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Interview with Tom Doyle, author of the American Craft Trilogy


Please welcome Tom Doyle to The Qwillery. War and Craft, the 3rd American Craft Trilogy novel, was published on September 26th by Tor Books.



Interview with Tom Doyle, author of the American Craft Trilogy




The QwilleryWelcome back to The Qwillery. War and Craft, the 3rd and final novel in the American Craft Trilogy, was published on September 26th. What are your feelings about the Trilogy being finished?

Tom Doyle:  Thank you very much for having me back!

My go-to simile about finishing a trilogy is that it’s like sending the last kid to college: bittersweet mixed with a lot of “So now what?”

But it’s also a big victory for me, because back in 2014 when I was diagnosed with throat cancer, I thought this might not happen. But I and the book made it, and we’re both fine, thanks.



TQDescribe War and Craft in 140 characters or less.

TMD:  Lt. Scherie Rezvani faces Furies, vengeful spirit of Madeline Morton, Armageddon in Shangri-La, and the end of the world as we know it.



TQTell us something about War and Craft that is not found in the book description.

TMD:  The strange friendship between 21st century soldier Scherie Rezvani and oft-times evil 19th century ghost Madeline Morton (the smaller figure in white on the cover) is the central bond of this novel, and what these two characters are willing to do for each other is an important hinge of the plot. In a trilogy of odd couples, this may be the oddest.



TQWhat appealed to you about writing an alternate historical America?

TMD:  The original hook for me was writing a distinctly American mythos, like what L. Frank Baum did with Oz, only for adults. That mythos had to emerge from our history, literature, and folklore. I don’t think many SF/F writers have tried that--mostly, they import bits of old European folk & myth and Americanize them.

Once that was my course, I decided that I would follow the Tim Powers rule--I would strive to get all the factual historical details correct, yet I’d give an occult, cryptohistorical explanation to those facts.
The whole process was a lot of fun. I could pick out shining bits of history like a magpie and create connections with paranoid-schizophrenic abandon.



TQIn the American Craft series who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

TMD:  The easiest character was Roderick Morton, who is Madeline’s even eviler twin brother and the main villain of the trilogy. Perhaps I should have made him more difficult to write, more morally gray or nuanced, but I have a lot of those sorts of characters in my books, and I wanted one character who was self-consciously and unabashedly the bad guy. He was so easy to write because he’s usually having so much fun being evil. That’s not to say that he’s beyond reason or that we can’t relate to some of his desires. He wants an immortality that’s not also a cage, and he wants the power to defend it. He’s willing to risk the entire world for his goals, but it’s a calculated risk. Where he goes utterly beyond moral understanding is in his relations with women, and the model for those relations is his abuse of his sister, Madeline. The deep conflict between brother and sister is one of the major arcs of the trilogy.

The Puritan craftsman, Major Michael Endicott, has maintained his position as my most difficult character to write. In the earliest draft of American Craftsmen, he started as an extremely obnoxious two-dimensional foil for the main protagonist Dale Morton. But I found that the story kept on wanting a lot more from Endicott. So I rewrote him as a bit stiff and hapless, but also as a fundamentally decent person in a difficult position. Still, at the end of book 1, he had a lot of room to grow, so I made him the first-person point-of-view character for my second book, The Left-Hand Way. Lo and behold, he turned out to be a great leading character to write. I sometimes wonder if Anne Rice was as surprised by Lestat.



TQIn the American Craft series which character surprised you the most?

TMD:  Madeline Morton has replaced Endicott as the character who most surprised me. If the main character is the one who changes the most, then Madeline is the trilogy’s main character. She begins as joyfully chaotic evil, driven by a desperate yet ambivalent clinging to her centuries-long life. After Madeline’s physical death, she is unusually protective of Scherie, though she offers this protection in a manner peppered with rage, sarcasm, and mockery. As noted above, her friendship with Scherie is central to War and Craft. Madeline’s changes aren’t simple (she doesn’t become a good spirit), but they are nonetheless fundamental.



TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in the American Craft novels?

TMD:  When I started the series, I gave the books a very centrist and what I thought was a largely noncontroversial politics: that America and its institutions could unite people with disparate values in its service. That point seemed more important than my personal views on any given issue.

One of these characters united by American ideals was Scherie Rezvani, an Islamic-American daughter of Iranian immigrants. This wasn’t something I made a fuss over, because structurally this is a very old move: tales of the military heroism of American newcomers are as old as the country. But times have changed since I wrote War and Craft, and Scherie’s background is now a political statement--and one I stand by.

One other statement in War and Craft has become more political than I first intended: “no one in the West seemed to care that, in Russia, that thing from Lubyanka’s subbasement was in charge at the Kremlin.” (This thing is earlier identified as the “Tsar of Bone.”) I was making a small jab at the authoritarian regime in Russia, not realizing that soon the struggle with that regime would move much closer to home.



TQWhich question about the series do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

TMD:  I’m apparently notorious for putting Easter Eggs and other allusions into my writing, so here are a couple of particularly obscure ones that I’ve wished someone would ask about. The names of Dale’s father (Willard L. Morton) and grandfather (Benjamin Franklin Morton) are nods to two fictional characters associated with two different wars. “Willard L.” is from Captain Benjamin L. Willard, Martin Sheen’s character in Apocalypse Now, and “Benjamin Franklin” is from Captain Benjamin Franklin Pierce, a.k.a. “Hawkeye” from MASH.



TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from War and Craft.

TMD:  Instead of trying to come up with a quote from later in the story, here’s the opening hook from the prologue “Terrible Beauties Are Born”:
        “All was quiet on New Year’s Day before dawn. Near Galway, below a thatched cottage like they kept for the tourists, the quiet old man called Oz came suddenly awake in his cave, as if the lack of noise had startled his sleep. He got up from his warm cavern bed and rubbed his gray stubble, cross with the world. He hadn’t had a foreboding since the peace in the North, except for the gentle one that came to all the old and told him that he must pass on his gifts soon, lest they be lost.

No use complaining. In the dark, Oz put on his worn white Aran sweater and one of the fancy fiber macintoshes the young ones preferred. He slung his rifle over his shoulder and, every joint hurting, climbed up the ladder to his cottage home.

He stepped outside. Beyond his yard’s low wall of rounded stone, the ground was flat and exposed. There’d be no surprises today. He made a sign of the cross in the air, and walked toward the town. They’d be coming from there, rested and ready.”


TQWhat's next?

TMD:  I’m working on a novel-length extension of my edgy space opera, “Crossing Borders.” I’m also creating abridgments of my three American Craft books for possible use in Graphic Audio productions.



TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

TMD:  Thank you for your thoughtful questions and your support of my work.





War and Craft
American Craft 3
Tor Books, September 26, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages

Interview with Tom Doyle, author of the American Craft Trilogy
America, land of the Free…and home of the warlocks.

The Founding Fathers were never ones to pass up a good weapon. America’s first line of defense has been shrouded in secrecy, magical families who have sworn to use their power to protect our republic.

But there are those who reject America’s dream and have chosen the Left Hand Path. In this triumphant conclusion to Tom Doyle’s imaginative alternate historical America, we start with a bloody wedding-night brawl with assassins in Tokyo. Our American magical shock troops go to India, where a descendant of legendary heroes has the occult mission they’ve been waiting for.

It all comes to a head in a valley hidden high in the mountains of Kashmir. Our craftspeople will battle against their fellow countrymen, some of the vilest monsters of the Left Hand Path. It’s Armageddon in Shangri-La, and the end of the world as we know it.





Previously

American Craftsmen
American Craft 1
Tor Books, June 30, 2015
Mass Market Paperback, 432 pages
Hardback and eBook, May 6, 2014

Interview with Tom Doyle, author of the American Craft Trilogy
Ancient magic meets SEAL Team Six-with the fate of the United States hanging in the balance-in Tom Doyle's American Craftsmen.

US Army Captain Dale Morton is a magician soldier-a "craftsman." After a black-ops mission gone wrong, Dale is cursed by a Persian sorcerer and haunted by his good and evil ancestors. Major Michael Endicott, a Puritan craftsman, finds gruesome evidence that the evil Mortons have returned, and that Dale might be one of them.

Dale uncovers treason in the Pentagon's highest covert ranks. He hunts for his enemies before they can murder him and Scherie, a new friend who knows nothing of his magic.

Endicott pursues Dale, divided between his duty to capture a rogue soldier and his desire to protect Dale from his would-be assassins. They will discover that the demonic horrors that have corrupted American magic are not bound by family or even death itself.



The Left-Hand Way
American Craft 2
Tor Books, August 11, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

Interview with Tom Doyle, author of the American Craft Trilogy
Poe's Red Death returns, more powerful than ever. Can anyone stop him before he summons an apocalyptic nightmare even worse than himself?

In The Left-Hand Way, the second book of Tom Doyle's contemporary fantasy series, the American craftsmen are scattered like bait overseas. What starts as an ordinary liaison mission to London for Major Michael Endicott becomes a desperate chase across Europe, where Endicott is both hunted and hunter. Reluctantly joining him is his minder from MI13, Commander Grace Marlow, one of Her Majesty's most lethal magician soldiers, whose family has centuries of justified hostility to the Endicotts.

Meanwhile, in Istanbul and Tokyo, Endicott's comrades, Scherie Rezvani and Dale Morton, are caught in their own battles for survival against hired assassins and a ghost-powered doomsday machine. And in Kiev, Roderick Morton, the spider at the center of a global web, plots their destruction and his ultimate apotheosis. After centuries of imprisonment, nothing less than godlike power will satisfy Roderick, whatever the dreadful cost.





About Tom

Interview with Tom Doyle, author of the American Craft Trilogy
Tom Doyle is the author of a contemporary fantasy trilogy from Tor Books. In the first book, American Craftsmen, two modern magician-soldiers fight their way through the legacies of Poe and Hawthorne as they attempt to destroy an undying evil--and not kill each other first. In the sequel, The Left-Hand Way, the craftsmen are hunters and hunted in a global race to save humanity from a new occult threat out of America's past. In the third book, War and Craft (Sept. 2017), it's Armageddon in Shangri-La, and the end of the world as we know it.

Some of Tom’s award-winning short fiction is collected in The Wizard of Macatawa and Other Stories. He writes in a spooky turret in Washington, DC. You can find the text and audio of many of his stories on his website, www.tomdoylewriter.com.


Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @tmdoyle2

Interview with Tom Doyle, author of American Craftsmen - May 10, 2014


Please welcome Tom Doyle to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. American Craftsmen was published on May 6, 2014 by Tor Books.







TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Tom:  When I quit the law, I went on a personal pilgrimage to clear out my old self and start forming a new one. Among other things, I stayed in a Zen monastery, traveled to Rio for Carnival and Jerusalem for New Year’s Eve, interned at Boston University’s Center for Millennial Studies, and formed a rock band that played Guided by Voices covers. After this pilgrimage period, I thought about a new career. It had to be intellectually stimulating yet not involve others telling me what to do, so I decided on writing science fiction and fantasy. I first attended a Strange Horizons workshop, and then I went to Clarion. I started selling stories soon after that.



TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Tom:  I’d call myself a pantser with a strong sense of trajectory. I usually know where I want to start and roughly where I want to finish, but having these end points still allows for plenty of serendipitous surprises and course changes along the way.



TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? Where do you write?

Tom:  My biggest challenge is avoiding distractions. I’m not a fast writer, so I need to impose a lot of structure on my day. I mostly write at a big wooden desk on the third floor of my nineteenth-century brownstone home. I have a turret, which helps keep me in a fantasy mindset.



TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Tom:  Off the top of my head, China Mieville, Jacqueline Carey, my Clarion instructors, Dickens, Hemingway, and Roddy Doyle. The transparent styles of the last two are good antidotes to infectious bad prose. But I also really enjoy the vatic voice that I pick up from some poetry and song lyrics.



TQ:  Describe American Craftsmen in 140 characters or less.

Tom:  Two soldiers will fight through the magical legacies of Poe and Hawthorne to destroy an undying evil, if they don't kill each other first.



TQ:  Tell us something about American Craftsmen that is not in the book description.

Tom:  The craftsmen of the title are magician soldiers, but “American craftsmen” is also a nod to the early American authors of the fantastic such as Poe and Hawthorne. For my book, I’ve assumed all these authors were writing thinly veiled nonfiction.



TQ:  What inspired you to write American Craftsmen? What appealed to about writing a genre blending Contemporary Military Fantasy novel? Do you want to write in any other genres or sub-genres?

Tom:  Oddly enough, one of my initial inspirations was L. Frank Baum. When he began telling children’s stories, he had the idea of discarding the existing European folk tales and building a fantasy that was modern and distinctly American. That’s how we got The Wizard of Oz.

     I wasn’t going to write a children’s story, but the idea of confining myself to a U.S. mythos for an adult fantasy was very appealing. At first, my book was going to cover a whole secret world of American magic. But the reader of my earliest draft section, author Stephanie Dray, saw the military intrigue element and said, “This is great. Do this.” I really owe her a lot for getting me to focus on that plotline.

     I’ve written stories across the speculative spectrum (though no high fantasy epics yet), and I have a couple of novel manuscripts in different SF/F sub-genres that I’d like to see published. I don’t see myself doing non-speculative fiction anytime soon. For now, it’s the otherworldly stuff in odd combinations that keeps me intrigued.



TQ:  Please tell us about the magic system in American Craftsmen.

Tom:  Rather than use a traditional magic system, I drew up my list of supernatural powers from three main founts. First, any occult event in American literature was fair game. In The Scarlet Letter, for example, the hidden sin of the minister is visible as a red letter “A” in the flesh of his chest, which matches the red fabric letter worn by Hester Prynne. So my protagonist, Dale Morton, has the ability to see sins as glowing letters radiating from other people’s bodies.

     Second, American history is full of the uncanny, for example, instances where an abrupt change of weather saved an army, and the dreams that Lincoln had before significant events, including his own assassination. I imagine this uncanniness as being the result of magical powers still being exercised today.

     Finally, to be elite operatives, soldier and spy mages would need powers that enhance their combat skill and strength. They aren’t superheroes, but they can endure a bit more, heal a bit quicker, and shoot a bit better than normal soldiers.

     In my story, different practitioners see these powers in different terms. The atheistic Dale Morton sees magic as a sharp skewing of probabilities inherent in nature, and he wields his power with a meditative concentration. The religious Michael Endicott believes all such power comes ultimately from God and frames his spells as prayers. Both get the same results.



TQ:  What sort of research did you do for American Craftsmen?

Tom:  I read or reread the works of Poe and Hawthorne and other nineteenth-century authors of the American canon. As an example of how I used some of that reading, the parlor of the House of Morton has sickly yellow wallpaper in a nod to the early feminist story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

     I had already read a lot of military history, so I read more about modern elite military units and special operations. I toured the Pentagon. I continued to tour Civil War battle sites, which came in handy for one section of the book.

     A crucial part of my research was discussing special operations with a friend who had fought in the first Gulf War.



TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why? Who is your favorite character in American Craftsmen?

Tom:  Dale, my main protagonist, was relatively easy; his personality and his outlook on life are familiar. Endicott was harder. In my earliest draft, he started out as an almost totally unsympathetic character, which didn’t work. He’s evolved into something quite different.

     Two of my favorite characters are Sphinx and the Appalachian. They’re both older women who’ve paid for their wisdom with some portion of their sanity, and that makes them interesting.



TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite lines from American Craftsmen.

Tom:  “Prague’s old world occult irritated him. Every assignment turned noir here. Like foreign movies, Prague missions tended to end badly and absurdly.”



TQ:  What's next?

TomAmerican Craftsmen is the first book in a three-book series. I’ve recently turned in book two, The Left-Hand Way, and I’m hard at work on book three, The Master Craftsmen. But I also have two other novels that I think would be great as stand-alones or first books in different series. One is the continuation of my award winning story, “The Wizard of Macatawa,” a fantasy about L. Frank Baum in 1899 and a kid growing up on Lake Michigan in the late ‘70s. The other is the continuation of my twisted space opera, “Crossing Borders.” I hope they’ll see the light of day at some point. If you’re interested in a preview of what those novels would be like, the short story precursors are available in my collection, The Wizard of Macatawa and Other Stories, or you could listen to the audio versions at www.tomdoylewriter.com.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.





American Craftsmen
Tor Books, May 6, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

In modern America, two soldiers will fight their way through the magical legacies of Poe and Hawthorne to destroy an undying evil—if they don’t kill each other first.

US Army Captain Dale Morton is a magician soldier—a “craftsman.” After a black-ops mission gone wrong, Dale is cursed by a Persian sorcerer and haunted by his good and evil ancestors. Major Michael Endicott, a Puritan craftsman, finds gruesome evidence that the evil Mortons, formerly led by the twins Roderick and Madeline, have returned, and that Dale might be one of them.

Dale uncovers treason in the Pentagon’s highest covert ranks. He hunts for his enemies before they can murder him and Scherie, a new friend who knows nothing of his magic.

Endicott pursues Dale, divided between his duty to capture a rogue soldier and his desire to protect Dale from his would-be assassins. They will discover that the demonic horrors that have corrupted American magic are not bound by family or even death itself.

In Tom Doyle's thrilling debut, American Craftsmen, Seal Team Six meets ancient magic--with the fate of the United States hanging in the balance . . .







About Tom

The Internet Review of Science Fiction has hailed TOM DOYLE's writing as “beautiful & brilliant.” Locus Magazine has called his stories “fascinating,” “transgressive,” “witty,” “moving,” and “intelligent and creepy.” A graduate of the Clarion Writing Workshop, Doyle has won the WSFA Small Press Award and third prize in the Writers of the Future contest. He is the author of American Craftsmen.






Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @tmdoyle2




Interview with Tom Doyle, author of the American Craft TrilogyInterview with Tom Doyle, author of The Left-Hand Way and American CraftsmenInterview with Tom Doyle, author of American Craftsmen - May 10, 2014

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