Mark Del Franco
Your books are set in a richly developed world, an alternate Boston where Celtic faerie exists alongside humanity and some things are the same but others are vastly different. How does the real-life Boston inspire Connor Grey’s Boston?
I love Boston. At almost 400 years old, it has a wonderful weight of history that informs life here. It’s a place that calls itself the hub of the universe, yet has spasms of low self-esteem. It lives with the Puritan ethic, Brahmin elitism, ethnic, racial and neighborhood rivalries, religious and government scandals, the best universities and hospitals in the world, a vibrant arts and music scene, crazy street layouts, multimillion homes next to affordable housing, tough political fights, and some of the ugliest public art in the prettiest parks you will ever see.
Boston constituencies have a fascinating history of dominance and accommodation. It’s the perfect place for fairies and elves with agendas. I play “what if” all the time. What if the waterfront project didn’t happen because mythological beings fought to live there? What if a cool fairy embassy was built in place of the ugly transportation building? What are the ripple effects? How would the fey fit in or be reined in? I try to take what I’ve seen happen here and play it out with magic in as realistic an environment as I can. Sometimes I correct mistakes (that ugly transportation building) and sometimes I repurpose already cool places (a fairy ring on Boston Common). If the Convergence of Faerie and our reality really happened, Boston would figure out how to make it work.
What sort of research do you do to create the Celtic people and creatures that populate Connor’s world?
I look to the history of the Celts, real and mythic, as my source material. When people think of Celts, they think of Ireland and Scotland, but at one time they dominated most of Europe. Their origin has not been precisely defined (which a writer loves!), but there is strong evidence they first appeared in Austria and Germany. That sourcing provides fertile ground for Connor’s world because it means I can create relationships and parallels between my Irish and Teutonic fey that produce some fun conflict.
I read the oldest resources I can—the Welsh Mabinogion, the Icelandic Prose Eddas, the Irish Ulster and Fenian Cycles, The Voyage of Bran—as well as folklore collections and academic analysis of all these sources.
I try to keep to “historical” understandings of my fey folk with plausible twists. For all the neopagan interest in druids, for instance, we don’t really know their exact function in their societies, but we do know they were the intellectual elite of their day. Academics debate whether the Irish sidhe were pagan gods demonized by Christianity or an elevation of real people to mythological status. I take those fragments and unknowns, make some choices, and extrapolate how they would literally exist in our world.
Do you have a favorite word? What is it?
Ennui. It’s funny looking. It’s funny sounding. And I avoid it all costs.
You used to work in publishing yourself, in the contracts department. What’s it like to be on the other side of the fence, so to speak, as an author?
Authors often think publishers aren’t doing enough for them because they care more about the big names on their lists. As a former publishing employee, I know the real reason is that they’re busy having expensive lunches and going to glamorous parties.
Seriously, though, knowing what the rank and file publishing staff is up against makes me a little more understanding about schedules and contact. I try not to harass, tease, threaten, fold, spindle, poke, prod, vex or nettle unless absolutely necessary. I know the unsung heroes (pity the production staff) and the unseen jobs (ahem, the contracts department). I also know when something is reasonable yet not happening, what my contract really means for right now and the future, why checks are late, and when the rules can be bent and when they really can’t. I think I have a lot less anxiety about the publishing process as a result and (I hope) it makes me easier to work with as an author.
Ultimately, I think my past work experience makes me more pragmatic and, of course, strikes unmitigated fear in my editor. It’s nice.
Do you listen to music when you write? Is there a “playlist” of songs that inspired you as you were writing Unquiet Dreams?
I’m fairly eclectic in musical taste, but when I’m writing I gravitate to rock. It gets my adrenaline going. Unshapely Things was written with lots of different music, but particularly early Cure, Stabbing Westward, Nine Inch Nails, a little Marilyn Manson, and lots of Linkin Park. Occasionally, Bonnie Raitt, ‘cause she’s cool.
While writing Unquiet Dreams, I played Nine Inch Nails’ With Teeth way too much, particularly “Right Where It Belongs.” I also rotated in The Wildhearts, a kickin’ UK band that keeps threatening to break out but keeps breaking up. And Powerman 5000. I hit repeat a lot, to the point where I am asked to wear earbuds since the other person in the house isn’t writing books about mayhem and murder and isn’t quite inspired by the constant repetition.
Can you give us any hints of what’s coming for Connor Grey in the future?
Poor Connor. Poor, poor Connor. The more he learns and remembers, the worse his life will become. He’ll be betrayed by someone unexpected, surprised by unseen allies, and struggle with his love life. His issue with the diplomatic visa will be resolved. He might get a dog.
Anything else you’d like to add?
One of the very cool things about writing today is the internet. I have a website (www.markdelfranco.com) and blog , (markdf.livejournal.com ) and I’m one of the moderators of Fangs, Fur & Fey, an online community for urban fantasy and paranormal romance authors (community.livejournal.com/fangs_fur_fey). They help create an author/reader interaction that could happen in the past only at conventions. As an author, I get to see reader reaction—often immediate—that I otherwise would not. It makes reading, and now writing, a more shared experience. I’ve met some great new friends—both writers and readers—and encourage everyone to look into online communities to find like-minded people to talk to. Plus, it’s a great way to find authors you may not be aware of and make your to-be-read pile ever higher.
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