Author Interview with Dana Chamblee Carpenter
Today on the Blog, I am so proud and thrilled to have the Award Winning Author Dana Chamblee Carpenter who has just released her final instalment to the very famous Bohemian Trilogy “Book Of The Just” (October 2, 2018, Pegasus Books). Imbued with a rich sense of history, magic, and mythology, “Book of the Just” is a paranormal mystery/thriller that spans centuries starting with the medieval period, so it’s great for history buffs, too. Dana’s second book not only won the Silver Falchion in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror category but also won Best Overall novel at the Nashville-based National mystery conference Killer Nashville!
In the interview, she talks about her writing Journey through the Trilogy, and her research about the 13th century Bohemian History and culture! She discusses about the evolution of characters through the series and spills some very interesting facts about her latest book “Book of The Just”! Scroll down to read this brilliant piece from the very talented, and beautiful Dana Carpenter!
Details of the books at the bottom of the page.
Dana Chamblee Carpenter is a phenomenal advocate for the written word. In her career as an English professor she encourages the next generation of writers to push the boundaries of what written art is and can be with grace and wisdom. An experienced writer beyond her Bohemian Trilogy, Dana’s short fiction has appeared in The Arkansas Review, Jersey Devil Press, Maypop, and, most recently in the anthologies, Dead Ends: Stories from the Gothic South, and Killer Nashville Noir: Cold Blooded.
“Mouse is both strong and vulnerable, constantly struggling with the dark legacy of her father, her own powers, and her efforts to be a good person. This exciting, poignant novel continues the strong opening in Bohemian Gospel and leaves room for more in Mouse’s fascinating world.”- Publishers Weekly [praise for the Bohemian Trilogy]
“Carpenter expertly combines elements of gothic fantasy with historical details of 13th-century Bohemia. The combination creates an atmosphere of mysticism and tension. With a strong and nuanced central character and a rich sense of mystery, Bohemian Gospel is breathtaking.”- Shelf Awareness (starred) [praise for the Bohemian Trilogy]
“Part history, part horror, part love story, part Christian mythology. Fresh and surprising. Brings the Dark Ages to strange and bewitching life.”- Kirkus Reviews [praise for the Bohemian Trilogy]
Syllables Of Swathi: I can’t thank you enough for your time. It is such a pleasure having you on the blog. Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
Dana Chamblee Carpenter: I suppose the first thing to know about me is I’m a geek. A Dr. Who, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Firefly, Sherlock, Buffy kind of geek. I think there’s more in the world that we don’t know than what we do, and I love looking for the magic and wonder in the world around me. I don’t like restrictions or conventions or stereotypes or any process that tries to put things/people into boxes and tells them to stay there. I’m an eclectic reader–I read almost every kind of book by every kind of writer.
I believe in strong women who encourage each other and the men who are their allies. I think it’s more important to be kind than anything else.
I’ve written three novels so far–Bohemian Gospel, The Devil’s Bible, and Book of the Just.
SOS: Where were you raised? Where do you live now? Do you have any pets?
DCC: I was raised in a small town in northeast Arkansas surrounded by rice fields and mosquitoes. I later lived in Missouri and Mississippi during graduate school. I live in Nashville now and LOVE it.
We have two dogs, Philos and Artemis. Philos is the big guy (95 lbs) who thinks he’s a lap dog, and Artemis is the only dog of “bad character” I’ve ever met. She wants what’s hers . . .and what’s his. And she takes it (even though he’s got 40 pounds on her). We also have two cats, Obi and Ami, who hang out in the dog-free zone in the basement.
SOS: It must have been a long Journey by now. Tell us a bit about the evolution of this Trilogy. Where did it all start? How did you structure the thread that builds through all three books?
DCC: It all started with Mouse. She came to me, in a moment of quiet, wanting to be heard but scared to tell her story. It took a long time to get her to open up and share her secrets. BOHEMIAN GOSPEL and THE DEVIL’S BIBLE were initially one book with neither section fleshed out as well as it needed to be. So I had a sense of where we were starting and what the middle might look like, but BOOK OF THE JUST was brand new discovery for me–exhilarating and heartbreaking.
The thread through the whole journey was Mouse. She was the one driving the bus and asking the hard questions about good and evil and redemption. I was just along for the ride and trying to be the best storyteller I could be.
SOS: Writing about the 13th Century would have involved a great deal of research, needless to say. Tell us about your research on the History of Bohemia and other cultures. How much of the researched facts did you use in your books?
DCC: It took the better part of a year to do the research I felt like I needed to make BOHEMIAN GOSPEL authentic. I needed general knowledge about what life would have been like at the time. I wanted to learn about the culture, their history up to the 13th Century, the court politics at play. Most of that came from books. Other pieces, the finer details and insights into Ottakar’s character or his father’s, were harder to find, but my curiosity drove me onward.
There’s a scene in the Great Hall, for example, where musicians are playing and the people dance. What kind of music did they listen to, I wondered. What kind of dances did they do? I found lovely old books in digital archives in German (which I had translated) that gave me actual songs and dances of the time. It was like treasure!
For THE DEVIL’S BIBLE, I needed to know how they made medieval manuscripts, and for BOOK OF THE JUST, I spent months learning about the Martu people in Australia, about ancient Jewish lore, about current politics in Eritrea, Africa.
I only directly use probably a third of what I learn, but much of the rest of the research frames how I tell the stories in more indirect ways.
SOS: Your books are packed with paranormal and thriller sequences based on Historical fiction. How do you manage writing different genres?
DCC: I read EVERYTHING, and I find myself drawn to books that cross genres.
I like realism with my fantasy and magic in my historical fiction.
I love beautiful prose that takes my breath away, but I really need for the story to keep moving, to give me some suspense or anticipation. I don’t really set out to write a specific genre or to be genre-defiant. I just let the story go where it needs to go. My fiction is character driven, so my writing process focuses on getting to know the characters, learning how they’d react in given situations, and letting them change. The story evolves based on the characters’ development–sometimes for the protagonist, sometimes for the antagonist. This focus on character means other considerations of genre and convention are secondary and really only become factors when I’m revising.
SOS: The first book in the series, “Bohemian Gospel” won Killer Nashville’s Claymore Award! Tell us how the success felt like. How did your success impact you?
DCC: Winning the Claymore came at a time where I was wracked with self-doubt. My agent and I had BOHEMIAN GOSPEL out on submission, but no one wanted to take a risk on a debut writer with a cross-genre book. Until I won the Claymore. It opened doors that were closed to me. I had a publishing contract about two weeks later.
I always see success as a motivator. THE DEVIL’S BIBLE just won Best Overall Novel at the 2017 Killer Nashville. Again, it gave me a boost of confidence and belief in myself when I most needed it. For me, I think of success not as an accolade of what I’ve done, but rather encouragement to keep doing it.
SOS: Tell us about your new book “Book of the Just”. What can your readers expect from the newest instalment?
DCC: BOOK OF THE JUST picks up where THE DEVIL’S BIBLE left off. Mouse and Angelo are hiding among the Martu (an indigenous people who live in the outback of Australia) until a series of dreams and visions warn the pair that something is coming and sets them on the run again. Mouse will find herself tempted in ways she’s never been before.
All of us have a line we swear we’ll never cross. What happens when we do? Can we go back? How do we forgive ourselves? Or others? These are the central questions running through BOOK OF THE JUST.
SOS: Your readers have been traveling with the characters for a while now. Could you tell us about the journey of the characters throughout the series and their participation in the “Book of the Just”.
DCC: This is hard without giving spoilers. 🙂 Mouse starts her journey looking for her place in the world, searching for an understanding of who and what she is. Like so many of us, the answers she finds to those questions aren’t the ones she wants to find.
She runs away from the truth she learns in BOHEMIAN GOSPEL and, in THE DEVIL’S BIBLE, has to stop running and face those truths. She learns that what we are doesn’t have to define who we are. We get to make our own choices. In BOOK OF THE JUST, Mouse has to come to terms with the choices she makes–and the consequences that come with those choices.
SOS: What three words sum up your Trilogy?
DCC: Magical. Thrilling. Questioning.
SOS: What genre do you prefer to read? Describe your favorite reading atmosphere.
DCC: If you’re going to hold my feet to the fire and make me choose, I’ll go for fantasy. But, honestly, I love to read almost everything. Except romance. I don’t have anything against it, and I love fiction with relationships at the core, but I think OD’d on romance when I was in middle and high school (the teen versions). Oh, and westerns. Can’t get into those either, for some reason.
My favorite atmosphere to read in is cozy and quiet. Soft, fuzzy blanket and a cup of warm something. But on pleasant days, outside in the hammock will work, too.
SOS: What is your favorite book from childhood? How did it make you feel?
DCC: I had two favorite series when I was a kid: The Dark Is Rising series by Susan Cooper and the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. AH!! See, even back then I was mashing up historical fiction with fantasy. I would come back to the Little House books time and again when I needed to feel comfortable in my own skin. I always felt like an outcast, and Laura Ingalls was a little that way, too. I also liked the simplicity of her life. I read The Dark Is Rising series when I wanted to feel special and wake myself up to the possibility of magic in the world around me. Will Stanton is just a kid, but not. He’s also an Old One. He’s odd but important.
I always felt that same kind of oddness–thinking a little harder than was “normal” for a kid, noticing details, trying to piece together the puzzle of life. When I slipped into Will’s world, I felt validated and filled with a hope that one day my own oddness would be appreciated as his was.
SOS: Your words of wisdom to your fellow authors.
DCC: Learn the business–understanding how the publishing industry works is important to your job as a writer. But your artistry, your storytelling, and your worth has absolutely nothing to do with who buys your book, how many you sell, or whether or not you make someone’s list.
Focus on your art. Keep telling stories. Don’t ever give up.
SOS: Fun book fact?
DCC: One of the characters that shows up toward the end of BOOK OF THE JUST is built around Tom Hardy.
Oh my! Did you hear what she just said? TOM HARDY people!!!! I can hardly resist her tease and this has just made me want to read her book ASAP! I’ve just got my copy of BOOK OF THE JUST. What about you? Have you got yours? Well, you MUST! The book is available in all digital formats and as a gorgeous HARDCOVER! These people, they know how to make a girl crave!!!
Even dry-boned scholars whisper about the secrets in the Devil’s Bible. How it calls to the power-hungry. How it drives people mad. How it was written in the shadows by the hand of the devil himself.
But no one knows the truth, no one except Mouse.
She’s been running from the truth at the heart of the Devil’s Bible for so long that no one even knows her name anymore. Mouse just wants to find home, but when forces emerge that threaten to expose her, she has no choice but to take flight once more.
On the wing and crippled by despair, Mouse unexpectedly finds hope in a stranger’s kindness. But it will take more than hope to win the game of souls set in motion so long ago at the writing of the Devil’s Bible.
Thirteenth-century Bohemia is a dangerous place for a girl, especially one as odd as MOUSE, born with unnatural senses and an uncanny intellect. Some call her a witch. Some call her angel. Mouse doesn’t know what—or who—she is, but she means to find out.
When young King OTTAKAR shows up at the Abbey wounded by a traitor’s arrow, Mouse breaks Church law to save him and thwarts custom when she returns with him to Prague. Caught in the undertow of court politics, Ottakar and Mouse work to uncover the threat against him and to unravel the mystery of her past as they try to find a way where they can be together.
But the arrival of Ottakar’s father, VACLAV, and Mouse’s discovery of darker and more dangerous aspects of her unusual gifts threaten to separate them forever.
Set against the historical reign of the Golden and Iron King, BOHEMIAN GOSPEL tracks Mouse’s quest to discover her past and to define her destiny. But is she prepared for the truth she unearths and the future that awaits her?
Book of the Just:
After centuries of searching, Mouse now has everything she’s ever wanted within her reach—a normal life, a lover, a brother. What will she risk to keep them?
Mouse’s father always wanted a son—and now, at long last, he has him. And Mouse has a brother, someone else in the world just like her. Though she’s never met him, the hope of what they might mean for each other tugs at her soul, even as it terrifies her lover, Angelo.
Hiding among a tribe of the Martu in the isolation of the Australian outback near the edges of Lake Disappointment, Mouse and Angelo have seemingly evaded the predators hunting them. But when unnerving dreams begin to plague Angelo, and the ancient beings of the Martu’s Dreaming start sending prophetic warnings, the two lovers realize it’s time to act. With nowhere left to run, Mouse and Angelo prepare for a last showdown with their enemies. As they chase after legendary ancient weapons ensconced in the ages old battle between good and evil, Mouse and Angelo must each decide if a final victory is worth the cost.
Book of the Just continues Mouse’s story after The Devil’s Bible and completes the journey she started so long ago in Bohemian Gospel. Imbued with a rich sense of history, magic, and mythology, this explosive final installment in Mouse’s journey will keep you captivated until the very end.