Tess Adair - Edgy Detectives, Demonic Encounters, and Hair-raising Suspense
Tess Adair has lived in the Midwest and the Northeast, and currently resides in the Pacific Northwest. She enjoys discovering new cafes, making friends with cats, and not hiking. As our Author of the Day, she tells us about her book, Shadow Summer.
Please give us a short introduction to what Shadow Summoner is about.
Shadow Summoner is about a paranormal PI who takes on a pro-bono gig investigating the death of a young high school girl—which she just so happened to learn about from a psychic vision, sent to her by the Choronzon Key, a mysterious artifact in her possession.
What inspired you to write about a dark magic murder in a high school?
I knew I wanted Shadow Summoner to function as two things: first, as basically a one-off case for Logan that would also lay the groundwork for her first big villain. And second, as a back-door origin story for Jude Li, the second protagonist of the series. I knew I wanted Jude to be younger and less educated about magic and casting than Logan, so the idea of putting her in school worked for that. And, of course, picking a small-town high school for the setting is also an homage to the greatest television show of all time—Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Tell us more about H.C. Logan. What makes her tick?
Logan is a bit of a loner and a workaholic, but she’s also keenly in touch with her empathy, particularly where disempowered people are concerned. That’s what draws her attention to Jude Li, who’s basically a bullied queer kid stuck in a small town with almost no support system at all.
Logan’s empathy for authority figures, on the other hand, can be pretty lacking, because she’s innately suspicious of most people in power. Some of that is just who she is—a bit of an iconoclast, and someone who likes to take charge of most situations herself. And some of it comes from her contentious relationship with her father, who was basically the first authority figure in her life to massively misuse his power over her. It’s hard to trust strangers when your own parents betray you.
Why did you make your protagonist a half-demon?
I was really drawn to the idea of having immense power and not knowing whether you can trust it or not—of constantly needing to question whether that power is moral to use, whether it’s a corrupting influence. If Logan’s power comes from something that’s not entirely human, can she even understand it completely? And what else might it mean about her world? The answers aren’t cut-and-dry, and they’re something we’re going to come back to, again and again.
I also really like the idea of a female character who has powers that are linked to monstrosity and ugliness. I think there’s an interesting gender dynamic to that. Every time Logan questions her power, on one level it’s about whether or not she’s being human enough, but on another level, it’s about whether or not she’s being feminine enough. When her dad tried to punish and control her, how different was that from any father trying to control his daughter’s body?
And to be honest, I also just really wanted my main character to be a tank. Tanks are fun to write fight scenes for.
This is the first book in your Choronzon Chronicles series. Can it be read as a standalone? How do the other books in the series tie in with this one?
Yes, this can definitely be read as a standalone. I would say book 2, The Order of Shadows, could also be read as a standalone, although I do think you’ll get more out of it if you read Shadow Summoner first.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I have a surprising number of Shakespearean speeches memorized. Also “Chun Li” by Nicki Minaj.
This is a very layered story with a couple of twists. Did you plan it all out before you started writing or did some of it just "happen" along the way?
I did write a pretty detailed outline, but I also changed the outline significantly as I moved along. The major beats stayed the same, but the details of how to get there shifted—primarily so they would make more sense!
Why urban fantasy? What drew you to the genre?
Honestly, I cut my teeth writing Harry Potter fanfiction. One of the reasons I eventually moved away from fanfiction was because I started coming up with my own magic rules, and once I started, I couldn’t stop. So, when I started coming up with ideas for a series, urban fantasy felt like a natural fit.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively as an author?
Most definitely! Shadow Summoner was actually the second novel I’ve written, though it was the first in urban fantasy. I learned a lot more about how to structure my outline as I went, as well as how to organize my time, and a million tiny ways to increase my productivity. So when I started on the sequel, I convinced myself that it was going to be easier to write than the first one, but I quickly found that not to be the case. Turns out, if you make your sequel way more complex, that also makes it harder to write.
But I think that’s the way it had to be. Every story should present its own challenges. That way you never stop evolving.
What's an aspect of being a writer that you didn't know about going in?
I didn’t realize how harrowing editing can really be. I actually can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing in some way, but before I graduated college, it was all short stories and unfinished drafts. So the long-haul edit was completely new. And what I eventually discovered was…nothing will mess with your sanity more than staring at your own words for hours.
Do any of your characters take off on their own tangent and refuse to do what you had planned for them?
I think Alexei would if he could, but I won’t allow it.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I mostly just drink a ton of coffee and water, and I listen to Zoe Blade. On occasion, I pace.
What are you working on right now?
Now that book 2 is out the door, I’m working on the outline for book 3, of course!
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
The most reliable way is to sign up for my email list, which you can do here: https://www.tessadair.com/jointhesummoning
Other than that, I’m probably most active on Instagram. You can follow me at author.tess.adair on there. I do post a few sneak peaks at the books on occasion, but way more importantly than that, you can see pictures of my cat Cordelia, the most photogenic creature who ever lived.