I’m really pleased to welcome fellow urban fantasy author Christina Henry today. Her debut novel, Black Wings, released this week. It’s the first book in a series featuring Maddy Black, agent of death.
As an Agent of Death, Madeline Black is responsible for escorting the souls of the dearly departed to the afterlife. It’s a 24/7 job with a lousy benefits package.
Maddy’s position may come with magical powers and an impressive wingspan, but it doesn’t pay the bills. And then there are her infuriating boss, tenant woes, and a cranky, popcorn-loving gargoyle to contend with.
Things start looking up, though, when tall, dark, and handsome Gabriel Angeloscuro agrees to rent the empty apartment in Maddy’s building. It’s probably just a coincidence that as soon as he moves in demons appear on the front lawn. But when an unholy monster is unleashed upon the streets of Chicago, Maddy discovers powers she never knew she possessed. Powers linked to a family legacy of tarnished halos.
Powers that place her directly between the light of Heaven and the fires of Hell…
I had a chance to read Black Wings before it was published. I wrote that it’s “a fun, fast ride through the gritty streets of magical Chicago, Black Wings has it all: a gutsy heroine just coming into her power, bad-ass bad guys, a sexy supernatural love interest, and a scrappy gargoyle sidekick.” Black Wings is a terrific book; if you love urban fantasy, I recommend it highly.
What drew you to writing urban fantasy, as opposed to a different genre?
CH: I really enjoy reading urban fantasy and wanted to write something I would like to read. I tried my hand at writing a thriller a few years ago but just couldn’t stay committed to the story – I kept wanting to add paranormal elements!
I’ve loved the growth in this genre over the last couple of years. It used to be that you could only find a few writers doing urban fantasy – now there is pretty much something for everyone out there.
What kind of research did you do for Black Wings?
CH: I looked up a few angelic names on Wikipedia, and some basic info on the Grigori and nephilim. I didn’t want to draw too much on existing mythologies – I really wanted to try to create a mythology that is unique to the world of Black Wings.
Other than that I drew a lot on my personal knowledge of Chicago as a resident. I put in a lot of my favorite places – neighborhoods I like to walk through, or places I like to eat – and Maddy even lives in a building that I used to live in several years ago.
Please tell us about your writing process.
CH: I don’t have a very formal process. I usually have an idea of the beginning and the end of a book, so I know the overall arc of the story. But a lot of times I start writing and I have no idea what’s going to happen beyond the first couple of chapters.
I really enjoy the process of seeing the story unspool little by little. Pretty often scenes or plot twists will surprise me, even as I’m writing. I really know the story is working when I start thinking about it as a reader, not a writer – as in, I’m laying in bed at night vaguely thinking about the story and wondering what’s going to happen next, and then I realize that I’m the one who has to figure out what’s going to happen next!
I always compose a playlist for each book on my iPod. Once I’ve put together the correct combination of songs that particular playlist will come to embody the overall tone of the book. Sometimes the songs influence the book and sometimes it’s the other way around, but either way the playlist eventually comes to epitomize the feeling of the book to me.
Usually I start off with an 8-10 song playlist and then I add to it as I get further into the novel until I’ve got about 20-25 songs that I listen to while I write. Every time I sit down at my laptop that playlist brings me right back into the story and the overall emotional arc of Maddy’s character. When I get to a point where the writing feels stuck or stale, I’ll put the playlist on my iPod and just listen to the music while I run errands or bake something in the kitchen. If I let my mind wander while still staying inside Maddy’s world through the music the next piece of the story will usually occur to me.
Do you crush on any of your characters? Who and why?
CH: Of course I do – Gabriel! In my head he looks a lot like the Irish actor Michael Fassbender, whom I think is just gorgeous. Gabriel has the same really strong bone structure in his face, but is a bit taller and has dark hair and eyes.
He also has an incredibly sad backstory, and I love heroes who are strong but tormented.
Beezle the gargoyle is a fun sidekick. What inspired him?
CH: I love to write dialogue so I wanted Maddy to have someone to talk to. When you write in first person there’s a danger that you’ll spend too much time in the character’s head. Having another character on hand for Maddy to bounce ideas off keeps the narrative fresh and prevents Maddy from spending too much time brooding over her problems. Really, how can you brood when you’ve got a hungry gargoyle to feed?
Plus, since Beezle is a home guardian he’s pretty much always around, unlike a roommate or relative who might possibly have a life of one’s own. Beezle’s life is Maddy’s life – he delights in sticking his beak in her business – and everyone else’s business for that matter. This keeps him readily on hand for whatever I might need.
Thanks so much for having me here today, Nancy!
Thank you, Christina! And good luck with your new release! 🙂