Rayne Hall wears many hats: author, instructor, journalist, editor, moderator of the Professional Author's Group and Fantasy Fiction Forum. For as long as I've known her, she's been nurturing the cast of interesting and complex characters in Storm Dancer. I'm delighted to welcome her this week while she has a special 99c offer until June 5 for those of you who like your dark fantasy meticulously researched.
Rayne, how did you choose the title Storm Dancer for your book?
Storm Dancer was the first title that came to my mind, even before I had written the first chapter. Although I played with several other title ideas, this one just felt right. The two leads are both storm dancers, in different ways.
Dahoud is a troubled hero with a dark past seeking redemption. In the metaphorical sense, he is dancing in a storm of violence and temptation.
Merida is a magician who can change the weather by dancing. She's on a mission to bring rain to a land in the grip of drought and starvation. Her dance rouses a violent storm and unleashes the events that of the story.
Which characters did you enjoy writing about?
I loved - and still love - all my characters, especially Dahoud. He's a dark, flawed hero, yet he fights his demon with integrity and courage, and I respect that.
Writing Merida was fun. She's a lovely woman, warm, compassionate, serious, honest and resourceful, but also tight about principles and prudish. I had wicked fun putting her principles to the test and making her do the things she swore she would never do.
The villain was fun to write, too. Many readers tell me that Kirral is their favourite character... although they wouldn't want to meet him in real life.
Yora is a spunky adolescent girl with a passion for knife fighting. She craves action and is unafraid.
Tell us about the world you've created for this book.
I had fun inventing the world, a fantasy world loosely based on the Middle East in the Bronze Age period. That's roughly the time when the Greeks besieged Troy and King David ruled in Israel. The cultures are inspired by ancient civilisations, especially Egypt, Greece, Persia and the Hittite Empire.
I enjoyed making the scenes come alive with intense atmosphere, so readers experience the story as if they were there and can smell the desert and feel the sand between their toes.
Dahoud is a fascinating character. Tell us more about him.
He is a troubled hero with a dark secret.
He needs to atone for the atrocities he committed as a siege commander. He works to build a new life, but his dark past won't let him go. Ruling the land he once devastated, how can he keep the secret of who he really is? He is possessed by a demon that tempts him back into his old ways. How long can Dahoud resist the lure? He fights to shield his people from war's violence - but the worst danger comes from himself. How can he protect the woman he loves from the evil inside him?
Are parts of the book based on real experiences?
The places and characters exist only in my imagination; I like making things up.
However, many inspiration come from real life. For the fantasy world, I've drawn on places where I've lived and travelled - Asia, Europe, North Africa, the Middle East. Some of the characters have personality traits I've observed in real life people, although I like to mix them up so no real person finds their way into my books.
My own experiences are fertile material for fiction. I used to perform semi-professionally as a bellydancer, so I could write with authenticity about how the heroine in Storm Dancer learns the dance and performs it in a tavern.
Years ago, I went on an assignment as a development aid worker to a remote part of northern China. I had been promised a heated, furnished flat with running water. When I arrived, the flat was a ruin, the windows broken, no water, no furniture, no heating, and a blizzard was raging outside. I survived the freezing night by piling all my clothes on top of me. In the morning, I confronted my employer and requested that he honour the contract. He shrugged. “I'm a busy man. I don't have time to keep my promises.”
I adapted this experience for Storm Dancer. Merida is a weather magician, sent by her government to bring rain to a distant, drought-parched country. When she arrives, she finds the promised private apartment doesn't exist. Instead, she has to sleep in a grimy, noisy dormitory. She complains, and is told: “I am a busy man.” His voice had the low-humming hiss of a wasp hovering over rotting fruit. “I do not have time to keep promises.”
This was just the start. Things got worse for me in China, and they get worse for Merida in Quislak.
You write British English. How does it differ from American?
Some words vary. For example, Brits often use which or who when Americans use that. In British English, we talk about autumn, lift and suspenders when Americans use fall, elevator and garter belt - not that those words are common in Storm Dancer. More significant are the spelling variations. British English words often have more letters than their American equivalents: honour, colour, jewellery, travelling instead of honor, color, jewellery, traveling, and s instead of z, for example in realise. Grammar and punctuation rules also differ a little.
Most readers enjoy a book regardless, and some even appreciate the variety. However, I've had emails from Americans who complain about spelling “errors” and demand that British authors give up their “inferior” English in favour of “proper” (American) English. If anyone really can't bear British English, I suggest they avoid my books.
I actually love British English so that's something I really don't understand. Anyway, who painted the cover?
The cover is a collaboration between two artists, Paul Davies and Erica Syverson.
Paul Davies is a professional illustrator specialising in fantasy, He painted most of the character and some of the background. Erica Syverson is an art student who studies at Kendall College of Art and Design, majoring in Digital Media. Fantasy, horror and supernatural images are her speciality. . She painted much of the background and some of the character.
And you made the trailer, correct?
I had fun creating it myself. I think it captures the mood, intensity and excitement of this dark epic fantasy novel.
How dark is Storm Dancer? Why the R-rating?
Storm Dancer contains some dark elements which can be disturbing - war, violence, rape, treachery, human sacrifice, demonic possession. Most readers take these aspects in their stride, but some find them distressing.
There's no graphic sex, but the erotic tension is sometimes intense, and not all of it is of the consensual kind. Some of the temptations are vivid. The violence is not excessive, but in places it's graphic.
I recommend downloading the free sample pages to see if it's your kind of book.
You can also read the first six chapters free here: https://sites.google.com/site/stormdancernovel/storm-dancer-free-sample-pages
Where can we buy the book?
The ebook is available here:
Barnes&Noble for Nook http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/storm-dancer-rayne-hall/1106014027?ean=2940011519741
Storm Dancer is also available as paperback. It's a big fat book for many hours of reading pleasure.