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Monday, October 22, 2012

Bring on the demons!

I was inspired to write my series on demon hunters in the 1930s mostly because I love the demon hunter type of stories, as well as stories with more of a non-traditional demon type as the tragic hero. I blame this on all the comic books I read growing up, especially things like Etrigan the Demon and Hellboy and shows like Kolchak:the Night Stalker.  Then, along came a plethora of manga with similar themes, and the explosion of the urban fantasy genre. These publications made me want to try this myself.

My love of history and folklore filled in many of the remaining blanks. I didn’t know all that much about the 1930’s, so in writing my novella, The Darkest Midnight in December, I had a lot more work to do for this than I did when I wrote the short story, Snowbound, for the same characters. (Snowbound appeared in Dreamspinner Press’s anthology, Necking).

What really made the novella fun for me was, not only did I get to include a few different kinds of demons, I got to play with the dynamics of my demon hunting team, which is comprised of a diverse group of young men. Caleb is the default leader and is partnered both within the demon hunting organization, the Soldiers of the Sun, and as a lover, with Agni, the most placid member of the group, who arrived in the organization via Bombay. Temple is the youngest and most boisterous of the group. He comes from a long line of demon hunters but defected to this group from the much more repressive Knights Templar. His partner and lover is Fu Li from China. Balancing the four men and keeping their respective intimate partnerships fresh was challenging. 

The demons in the story, of course, fit into October’s Halloween theme. When the demon hunters arrive in Old Economy outside of their base in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, all they know is that there have been multiple disappearances. Several couples have gone missing, more than could be attributed to the financial ruin that so many people faced in 1930. In their households, there seemed to have been some sort of disturbances, enough to make the police contact the Order. Worse, three infants have also gone missing, leaving behind grieving parents for the team to deal with.

It’s tricky working time for intimate encounters into a story where not only babies are going missing, but there is almost a certainty that it will continue unless Caleb and his team are able to stop the supernatural creature taking the babies and the couples.  It doesn’t work if the characters seem insensitive to the drama unfolding around them in order to make time for sex, but their own fears and concerns about surviving this dangerous assignment serves to bring them together in a more organic, holistic way.

For the demons, I drew on folklore. One of them came from Temple’s French background and it was said to appear at the time of year the story is set in, December. The idea of a creature getting into a sleeping household and stealing away its most defenseless member is particularly chilling, and adds that dramatic time clock to the novella. Can they stop this thing before another baby goes missing?

As they investigate, Caleb and the others realize there might be more than one entity at work, since the crime scenes differ between the homes the babies go missing from and the ones where couples have disappeared. I was originally going to invent a demon, then ran across something from German mythology that really fit the story and its setting. It can invade dreams or attack sleepers, and there is something that is particularly creepy about things that disturb our sleep. It’s a time where we should feel safe and this creature rips that away.

Coming from Germanic lore, these creatures fit the setting of Old Economy, which was in its heyday, settled by a religious group, the Harmonists, many of which were from Germany. This group, which had almost all but disappeared by the 1930s, made a good foil for the demon hunters and how the demons had come to be in Old Economy. The research for this was very interesting. I grew up not far from this place and the story came to me while I went on a tour there. A celibate religious group (or at least the elderly remains of the same) made for a great contrast for the band of demon hunters, especially the sexually adventurous Temple.

I moved away from the Pittsburgh area years ago, but in my stories, I keep going back to that area. The city and the towns around it make for great settings and I enjoyed putting Caleb, Temple, Agni and Li into the city’s history. For me, they are vibrant characters, and religious lore and mythology, not mention my own imagination, allow for a vast array of demons for them to fight.

At its base, the story isn’t a traditional romance. It’s definitely more action/adventure. However, both sets of couples do find time to indulge their passions. For me, some of the most romantic moments of the novella isn’t in the bedrooms, but at the times when they risk injury and death to keep their partners safe. This story gives them ample opportunity for that kind of sacrifice and at the end, there is tender and happy moment for them all.

I wanted to say thanks for having me here on your blog today and thanks to everyone who stopped by. I’ll be working on the boys’ next story for nanowrimo next month and will be surely blogging about it in my journal: Jana's Live Journal, as I go.  
You can find The Darkest Midnight in December at Dreamspinner Press


  1. This was a very fun story to read, and I'm glad you're getting it out and about! The demons the Soldiers go up against in this story were very unusual, and I really liked that you showed the tensions not just with money, but the fact that the two non-Caucasian characters were not readily accepted outside of the order.

    I can't wait to see what you do next with these characters.

  2. Oh, nice background info on your story there! I too thought it was a very fun story and the interactions between the characters are fun. Good luck on Nano!