Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers,
but to be fearless in facing them. – Rabindranath Tagore
Dr. Percival Whyborne and Griffin Flaherty have settled into their home and a life together; or are as settled as they can be, given the nature of their relationship and their need for discretion. Life in Widdershins has been quiet for the two men since the city last teetered on the brink of annihilation, but life… well, at least life as Whyborne and Griffin know it, is about to take a turn for the supernatural.
Whyborne’s father—he of the, “Oops, I nearly destroyed the world,” Whybornes—wants to hire Griffin to investigate some strange goings-on in Threshold, West Virginia. Seems there’ve been reports of disappearances, odd behaviors, and inexplicable noises in the coal mine there, for which the town even exists at all. It’s a case he and Ival are reluctant to accept, but accept they do because if they didn’t, there wouldn’t be anything for me to have stayed awake until the wee hours to devour now, would there? And that would be bad, which is an understatement. Tragic! It would be tragic…
There’s a stone—the literal keystone, to put a finer point on its significance—that holds a secret message, one Whyborne must attempt to translate. But someone, or something, doesn’t want this puzzle solved, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to make sure our dear philologist isn’t afforded the opportunity to make heads or tails…or claws or pincers or tentacles, oh my!…out of it.
Whyborne, Griffin, and Dr. Christine Putnam (whom I adore!) make the trip to the small West Virginia mining town, entirely unprepared for what they might find there, which, at first blush, seems to be nothing more than local legend and imagination run amok.
The Pinkertons are there to keep the peace. Sort of. But things become less than peaceful on a very personal level, when someone from Griffin’s past resurfaces and creates all sorts of havoc in his and Whyborne’s relationship. But, I have to say, for as much as it gave me the angsty boo-boos on my heart, it needed doing because Griffin needed to get some wrongheaded notions straightened out before he and Whyborne could move forward. Everything happens for a reason, doesn’t it?
How do you sum up a book like Threshold in a single word? Clearly, I’m not very good at it, but if I were to try, I’d say it’s extraordinary. It truly is all the synonyms of that word: amazing and bizarre and unique and strange and marvelous. The plot is chockfull of squicky surprises and brimming with frightening and freakish bogies, not to mention danger and intrigue and romance. Plus, it’s a chance to spend more time with the characters I fell in love with in Widdershins, which is possibly the best part of it all.
Joseph Campbell once said that the crossing of the threshold in a hero’s journey is ”the point of no return.” Why in the world would you want to miss that?
Bruce, Tina, and I are ecstatic to have Jordan with us today. She graciously accepted our invitation to answer a few questions, and if you read all the way to the end, you’ll find out that she’s also generously offering a giveaway to one lucky winner. Welcome, Jordan!
So, let’s start off with having you tell us a little bit about yourself: hobbies, interests, whatever you’d like to share about what makes you, you.
A.) When I’m not writing, I brew beer and mead (honey-wine), hike, and drink scotch (I’m lying – I do that while I’m writing, too). I’m a giant geek who fell in love with Doctor Who in 1986 when the local PBS station aired the Tom Baker episodes, and my first love letter was to Spock (I was four, and I wrote it in green crayon and asked him to marry me). I spent more of my life than any human should in college, first to get an archaeology degree, then later to get a BS and a Masters in biology. I’m vegan, have two cats, and an amazing husband who doubles as my beta reader.
Q.) Why paranormal/fantasy? What attracts you to the crafting of those stories rather than a simple contemporary romance? Is there any sort of psychological component behind writing what you write?
A.) Ever since I was a little kid, my favorite stories always had magic in them. I’ve always loved stretching my imagination, envisioning different worlds, or worlds that are almost—but not quite—our own. I also love it because it lets me explore real world problems through a slightly different lens.
Families are a continuous thread in all of my works so far: families made by blood, and families made through choice, and the places they intersect. Dan in Hainted is in danger of wasting his own life making up for his parents’ mistakes, while raising his two younger siblings. In the SPECTR books, the agency is the family which took John in when his own rejected him. Whyborne in Widdershins spent his childhood bullied and put down by his father and brother–only to discover they’re even worse people than he realized.
On that note, I would love to write a book bringing in some of the Endicotts from Whyborne’s mother’s side of the family. One thing I learned from reading HP Lovecraft: never, ever look into your family tree. You’ll only find undead sorcerers, cannibal sorcerers, or fishmen, and it all ends in madness and screaming.
The transformative power of love–for good or ill–is another theme I find myself going back to over and over again. The idea that a person can be inspired to do better, or be a better person, or even just to finally let go of those past wounds and heal, crops up all over the place.
Q.) (From Rhys Ford – this is a multi-part question) When it comes to world building, do you find inspiration in the writings of H.P. Lovecraft and Jules Verne? Who are some other successful world builders that have inspired you? Have you read the Sebastian St. Cyr books?
I’m a huge HPL fan, as you might have guessed. I read a lot of Jules Verne in high school, along with Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, Charles Dickens (for fun, even—giant nerd!), and some of the other classics. I grew up reading fantasy and science fiction: Barbara Hambly’s lush descriptions in her Windrose books left a permanent mark on me.
I am deeply ashamed to admit I’d never even heard of the Sebastian St. Cyr books before now.
Q.) Are you a plotter or a pantser?
A.) I’m an obsessive plotter. I have a storyboard of every book before I sit down to start on page one. Of course, just as any military plan doesn’t survive contact with the enemy, my novel plans don’t always survive contact with the actual page.
Q.) Since we’re here today celebrating the release of Threshold, Book 2 in the Whyborne & Griffin series, let’s talk a little bit about those characters. What made you decide to place them in a historical rather than contemporary setting?
A.) I’ve always adored history—my first degree was in archaeology—and the idea of setting a story some time in the late 1800s collided with another idea about writing a story with a museum employee as the main character. (This is how most of my stories begin, with two unrelated ideas bumping into each other and sticking.) The era was perfect, because at the time museums still did as much research as universities—more, in some cases—which opened up plenty of opportunities to get my MC into trouble.
Not to mention a lot of people, myself included, find the period fascinating. It’s almost, but not quite, the modern world: there are a lot of familiar elements compared to earlier times, and yet it’s still something of an alien landscape.
Q.) What sorts of research did you do to make sure the feel of the time period, as well as the speech and mannerisms, were as authentic as possible?
A.) I’m a research whore. The reason I set Widdershins specifically in 1897 is because I was able to find a reprint of an 1897 Sears & Roebuck catalog, so I could check the accuracy of everything from Griffin’s “shampoo paste” to what scents cologne came in.
One of the trickiest things about researching this era is that so much information out there is about the Victorian Era in England, rather than the Gilded Age in America. They’re similar enough to trip you up if you aren’t careful; a lot of the things I thought I knew turned out to be right for London and wrong for Massachusetts. And of course I still managed to make some accidental flubs.
However, I hasten to point out this is an alternate universe where people go around raising the dead, summoning creatures from beyond, and all sort of exciting things. Even within this ours-but-not-ours universe, Widdershins is an odd town.
And to be perfectly honest, I consider Whyborne & Griffin series of books to be as much historicals as the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes movies, or The Mummy, or Indiana Jones. ;) The setting enhances our enjoyment of the show, but we’re there to see fisticuffs, wild chases, things blowing up, and boys kissing (hush—leave me to my Sherlockian fantasies!). My primary goal is to have the reader close the book feeling as if they’ve just lived through a fantastic, romantic adventure.
Q.) Which is the trickier character to write, Whyborne or Griffin? Why?
A.) Griffin, without question. Whyborne’s character and narrative voice came very easily to me, but Griffin, especially at first, was more of a cipher.
I guess it’s only fitting, since Griffin has issues with honesty. Whyborne wants to get through life without anyone noticing him, but if he can’t do that, he’ll quietly put up with all sorts of bullying—but he won’t try to change himself to fit in. When push comes to shove, he’s always chosen to be himself instead of being liked. It hasn’t brought him happiness, but then again, he’s probably less miserable than he would have been if he had given in.
Griffin, on the other hand, wants to hide his real self. He’s constructed this persona of a well-educated guy who is fun and charming, and totally has his shit together. He thinks it will make other people like him. But the mask slowly starts slipping away, and we (and Whyborne) find out that he was in a lunatic asylum, and he’s kind of a manipulative bastard when it suits him, and he has massive trust issues, and he’s really even more of a mess than Whyborne. Which is saying a lot!
So, in keeping with their natures, Whyborne was completely open with me, and Griffin made me keep peeling away layer after layer to figure out his character.
Q.) I simply adore Dr. Christine Putnam, Percival’s friend and colleague. When you created her character, did you intend to make her such a strong and dynamic presence, or did she simply evolve that way as you got to know her?
A.) I really wanted a prominent female character to keep the series from being a total sausage party, so I started looking into women scientists from the era (they did exist!). Given the era, Christine would need a very tenacious personality to get where she has, which in turn made her the perfect foil for Whyborne. They’re superficially opposites: brash and confident vs. quiet and shy, athletic vs. klutzy, explorer vs. recluse, etc. But underneath they have a great deal in common: the quest for knowledge, a general dislike of other people, and a huge mutual respect.
Q.) Can you give us any hints as to what the next Whyborne & Griffin book will be about and when we can expect it?
A.) I’m currently researching late-nineteenth century lunatic asylums. As for when, I currently expect it to be out in December 2013.
Q.) Would you mind sharing an excerpt from the book with us?
Griffin frowned at me. “Surely you can ride, Whyborne.”
“Well…yes. I’ve ridden before.” My childhood friend Leander had loved horses, and insisted I join him on little tours around his estate. Of course, I hadn’t been on one of the beasts in a decade, instead riding in cabs, like a civilized person.
“Then mount up!” Christine exclaimed. She swung easily into the saddle, as if she did such things all the time. No doubt she rode horses and wrangled camels as a matter of course in Egypt.
I stared at the remaining creature. I could barely make it out in the dim light, but I thought it was brown in color, with a white blaze on its forehead. What was more obvious was it was very tall and very large.
“Do you need help adjusting the stirrups?” Griffin offered kindly.
“No! Well, yes.”
Griffin assisted me up onto the towering monster’s back and adjusted the stirrups to fit my long legs, before stepping back with a grin. “Don’t fret, my dear—you’ll be fine.”
I rather doubted it. Griffin swung up onto his mount with the same ease Christine had shown, and I remembered his tales of chasing train robbers and the like across the west. Of course he was an accomplished horseman. No doubt Elliot rode like a cowboy as well.
Griffin’s steed responded to a light touch of his knee and headed away from the livery stable at a brisk walk. Mine followed, more or less by default, as I’d done nothing to encourage it I was aware of.
“Buck up, Whyborne!” Christine called from behind me. “They can sense fear, you know!”
Wonderful. I’d be trampled to death by midnight.
Griffin led the way up along the cleared area, avoiding the bulk of the town. I clung grimly to the reins, every step—trot—whatever—of the horse jarring my spine. As we approached the woods, Griffin glanced back and me and winced. “Try to sit more loosely,” he advised. “You’re bouncing along like a sack of wet laundry. Move with the horse.”
“Oh, yes, why didn’t I think of that?” I muttered under my breath. As for what he even meant to begin with, I hadn’t the slightest notion.
Thunder growled over the mountain, louder now, and my horse let out a worried snort. I rather shared the sentiment. The wind picked up, rattling the trees as they closed around us, and bringing with it the scent of rain. The temperature dropped quickly, the oppressive feeling of the air giving way to something wilder.
I looked about worriedly, but the tossing trees already blocked the scattered lights of Threshold. Cloud rack covered the sky from horizon to horizon now, and our lanterns seemed to be the only points of light in all the world.
Griffin slowed his horse and cast about. “Listen,” he said.
“I don’t hear anything except the wind.”
He nodded. “Exactly. The frogs and whippoorwills have fallen silent.”
My skin crawled, and the horse seemed to agree, snorting and tossing its head, tugging at the reins in my clenched hands. We surely couldn’t have penetrated far into the forest, but in the dark I had no idea which direction would lead us back to Threshold and which deeper into the hollow.
“How much further?” I asked. Surely Mrs. Hicks wouldn’t have journeyed too deep into the countryside, given the dangers lurking in the woods.
“Not very—did you hear that?”
The wind howled down off the mountain, and the trees thrashed, branches rubbing together with obscene moans. But underneath it all, nearer at hand, there came the sound of something moving over the forest floor, snapping twigs and crunching leaves.
Christine pulled her rifle from her shoulder. “There’s something moving in the woods.”
Q.) What other works-in-progress do you have coming up?
A.) I’m hard at work with my SPECTR series: book 3, Reaper of Souls is due out July 2, and I’m currently writing book 4, Eater of Lives, for release in September.
Q.) (Here’s another one from Rhys) Would you LOVE to be able to get into a time machine and travel to the Victorian era, just to see what Bedlam was really like back then?
A.) Having taken field trips to the morgue and crime labs back when I studied forensic anthropology, I probably would. :D
Q.) Will you tell us where we can find you on the internet?
My website: http://www.jordanlhawk.com
Be my friend on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/jordanlhawk
Or tweet with me! https://twitter.com/jordanlhawk
You can also show Whyborne & Griffin some love on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WhyborneAndGriffin
Thanks so much for being here with us today, Jordan. We’ve loved having you here and hope you’ll stop by again soon.
Now let’s talk goodies! Jordan is offering the chance for one lucky reader to win a $5 (US) Gift Card from Amazon. I don’t know about you all, but I’d definitely use it to purchase a certain book. ;-)
All you have to do to enter is leave a comment right here by 11:59pm (Pacific Time) on Saturday, June 8, 2013, and you’ll automatically be entered to win.
The drawing will be held on June 9, 2013 using the random number generator at Random.org, and the winner will be contacted for prize delivery. Now, in order to do that, we need you to make sure and leave your Email Address in your comment. Makes it much easier to get in touch. :-)
Thanks so much for participating and best of luck to you all!