On being a writerly Dr. Frankenstein
I create monsters. And it's loads of fun. Makes me feel like Dr. Frankenstein in his lab, piercing bits of corpses together to create his famous monster - Except, unlike Frankenstein, I'm trying to make a horror. Multiple horrors, actually. And the purpose isn't to create life, but to torment my characters. There may or may not be cackling involved. I guess I'm a bit deranged...
Let me back up a bit. The premise of my YA fantasy series, Flynn Nightsider (currently under contract with Glass House Press), is that monsters, magic, and evil spirits are real, but for generations have been kept from the ordinary world by Enchanters operating in secret. Until one day, the monsters opened the Portal to the Underworld - a dark dimension that's home to countless creatures and wraiths - releasing their cohorts and wreaking havoc under humankind. Flash forward a hundred years - the Portal has been closed, but the escaped monsters remain on Earth. The Enchanters oppress those without magic, the Norms, under the reasoning that they alone can protect the people from the horrors now commonplace in the world.
However, monster-fighting teen Aurelia "the Firedragon" Sun, a Norm girl, is having none of that. She stars in two novellas, The Firedragon and Firedragon Rising, that serve as prequels to the first book in the main series, Flynn Nightsider & the Edge of Evil (coming soon from Glass House Press). Flynn, also a Norm, doesn't buy into the enchanters' totalitarian way either. In order to free their nation (the former United States, now known as the Triumvirate), these two intrepid teens each find their way (separately) to the underground rebellion - and find themselves fighting a battle on two fronts as they work to overthrow the Triumvirate while keeping the monsters at bay.
Okay, back to the beasties. As a writer, my job is to make my characters' lives as hard as possible. So I consider it my authorly duty to build the scariest monsters I can dream up (or, more accurately, "nightmare up"?) and throw them at Aurelia and Flynn. Some of these come from creatures of lore - manticores and specters, for example. Others are things I made up.
Much like Dr. Frankenstein, I piece together bits and pieces to create new monsters - taking what I find scary and mashing them all together into (in one case) a giant ball of spiky, fangy-y, fiery death. There are two reasons I create my own beasties: One is that there are lots of monster encounters, and I like to mix it up, so at a certain point I ran out of legendary creatures I could think up off the top of my head. I also didn't want to always be bound by the existing lore. The other reason is that building new monsters is fun.
The first rule to creating monsters is that there have to be rules. Each monster has its own special set of abilities and weaknesses, which I keep listed in a behind-the-scenes "encyclopedia" document. And, of course, there has to be consistency in the way these creatures look, move, and behave. So usually I'll list out their physical traits, followed by how they like to kill people, what weapons they're vulnerable to, and where they like to hang out. Here are a few that make appearances in the two Firedragon novellas:
Spearfiends: Towering beasts with ten ways to impale you - four pointed limbs, a spiked tail, a sharp beak, two curved tusks, and two horns. Oh, and it can transform into sand and move through the air at will. Best way to kill one is to chop off its head (which stands on a long, narrow neck) with a silver blade - if you can catch it.
Specters: Spirits of the dead caught in the Underworld and unable to move on. They grow stronger in the presence of fear and can cause a number of physical disturbances - messing with electricity, making buildings shake, throwing things, etc. Silver will ward them off, but only spells can banish them (which presents a problem for non-magical Aurelia when she encounters one).
Razorbirds: Winged crow-like creatures with feathers made of blades (that they can shoot at you at will). Vulnerable to silver-tipped arrows. They always travel in flocks, and they're fast.
Fangbeasts: These nasties are said to be the most dangerous of the Underworld creatures. They resemble hounds with protuding fangs and horns, plus razor-sharp claws. And each one can clone itself infinite times. They're practically invulnerable when it comes to spells and weapons. They can also teleport. The only surefire ways to kill one is to chop off its head with a silver blade - but you have to get the original beast, and not one of the clones.
Anyway, that's just a sample of the spooks and fiends my monster factory has churned out so far. Meanwhile, I've got more on the way for future books set in this series, and I have a feeling they're only going to get crazier and crazier.
About the author:
Mary Fan is a sci-fi/fantasy writer hailing from Jersey City, NJ. She is the author of the Jane Colt sci-fi series, published by Red Adept Publishing. The first book of her young dystopian fantasy series, Flynn Nightsider, is currently under contract with Glass House Press. And her young adult fairytale series, Fated Stars, is also under contract with Glass House Press.
In addition, Mary is the co-editor (along with fellow sci-fi author Paige Daniels) of Brave New Girls: Tales of Girls & Gadgets, a young adult sci-fi anthology with brainy heroines. All revenues will be donated to a scholarship fund through the Society of Women Engineers.
Mary has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember and especially enjoys the infinite possibilities and out-of-this-world experiences of science fiction and fantasy. In her spare time (when she has any), she enjoys kickboxing, opera singing, and exploring new t things - she'll try almost anything once.
About the books:
Flynn Nightsider 0.5:
Genre: YA, Horror, Dystopian, Fantasy
Publisher: Glass House Press
Publication date: 4.8.2014
Almost a hundred years ago, the Enchanters defeated the Lord of the Underworld in one of the most fearsome wars the world had every seen. The public thinks that this victory means the people are safe. But they're wrong. The supernatural beasts the Lord unleashed remains on the earth, multiplying and ravaging what's left of civilization. As long as these monsters exist, mankind will be in danger. And though the government, ruled by the magic-wielding Enchanters, seeks to protect their people, they are too few in number. They need the Defenders - a special class of non-magical humans, to fight the monsters. The Defenders are an elite force, and mankind's only hope against the horrors that live beyond their gates.
Fourteen-year-old Aurelia "the Firedragon" Sun has been training since she could walk to become a Defender, and her extraordinary combat skills have earned the attention of the powerful government. In fact, she's been tapped to represent her nation in an international monster-fighting competition, which pits champions from across the globe against creatures of the Underworld in a violent spectacle. If she wins, she will become a full-fledged member of the Defender force.
But as Aurelia moves deeper into the competition, she realizes that all is not as it appears. There's something sinister behind the competition, something that could change the way she sees everything and the Enchanters, it seems, are not the heroes she thought. Aurelia begins to ask questions. But before she can discover the truth, she is pitted against the most dangerous monster in the competition - one that will take her life if it can.
Flynn Nightsider 0.75:
Genre: YA, Horror, Dystopian, Fantasy
Publisher: Glass House Press
Publication date: 8.4.2015
Sinister plots. An underground rebellion. And a treacherous road filled with monsters and enemies unknown.
It's been three months since Aurelia survived the International Challenge - an elite monster-fighting competition. And the Triumvirate has been keeping a close eye on her ever since...as if they expect her to cause them more trouble.
Now that she knows about the underground rebellion - and the dark secrets of her own past - Aurelia is hell-bent on escaping the government's watchful gaze and joining the rebels. Finally, she's found a cause worth fighting for. A way for her kind, the Norms, to take back their freedom.
Then, when she overhears a Triumvirate official's conversation, she learns that it's even worse than she realized. The government knows about the rebels, and the rebellion. They're searching for people who sympathize with the cause. And they're coming after her next.
Suddenly the time for dreaming about the rebellion is over. Aurelia must make contact with the rebels and plot a quick escape...before the Triumvirate has a chance to capture her. But government forces and miles of monster-filled wilderness stand between her and the rebel headquarters, and dangers she never imagined lurk in the shadows.
Before she can fight the freedom of her people, she must achieve her own - or die trying.