Today we're talking with Jennifer Fales, author of The Seraph Contingency: Anael’s Tale
FQ: I have to start here…Purgatory lies between Heaven and Hell, I would assume you believe Purgatory is just another name for Earth? Being a highly intelligent person (you can tell that from your writing), do you believe that humans are basically going to the dogs?
Purgatory is a fascinating concept for me. In a theological sense, it's posed as this middle-ground between death and final redemption, between Heaven and Hell. It's a transitional stage that only those in a state of grace are able to get to, right? So, we establish Purgatorians (yeah, pretty sure I just made up a word there) are worthy via a state of grace hypothesis for the glorious life upstairs but only after ... and this is the kicker ... they suffer more as a means of final purification. Unfair but it also holds this wonderful slapstick comedic element. Ask anyone you know that's been stuck in a rut - personal, professional or emotional - for months or years what that felt like. Odds are pretty good they'll tell you Purgatory. Long story short, I don't think humans as a whole are going to the dogs. But I'm confident life on the third planet from the sun sucks badly enough to be construed as Purgatory by all of us from time to time. (And while Nobel Prize Winners and Harvard graduates might beg to differ on the intelligence assumption, thank you for the compliment.)
FQ: Taking snippets from myth, legend, etc., these are great characters - and truly ‘new’. Is there any specific reason why Jezebel would have a beach condo? Is this all imagination or based on real characters walking down the streets that you translate onto the page?
I absolutely pull elements and pieces from real life. As for Jezebel having a beach condo, that's just because I love San Clemente. My mind is this weird eclectic place where all kinds of concepts, images and half-plans chase each other around and eventually collide to form something unique and (hopefully) interesting. Science, mythology, philosophy, cartoons ... you name it. Picture a badly thought out particle accelerator some socially inept 12 year old genius built out of a shoe box last summer and shoved under their bed. It's down there in the dust right now, humming and buzzing with activity. That's box is my brain. Okay, minus the snazzy picture of Wolverine from the X-Men on the outside.
FQ: Even though the demonic characters have sinful traits, you always give them a heart (i.e.; the Duchess’s abusive background, demon helping the boy, etc.). Can you explain a bit about how you see these bad guys? And why you wanted them to have that goodness flowing through their veins…or, horns?
The answer is simple. Life has variables - it's never two dimensional, right? That's all what I wanted for these characters - a little complexity. No one's a cardboard cutout of a bad guy, there's always some element of humanity there. Plus, brainstorming and revising characters really is enormous fun for me.
FQ: Disco at Satan’s Ball; the serpents turning into cute dogs on the bus (readers will absolutely love these hysterical inserts) - can readers assume that you lean to the sarcastic side?
Ask anyone that knows me well and they will roll their eyes and confirm my longstanding belief in sarcasm as a food group. Seriously, sarcasm is full of life-sustaining nutrients and minerals and it's gently nestled somewhere between yogurt and beans on the food pyramid. But to answer your question, no, I don't lean to the sarcastic side. Leaning implies some part of me is not fully invested in the sentiment.
FQ: There is always a debate about angel books concerning the way ‘Heaven’ or the ‘haloed’ ones are shown. Your book literally makes Heaven sound a great deal like high school - being forced in a way to fit in - is this a personal view? And are there angel books on the market you are a personal fan of like the ones that focus on the ‘fallen?’
The personal views thing is an interesting question. First, let me assure the world I bear no ill will against Heaven. While the theological locations (Heaven/Hell/Purgatory) resonate with folks and made it a hoot to write, the ultimate message is far more basic. It's the danger of absolutes and the value of thinking - and speaking - for yourself. Example: Republican or Democrat, Straight or Gay, Believer or Nonbeliever. Pick three of those and come up with a label. Guess what? Still doesn't tell you who you really are, but you can now pick one side of a picket line/ ballot/ shouting match with no further thought invested in the matter. Why? Life has more than two dimension, remember? Anael, the angel-that-was, figures that out. And yes, she is sometimes annoyingly outspoken as she grows more comfortable with herself and her personal epiphany.
FQ: Are you a myth/legend buff? With Styx, etc., being mentioned do you find yourself drawn to history?
I am absolutely a myth/legend buff. World religions was by far my favorite subject in school. The stories - the common threads running through so many cultures - are fantastic! I also love history, but I'm worthless with dates and the facts get jumbled up with wild fantasies colliding in my head on any given day. Napoleon probably never rode a dinosaur into battle, but you've got to admit it would've been epic compensation for his stature.
FQ: The glossary of names in the back of your book are hysterical (Lucifer AKA Lucy Goose) - where did these come from?
The names seem to be something of a hobby for you? Names and nicknames are kind of a thing for me. The nicknames especially, because that's where my sarcasm becomes invaluable.
FQ: Are you pleased that the vamps and werewolves have lightened up a bit so that the winged ones could take the stage? Or will vamps be in one of your next projects?
I wouldn't be surprised to see either one appear somewhere in my writing. Really anything that's outside of the ordinary is fair game. Especially if I see someone on the train or in the grocery store that makes me think "vampire." It's all about what gets the particles colliding in my head on any given day. Though the evolution of the idea often ends up being drastically different with time and revisions, which is half the fun of obsessing over your own ideas and writing.
FQ: From one East Coast girl to another, who has also now found herself in the West (a whole new world), have you come to the conclusion or have any proof that Irvine is actually Purgatory?
Impossibly well manicured business parks and two hours spent commuting via Metrolink each day have lead to a sneaking suspicion, but I'll have to get back to you on that one.
FQ: Readers have to know…will there be more?
Yes, there will absolutely be more. At the moment, I'm about 1/2 way through writing the sequel to my 1st book, a novella experiment titled Shadows and Fire. The series is a little darker, with human-animal hybrids and more of a scifi angle. But as soon as I'm finished I intend to go straight (back) to Hell with Anael and the gang.