Q&A with Craig Schaefer: ‘Sworn to the Night’
Craig Schaefer is an author whom I first discovered in 2015 when I read his Revanche Cycle books. However, it was in late 2016 and early 2017 when I truly got to read all of his other books, namely the Daniel Faust series and its spinoff the Harmony Black series. Since then, I’ve counted myself as a fan and I actively wait for each and every book of his to be released.
After reading Craig’s entire bibliography (15 books, 1 novella, three short stories so far), I’ve come to realize how devious a writer he is and how extensively he’s planned his books. Spoiler alert: all of his books are interconnected with each other, and slowly but surely we are finding out how. There were a couple of tragic characters in the Revanche Cycle who I loved to read, but was saddened to read about their fates.
In his new trilogy, titled Wisdom’s Grave, Craig has promised to reveal a lot of secrets about the universe, and an absolute wild thrill ride as well. After reading his previous works, I’m positively excited to see where this trilogy leads readers and what new secrets does it unleash.
You can check out the amazing cover below, and also the questions that Craig was kind enough to answer. We spoke about the cover, the difficulty of pinpointing genre in Sworn To The Night, and elevator pitches…
Marie Reinhart is an NYPD detective on the trail of a serial killer. When she sleeps, though, she dreams of other lives; she dreams of being a knight, in strange wars and strange worlds. On the other side of the city, Nessa Roth is a college professor trapped in a loveless marriage, an unwilling prop in a political dynasty. She’s also a fledgling witch, weaving poppets and tiny spells behind closed doors.
When Marie’s case draws her into Nessa’s path, sparks fly. What comes next is more than a furtive whirlwind affair; it’s the first pebbles of an avalanche. Nessa and Marie are the victims of a curse that has pursued them across countless lifetimes; a doom designed to trap them in a twisted living fairy tale, with their romance fated to end in misery and death.
They aren’t going out without a fight. As they race to uncover the truth, forces are in motion across the country. In Las Vegas, a professional thief is sent on a deadly heist. In a Detroit back alley, witches gather under the guidance of a mysterious woman in red. Just outside New York, an abandoned zoo becomes the hunting-ground for servants of a savage and alien king. The occult underground is taking sides and forming lines of battle. Time is running out, and Nessa and Marie have one chance to save themselves, break the curse, and demand justice.
This time, they’re writing their own ending.
Q] I want to extend a warm welcome on behalf of the whole crew at The Fantasy Hive, Craig, and thank you for taking the time amidst your busy schedule. Firstly, congratulations on the snazzy cover to Sworn To The Night. Is it by your usual team member (James T. Egan of Bookfly Design)? What were your suggestions/pointers to James before he began his work on it?
CS: Thanks for having me! Yep, that’s James‘s work, and he’s masterful as always. We always begin with a summary, where I pick out and highlight the most important themes of the book as well as major scenes, symbolism, colors, and so on. The objective isn’t to necessarily depict a literal scene from the story, but to convey the feel of what you’re going to find between the covers.
Q] I loved the cover to SWORN TO THE NIGHT, as it’s in stark contrast to the pulpy designs of the Daniel Faust ones as well as the minimalist designs of the 47North Harmony Black covers. You have mentioned how this book is the strangest book (in terms of plot & scope) that you have written (so far)? Is that a major reason for the cover design to be so different than your previous ones?
CS: Like I mentioned, the most important thing is to convey a feeling. For the Faust books, that’s usually “loud, fast and violent,” hence the pulpy covers. The Harmony books are an odd element in my library, because those are published by 47North and I don’t really have any say in the cover design.
For the Wisdom’s Grave trilogy we wanted something a little more mystical, moody, witchy. Sworn To The Night has its share of action scenes, but it’s mostly about two very damaged people falling in love and facing (or embracing) their demons, interwoven with noir-ish suspense.
Q] As you previously had mentioned your self-published book covers allude to the main plotline. Is that the case here as well, and any hints you can provide about that eye amidst the blueish substance?
CS: As readers of the Daniel Faust series know, a designer drug called “ink” has been spreading across North America, with disturbing and inexplicable consequences — like when a few dozen addicts, from coast to coast, were compelled to go outside at the same moment and spray paint “The Owl Lives” on the nearest wall.
The reason for the drug’s existence, and what it really does to its users, is a core part of the trilogy’s plot. So is a series of scrying experiments carried out by one of the main characters, as she drips calligraphy ink into a bowl of water and searches for meaning in the patterns there? Noting the overlap — visions and ink — James drew a striking symbolic connection.
Q] When you first spoke about this story, you described it as:
“a full-tilt rock-and-roll road trip to the edge of the multiverse. Gunfights, fast cars, black magic and body horror, doomed and desperate romance, interdimensional alien conquerors, a suspicious number of Macbeth references, mad scientists, eldritch cults, neon lights and kissing in the rain, a desperate cop on the edge of a breakdown, and one very, very pissed-off and murderous witch.”
Now that’s a lot of stuff packed into that description spanning genres. I can see why you feel it’s your darkest & potentially most divisive work. It’s so hard to classify as well, what would say about this for an elevator pitch “Kill Bill meets Thelma & Louise with a side of The Preacher”
CS: It’s not a bad elevator pitch! This really is a hard story to pin down, but if readers are game to go on a ride with me, I’ll try to make it a good one.
Q] This book & trilogy is solidly tied into the Revanche Cycle as we met the protagonists of this story first in that series. For readers who haven’t read that series, will they be able to enjoy this story as a standalone piece? Or will it be helpful if they read the Revanche Cycle first?
CS: Standalone. If you’ve read The Revanche Cycle, you’ll know some things before the main characters do, but that’s about it. The biggest point of crossover comes when a character in the Revanche Cycle records a magical message, and in Sworn to the Night, it finally (across years and worlds) reaches its destination. But the actual message is fully explained in Sworn, no prior knowledge needed.
Daniel Faust and Harmony Black both have cameos, but the book tells you all you need to know about who they are, so it’s no big deal if you haven’t read those series either. I aimed to make this trilogy very new-reader-friendly, and if you feel like going back and picking up my other books to learn more about these characters later, great! And if not, well…you don’t have to!
Q] With regards to the overall timeline, where does SWORN TO THE NIGHT fit in with the most recent titles (Double Or Nothing & Cold Spectrum) of the Daniel Faust series & the Harmony Black series?
CS: There’s a slight timeline jump. The most recent Faust and Harmony books took place over Halloween night; Sworn To The Night picks up the next year, in springtime. Yes, this means The Neon Boneyard (releasing in April 2018), the next novel (#8) in the Faust series, actually takes place before the events of Sworn To The Night. It doesn’t really affect the plot in either book. Eventually all three series will catch up to each other.
Q] What are some of the locales that this book is set in? Previously we know that Marie Reinhart was in NYC, so my presumption is that’s where the story will start from. What other places will we get to see?
CS: The majority of Sworn To The Night is centered around New York City. Book two is going to raise the scale and the stakes; my original notes described it as “Mad Max: Fury Road in modern America, from NYC to Vegas.”
By the end of the trilogy, we’ll have gone on a whirlwind tour of the United States occult underground…and a few places far beyond our world. It’s a big multiverse.
Q] Thank you again for your time & consideration. I can’t wait to dig in and see how wild a ride you have planned for us. Any parting words for your fans for 2018?
CS: Hey. 2017 was pretty rough for a lot of us. But you made it, and a new year is a new start. I’m grateful to be here, and I’m grateful that you’re here. Let’s go on an adventure.
Mihir Wanchoo also writes for Fantasy Book Critic. You can
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of The Long Way Down
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of The White Gold Score
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of Redemption Song
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of The Living End
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of A Plain-Dealing Villain
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of The Killing Floor Blues
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of The Castle Doctrine
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of Winter’s Reach
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of The Instruments Of Control
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of Harmony Black
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of Red Knight Falling
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of Glass Predator
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of Double Or Nothing
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of Cold Spectrum
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s Interview with Craig Schaefer
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s Harmony Black Series Interview with Craig Schaefer
Read Double Or Nothing Cover Reveal Mini-Interview with Craig Schaefer
Read Part I of Fantasy Book Critic’s In-depth Interview with Craig Schaefer
Read Part II of Fantasy Book Critic’s In-depth Interview with Craig Schaefer