!”
Vampire Book Club: You are a brave woman to make a villain from the first book the hero of the third. It certainly works, but it’s a tough task to make a murderer adored. What was most important to you about telling Caleb’s story and getting his HEA in All Things Wicked?
Karina Cooper: I adore Caleb, even as I hate him the most out of all my heroes. The man is not well-behaved by any stretch of the imagination. If I was his sister, I would have done something drastic a long time ago. It says a lot about Jessie’s dedication that she’s stuck by him all this time–flattering or otherwise.
The most important thing I hope people take away about Caleb has to be how his mind works. Obviously, he has an ego the size of New Seattle; what other reason could a man think that hes the only person capable of fixing things? He cares about his sister, about the city he thinks she loves, about a lot more than even he thinks he should, and he shows it by shouldering the burdens alone. So no one else will have to.
I don’t know about you, but I can hardly be bothered to shoulder my own burdens, much less someone else’s. Much less an entire city’s worth. That Caleb not only does so but does so of his own free will says a lot about his dedication, too. The Leigh family? Well, anyone who’s read Before the Witches knows that dedication is bred to the bone.
Vampire Book Club: The witches within the Dark Mission series have varied abilities from healing to visions and back again. Which magic skill would you most want for yourself?
Karina Cooper: I love this question, because it’s one I’ve considered often. I want the ability to control fire. I could always light candles, see in the dark, offer warmth on those cold winter nights, always dry my wet clothes if I end up stranded in the woods like Bear Grylls, purify tools, boil water, cremate the bodies of those who cross me… What?
Vampire Book Club: We see Juliet, Caleb and Jessie’s abilities fluctuate notably in All Things Wicked. Which is more fun to write: out of control magic or precise acts?
Karina Cooper: I have to admit, the out of control magic is pretty fun to write. Mostly because it always does more than anyone bargains for. Helpful, sometimes; destructive, always. I think it’s fun to force people to slip the strings of control; push the boundaries they often set for themselves (for good or ill). And it’s always interesting me to look at the “limits” set for something, then see what happens when you push it just that much farther.
This gives remarkable insight in to the nature of every fight I’ve ever had with the mancandy, too. Write what you know, right? Only, you know, without my fire-making magic at hand…
Vampire Book Club: Where did the idea of New vs. Old Seattle spring from?
Karina Cooper: Seattle itself! As you probably know, in 1889, a fire swept through Seattle, destroying the entire central business district. Since the city was pretty much built on filled-in tidelands (castle built on a swamp, anyone?), the city decided to regrade the streets a few stories higher and rebuild the city right on top of itself. With that kind of precedent, it seemed only natural to continue the trend!
Seattlites like their turf. There’s a certain pride of ownership there. So when they rebuilt in the Dark Mission, they named it New Seattle as a beacon of hope. The old ruins of the city were left hanging precariously over the trench, too dangerous to spelunk, but also? A psychological reminder of what happens when humanity strays too far from the gentle embrace of the Holy Order’s mandates. Naturally.
Vampire Book Club: I like Naomi West from the second book, Lure of the Wicked, quite a bit, despite her bad friend tendencies. Will we get to see more of her and sexy Phineas?
Karina Cooper: You will! Phin Clarke remains my favorite hero, and I admit to a certain partiality for Naomi. Times are difficult for them, given how hard they have to work to see each other, but you’ll see them again–together and separately. Promise!
Vampire Book Club: In each of your novels it’s clear by the end why hero and heroine are meant for one another. What makes All Things Wicked’s Juliet and Caleb a good match?
Karina Cooper: The raw fundamental of the relationship can be boiled down to two very defining traits: Juliet needs to be taken care of, and Caleb needs to protect. I have never met a hero more selfless–and arrogant for it–than Caleb, willing to sacrifice everything for others. Even his own sanity. Juliet isn’t a weak woman, but she isn’t made to stand on her own.
Why did they click specifically? Part of it is history. A shared memory of a time before it all went to hell. Part of it is guilt (and how healthy is that, I ask you?). The rest is a kind of niche they each fill for each other. They balance each other out; she holds him accountable and he simply holds her, she refuses to accept his lies, makes him a little more human.
Sometimes, people who might not look like they’re a fit end up clicking anyway. Love’s funny like that.
Vampire Book Club: All Things Wicked wraps up a big story arc for the three books, but I still have questions. Please tell me there are more Dark Mission books in the works. (And maybe they feature Simon Wells?)
Karina Cooper: Never fear, I wouldn’t leave you hanging! Sacrifice the Wicked is slated for a Fall 2012 release, and yes, you just might see a little more Simon in the future. Leave such a delicious plot demon dangling? Perish the thought!
But it doesn’t stop there. Things are spiraling out of control in New Seattle, and the Order’s grip is tightening even as more witches are slipping through the cracks. Let me ask you this: would you read a novella about other characters in this city? Do you wonder what Jonas Stone does when he isn’t manning a tech van and snooping through databases he shouldn’t? Curious about the other side of the war, the unsung rebels neither witch nor witch hunter, squirming in the Church’s cages?
What else would you like to read about in New Seattle?
Avon Books has kindly provided Vampire Book Club with three copies of All Things Wicked. If you’d like to win one, just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Contest is open to U.S. addresses only. Last day to enter is Feb. 13.