Ten Questions About Black Feathers, By Joseph D’Lacey

Joseph d’Lacey is a fellow servitor of the Angry Robot, and he’s got a new book out — Black Feathers, which releases 3/26 as part one of the Black Dawn duology:

TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF: WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?

Among other things I’m responsible for MEAT, a dystopian horror novel exploring factory farming and slaughter themes. I write H/SF/F, often inspired by ecological or environmental themes.

GIVE US THE 140-CHARACTER STORY PITCH:

To avert Armageddon, two children must search for a dark messiah, The Crowman. But is he our saviour or the final incarnation of evil?

WHERE DOES THIS STORY COME FROM?

It’s the coalescing of not-necessarily-connected elements over many years.

Its roots go back to my childhood, to a batik I made in art class, aged 14. The subject was three crows in a skeletal tree, silhouetted by a red sunset. I’ve been fascinated by the beauty, intelligence and mystery of corvids ever since.

I’m convinced humans embody a spiritual essence. But I’m appalled at how destructive religion can be. And yet, in all religions, there is wisdom. To me, the stories in ‘holy’ books are metaphors for the human journey; charting the ‘unfolding’ of the individual.

I’ve had many experiences in which the natural world has been my teacher – vision quests in particular – and it stuns me that all this knowledge, about ourselves and how the world works, is right outside the door and yet we’ve become so removed from it.

I wanted to chronicle a messianic life in a secular tale, whilst retaining the idea of spirit through the imagery of crows.

HOW IS THIS A STORY ONLY YOU COULD’VE WRITTEN?

Anyone could have written this. In essence, it’s a quest. If you believe in a finite number of story templates or plots, then it’s probably been written many times already.

Of course, it would be almost impossible to tell it in exactly the same way. I just don’t think it’s that original or unique.

WHAT WAS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT WRITING BLACK FEATHERS?

I wrote it during a period when publishers everywhere were turning down all my work – even Beautiful Books who did such a great job on MEAT and Garbage Man. They then went out of business, leading to further troubles.

Black Feathers was more ‘from the heart’ than anything else I’ve attempted and yet I wrote it with very little hope. The year it took to write and the two years spent rewriting and trying to find a home for it were quite tough.

WHAT DID YOU LEARN WRITING BLACK FEATHERS?

I learned that when I care about a subject, I overwrite. I learned that the story I most want to tell is the one I should write now. I learned that even though I write my books alone, I never write my books alone.

And all the things I always try to teach in writing classes? I learned about them. Again.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT IT?

Black Feathers is full of mystery about the nature of The Crowman – is he for the good or will he destroy everything? As well as making for an intriguing read, it’s a question we could ask about ourselves.

Although the book deals with the end of the world, it is full of hope for the future. It’s an apocalypse pregnant with possibility for a change.

WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME?

I’ll never write a book like this again. For start it was too long; over 250K. Angry Robot suggested splitting it and so it became a duology, improving it immeasurably.

I’ll use more structure in future novels and I probably won’t take any part of the process so seriously.

GIVE US YOUR FAVORITE PARAGRAPH FROM THE STORY:

“I do not want to recount it. I do not want to recall the casting out of so much goodness, nor the reaping of so much pain. But, for the sake of all of us, I must and I will. Mark it well. Tell your kin and those you love his story. Tell them this: Satan walks nowhere on this Earth, nor has he ever, save where he treads within the human heart. Tell his story and let us keep the Crowman alive for as long as our kind walks the greening byways of this world. Above all, make them understand one thing: the Crowman is real.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU AS A STORYTELLER?

More fantasy; more tales with adolescent heroes and heroines; more tragedy; more worlds just out of reach; more stories in which the outer journey reveals the inner; and ever more refinement.

I hope.

Joseph d’Lacey: Website

Black Feathers: Amazon / B&N / Indiebound

7 comments

  • Hey Chuck,

    That blew my mind for a bit there. I came to work, checked my RSS feed and saw this interview with my ex-writing tutor!

    He’s a good guy, hopefully Angry Robot will keep him busy with contracts…

  • “I learned that when I care about a subject, I overwrite. I learned that the story I most want to tell is the one I should write now. I learned that even though I write my books alone, I never write my books alone.”

    So true!!

    This is a great post and just what I needed to read today. Thank you.

  • Definitely just got a new fan over here. Fantastic interview, beautiful-drool worthy novel cover, and great website tagline:
    “My pen is my compass. I appear to have lost my pen.”

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