eSpec Books interviews Keith R.A. DeCandido, contributor to the anthology Horns and Halos edited by John L. French and Danielle Ackley-McPhail, which is currently funding on Kickstarter.
eSB: Please tell us a little something of your story.
KRAD: “Unguarded” is part of a bunch of urban fantasy stories I’ve been doing that take place in New York City and that focus on Coursers, who are supernatural hunters-for-hire. If you need a unicorn wrangled, if you need someone to guard werewolves on the night of the full moon, if you need to find out why weird, unexplainable stuff is happening, then you hire a Courser.
The Courser in this story is Yolanda Rodriguez, a former volleyball coach and physical education teacher who has been a Courser ever since her husband’s leg was chewed off by a Wendigo. One of her daughters has a friend who is suffering from extreme bad luck. That friend is Muslim, and it turns out that the four hafazhah who are in charge of keeping him safe until his appointed time are being blocked from fulfilling their purpose. Yolanda has to figure out how and why.
eSB: Angels and Devils are a common theme in fiction. How did you make yours stand out? How much of a challenge was it?
KRAD: Well, mainly I wanted to do something different from the way angels have been done in fiction, whether the old trope of angels as ethereal paragons or the more recent trend (seen in places like the Sandman comics and on the TV show Supernatural) of portraying them as arrogant snots. I also wanted to do something other than Christian angels.
I found myself really compelled by the notion of hafazhah: in Islamic tradition, everyone has four angels that protect them—one stands in front, one stands behind, and the other two take over after half the day is over. I really love the idea of angels that work in shifts…
eSB: Is your story based on particular lore or legend, or did you take the broad concept and run with it?
KRAD: Nothing specific, just the general notion of how the hafazhah work.
eSB: Is your story set in an existing universe or fresh and new for this collection?
KRAD: As I said above, it’s part of a larger urban fantasy setting I’ve been working in. Thus far it includes the novel A Furnace Sealed (which focuses on another Courser, Bram Gold), with a forthcoming sequel tentatively titled Feat of Clay, and also the short stories “Under the King’s Bridge” (another Bram story that appeared in the anthology Liar Liar and my short-story collection Without a License) and “Materfamilias” (the story that introduced Yolanda, which was in the recent Bad Ass Moms anthology).
eSB: Are your characters here ones that you plan to revisit?
KRAD: Oh heck yeah. I love Yolanda and her family—both her teenage daughters help her out—and I’m eager to write more about her. In fact, I plan to have her play a role in Feat of Clay…
eSB: What devilish thing have you done as an author?
KRAD: I love sneaking in obscure references that only some of the readers get. In my first Star Trek novel, Diplomatic Implausibility, I referenced a planet called Koosbane, named after the alien world that Kermit the Frog used to report from on Sesame Street. My first Supernatural novel had a reference to Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden novels, and one of the sidebars I wrote for the new Star Trek Adventures Klingon Empire Core Rulebook has a Supernatural reference.
eSB: What angelic thing have you done as an author?
KRAD: I always try very hard to pay it forward and help out other authors wherever possible. One of the most toxic notions is that authors are in competition with each other, which is ridiculous and counterproductive. That’s why writers organizations like the Science-fiction & Fantasy Writers of America and the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers are so important, and also why I joined the Liars Club a decade ago, and why I love being part of Bard’s Tower. Authors should help each other.
eSB: What are some of your other works readers can look for?
KRAD: Also from you fine folks at eSpec is my “Precinct” series of fantasy police procedurals, which are cop stories in an epic fantasy setting. Thus far, there are five novels—Dragon Precinct, Unicorn Precinct, Goblin Precinct, Gryphon Precinct, and Mermaid Precinct—and one short story collection—Tales from Dragon Precinct—with two more novels and one more short story collection (at least) on the way.
I’ve written a cycle of urban fantasy stories set in Key West, Florida, some of which are in Ragnarok and Roll: Tales of Cassie Zukav, Weirdness Magnet, and the others of which can be found in various anthologies, collections, and webzines, including Buzzy Mag, Out of Tune, A Baker’s Dozen of Magic, TV Gods: Summer Programming, Without a License, and Unearthed.
Plus, I’ve written a ton of media tie-ins in more than thirty different licensed universes, including TV shows (Star Trek, Supernatural, Doctor Who, Farscape), movies (Alien, Cars, Kung Fu Panda, Resident Evil), comic books (Spider-Man, Thor, X-Men, Hulk), and games (Dungeons & Dragons, World of Warcraft, StarCraft, Command & Conquer).
eSB: What projects of your own do you have coming up?
KRAD: I’ve got two collaborative novels out this year, one from eSpec, one from WordFire Press. The former is To Hell and Regroup, written with David Sherman, which is the third book in David’s “18th Race” trilogy of military science fiction novels. I edited the first two books in the trilogy, and when David found he couldn’t finish the third book for health reasons, he asked me to work with him on it. I’m quite proud of the work I did, and I think David’s fans will be happy with the conclusion.
The latter is Animal, which I wrote with Munish K. Batra, MD. It’s a thriller about a serial killer who targets people who harm animals. It’s a departure from my usual, and very much a horror book as much as a thriller—it’s kind of Dexter if it was created by PETA.
eSB: How can readers find out more about you?
KRAD: Best bet is to follow the various links on my web site at DeCandido.net, which takes you to my blog, my various social media places, and so on.
Keith R.A. DeCandido has been an author, editor, critic, TV personality, martial artist, museum curator, Census worker, musician, sportswriter, and podcaster over the course of the last three decades. He’s best known for his fiction writing, with more than 50 novels, around a hundred works of short fiction, and a mess of comic books. He’s written fiction in more than thirty different licensed universes, based on TV shows (Star Trek, Supernatural, Doctor Who, Farscape), movies (Alien, Cars, Kung Fu Panda, Resident Evil), comic books (Spider-Man, Thor, X-Men, Hulk), and games (Dungeons & Dragons, World of Warcraft, Command & Conquer, StarCraft), and also in his own original universes, including fantastical police procedurals set in the fictional cities of Cliff’s End (Dragon Precinct and its sequels) and Super City (the Super City Cops novels and novellas) and urban fantasy tales set in the somewhat real locales of New York (the Bram Gold Adventures) and Key West (tales of Cassie Zukav, weirdness magnet). Recent and upcoming work includes the Alien novel Isolation (based on both the movie series and the videogame), the collaborative novels Animal (with Munish K. Batra, MD) and To Hell and Regroup (with David Sherman), the next books in his ongoing series, Phoenix Precinct and Feat of Clay, the graphic novels Icraus and Jellinek (with Gregory A. Wilson and Áthila Fabbio), and short stories in the anthologies Across the Universe: Tales of Alternative Beatles, Bad Ass Moms, Footprints in the Stars, Thrilling Adventure Yarns, Pangaea Book 3: Redemption, and Brave New Girls: Adventures of Gals & Gizmos). Keith has also been writing about pop culture for the award-winning webzine Tor.com since 2011, has been an editor of thirty years’ standing (though he usually does it sitting down), is a third-degree black belt in karate, plays percussion professionally, and probably some other stuff he can’t remember due to the lack of sleep. Find out less at his hilariously primitive web site at DeCandido.net
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