Please welcome Diana Pharaoh Francis to the blog today! Diana is the author of the Horngate Witches series, and the newest book in the series, BLOOD WINTER, will be out on Dec. 26th. Diana was kind enough to answer a few questions about the series, and about herself as well!
Will you tell us a little about your background? Did you always want to be a writer?
I was always a storyteller and an avid reader, but not a writer. I grew up on a cattle ranch and made up complex, epic stories that my friends and I acted out, usually on horseback. I read everything I could get my hands on. I don’t want to even tell you how young I was when I read Pet Cemetary and Suffer the Children. It wasn’t until I took a creative writing course in college that it really occurred to me I could write. Only then, I just figured maybe short stories. My poetry teacher hated my poetry, no doubt rightly so. And then one day while reading, I thought, I could do this. Couldn’t I? I mean, why couldn’t I? Someone has to write novels—why not me? And then I dug in.
What inspired the Horngate Witches series?
I wanted to write a contemporary fantasy. I wanted to write mythology and witches, but I wanted to bring my epic fantasy background to it, with grand battles and world changing events.
Your brand new Horngate Witches book, Blood Winter, is out this month, and it’s number four in the series! When you started the series, did you already have in mind how many you wanted to write?
Oh no. I didn’t at all. I just had this one idea for the first book. But then as I wrote and as the world developed and I met more characters, I realized where the stories were going. This fourth book wraps a up the series well. It completes things in a way that is really satisfying, especially when it comes to the characters and their relationships. It leaves me room to start up other stories and explore more of the world, but it’s a good, finished ending.
What kind of research do you do for the series?
All kinds. I investigate mythology, survival, cooking, cars, locations . . . really there’s no limit. I read stuff about magic and witches, about Egyptian gypsies, food—really there’s no limit to what I need to look up. It’s always unexpected. I’ll be writing along and think I’m going to write a simple scene, and the next thing I know, I’m searching out some esoteric information that is vital for making the scene work. I like to make things as realistic as possible.
Most people assume an author’s favorite character to write is their main character. Is this the case for you?
I love writing Max and Alexander, but I also love the other characters I write. Magpie is delicious. Oh, and Tutresiel. He’s an angel and he’s got a bad attitude. And in this book, I had so much fun writing . . . Oh, sorry. Can’t reveal that. But I had so much fun with one character. That’s the nice thing. When you have an ensemble cast, you never get bored.
What are some of your biggest literary influences?
I have so many. But Jane Austen and Charles Dickens are two. And writers like Tad Williams, Guy Gavriel Kay, Ilona Andrews, Elizabeth Moon . . . So many more than I can possibly mention.
If you could read one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
Whew. What a lovely thought. I would say . . . Tigana. I love that novel and it’s so rich and amazing that opening up for the first time again would be tremendous.
What are you reading now?
I’m reading Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates. It’s a dark book about a serial killer who wants the perfect zombie, so he sets out to make one. It’s very disturbing. It was loaned to me by a friend who’s a psychology professor and teaches a serial killer class. I did some research on psychopaths for a character in Blood Winter and he just passed along some more books. This one was on top.
When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
Sleeping. No, but seriously. I like to walk and crochet. I like to geocache and take the doggies (corgis) for a ramble. And play with the kids. I also like to cook and of course read. There’s never enough time in the day for everything.
What’s next for you in 2013?
Well, I’m working on selling my house and moving. I’m hoping the sale happens soon. I’m also working on some new projects that I’m pretty excited about and hopefully I’ll get published. I’m also working on finishing out my Crosspointe Chronicles series.
Keep up with Diana: Website | Twitter
About BLOOD WINTER
Max always does her job, no matter how brutal and bloody. That’s how it’s been ever since she was enslaved by a witch, turned into a supernatural warrior, and assigned to protect the coven of Horngate. But her job just got harder. . . .
Waves of wild magic have returned much of the world to a time when fairy tales were real and danger now lurks behind every tree and bush. As winter descends and food, heat, and water are harder to come by, many have turned to Benjamin Sterling for protection. Leader of the Earth’s Last Stand cult, Sterling claims to be the Hand of God, but his power and charisma secretly come from a dark and terrible source. With devout followers eager to do his sadistic bidding, he has his eyes on Horngate and its magical inhabitants. To save those she loves, Max will knowingly walk into a trap. But when the cult strips Max’s soul bare for all to see, will even Alexander—her lover and her strength—remain? And if she were to lose him, what does it matter if she gains the whole world. . . .