Story prompts can be found in the oddest of places.I’d wanted to write DARK ORACLE for years, but was struggling about who the protagonist should be. I knew that she would be a criminal profiler who uses Tarot cards to solve crimes, but I didn’t know anything more about her personality than that.
So, I picked up my Tarot deck, shuffled, and drew the Queen of Swords from the top. The Queen of Swords depicts a woman staring pensively into a stormy sky. She’s lifting sword as if it’s quite sharp, and extends her hand as if she’s cut herself with it. The swords, in general, represent intellect. The Queen of swords traditionally represents sadness and mourning or a particularly clever woman. I always associated her with the Snow Queen from fairy tales – cold, isolated, withdrawn.
And that interpretation was perfect for the story. The Queen of Swords became my inspiration for Tara Sheridan. Tara narrowly survived an attack years before by a serial killer called the Gardener. The experience left her physically and emotionally scarred, and she withdrew entirely from work and from life. She even exiled herself from an group of oracles to which her mother belonged, Delphi ’s Daughters. It would take a special force, a counterweight, to pull Tara from the solitude of the Queen of Swords. And I began to think about a complicating factor for Tara , something that would shake her out of her frozen world.
I used the same method of using Tarot cards to create Harry Li, a federal agent on the trail of a missing scientist who’s unlocked the destructive power of dark matter. I picked the Knight of Pentacles from the deck. The knight gazes seriously at the weight of his responsibilities. He’s a pragmatic man, not given to irrationality or anything that can be seen or touched. I thought a skeptic would be a perfect counterpoint to Tara’s mysticism. Since Pentacles are also referred to as coins in many decks, I gave Harry the nervous habit of jingling change in his suit pocket.
Whenever I got stuck in the story, I pulled out the deck and used the cards as prompts. In that way, the story grew more organic, leaping from one image to another as I shuffled the cards.
~by Alayna Williams
Alayna Williams has an MA in sociology-criminology (research interests: fear of crime and victimology) and a BA in criminology. She has worked in and around criminal justice since 1997. She also writes urban fantasy as Laura Bickle. Laura’s first novel, EMBERS (you can read my review here), was released by Pocket Books in April. More information can be found at www.alaynawilliams.com
Tara Sheridan swore off criminal profiling years ago. By combining Tarot card divination with her own intuition, she narrowly escaped the grasp of a serial killer who left her scarred for life. She put down her cards and withdrew from work and society. Now, Sophia, a member of an ancient secret society connected to the mythic Delphic Oracle, asks Tara to find a missing scientist who has unlocked the destructive secrets of dark energy. Tara resists— she fears reawakening her long-buried talents and blames Sophia’s Daughters of Delphi for the death of her mother. But, grudgingly, she agrees to search for the missing scientist, Lowell Magnusson.
Tara travels to Las Alamos National Laboratory, the location of Magnusson’s disappearance. She meets the serious, impatient, and highly attractive Agent Harry Li— and re-encounters her old partner, Richard Corvus. Corvus is now chief of the Special Projects Division, a position Tera might have held, had she not dropped out of investigative work. Corvus considers Tara mentally imbalanced and not to be trusted— but it may be Corvus who is untrustworthy.
Tara’s investigation and Tarot cards tell her Magnusson’s daughter, Cassie, may hold the key to her father’s plans, and that they both are in grave danger. Meanwhile, Corvus and the Daughters of Delphi have their own plans...and the fate of the world hangs in the balance.
DARK ORACLE will be followed by a sequel in 2011.
You can read an excerpt here.
Or you can win my gently used copy right now~ My review will be posted shortly. Contest open to US & Canada mailing addresses only. International can enter if they’re willing to pay for shipping or have a friend with a US or Canadian address I can ship it to (Sorry, but I’m going to be pretty wiped out after my bday bash lol).
To enter comment on this interview and leave your email. (You can email it to me if you don’t feel comfortable leaving it in the comments.) This contest ends June 19th at 11:59 PM CDT.