I’m P.F. Davids, fantasy writer and author of Lesser Evil. I write from my little place in Central Florida. When I’m not writing, I’m playing tabletop games, or watching numbers go up in the latest RPG.
- When did you first discover your love for writing?
When I was very young. Some of my earliest memories are of making little picture book stories for my mom. It’s really all I’ve ever wanted to do. During High School, I did novelling as my senior career project. College saw me take a path through the IT field, but I never stopped writing.
- Do you have a favourite place to write?
A boring answer, but my bedroom. The more unique thing is when I write: typically 90% of my writing has gotten done between 12 AM and 5 AM. I’ve always been a night-owl, and those hours after everyone has gone to bed and before the sun rises are so peaceful and free of distractions that I can really focus on putting my thoughts to words.
- Do you have a writing routine or process that you adhere to?
My programming professor probably gave me the best advice (or worse, depending on your point of view): keep some candy or other snack about you, so if you reach a problem that is particularly frustrating you can take a bite and keep your calm. This advice has worked for me in writing as well, keeping a nice stack of snacks about really helps me when I struggling with writer’s block or a certain paragraph that I know what is supposed to be said but just won’t get phrased right! Course, probably not the healthiest habit, but it helps.
- Are there any authors or specific books you aspire to?
Joe Abercombie’s First Law trilogy really opened my eyes to modern fantasy. Or I should, shattered my perception as to what good fantasy had to be. While I’m not really a student of the Grimdark style (as I still like my stories to have a more hopeful or heroic overall tone), it did shape how I view my writing drastically. I’m hoping to eventually find that perfect balance between classical fantasy elements and modern fantasy as inspired by him.
- What inspired you to write Lesser Evil?
I was told by a certain friend that he liked my villains more than he liked my heroes. So I decided to do an exercise where I told a story from villain’s perspective to see what I could learn from that in terms of telling my heroes story. I ended up really liking some of the characters that I came up, so I retooled them for an upcoming NaNoWriMo challenge. I actually failed my goal that year, but by that time I was determined to see the project through.
- Can you tell us a little about your book?
The book is a play on the classic story of good versus evil, with the question at the forefront being, “If a good man does evil to fight evil, can he still be considered good?” Kester Belisario’s order is on the verge of extinction at the hands of the Serpentine Empire, and the only hope they have is to assassinate the Empire. To this end, Kester must recruit an old enemy of the Church, a man cloaked in darkness whose evil deeds are legendary. If they can work together without killing one another, they might just succeed.
- Do you have a favourite amongst all your characters?
I don’t like to play favourites with my characters. There are some who are easier to write than others, though. Writing a character like Reis, who plays naturally on my darker side, and whose sarcasm matches the way I normally think, is fairly easy for me to write for.
- Does your book contain a message for readers to consider?
Each book is different for every reader. I will leave it to readers to decide what messages to take from it.
- Would you be interested in sharing a teaser?
Taken from Chapter 3, the first Reis point-of-view chapter.
Why did his research always seem to take two steps back for every step forward?
Reis sighed and leaned back in his chair. He tried in vain to wipe the sleepiness out of his eyes with his hands. He had worked through the night, as he often did, and had been positive, as he often was, that he was on the verge of a major breakthrough.
Well, I suppose a result is a result. Now if I could just figure out what it means.
He could feel himself getting frustrated, a familiar anger rising up inside him. It would not do. Anger had its uses. It could drive you in combat, it could motivate you to press on against rough conditions and impossible odds, it could blind you to pain and sorrow. But alchemy required a cool, logical mind. Reis closed his eyes and forced himself to take a few deep breaths.
Green and red, saved from the dead. Blue and black, a life you now lack.
The annoying little rhyme played over and over again in his head. With his eyes closed he could even see the thick spectacles of his alchemy teacher staring over him as he was forced to repeat the rhyme until it was burned into his mind. Elixirs should all turn one of those four colors.
So why the hell is it purple?
Reis opened his eyes, looking again at his unusual concoction. It was not the strangest result his experiments ever yielded, but it was certainly among the most puzzling. The color told him nothing. At least when a failed experiment turned blue or black he could get an idea of what went wrong based on the shade. But purple? That was meaningless. For all he knew, the experiment was a resounding success and he had just discovered a new type of elixir.
He raised the vial up to his nose and took a deep sniff. The smell turned out to be just as useless as the color. It smelled sour at first, but then he began to notice a distinctly salty scent. None of that made sense.
Was one of my ingredients contaminated?
He had no choice but to check all his ingredients for purity. He grumbled to himself when he thought about the amount of tedious work that would require. There was no getting around it, though. Alchemy had zero room for error. Even the smallest contaminants would cause a concoction to take on unwanted properties. Any future experiments could be compromised if he did not ensure his stock was up to quality.
Reis got up slowly from his chair behind the lab desk and stretched his legs. It was good to move around again after being cramped in the lab for so long.
He stepped out into the second floor hallway. He was greeted as always by the strong smell of sulfur from one of the rooms down the hall. For all the advances he made, he had yet to come up with a solution to stench. Fragrant candles, perfumes, even scented cloths held to his nose failed to alleviate the stench. He had grown mostly used to it by now, and fortunately it saw no use in his recent elixirs, so he had no need to smell it up close.
The doctors who had built this mansion had the clever idea to do so in two layers. There was the outer layer, which encompassed the hospital and other public areas. To separate their home from the hospital they built another layer inside it, almost a house within a house. It made sense; it helped keep their personal and business life separate. Plus, in the winter it was easier to warm just the living area as opposed to the whole mansion. When Reis had found the mansion the outer layer had already fallen to disrepair, the roof rotting, the hospital leaking, the walls seemingly near collapse. The inner layer had fared much better against the elements and Reis had been able to perform some basic repairs to get it into livable condition. He also spent quite a bit of coin procuring quality furnishings, so he could continue to live the lifestyle to which he was accustomed. As Reis walked down the hall he passed several comfortable chairs, their cushions plump and ready for him should he desire a break.
It had seemed like the perfect arrangement to him. The mansion’s outwards appearance of rot and disrepair discouraged visitors and enemies alike, while inside he had all the comforts he desired. At least, until the Empire decided to pay a visit.
The pushy colonel had left Reis little choice. He would have preferred not making such a powerful enemy, but he was not about to be pressed into the Empire’s service either. There would undoubtedly be consequences; the Empire knew where he lived and had surely learned of the colonel’s demise by now. Reis wondered how long he would have before they came marching in force towards his home.
He would have to move on before then. It would be a pity abandoning the place he had lived in so long, but Reis was not one for sentimentality. The worse part would be abandoning his massive stock of alchemical components. Even if he hired a cart to assist him, his stock was too large to take with him and many of the ingredients would become contaminated in the process. Which is why it was so crucial for him to make some progress in what time he had left.
The first store room came up on the left. The occupants before Reis had likely used this room as a child’s bedroom. Now it was filled with shelves containing jars of powders, oils, plants, preserved animal parts and insects, dried leaves and grass, solid crystal fragments. All the common alchemical ingredients, as well as some that were not so common, such as blood and gemstones.
Reis checked each container in turn. He checked the seals, smelled the contents, ran the powders through his fingers. He found no signs of contamination. He checked the next store room, and the last one down the hall. In none of his inspections did he find anything that suggested contamination.
No closer to solving this mystery.
Reis was running out of options. At this rate the only way forward would be to test the elixir, and he sure wasn’t going to drink it with no idea of what it would do. He was going to need to find a ‘willing’ test subject.
And he knew just where to find one.
- What would say has been your biggest challenge and achievement in writing Lesser Evil?
Getting the book ready to be published was a brand new challenge for me. Going from cover design, interior formatting, editing… oh, editing. Thankfully, I had great help from talented cover designer and an editor who cut me deal. Oh, and many friendly proofreaders. Couldn’t have done it without them.
- What have you learned about yourself as a writer through writing Lesser Evil?
I learned I am capable of a complete book, from beginning to end to publication. Really, something I was not sure I would be able to do. Now that I know I can, I can’t imagine anything stopping me going forward.
- Do you have any advice for other aspiring authors?
Yeah, write. It seems simple, but just sitting down and writing is much harder than it sounds. Getting those words on pages is a great struggle for all writers, particularly new writers. I suggest taking a crack at NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) one November if you are the kind whom a deadline would be beneficial.
- Anything else you would like to say?
Support your local bookstores! (Also, small bookstores, I wouldn’t mind your support as well)
- And finally, do you have any future works planned?
I’m currently working on the second book in the Lesser Evil trilogy, which I will make an official announcement of in a couple of day. And being a trilogy, you can expect a third book as well. I’m also in the planning stages of major series, which I can’t go too much into right now (mostly cause the notes are such a jumbled mess right now), but it is a single series with each book telling the journey of a single character.
You can find Lesser Evil on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Lesser-Evil-Trilogy-Book-ebook/dp/B015JAQ10I/
And Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26705917-lesser-evil
You can follow me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pfdavids/
And Twitter: https://twitter.com/PFDavids