May 29, 2013 by Kira Lyn Blue
After reading Erica Dakin’s first book, The Ritual (Theft and Sorcery Book One), we contacted her and she agreed to brave the brazen admiration of the Ninja Squirrels and discuss her unique take on fantasy and romance. So, put down your lockpicks and daggers, hold off on spell practice, and tell the Queen you’ll have to postpone the audience she requested, because you don’t want to miss this!
Discussing Romance and Fantasy with Erica Dakin
KLB: Erica, your Theft and Sorcery Trilogy is a blend of romance and fantasy. I wouldn’t be able to put in firmly in either genre because while the romance between your main characters is clearly the main plot of your first novel, The Ritual, you’ve set this romance in a very detailed fantasy world and seem to be building toward something bigger with the plot of the overall trilogy. What made you decide to combine these two genres in this way?
ED: It wasn’t a decision as such, I just appear to be incapable of writing anything without my main characters getting involved with someone. I’ve been reading Fantasy since I was a kid and Romance since I was a teenager, and I always dreamed about writing something as epic as The Lord of the Rings. My first ‘proper’ writing attempt was something which I can best describe as a fantasy biography, which started with my main character as a 13-year-old boy. As soon as he hit seventeen I had him lose his virginity, and at 27 – I think – I found him a wife. That pretty much set the scene. I tried to fight it for a while, but in the end I gave up and embraced it instead. From then on I suppose I could have tried to write straightforward contemporary Romance, but I had the beginning of The Ritual lying around, and setting your romance in a fantasy world gives a lot of freedom to do things that you can’t do in the real world, such as making an entire race infertile.
KLB: Okay, now let’s talk about the two specific genres you’ve combined. In terms of fictional writing, what does romance mean to you?
ED: Romance means losing yourself in the struggles of two people without the worry that everything’s going to end in tears. It’s very predictability makes it what it is – a few hours of warm, fuzzy escapism. Romance is not about where they end up, it’s how they get there.
KLB: I completely agree. How about fantasy, then?
ED: Magic. Primitive societies, though they can have clever technological stuff powered by magic. More races than just humans. Cleverly built worlds with completely unique bits that make me go ‘damn, I wish I could think of stuff like that’. Fanciful creatures such as dragons and sprites and goblins and whatnot. Larger than life characters who have to do really important stuff. Let’s face it, the real world can be pretty boring sometimes when you compare it to all the things you can find in fantasy worlds. Some people say “Fantasy is nothing but escapism, none of it’s real,” with the kind of sneer that says they very much feel like they’re your intellectual superior, but they don’t understand that that is the whole point of Fantasy. It presents you with the impossible, and for a while it makes you feel that it’s real.
KLB: When people read your books, what do you want them to come away with?
ED: Two things probably. First, I hope they come away with a feeling of having spent an entertaining few hours that made them forget about the real world for a while. I don’t claim to write deeply philosophical high literature, I want to entertain people and have them on the edge of their seat, breathless to find out what happens next.
Second, I hope they come away with a deep love for my main characters. To me it’s hugely important that protagonists are likeable, and I love mine like I love my own children. Well, the girls. The men I love like potential husbands. Or lovers maybe. *cough* Anyway. If anyone else who has read the book feels the same, then I’m happy.
KLB: The main characters of The Ritual are two sets of twins. I love how it works into the plot, but I’m curious about how this came about. So, why twins?
ED: This will probably sound very geeky, but Rin and Shani were my two characters in a D&D tabletop roleplaying campaign. I’m sure it’s not too hard to figure out that Rin was a rogue and Shani a sorceress. The reason why I had two rather than one character was because our group only consisted of four people (and the DM of course), and I always feel that for tabletopping a group of five characters is more or less ideal. I asked the DM if he’d be okay with me playing two characters, and he said that was fine, but I’d only get one vote in group decisions. To make that plausible I made my characters identical twins, reasoning that they wouldn’t ever disagree on anything that way.
The campaign never really got anywhere, but I’d already created the characters and started writing about them, mainly to give them some backstory. So that’s why the girls are twins.
As for the men, that was pretty much circumstance. As I mentioned before, I am incapable of writing anything without it getting romantic, so it was a given that Rin would meet a Significant Other. When I started thinking about how this would come about, I got the idea of the scene as it happens in the book – she literally bumps into him and is completely bedazzled by his gorgeous eyes. This immediately annoys her, because she likes to be in control, so she turns around to run away from him, only to bump into him again. Except it’s not him, it’s his identical twin. My intention was to profoundly unsettle her, and when I thought of the scene like that I rather liked the idea of having two sets of twins.
I’m glad you liked it, since it seems to divide people a little. One reviewer called it cliché, which I was a little puzzled about, since I really don’t know of any other books with two sets of twins. I can live with people calling it too much of a coincidence, or convoluted, or maybe implausible, but I find it hard to understand the cliché tag. (Maybe they didn’t fully understand what the word cliché means? Whatever.) As for the coincidence – most fantasy seems to float on an endless succession of coincidences, so I’m sure mine is no worse. You can’t please everyone anyway.
KLB: No, you can’t. One: we here at KLB would definitely call tabletop gaming geeky, but we consider that a badge of honor. Two: What’s too much of a coincidence in a fantasy world with magic? I thought the twins dynamic added a certain amount of depth to the character relationships. Who else would truly understand the closeness and loyalty that Rin and Shani share but another set of twins?
ED: Exactly, and I’ve been able to use that mutual understanding to further the story.
KLB: Okay, one last question. What question do you wish people would ask you about your writing that you’ve never gotten to answer? Here’s your chance!
ED: I really cannot think of a generic question that I wish people would ask, but I’d be very interested to hear specific questions that people might have about my books, such as about specific scenes or events. All things that would be highly spoilery if posted on a general forum, but that would show me that people have engaged with the book. I’m the kind of person who would quite like to look over your shoulder when you’re reading it, just to see whether you’re sniggering and gasping at the right moment, so questions like that would be awesome.
Erica’s Books: New Release!!!
Intrigued yet? Good! Erica just released the second book in her Theft and Sorcery series: The Conspiracy. In celebration of her new release, the Kindle edition of The Ritual will be available for free from June 12-16th or if you’re impatient like me, you can pick it up on Amazon for $1 right now.
The Ritual is rated four swooning ninja squirrels, all of whom wish they could train lockpicking with Arlennis’s hottest thief, Zashter.
I’m still working on The Conspiracy and the squirrels refuse to allow me to rate it until I’m done. However, I’m fairly certain the real conspiracy is all about trying to make me flail between which of Erica Dakin’s characters I love most.