Francis Knight is one of the coolest debut authors of 2013. Her first novel Fade To Black was launched earlier this year to massive and well deserved praise. The follow up novel, Before The Fall is released in a few weeks and Francis has taken time out to chat to us.
In case you don’t know, Fade To Black tells the story of Rojan Dizon, a pain mage (someone who gains access to brilliant magic if he gets hurt) who lives in the vertical city a Mahala, a place where streets are built upon streets and sunshine is a rare luxury.
Bring forth the questions!
1. So let’s start off with the obligatory serious question. Your debut novel Fade to Black came out earlier this year and introduced us to the vertical city of Mahala and the rogue pain mage Rojan Dizon. Your follow up book Before the Fall comes out in a couple of weeks time. What can you tell us about it?
What can I tell you? It’s about a man stripped of hope who finds some in the most unlikely place, who refuses to acknowledge his flaws but is forced to confront them (often painfully). But also, it’s about a guy having to discover that all he relied on is a lie. Plus it’s got a dark atmosphere and some dark characters and some humour, because, well, because the darker things get the more people try to lighten the load with a gag. And also because I have trouble being serious for more than five minutes at a stretch. Before the Fall expands on what happens as a direct consequence of the events of Fade to Black, and explores the city and its inhabitants more.
2. Your author blurb tells us that you once hit a policeman and got away with it. First of all, we need to know what the hell happened? And secondly did you make any references to bacon?
Ah, the old punched a policeman story.
So, many years ago when I was a gal, I got a summer job in Menorca as a groom at a riding stables. There was a local fiesta going on and my boss asked me to go and keep an eye (because she’d been banned when she found some guys in a machismo ritual using lit ciggies on a horse to make it rear and decked one – the guy not the horse). So I went. And at the time, local girls, when on a date, had to have a chaperone. Of course, English girls (and other tourists) didn’t bother, so the local guys thought all their Christmases had come at once, They all knew three phrases of English – You beautiful, I love you, my house just five minutes. Because I was English, they assumed I was looking for a little holiday romance and tried their luck. So, one guy kept following me and repeating his phrases, while his gang of mates looked on. Luckily No is just as easy to say in Spanish as it is in English, but he wouldn’t take the hint. I went back to my moped – almost everyone travelled by moped – and he sat on it and tried to insist. I insisted not. In exasperation, not knowing much Spanish as I’d only been there a week, I mimed a fist. He smiled and mimed a punch on his cheek. He offered, I answered. He flew into the car parked next to him, leaving a person sized dent and his mates in fits. Feeling a bit intimidated by the amount of mates he had with him, I used one of my few words of Spanish and started shouting ‘Policia!’. At which point he stood up and pointed at his chest with as much dignity as he could muster. ‘Me policia’, he said before he stalked off to cat calls from his mates.
I drove past the station the next day and there he was, in full uniform and with a lovely shiner. Funny though, I never had any trouble with the local lads after that…
Sadly no bacon was involved in this story.
3. Okay, here’s your adventure question. This is where we give you a scenario and you have to tell us how it plays out.
While you were out casually raiding the great tomb of Akka-Mahk-Too, your lair was raided by the evil warlord Bugger’um. He has stolen all your loot and even your sidekick and locked everything in an enormous garden shed that’s guarded by a sword wielding lava golem . Before he left, Warlord Bugger’um turned all your weapons in to blancmange using arcane magic and now all you have left is the whistle around your neck and the three items in your backpack left over from the tomb raiding.
How do you get your stuff back?
I use the whistle to summon Paul, warrior of awkward questions. While he’s confounding the lava golem by asking him how to properly make potato rostis while fending off an invasion of colour blind giant hedgehogs, I kick in the back of the shed using my studded hobnail boots of +1 kicking sheds in. Then I nick all my stuff back. Luckily, any proper loot stash of mine will always include a Ring of Blowing Stuff Up. After everything settles, we use the embers of the lava golem to have a barbecue. Possibly of Warlord Bugger’um, unless he tastes nasty, in which case warrior Paul can make us potato rostis, having picked up some handy hints from the golem now cooking our dinner.
4. In your books, pain mages can use brilliant magic but have to suffer great pain to do so. If I poked you in the eye right now, what power would you manifest to get back at me?
A fist or knee usually works quite well. Mine are specially sharpened and tipped with steel. If in doubt, go for the groin. I find this maxim works in many very different situations.
Jalopy. It’s a good word.
Thanks Francis! If you haven’t read it already, do yourself a favour and pick up Fade To Black by Francis Knight and follow it up by pre-ordering Before The Fall which is sure to be a great summer read.