Interview with E.L. Tettensor, Author of Darkwalker + Giveaway!
What an exciting start to the week! Today I’m pleased to bring you an interview with E.L. Tettensor, whose new book Darkwalker was released last week. If you haven’t seen my 5 star review of it yet, be sure to check it out. The book is a fantastic mix of mystery and paranormal, and is the promising start to the new Nicolas Lenoir series. I simply loved it, and it was an honor and a pleasure to chat with the author!
Also, be sure to stick around at the end of the interview and enter our Darkwalker giveaway for your chance to win a print copy of this great debut. Good luck, and enjoy the interview!
Let’s get this party started!
E.L. Tettensor: Thanks for having me!
Mogsy: Before we begin, I think congrats are in order on the release of your novel Darkwalker, which is the first book of a new paranormal series. How would you describe the book to someone new to your work?
E.L. Tettensor: I sort of think of it as Sherlock Holmes meets X-Files, featuring the Crow. Arrogant detective, paranormal investigation, raven-haired spirit bent on revenge. It’s a very dark novel, to the point where I almost picture it all happening in black-and-white, like those movies where the cobblestones are always shining wet and there’s steam rising from the sewers.
Mogsy: That’s actually exactly how I saw the setting. But let’s talk about the main character for a bit. I have to say, Lenoir came off as such a grump and surly guy at the beginning, though I know now that it’s by design. I think I even wrote in my review that reading the first chapter made me want to punch him in the face! Was that the sort of reaction you were going for? What were the challenges to writing a character like him?
E.L. Tettensor: I think it’s a stretch to say that I was going for “punch him in the face”, but I was definitely conscious of the fact that I was writing an antihero, and not a very likable one at that. When we first meet Lenoir, he’s this cynical know-it-all who has really lost his way, personally and professionally, and he lashes out at everyone around him. At its heart, Darkwalker is really about Lenoir’s journey back to the light, but not everyone will want to take that journey. Some readers might not give Lenoir the chance to redeem himself. For those who do, I hope their faith is suitably rewarded. But it’s definitely a risk, especially for a debut novel.
Mogsy: I do tend to react strongly to main characters’ actions and personalities, but Lenoir definitely redeemed himself in my eyes. So what is it about detective stories that draw you in? Obviously, I’m a big fan of all types of speculative fiction but it’s always great when I see mystery thrown into the mix too, which is why I enjoyed this book so much. What were some things that inspired you or made you decide to write a series combining mystery with fantasy & paranormal?
E.L. Tettensor: To be honest, I didn’t consciously set out to write a mystery. The concept for the book started with the Darkwalker himself, with this idea of a vengeful spirit who hunts down those who have sinned against the dead. I toyed with a few different ideas about the types of people who might come into the Darkwalker’s crosshairs, and the notion of a corrupt homicide detective started to take root. Once you’ve decided on a detective for a protagonist, you’re pretty much locked into mystery mode, especially if you’re trying to create something deliciously creepy. As for the fantasy side of things, that was really about giving myself the flexibility to create, to tell the story I wanted to tell without being locked into any particular parameters. I really enjoy historical fantasy, but for this book, I wanted to colour a little farther outside the lines.
Mogsy: Reading Darkwalker also got me really curious: who is your favorite fictional detective, whether from a book, movie, TV show? Inquiring minds want to know!
E.L. Tettensor: You’re going to laugh, but I think the first detective I ever really fell for was Eddie Valiant (from Who Framed Roger Rabbit). Even as a kid, I was drawn to this broken-down, self-loathing character who was just going through the motions, waiting for someone to reignite that inner spark that once made him great. Later, I got into the source material for that – Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade and whatnot. But my heart still belongs to Eddie.
Mogsy: Haha, hey, Eddie has his charms! Anyway, one thing I loved about this book: the Adal. They play such a big role in this novel, and I am amazed at so many of the details – their magic, their history of being persecuted, their way of life, etc. Anyway, you’ve created a very rich history and culture for a society of people here, and I imagine you must have drawn inspiration from the real world when you wrote about them. Can you tell me more about that process of creating the Adali?
E.L. Tettensor: I definitely drew inspiration from the real world, including my own experiences. Adali culture borrows from a few different sources, but especially from the pastoralist societies of northeast Africa. In these cultures, cattle are the foundation of the economy – of everything, really – and that’s a way of life that has always fascinated me. It’s a fragile system in some ways, and when it bumps up against a fundamentally different way of life, as it does in Darkwalker, that can result in serious friction on both sides. The Adali also share features with cultures found elsewhere on the continent, especially when it comes to magic. People familiar with juju, vodun, or muti will recognize similarities with khekra (Adali magic).
So that’s where the bone structure of Adali culture comes from. Once I’d decided on that, the process of fleshing it out was really about imagining how a pastoralist culture with deep roots in the occult would interact with a European-style society on the cusp of industrialism. How they would adjust and adapt to survive, and the conflict that would create, both between societies, but also within them.
Mogsy: Another thing I loved (okay yeah, there are a lot of things I loved about this book) is the idea of the Darkwalker. It’s probably going to be tough to talk about this vengeful spirit without giving away too many spoilers, but I just have to ask! How did you come up with the concept of something that hunts those who have committed crimes against the dead?
E.L. Tettensor: The Darkwalker is sort of a mélange of two classic elements of paranormal literature: the vengeful ghost and the ancient curse. Like a ghost, he was once mortal, but is now damned to an eternity of restless wandering. And what drives him is not unlike the sort of curse triggered by disturbing a grave, or trespassing on an ancient temple. The Darkwalker is the embodiment of the curse, but instead of protecting a specific object or place, he’s the champion of the dead in general.
I think the most interesting thing about him is that he’s in some ways a tragic character. He’s essentially a slave, with no will of his own – at least none he can exert – condemned to an eternity of servitude as some sort of cosmic hitman. He actually reminds me a little of Sam Beckett in Quantum Leap: ripped from place to place, life to life, compelled by some unseen force. Except instead of righting wrongs, he’s, you know, flaying flesh.
Mogsy: I suppose another thing about Nicolas Lenoir that is by design is the mysterious nature of his past. You don’t go into a lot of detail about his history, though you do drop tidbits of delicious information along the way, leading readers to speculate about the kind of nightmares he must have seen in his past. Is that something you plan to explore further in future books of this series?
E.L. Tettensor: Darkwalker is in a lot of ways a story of redemption, but Lenoir still has a long way to go, and he’s always going to be haunted by his past. We’ll definitely learn more about him as the series progresses, but don’t expect it to happen all at once. Lenoir wants desperately to put the past behind him. The only way he’ll look it in the eye is if he’s forced to. Those moments won’t come along often, but when they do, they’re going to shake him up – and the reader too.
Mogsy: By the way, how do you feel about the cover? Personally, I really like it; well-dressed man with a cane practically screams detective, and the misty cobbled streets definitely set that dark, mysterious tone. It really caught my eye, and I was just wondering what you think about it.
E.L. Tettensor: I love it!
I was initially quite apprehensive about the cover. I’d been warned early on that it was the “least democratic part of the process”, and I tend to be really hard on covers (especially Spec Fic covers). So when I saw the artwork, I was thrilled. It was exactly how I’d imagined it, evoking just the right mood. I’ve had a lot of compliments on the cover – a lot – so I think they did a fantastic job.
Mogsy: So when a new author blows me away with their book, I always want to find out more about them. Who is E.L. Tettensor? What are your hobbies when you’re not writing? And what might be something readers will be surprised to learn about you?
E.L. Tettensor: Hobbies when I’m not writing?
I used to have hobbies. Really, I did. Like reading. And playing music, and painting. If I end up writing full-time one day, I’m sure there’ll be a tearful reunion with my guitar. Until then, it’s pretty much writing and work. I’m lucky, though – my day job is interesting and rewarding. I live and work in Africa (Burundi), in the development/humanitarian field, so that really takes up most of my time. Fortunately, it’s also great fodder for storytelling.
Mogsy: That’s pretty incredible, the place you live and the work you do. It’s great you are getting some time in for writing though. Is there anything you can tell us about the next Nicolas Lenoir book at this point? And are there any other projects on your plate currently or in the near future, either writing or non-writing related?
E.L. Tettensor: I’m just wrapping up the sequel to Darkwalker now. It was a lot of fun to write, because the characters are starting to wear in like a good baseball glove, including some minor characters from Darkwalker who take on much more important roles in the sequel. I can’t say much at this stage, except that there’s more of everything: the mystery, the occult, the world-building. That, and Lenoir has found his mojo. Good thing, too – he’s gonna need it.
Mogsy: Ooh, sounds great! Once again, I appreciate you stopping by the blog, I was very excited when I found out I would be getting the opportunity to find out more about you and your book. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions!
E.L. Tettensor: Anytime! It was a pleasure. And if you or your dear readers have any more, you can always drop me a line at http://www.eltettensor.com!
And now for the giveaway! Up for grabs is a print copy of Darkwalker and entering is easy! All you have to do is leave a comment below with which includes a way for me to get in touch with you (email, twitter, etc.) by midnight Eastern time on Monday December 16th. This giveaway is open to residents of US and Canada only. So what are you waiting for? Win a copy of this amazing book! Good luck!