When an award-winning veteran author gave the advice to combine two or more themes in order to captivate their readers, Michael Angel took that idea and created something unique. Although he initially only intended to make this a trilogy, Angel's "Fantasy & Forensics" series took off and became a bestseller. As our Author of the Day, Angel chats about how he created the characters in his books, Andeluvia, the world this series is set in and reveals why a spider species was named after him.
Please give us a short introduction to what Centaur of the Crime is about.
It’s C.S. Lewis meets CSI! When LAPD Crime Scene Analyst Dayna Chrissie is summoned against her will to the magical world of Andeluvia, she must solve a royal murder before war breaks out between the human and centaur kingdoms. It’s a fantasy novel with some serious forensics mystery solving.
What inspired you to mix Fantasy with forensics?
Several years ago, I was attending a seminar on novel writing hosted by the uber-bestsellers Dean Wesley Smith and Katheryn Rusch. Ms. Rusch was discussing ways to come up with unique ideas.
"For example," she said, "You can smash genres and styles together. Like...C.S. Lewis on speed." I immediately thought, 'Hm. Why not 'C.S. Lewis as an episode of CSI?"
The rest is history.
Tell us more about Dayna Chrissie - what makes her tick?
Dayna Chrissie starts out as that person you know at work who’s incredibly dedicated to her job. The one you always find at the office on a Saturday. She loves solving the mysteries that everyone else has failed to crack.
Over the course of this book and its sequels, Dayna learns that ‘working’ is not the same thing as ‘living’. To that ends, she becomes very attached to her group of friends (a centaur, griffin, and fey deer), to the point that they become like family.
Dayna finds herself in a world where nobody seems to want peace. Why did you pick this setting for the book?
Two reasons, actually.
On the human side: Andeluvia is a fantasy-medieval setting, and one which just emerged from the rule of a well-loved but rather incompetent king. Now that this king is out of the way, it seemed natural that the nobles would restless and want to expand their power.
On the centaur side: Twenty-five years ago, the centaurs concluded a war with the humans, one which ended in a stand-off. Centaurs are a warrior culture (their King is named ‘Angbor Skull-splitter’), so the peace treaty has rankled a lot of stallions. They’re more interested in a rematch than solving a murder.
Did you know from the start that this was going to turn into a series?
I swear, I thought it was going to be a trilogy at most!
Somewhere along the line, I decided that a longer plot arc would be a grand way to get Dayna out there exploring the world of Andeluvia. In each book, we explore another species and its culture. In subsequent books Dayna spends time with the centaurs, the griffins, the phoenix, and the wyverns, and that’s just for starters.
If you could choose one character from your book to spend a day with, who would it be? And where would you take them?
What, I can only pick one?
Wow, that’s a tough call. But I’d probably pick Grimshaw the Griffin. Shaw, as he’s known, is a lot like a grizzled veteran sergeant from the British Army circa 1870. He’s seen it all, been all over the world, and still upholds all the old army values. Takes his food and sleep where he finds it, ‘if we have to die today in battle for the Queen, so be it’ and so forth.
Yet despite this starchiness, he’s also the funniest of the characters in the sense he’s also the sincerest. To the point that he tells one of the smaller, weaker characters that he wouldn’t mind eating him. Because of that appetite of his, I’d probably take him to the best steak house I could find, in the hopes of currying enough favor that he’d take me along for a griffin flight over Los Angeles.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I’m an amateur rock-hound, jeweler, and gemologist. I also write non-fiction under another name. In fact, my proudest achievement was helping a group of Australian scientists out with some publishing work. As a thank-you, they named a 2mm long ground spider after me. How many people do you know who actually have a species named after them? It’s pretty cool.
How do you force yourself to finish what you're doing before starting the next project when the new idea is nagging at you?
I’ve never had to.
A lot of writers are ‘idea people’ who don’t know how to herd the cats. But that way lies madness.
Myself, I’ll jot down tremendous detail about a side-idea if I can’t work it in to a current project, but that’s all. Readers don’t pay you by the idea, they pay you by the book!
Are any of the characters in the book based on real people?
All of my characters are a mélange of people I’ve been fortunate - or unfortunate - to meet. It’s been a rare pleasure to re-interpret many aspects of people I know through this lens.
In truth, I think all people in a book are based on someone real, or a character we’ve ‘met’ in a form of media that was close enough to be real. Arthur Conan Doyle based Sherlock Holmes on surgeon Joseph Bell, while a lot of people I know have based their characters in part on Sherlock Holmes!
Among the wealth of characters in Centaur of the Crime, who was the most difficult to create?
Probably Xandra, who’s one of the Great Horned Owls that make up the Kingdom’s ‘Parliament’. In this world, the owls write the tax code and control the Royal Treasury. They also speak in a roundabout way that avoids the use of the word ‘I’. It makes it a challenge to write dialog, to say the least.
Do you have a favorite line from the book, and can you explain what that line means to you?
It’s actually a conversation where Dayna discovers that Shaw the griffin is interested in making a meal of one of her friends, a fayleene (enchanted deer).
“Shaw,” I asked, “what does your species eat?”
“My kind doth consume anything,” the griffin said proudly. He eyed the fayleene as he added, “though in truth, we like meat. Ideally, in portions the size of…a well-fleshed fawn.”
“Hold on,” I said firmly, “we do not eat our friends. Talk, yes. Eat, no.”
“Fair enough,” Shaw agreed. His pink tongue flicked over the edge of his beak as he addressed the fayleene. “Princeling, how doth it feel to look so delicious?”
“Shaw, I mean it!” I warned.
The griffin made a resonant chortle. “T’was spoken in jest, Dayna. Never would I harm a companion, e’en should they look so tender and edible.”
Talk to us a bit about your writing habits. Do you write early in the morning, or through the night? Pen or laptop?
Laptop only, and whenever I can fit it in. I’ve been trying to set a stricter schedule, but life lately has been interfering with that. So it’s binge-writing when a chunk of hours is available.
What are you working on right now?
Centaur’s seventh sequel, aka Book 8 in the ‘Fantasy and Forensics’ series! In it, Dayna’s sent on a mission to determine who’s exterminated an entire nest of wyverns. The working title of the book is A Warrant of Wyverns. It should be out by the end of August 2017.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
They can discover my work most easily at my Amazon.com Author Page: http://tinyurl.com/mangel-books
You can keep up with my progress and even join my monthly newsletter off my author website, at: http://michaelangelwriter.com
Stop by anytime, the welcome mat’s out.