After studying fiction for many years, A.C. Nicholls has been writing Fantasy with kick-ass magic, faeries, vampires, werewolves, witches and more. He recently finished his popular series, The Cardkeeper Chronicles. Today we chat with him about his love for urban fantasy, why he picked Chicago as the backdrop of his books and get a peek behind the scenes to see what it took to write The Cardkeeper Chronicles.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Cardkeeper Chronicles is about.
‘The series tells a story of a group of magical towers known as Vaults. They exist in a dimension parallel to our own, and are used to house the world’s most dangerous weapons – enchanted cards that grant their users powerful magic. Every city has a Vault, and each Vault has a Cardkeeper. Chicago’s comes in the shape of an immortal woman named Keira Poe (and her best friend Link – a grumpy, middle-aged male faery).
Tell us more about Keira Poe. Why did you decide to start the series with her?
Keira is… different, for lack of a better term. Sure, she’s got your average heroic traits; strength, determination, smarts. But she’s much more than that. Every choice she makes is in the best interest of her job – guarding the Vault – but it always comes at a personal cost. She’s the most real and fleshed out character I’ve ever dreamed up.
Why urban fantasy? What is it about the genre that draws you?
I love magic. I wish I could give a more elaborate answer, but I can’t. Superheroes played a huge part of my childhood (and adulthood, ahem), but I’ve always been more interested in what’s underneath the mask. That was why I decided from the outset that, if I was going to write books like these, it would be with a character who doesn’t hide her identity. I’m pretty happy with how that turned out.
How do the books in the series tie together? Can they be read as standalones?
Sure, they can be. I try to give a recap of previous books without boring the reader to tears, but you’ll certainly gain more from it if you read them in order. There’s a legend in there somewhere – something about an intricate web of story arcs.
Why did you pick Chicago as the backdrop for your books?
It was popular at the time. Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden novels kickstarted the genre, so it seemed like a good set of footsteps to follow. The original plan was to move around between different cities and follow different Cardkeepers, but I started to grow attached to Keira. I simply couldn’t leave her behind. At least not for a while.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I consider myself a highly experienced procrastinator. Oh, and I make a mean cup of coffee.
Which book in the series is your favorite? Why?
I think it has to be the third one, Broken Magic. Keira stumbles upon a medallion that she has to return to its owner, but it prevents her from using any magic. It actually makes her temporarily mortal. She isn’t used to being as weak as a human, but she quickly has to adapt. I loved writing it and seeing how she changes her attitude toward confrontation. Until then she’d always been something of a warrior, but the events in this book taught her more about the value of life.
Do you work to a plot when you create your books or are they more in the moment?
I’m a plotter and I always will be. But as with most writers, that plot can often change as I’m writing it. I usually make it to the second half before I have to start thinking on the spot.
What genre of books do you like to read? Do you limit yourself to only the genre that you write yourself?
Absolutely not. I’m a huge fan of crime (which is what I wrote for a long time under the name Adam Nicholls – I’ll provide a link below). I also love Stephen King and Lee Child. My all-time favorite book is The Time Traveler’s Wife.
Do you have a set of rules for your world? Is there a process you go through that helps define these?
I have a map. In my head. It’s a mess.
Many people dismiss the genre as pure escapism—and nothing more. What would you say is the purpose of fantasy and sci-fi?
It’s interesting that you use the word “dismiss”. Few people have a positive opinion of something that doesn’t interest them, so they try to label the genres they don’t like as something that makes them feel more comfortable. I think what I’m trying to say is that they don’t dismiss it because it’s escapism, rather, they define it as escapism because they don’t like it. Using that logic, romance is icky. To each his own, I guess.
If you lived in the world of your series, who do you think you would be?
Hmm… perhaps Link, the miserable old faery. He knows what he wants and it’s all he’s interested in. He’s definitely caring and loyal, but he’s also self-centered and pessimistic. Yeah, I’m definitely more like him.
What are you working on right now?
That’s a very long list, but mostly more crime. I’ll be looking into more urban fantasy soon enough, but for now I have to learn to juggle the two different genres. Watch this space.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
All of my works can be found through Amazon, Goodreads, About the Author and at my website: www.adamnicholls.net