Today, in a guest post, I am hosting a colleague and a friend, with a new offering for you. More about the book and the author – over to David B. Coe:
Five Reasons Why I Love Writing Thrillers, and Why You’ll Love My New Book
David B. Coe
I have spent my career writing fantasy. I’ve written novels and short stories, epic fantasy, historical fantasy, urban fantasy. My most recent project was a time travel epic fantasy. (More on that shortly.) I want you to believe me when I say that LOVE fantasy. I have nothing against it at all. I have literally devoted my professional life to the genre.
So when I tell you I’ve fallen in love with a new genre, I don’t do so lightly. Rather, I come to you sheepishly, like someone who admits to betraying a lifetime partner.
My newest book, Radiants, which is to be released today, October 15, by Belle Books, is a supernatural thriller, as is the second book in the series, Invasives, which is written and in edits. And both books were sooooooo much fun to write. Here’s why.
1) Minimal World Building: For the record, I enjoy world building. A lot. I have published more than two dozen fantasy novels, spanning a half dozen series, which means I’ve built a bunch of worlds. I have a Ph.D. in environmental history, and am fascinated by the interplay of landscape and climate and human activity. With world building, I get to apply my academic interests to my passion for creating narrative.
That said, though, sometimes world building feels like work rather than fun. World building is about more than creating a setting; it’s an ongoing process. It demands that we reveal our worlds to our readers subtly and skillfully, embedding information about our lands and cultures in our dialogue and exposition.
With my new thrillers, though, I have precious little to explain. Yes, there is a supernatural element. My Radiant characters have abilities that they power by drawing upon planetary energy systems — the forces that keep our planet rotating and orbiting the sun, and that hold the moon in its orbit around us. There. I explained it. Once I’d established that, I could concentrate on my characters, on my plotting and pacing, all of which was incredibly refreshing after years of describing created worlds. The result, for you as a reader, is a story that is easy to follow and envision, and characters who are as rich, nuanced, complex, and believable as any I’ve written.
2) Streamlined narratives: Earlier I mentioned my time travel epic fantasy series, the Islevale Cycle (Time’s Children, Time’s Demon, Time’s Assassin). The Islevale books are among the best I’ve written. I love them. But I have never struggled so with any series. Multiple point of view characters, multiple plot threads, the fluidity of time travel, which at times had me writing several simultaneous iterations of individual characters — it was incredibly complex. And for reasons that mystify me still, I was never able to outline any of the books. Writing the series nearly killed me.
The Radiants books each have several point of view characters, but their plots are far more directed. They are paced to within an inch of their proverbial lives, and filled with action, suspense, tension. The books are intended to keep you up nights, turning pages long after you had resolved to go to sleep. As all good thrillers should.
3) Modern Dialogue: In addition to writing alternate world fantasy, I also write a historical series set in pre-Revolutionary War Boston: the Thieftaker Chronicles, which I publish under the name D.B. Jackson. Obviously, people living in the 18th century didn’t speak as we do now. For that matter, no one would expect people living in my created worlds to speak the way we do in our modern real world. Writing fantasy and historicals, I constantly police my dialogue for anachronisms and phrases or words that would have no place in an imagined worlds. That is part of the challenge of writing in my genre.
The characters in the Radiants books, though, inhabit the same world you and I do. It’s wonderfully freeing to have my characters speak “normally,” using current phrases and idioms, joking in ways that come naturally to all of us, and yes, even swearing like sailors if that’s appropriate to the character. The dialogue in Radiants and Invasives is some of the best I’ve written, because I could let my characters be funny and emotional without filtering their words for historical accuracy or world building authenticity.
4) Socially Conscious Themes: The Radiant books are readable and entertaining, and readers looking for a good story will enjoy them. But writing about our world allowed me to delve into issues that matter to me. And so these books touch on climate change in an allegorical sense. DeDe Mercer, the lead character in Radiants, is a queer teenager who is love with her non-binary best friend. So the book deals directly with matters of identity, gender, and bigotry. Invasives, book 2, is, in part, about homelessness, about the cost of sexual and physical abuse, about the ease with which society allows the least fortunate among us to slip through cracks and disappear from view.
I don’t bludgeon my readers with these social messages. I am writing to entertain and divert, not to preach. By the same token, though, I write for myself as well as for others, and these issues matter to me. For those interested in engaging with the topics in question, there is plenty there to chew on.
5) Really Cool Supernatural Stuff: I know. I played down the world building up front and made it clear that I focused much of my attention and effort on richly developed characters and fast-paced writing. And all that is true. But the Radiant books are still supernatural thrillers and they have a crucial speculative fiction element. Radiant ability can take any number of forms, just as magic does in many of my fantasies. I’m not going to reveal all the possibilities here — part of the fun of reading these books is discovering new Radiant abilities as they crop up. But DeDe’s power, which is fundamental to the plot of Radiants, allows her to control the thoughts of others. She can step into someone’s mind, make a decision for them, and then jump back out, leaving her will imprinted on their thoughts. For obvious reasons, when government agencies learn of what she can do, they come after her, wanting to turn her into their tool. Or their weapon.
For all these reasons, Radiants might be my favorite of all the books I’ve written. I hope you’ll check it out.
Many thanks to Alma for hosting me.
David B. Coe is the award-winning author of more than two dozen novels and as many short stories. He has written epic fantasy — including the Crawford Award-winning LonTobyn Chronicle — urban fantasy, and media tie-ins, and is now expanding into supernatural thrillers with Radiants and its sequels. In addition, he has co-edited several anthologies for the Zombies Need Brains imprint.
As D.B. Jackson, he is the author of the Thieftaker Chronicles, a historical urban fantasy set in pre-Revolutionary Boston. He has also written the Islevale Cycle, a time travel epic fantasy series that includes Time’s Children, Time’s Demon, and Time’s Assassin
David has a Ph.D. in U.S. history from Stanford University. His books have been translated into a dozen languages. He and his family live on the Cumberland Plateau. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.