Feast of Fates
By Christian A. Brown
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Morigan lives a quiet life as the handmaiden to a fatherly old sorcerer named Thackery. But when she crosses paths with Caenith, a not wholly mortal man, her world changes forever. Their meeting sparks long buried magical powers deep within Morigan. As she attempts to understand her newfound abilities, unbidden visions begin to plague her—visions that show a devastating madness descending on one of the Immortal Kings who rules the land. With Morigan growing more powerful each day, the leaders of the realm soon realize that this young woman could hold the key to their destruction. Suddenly, Morigan finds herself beset by enemies, and she must master her mysterious gifts if she is to survive.
In your books, you’ve created an incredibly detailed, immense world -- how did you keep all of it straight when you first started writing?
At first, and when starting any story, I feel it’s important to simply write. Make that messy first chapter and see how, what and who you want to portray; get a feeling for where the Muse is leading you. If you’re writing a “show” and not “tell” tale, the mechanics and laws of the (fantastical) world will fall into place as your characters and narrative voice move through the story. Once the details of the world start fleshing themselves out, I start writing down everything pertinent to the tale, even if it’s just as margin notes that are later compiled into a “World Bible” if you will. Geadhain (my world) now has both a bible and a style guide for reference for my work.
Why was it important to you to have so many strong female characters in your series, good and evil?
Historically, women (and minorities, of which I am one—well, two, actually) have been grossly under represented in fantasy; typified into the maiden, witch, whore, mother stereotypes. I grew up in a house of dominant successful women, and those influences and personalities found their way into my work. My mom, for example, was once a roller-skate waitress (just to make ends meet), then later a real estate broker, a bank teller, and finally a lawyer—after putting herself back into university as a mature student at the age of 50. And of course, during all these vocations, she juggled the needs of her children, her partner, and herself. She built a business with my father. She helped to elevate us from poverty to working middle class—she, herself, once in foster care and utterly destitute after her parents’ marriage collapsed. Despite all of the negative forces conspiring against her, she was a woman of hope, strength and character. I couldn’t not have written strong women, given her role model behavior. My mom, my sister, my aunts, my teachers, my primary editor…I’m blessed to have known so many accomplished, inspirational women.
From their physical descriptions to their personalities, your characters are so vivid -- where does the inspiration for them come from?
I read a lot of comics as a child; watched plenty of anime and horror; played video games till my eyes shriveled. Before that darned Nintendo ruined my eyesight, and when I was younger, my parents also used to take my sister and I on walks through the woods, and the richness of a woodland stirs even the most stagnant imagination. In our adolescence we played outdoors and read, extensively, since we couldn’t afford luxury items (like NESes) at the time. I’m much more into physical disciplines now, though my mind still works in a sensory format.
How do you think your approach to the fantasy genre differs from other writers?
Well, there’s the portrayal of women, first and foremost. Although, these characters stand toe-to-toe with men and other forces who are equally as formidable. I’ve lived through the reality of oppression, intolerance and poverty, and likewise many of my characters deal with the same issues. While the series is definitely dark fantasy, and not for the faint-of-heart or those shy to reading about violence and oppression, there is a definite undercurrent of hope: this sense that even though the odds are impossible, the movements of many, disparate brave souls can make a difference. Structurally, the world is an interesting blend of science fiction, mythic and high fantasy elements, too, where some advancements dwarf what we here on Earth have accomplished, while other advancements are stymied by natural (mystical) forces that inhabit prosperity. So there’s this really cool play of old vs. new, Tecnhnomagik vs. Nature. Which leads into a subtle environmental dialog on man’s use and participation in a planet’s sustainability or destruction. “Four Feasts till Darkness” are dense books that deal with topical and sensitive subject matter, which certainly helps them to stand apart from lighter or more traditional fantasy stories.
If you were able to sit down and discuss writing with three authors, who would you choose, and what would you talk to them about?
Ursula K. LeGuin. Clive Barker. Stephen King. Ursula and I would chat about her Earthsea trilogy, which is one of the greatest fantasy series I’ve ever read. Clive Barker and I would talk about how he’s fared as an openly gay author, and what that process of being public and gay has been like. Whereas Stephen and I would write something horrible together, a ghastly masterpiece with his wit and my penchant for visceral verbosity.
Do you think the diversity in your own life reflects in your writing and the characters you’ve created?
Definitely! I’m a biracial gay man married to a Métis amputee. Just so we’re clear, I’m not a “diversity fetishist,” it just so happened that a.) I fell in love with a man and b.) he happened to have one leg. But whatever weight he’d lost in flesh, he’d gained in heart, and he’s an absolute gem. Between the two of us, and as men of color (I, more than he), we’ve experienced the full onslaught of intolerance and slurs—N-word, jigaboo, faggot, you name it. Now the funny thing about hate is that it either makes the victim hateful, or ideally, it makes the victim sympathetic, a warrior, one passionate about dismantling bigotry. My partner and I are of the latter camp, as was my mother, who married a black man in an era when that wasn’t too popular. Therefore, in Feasts you’ll see a real menagerie of characters, and none so bizarre as to simply tick a “diversity checklist” (blind, transgender, PoC in a wheelchair—cause reasons), just real people, with real issues that come in a variety of shades, sexualities and makeups. Every hero has their flaws—flaws that others see and to which they react—just as none of us are perfect. Without my negative experiences and positive enforcements and reactions, I could never have written a cast so patently human.
Why was it important to you to include a message of hope despite the dark nature of the books?
The story starts, actually, with a romance, and while it’s steamy and seems as if it might lead to bodice-ripped escapades, it never does. The romance between Morigan and the Wolf is merely the hook and foundation for a story that’s built on love: romantic, fraternal, love for power, love when corrupted into hate. If you look at the history of human success and folly it is predicated by passion, by love or hate. In the grand sweeping plot arcs of epic fantasy, the drive that has begun a campaign of war or terror is often overlooked. “Feasts” has a gargantuan plot, and many moving parts, and to tell a more personal, more involving story, each of those most necessary parts needs to have their desires and wants explored. It makes for an immersive and heavy read, but I feel (and readers seem to agree) that the focus on characterization pays dividends. Besides, too much darkness and blood, and not a moment of levity or love in-between, and the story will crush the reader. In the words of Josh Whedon, “Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.”
What’s next for you after the completion of “Four Feasts till Darkness” series?
I’m working on a super secret project (standalone from Geadhain’s novels), which requires me to plan a second trip to England. I had the idea for the manuscript when last I was there and it’s a thought-bug that’s finally gnawed it’s way into my brain, and into a grand idea!
About the Author
Bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Feast of Fates, Christian A. Brown received a Kirkus star in 2014 for the first novel in his genre-changing Four Feasts Till Darkness series. He has appeared on Newstalk 1010, AM640, Daytime Rogers, and Get Bold Today with LeGrande Green. He actively writes a blog about his mother’s journey with cancer and on gender issues in the media. A lover of the weird and wonderful, Brown considers himself an eccentric with a talent for cat-whispering.