We’re enamored with the Downside Ghosts series by Stacia Kane. We’ve made no secret about it. After reading the first two books, questions were bubbling up about the development of The Church of Truth, the future of our much flawed and beloved Chess Putnam and the Downside speak. Luckily, Stacia is as much of an insomniac as we are, so she agreed to use her late-night hours to indulge our questions.
Also, after the interview look for a chance to win both Unholy Ghosts and Unholy Magic. Yep. We want everyone caught up for the release of the third title in the Downside Ghosts series, City of Ghosts, on July 27.
Vampire Book Club: Each chapter in the Chess Putnam series begins with a quote from a Church of Truth document – be that from church law or a career pamphlet for teens. How much of the church literature did you actually create? Was developing these works part of developing the church character and done beforehand or something added after the novels were complete?
Stacia Kane: The epigrams were added afterward; they were something my agent and I came up with right before Unholy Ghosts went out on submission, actually. I don’t remember which of us came up with it, but the idea was basically that it would expand the world further and add more depth to it. I think magazines and books can reveal so much about a society, so it was fun to come up with different publications and things, not to mention the “Book of Truth” quotes, and hopefully they do give more of a sense of the rules of the world and how regular people live in it; people not in Downside or who don’t work for the Church, aside from the people we see during Chess’s investigations.
Of course, while they were a ton of fun to come up with in the beginning, after three books and close to a hundred epigrams, it’s getting a lot harder! Especially since I try to make the epigram relate in some way to the chapter.
Stacia Kane: Well, I certainly hoped they would be! To me the addiction is only one small part of Chess’s character; it’s a reaction to the rest of her character, if you know what I mean. And of course I tried to make sure that it’s part of the books in a real way, that it impacts her life by impacting/creating the plots of the books, so it wouldn’t just be a trick or a gimmick but a real aspect of her character. It’s always been my belief–and I’ve seen it in many other places as well–that if something about a character has no bearing on plot or story it doesn’t need to be there, and if the plot or story can happen in any other world, or to any other characters, then it’s not strong enough; it’s not truly solid fantasy. I couldn’t pick up some other UF heroine and drop her into this world, I don’t think; they certainly wouldn’t react to it the way Chess does. And I don’t think Chess would really be comfortable in their worlds, either!
Certainly I didn’t expect at all that it would be as controversial as it’s been. I knew there was a possibility it might make some people uncomfortable or be a turnoff for them, but I really didn’t expect it to be such a big deal or for a few people to react so strongly to it. It really shocked me, to be honest; after I wrote Unholy Ghosts I read the Black Dagger Brotherhood books, and I didn’t remember any uproar over Phury being an addict, for example. To me the addiction is simply a flaw, a vulnerability in her character. It doesn’t make her immoral or evil or selfish (in the beginning of UG, she has no one else in her life, so her addiction didn’t even have an impact on anyone else). There are millions of functional addicts in the world. I’m not saying addiction is a good or positive thing, just that I don’t believe it automatically makes someone a bad person.
But really, the vast majority of readers, at least the ones I’ve seen online and the many who’ve emailed me, really do seem to love her as much as I do, and it’s absolutely amazing to see what they say and how excited they are, and how closely they connect with Chess. It’s just incredible; aside from my husband and children, it’s really the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
Vampire Book Club: Do you have a nosy aunt/brother/mom who couldn’t resist asking how you were able to portray junkie life so naturally?
Stacia Kane: Hahaha, no, luckily. Although my mom–the ER nurse–was a little suspicious when I first started asking questions about painkillers and such. But of course when I explained what it was about, she was really helpful. She was the one who confirmed for me how quickly a man would die if someone injected metal lubricant into his artery, for example (pretty much immediately).
But I’ve known more than a few addicts in my life. I’ve known a lot of casual drug users. And I know Chess so well, too. I don’t know that I could portray a different sort of addict, a different sort of person. But Chess is very special to me, and I understand her so well and there’s so much of me in her. It just sort of comes out!
Stacia Kane: Yes and no, really. I wanted to use some sort of slang, something to further illustrate the difference between regular people and those who live in Downside. I didn’t want to use an established slang, or Ebonics or anything, because I didn’t want to seem like I was trying to co-opt another culture, and the books are in an alternate world where so much changed anyway.
I’d bought a book called The Word Museum, I don’t remember where, but I’d been looking through it when I first started thinking of the idea, and at that time I’d planned it as a historical. So I was looking at slang from the Georgian period, and just thought some of it sounded so cool. I wanted to use it, and I wanted to create something that would sound right with it, and from that the Downspeech just kind of happened. The thing I love most about it is how I can change it from character to character. Like Bump’s is so thick, and Lex uses more archaic slang, and Terrible is more about rhythms and speech patterns than slang.
Vampire Book Club: You tend to do three-book story arcs (we also recommend Stacia’s Personal Demons series). Do you think we’ll get to see more of Chess after City of Ghosts?
Absolutely! There will be at least two more books in the U.S. (no word yet about elsewhere but I hope to have some news soon). And of course if those do well I’ll get to write more of them, so I definitely have my fingers crossed. Doing two more is interrupting the story arc, but luckily it won’t leave it unfinished if I don’t get to write more; it just won’t have the twist I planned for the sixth book.
Vampire Book Club: Some places refer to the series as Downside Ghosts, others Chess Putnam. What is the series supposed to be called?
Stacia Kane: Well, I always called them the Downside books. I’m not really sure who started calling it the Downside Ghosts series; “Downside Ghosts” was actually the original title of Unholy Magic, so it was a title I came up with, I just hadn’t thought of it as a series title. And of course people are always going to identify a series by the main character’s name. So really it doesn’t matter; I say Downside, my publishers say Downside Ghosts, so a lot of reviewers say Downside Ghosts, and some people say Chess Putnam. I’m just happy they’re talking about it at all, especially when they’ve been saying such wonderful things!
Vampire Book Club: Finally, if our readers are anything like us, they’ll devour Unholy Ghosts, Unholy Magic and City of Ghosts ravenously. What should they read while waiting for more urban fantasy goodness from you?
Stacia Kane: Oh, thank you so much! I definitely recommend Caitlin Kittredge’s Black London series; they’re absolutely amazing books. Caitlin and I met and became friends when I was just starting Unholy Ghosts and she’d just finished Street Magic (the first Black London book), and those books were one reason we became friends. I really just love them.
I also recommend Kari Stewart’s Devil in the Details. It’s a bit different for me, since it’s a male protagonist (which I really like), and it’s written in first person, which is usually not my thing at all. But the hero is so likable, and the story so unique and well-written, I hardly even noticed it.
And of course, anything by any of my fellow League of Reluctant Adults members. There’s sure to be something to suit anyone’s taste: http://reluctantadults.blogspot.com
And there are all the big names as well, and they’re wonderful, but I figure UF readers already know who they are.
Vampire Book Club: Get more information on Stacia Kane and her other novels at StaciaKane.net. Also, we strongly recommend pre-ordering City of Ghosts (Downside Ghosts #3) from either The Book Depository or Amazon.
The contest is open until 10 a.m. CST on Monday, July 26, 2010. Winner will be contacted by email and announced by noon on July 26. If the winner does not claim prize via email within 48 hours, we will pick a new winner. This contest is open internationally, provided The Book Depository ships to your location.
Jordyn has claimed her prize and will soon be reading the first two Downside Ghosts books. We want to thank everyone who entered. We used Random.org to select the winner. Jordyn’s entry was the randomly selected no. 24 our 156 entries. We already have another contest in the works for the first of August — one that will have multiple winners — so please check back.