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The Something Red Quadrilogy by Douglas Nicholas


Today marks the publication of the Three Queens in Erin, the 4th and final novel in the Something Red Quadrilogy by Douglas Nicholas. Douglas was featured in the 2012 Debut Author Challenge for his debut novel - Something Red.

Sadly Douglas passed away nearly a year ago. He was a remarkable writer of both poetry and prose. There is a deep beauty to his writing - exciting and melodic at the same time. His Something Red novels (and one short story) are gorgeous, lush and deeply engaging.

I've not yet read Three Queens in Erin (it showed up on my eReader early this morning). I am hesitant to read it because this will be the last time I read a novel by Douglas Nicholas for the first time; the last time I can immerse myself in a new part of his Something Red world. In lieu of a review of Three Queens in Erin (which I will write) here is information for all of the novels and my review of Throne of Darkness (Something Red 3).

You may read my interviews with Douglas here, here and here.



The Something Red Quadrilogy by Douglas Nicholas



Three Queens in Erin
Something Red 4
Atria/Emily Bestler Books, March 7, 2017
Trade Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

The Something Red Quadrilogy by Douglas Nicholas
Maeve and her family - her granddaughter, Nemain; Nemain's husband, Hob; their six-year-old daughter, Macha Redmane; and Maeve's lover, Jack Brown - have decided it is time to return to Ireland and reclaim her tribal lands. Journeying over the sea, the family finally learns the secrets behind their long exile: a clan of Viking/Scots known as the Norse Gaels slayed the chief warrior and leaders of Maeve's clan through cunning black magic. But in returning to Ireland, Maeve and her family must face the three leaders of the Norse Gaels. These three queens, dark version of Celtic goddesses, are evil sisters whose abilities rival Maeve's own formidable powers...

When a monster is unleashed upon the countryside, Maeve and Nemain must create a beast of their own, at a cost of great sorcerous effort to themselves, With Nicholas' signature blend of historical adventure and supernatural fantasy, Three Queens in Erin is a rich addition to his critically acclaimed series.





Previously

Something Red
Something Red 1
Atria/Emily Bestler Books, June 18, 2013
Trade Paperback, 336 pages
Hardcover and eBook, September 18, 2012

The Something Red Quadrilogy by Douglas Nicholas
From debut novelist Douglas Nicholas comes a haunting fantasy of love, murder, and sorcery set in one of the coldest winters of thirteenth-century England.

In an intoxicating blend of fantasy and horror, acclaimed debut novel Something Red transports you to the harsh, unforgiving world of thirteenth-century England. An evil and age-old force stalks the countryside—who dares confront it?




The Demon
An eShort Story
Atria/Emily Bestler Books, March 18, 2014
eBook, 32 pages

The Something Red Quadrilogy by Douglas Nicholas
Mixing history, fantasy, and legend, The Demon is an exclusive e-short story from acclaimed novelist Douglas Nicholas, perfect for fans of Game of Thrones.

In England’s wild North Country, the men of Blanchefontaine, led by the castellan Sir Balthasar, must hunt an unearthly creature that stalks the nearby woods. But all is not as it seems…

Note that The Demon is free!




The Wicked
Something Red 2
Atria/Emily Bestler Books, March 25, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

The Something Red Quadrilogy by Douglas Nicholas
The mesmerizing and highly anticipated sequel to Something Red transports readers to the harsh and enchanting world of thirteenth-century England, where a group of unlikely heroes battles an ancient evil.

A thrilling and intoxicating journey to a land of legend, where nothing is quite as it seems. . . .

Something evil has come to reside in a castle by the chill waters of the North Sea: men disappear and are found as horribly wizened corpses, knights ride out and return under an enchantment that dulls their minds. Both the townspeople and the court under Sir Odinell’s protection live in fear, terrorized by forces beyond human understanding. But rumors of a wise woman blessed with mysterious powers also swirl about the land. The call goes forth, and so it comes to be that young apprentice Hob and his adopted family—exiled Irish queen Molly, her granddaughter Nemain, and warrior Jack Brown—are pitted against a malevolent nobleman and his beautiful, wicked wife.

Richly set in the inns, courts, and countryside of thirteenth-century northwest England, The Wicked is a darkly spun masterpiece that will leave fans of epic fantasy thirsty for more.




Throne of Darkness
Something Red 3
Atria/Emily Bestler Books, March 31, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages

The Something Red Quadrilogy by Douglas Nicholas
Perfect for fans of Game of Thrones, this novel from acclaimed author Douglas Nicholas continues the gripping dark fantasy series that Kirkus Reviews describes as “a more profound Harry Potter for adults.”

It’s 1215 in northwest England—the eve of the signing of the Magna Carta—and mystical Irish queen Maeve and her unlikely band of warriors must protect the region from a chilling fate. Word of a threat reaches the Northern barons: King John has plotted to import an African sorcerer and his sinister clan of blacksmiths, whose unearthly powers may spell destruction for the entire kingdom. Along with her lover, Jack, her gifted niece, Nemain, and Nemain’s newlywed husband, Hob (whose hidden talents will soon be revealed), Maeve must overcome a supernatural threat unlike any she’s seen before.

With his characteristic blend of historical adventure and intoxicating mythological elements, Nicholas once again “goes for the throat…with brilliant writing and whip-smart plotting” (New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry). This is a richly woven tale that will leave you hungry for more.



Qwill's Thoughts

In Throne of Darkness Douglas Nicholas returns to the world of Molly, Nemain, Jack and Hob that he introduced us to in Something Red and continued in The Wicked. In Throne of Darkness King John I of England (of Magna Carta fame) is building a sinister army to defeat the Barons. Molly (Queen Maeve) is approached to counter King John's plans. She's not really asked this time but is coerced into her greatest challenge yet.

Molly and Nemain are Queens of clans from Ireland. Molly is in England building allies and biding her time until she can return to Ireland and she and Nemain can reclaim their thrones. And build allies she does. Throughout the 3 novels, Molly's and her group's adventures have been genuinely riveting and entertaining.

Molly is the leader. She is easy to love and admire. She's regal, intelligent, kind and a formidable practitioner of the (supernatural) Arts. She is also not someone to trifle with. Nemain is her granddaughter. I've watched Nemain grow up during the series. She is fierce, a skilled fighter and also a practitioner of the Arts she learned from Molly. Jack Brown is a former mercenary with a secret. He came to Molly for help and has never left. He is a huge man, skilled at war, but is also a gentle and kind soul. You do not, however, want to be on the wrong end of his battle axe. And Hob, now Nemain’s husband - I've also watched him grow up throughout the novels. In some ways Throne of Darkness is more his story. I finally understood Hob's potential and future in Throne of Darkness. He's become a brilliant fighter throughout the series. Hob is in for some big changes, some of which left me quite emotional.

Douglas Nicholas' writing is lyrical and elegant. He places you deeply into the era he is writing about. You can see the sunlight flickering through the trees and the dust lift off the road as the wagons go by. You can feel the joys and sorrows of the people. You can practically taste the food.

Nicholas imbues his Something Red series with the supernatural, which is really superbly done. He  is a master of placing his story and characters within the context of real events and making you believe in them, care about them and root for them.

Throne of Darkness is a wonderful novel, full of history, thrills, the supernatural, and deeply engaging characters. I absolutely love this series and highly recommend that you read each book in order.


Note: Nicholas provides a pronunciation guide, a Glossary of Irish Terms and a Glossary of Archaisms and Dialect Terms.





About Douglas

The Something Red Quadrilogy by Douglas Nicholas
Photograph by Kelly Merchant
Douglas Nicholas was an award-winning poet, whose work has appeared in numerous poetry journals, and the author of six previous books, including The Wicked Something Red and Iron Rose, a collection of poems inspired by New York City.He is survived by his wife, Theresa, and Yorkshire terrier, Tristan.





Website

Facebook

Twitter @DouglasScribes




Interview with Douglas Nicholas and Review of Throne of Darkness - March 30, 2015


Please welcome Douglas Nicholas to The Qwillery. Throne of Darkness, the 3rd novel in the Something Red series, will be published on March 31st by Atria/Emily Bestler Books.



Interview with Douglas Nicholas and Review of Throne of Darkness - March 30, 2015




TQ:  Welcome back to The Qwillery. Throne of Darkness is the 3rd novel in the Something Red series. Tell us something about Throne of Darkness that is not found in the book description. How far after The Wicked does Throne of Darkness take place?

Douglas:  Thanks for having me!

One thing that’s not mentioned in the book description is that we learn quite a bit more about Hob’s earliest memories. Throne of Darkness takes place about three years after the end of The Wicked; Hob is nearly 18 and Nemain is nearly 19 in this book.



TQ:  How does being a poet affect (or not) your novel writing?

Douglas:   I think it has a great deal to do with my prose “voice”; a tendency to vivid use of language, attention to the music in a phrase, and a search for the telling image—see the third example from the book, below. There’s also a slightly elevated, slightly formal tinge to the writing.



TQ:  How has your novel writing process changed over the course of the 3 novels in the Something Red series?

Douglas:  I don’t know that it has changed, much—I still need to have an idea of the arc of the story before I get started. In Something Red I stumbled upon a tripartite division of the book, with each part devoted to a different (and ultimately deceptive) refuge—The Monastery, The Inn, The Castle. I liked this three-part structure so much that I’ve decided to keep it for all four novels.



TQ:  Over the course of the 3 novels, Something Red (2012), The Wicked (2014) and Throne of Darkness (2015) which character has surprised you the most? Which character has changed the most?

Douglas:  I think that to some extent the character that surprised me the most was Milo the ox. Molly has named him “Milo” because somewhere in her travels she has heard or even read—she’s intellectually formidable, our Molly, and has a wide circle of friends, and knows a great many things—the story about Milo of Croton, who lifted a calf in his youth and, in a triumph of progressive resistance, became a strongman as the calf grows to a bull. (This won’t work in real life, folks, because calves grow up too fast, but the principle is sound.) Hob’s very fond of him, and calls him “Lambkin” when no one else is about, an affectionate nickname he only barely remembers from before his parents were killed.

I knew oxen were timid, at least relative to bulls, and I had Milo hide his face against Hob’s chest early in Something Red when the cry of the monster is heard in the forest. Later in the book I had Milo try to conceal himself from a fierce wild bull by putting his head behind Hob’s back, with the idea that “if I can’t see the bull, the bull can’t see me.” After the publication of the book a friend told me that she had visited a woman who kept two oxen, that the animals were very shy, and that one of them had hid his face behind his “mom.” I felt an affection toward this big, amiable, slothful, timid animal, and so I kept giving him more and more business to do, and people would write and say how much they loved this nonhuman and very peripheral character. That was surprising to me.

I think Hob has changed, and will change, the most. He’s a boy, after all, when the first book begins. Nemain is also growing up, but she is a year older than Hob, and has led a more varied existence, and is by training and heredity a priestess of the Mórrígan and a warrior queen in her own right, back in Erin, so she’s more grownup from the beginning. Hob is a teenager from a time before teenagers were a tribe unto themselves: you were a child, and you wanted to take your place in the adult world, and as soon as possible, you did so, imitating the adults, who knew more than you did. He’s a good person, but he’s not a goody-goody type—he’s just aware that those around him are excellent models, and he’s trying to learn from them; he’s down with the program.



TQ:  You’ve done extensive research for the prior 2 novels. What research did you do for Throne of Darkness?

Douglas:  I had to find out a lot about hyenas! There were other topics about which I needed to learn more than I knew at the outset. For example, the fascinating people who call themselves the Imazighen, or “the free and noble ones,” and whom others call Berbers, which comes ultimately from “barbarian,” and which they don’t like. (Compare the people whom the English call “Welsh”, which comes from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “foreigner, stranger, enemy”; the Welsh call themselves “Cymry,” the “fellow-men.”)

The hook that I started with is a story about King John told by Matthew Paris, a monk writing in the middle of the thirteenth century. He said—and it’s almost certainly a libel: the monks hated John for his financial pressures on the monasteries to support his mercenaries—at any rate, Paris wrote that King John sent an embassy to the Emir of Morocco, and offered to submit to him and to convert England to Islam, if the Emir would help him against his enemies. The emir refused, saying that if John would betray his religion he would betray the emir. I thought, What if the embassy, waiting to go home in defeat, were to encounter a Moroccan sorcerer who could help the king with his rebellious barons? I was aware of the pagan Berber resistance against the advance of Arab Islam in the seventh century, and I posited that there would be some holdout pagans, and even sorcerers. When I researched North African legends and found the bouda, blacksmiths who could change into hyenas—a variant is found as far south as Ethiopia—I was fascinated. The story grew from there.



TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Throne of Darkness.

Douglas:
They lay panting for a while, and then he rolled on his back and pulled her atop him, and contrived to cover her with his shirt, and held her for a while. He lay, utterly happy, looking up at the underside of the boards that were the floor of the hayloft: bits of hay poking down into the spaces between the planks; the square heads of hand-forged nails driven into a beam; a spider in its web, hanging motionless with a terrible stony patience.
* * *
The archway that led back into the corridor showed an impenetrable black. The ticking footsteps resumed, then paused. With hideous slowness, the misshapen mask of a hyena peered around the jamb of the arch. Black lips drew back from a jumble of huge teeth, and round mad eyes glared in at him. From the creature’s lips broke an eerie titter, followed by a bass snarl. A moment later it loped around the corner and sprang at him.
* * *
       From a chest in the far corner da Panzano withdrew a packet with the papal seal, and tendered it to Molly, who put it into a fold of her garments without looking at it.

     “You do not look?” asked da Panzano.

     “I will look later; if ’tis not what you promised, sure I’ll come to you again, my lad.”

      For something said so unemphatically, thought Hob, this managed to convey a sense of terrible menace: the creak of a longbow at full draw.


TQ:  Will we be seeing more of Molly, Jack Brown, Nemain, and Hob in the future?

Douglas:  There will be more, in the fourth volume, but I’d hate to see Something Red #37Hob and Nemain Go to Las Vegas. I’d like the series to end where, without my saying it, the reader knows that They Lived Happily Ever After.



TQ:  If a reader wanted more information about the historical period during which the novels are set, which books would you recommend?

Douglas:  W.L. Warren, King John; Frances and Joseph Gies, Life in a Medieval Village; Matthew Paris, The History of England; Elizabeth Hallam, The Plantagenet Chronicles.



TQ:  What’s next?

Douglas:  Next is the fourth and final book in the tetralogy, Three Queens in Erin, in which Molly will return to Ireland and take her revenge.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Douglas:  My pleasure entirely.





Throne of Darkness
Series:  Something Red 3
Publisher:  Atria/Emily Bestler Books, March 31, 2015
Format:  Trade Paperback and eBook, 320 pages
List Price:  $16.00 (print)
ISBN:  9781476755984 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher

Interview with Douglas Nicholas and Review of Throne of Darkness - March 30, 2015
Perfect for fans of Game of Thrones, this novel from acclaimed author Douglas Nicholas continues the gripping dark fantasy series that Kirkus Reviews describes as “a more profound Harry Potter for adults.”

It’s 1215 in northwest England—the eve of the signing of the Magna Carta—and mystical Irish queen Maeve and her unlikely band of warriors must protect the region from a chilling fate. Word of a threat reaches the Northern barons: King John has plotted to import an African sorcerer and his sinister clan of blacksmiths, whose unearthly powers may spell destruction for the entire kingdom. Along with her lover, Jack, her gifted niece, Nemain, and Nemain’s newlywed husband, Hob (whose hidden talents will soon be revealed), Maeve must overcome a supernatural threat unlike any she’s seen before.

With his characteristic blend of historical adventure and intoxicating mythological elements, Nicholas once again “goes for the throat…with brilliant writing and whip-smart plotting” (New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry). This is a richly woven tale that will leave you hungry for more.



Qwill's Thoughts

In Throne of Darkness Douglas Nicholas returns to the world of Molly, Nemain, Jack and Hob that he introduced us to in Something Red and continued in The Wicked. In Throne of Darkness King John I of England (of Magna Carta fame) is building a sinister army to defeat the Barons. Molly (Queen Maeve) is approached to counter King John's plans. She's not really asked this time but is coerced into her greatest challenge yet.

Molly and Nemain are Queens of clans from Ireland. Molly is in England building allies and biding her time until she can return to Ireland and she and Nemain can reclaim their thrones. And build allies she does. Throughout the 3 novels, Molly's and her group's adventures have been genuinely riveting and entertaining.

Molly is the leader. She is easy to love and admire. She's regal, intelligent, kind and a formidable practitioner of the (supernatural) Arts. She is also not someone to trifle with. Nemain is her granddaughter. I've watched Nemain grow up during the series. She is fierce, a skilled fighter and also a practitioner of the Arts she learned from Molly. Jack Brown is a former mercenary with a secret. He came to Molly for help and has never left. He is a huge man, skilled at war, but is also a gentle and kind soul. You do not, however, want to be on the wrong end of his battle axe. And Hob, now Nemain’s husband - I've also watched him grow up throughout the novels. In some ways Throne of Darkness is more his story. I finally understood Hob's potential and future in Throne of Darkness. He's become a brilliant fighter throughout the series. Hob is in for some big changes, some of which left me quite emotional.

Douglas Nicholas' writing is lyrical and elegant. He places you deeply into the era he is writing about. You can see the sunlight flickering through the trees and the dust lift off the road as the wagons go by. You can feel the joys and sorrows of the people. You can practically taste the food.

Nicholas imbues his Something Red series with the supernatural, which is really superbly done. He  is a master of placing his story and characters within the context of real events and making you believe in them, care about them and root for them.

Throne of Darkness is a wonderful novel, full of history, thrills, the supernatural, and deeply engaging characters. I absolutely love this series and highly recommend that you read each book in order.


Note: Nicholas provides a pronunciation guide, a Glossary of Irish Terms and a Glossary of Archaisms and Dialect Terms.





About Douglas

Interview with Douglas Nicholas and Review of Throne of Darkness - March 30, 2015
Photograph by Kelly Merchant
Douglas Nicholas is an award-winning poet, whose work has appeared in numerous poetry journals, and the author of four previous books, including Something Red and Iron Rose, a collection of poems inspired by New York City. He lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with his wife Theresa and Yorkshire terrier Tristan.




Website

Facebook

Twitter @DouglasScribes









Previously

Something Red
Something Red 1
Atria/Emily Bestler Books, June 18, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
Published in Hardcover, September 18, 2012

Interview with Douglas Nicholas and Review of Throne of Darkness - March 30, 2015
In an intoxicating blend of fantasy and horror, acclaimed debut novel Something Red transports you to the harsh, unforgiving world of thirteenth-century England. An evil and age-old force stalks the countryside—who dares confront it?


The Demon
An eShort Story
Atria/Emily Bestler Books, March 18, 2014
eBook, 32 pages

Interview with Douglas Nicholas and Review of Throne of Darkness - March 30, 2015
Mixing history, fantasy, and legend, The Demon is an exclusive e-short story from acclaimed novelist Douglas Nicholas, perfect for fans of Game of Thrones.

In England’s wild North Country, the men of Blanchefontaine, led by the castellan Sir Balthasar, must hunt an unearthly creature that stalks the nearby woods. But all is not as it seems…

Note that The Demon is presently free!


The Wicked
Something Red 2
Atria/Emily Bestler Books, March 25, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Interview with Douglas Nicholas and Review of Throne of Darkness - March 30, 2015
A thrilling and intoxicating journey to a land of legend, where nothing is quite as it seems. . . .

Something evil has come to reside in a castle by the chill waters of the North Sea: men disappear and are found as horribly wizened corpses, knights ride out and return under an enchantment that dulls their minds. Both the townspeople and the court under Sir Odinell’s protection live in fear, terrorized by forces beyond human understanding. But rumors of a wise woman blessed with mysterious powers also swirl about the land. The call goes forth, and so it comes to be that young apprentice Hob and his adopted family—exiled Irish queen Molly, her granddaughter Nemain, and warrior Jack Brown—are pitted against a malevolent nobleman and his beautiful, wicked wife.

Richly set in the inns, courts, and countryside of thirteenth-century northwest England, The Wicked is a darkly spun masterpiece that will leave fans of epic fantasy thirsty for more.

Interview with Douglas Nicholas, author of Something Red and The Wicked - March 27, 2014


Please welcome Douglas Nicholas to The Qwillery. Douglas is the author of the fabulous Something Red series: Something Red (2012) and The Wicked which was published on March 25, 2014.



Interview with Douglas Nicholas, author of Something Red and The Wicked - March 27, 2014




TQ:  Welcome back to The Qwillery. The Wicked, the 2nd novel in your Something Red series, was just published on March 25, 2014. What is the most challenging thing for you about writing? Has this changed from when you wrote Book 1 to Book 2?

Douglas:  I write slowly, partly because I like to make sure that real-life details (as opposed to the fantasy elements) are correct, and partly because I care a great deal about the language, and want to get the prose just right, while a the same time telling a gripping story. I’d like people not to be able to put it down, to keep turning the pages, but then feel that they’d like to go back, sooner or later—or even immediately!—and reread it, just to savor the language. Some people have posted that they went back, two of them immediately, to read Something Red again; one person has read it three times since it came out in 2012.



TQ:  What do you wish you'd known about publishing when Something Red (Book 1) came out that you know now?

Douglas:  I’ve said it before: I was quite surprised at what a sweet bunch I have to deal with at Emily Bestler Books/Atria—not at all like the type of cold cutthroat corporation one sees portrayed, either for chills or for humor, in books and on TV. More like a group of chums.



TQ:  Tell us something about The Wicked that is not in the book description.

Douglas:  The villain, Sir Tarquin, is one of the most evil critters you never want to meet:
Sir Tarquin’s strong pale face was a mask of malignant hunger. Hob had seen a hawk standing with taloned foot on a mouse and tearing it with its hook-knife bill, and it was a model of sweetness beside this face, this expression, that might have been the portrait of Satan in a rage.
And his lady wife is not far behind:
Beside [Sir Tarquin]: Lady Rohese, a woman of smoldering beauty, a woman neither young nor much past youth, dark-haired, dark-eyed. Hob had just begun to think how beautiful she was when she looked at Molly’s table, and he thought to see an expression of the sourest evil, covered over with an attempt at neutral cordiality—an effect as of powdered sugar on a dish of spoiled meat.
Also in The Wicked, Jack acquires a very devoted dog, there’s a shipwreck, a storm, music, two “bar fights” of sorts, bandits, a giant (in the basketball-player sense) knight, a magic water-mirror spy device, a mano-a-mano sorcerous duel between Molly and Lady Rohese, a final conflict that involves swordplay and grim heavy sorcery, and a wedding between two of our favorite characters. That raven on the cover is not just decoration, either: it’s important.



TQ:  What research have you done for The Wicked?

Douglas:  I did a lot of research about the North Sea coast—its appearance, its flora, its fauna, and its history. For example, I needed fresh-plowed fields in August to foreshadow a later metaphor (I told you I work hard at the prose), so I had to find out what one might be planting so late in the summer (the flax and hemp were harvested in July, and then the turnips were planted in August).

As in Something Red, all the names are chosen from thirteenth-century tax rolls or court records. Jack’s dog, Sweetlove, has a name borne by at least three women in the thirteenth century who paid taxes or were involved in a legal dispute. Spellings varied a bit—one was “Sueteloue”—but in other words it’s a perfectly likely name. Another major character, Sir Odinell, is of the De Umfrevilles; he has a castle on the North Sea. There really was an Odinell de Umfreville, but he stayed in Normandy. Remember that at this time the Normans, who had come from France, often had property on both sides of the Channel—King John spent a lot of his time trying to hold on to the parts of France (Anjou, mostly) that were his by inheritance.

The North Sea, by the way, was called the German Sea by the English in the Middle Ages. The Dutch called it the North Sea, because it was north of the Netherlands, and this became the current name.

One noble whose name is not particularly Norman is Sir Tarquin—I chose his name to evoke the Etruscan kings of Rome, before Rome overthrew them and became a republic—Tarquin the Elder, and the last king of Rome, Tarquin the Proud. Why? Because at one point Molly realizes that Sir Tarquin is much older than he appears, and may have been around “for many a long, long year.” (No, he’s not the Devil himself. But he’s working on it.)

YouTube is good for taking virtual walks around Northumberland, and for learning how charcoal is made, including the curious one-legged stool the charcoal-burners employ, which found its way into the book. (If you’ve ever had spaghetti carbonara, that’s pasta “charcoal-burners’ style.”)



TQ:  What appeals to you about thirteenth century northwest England?

Douglas:  When I began Something Red, as a short story(!), I wanted it to end in an isolated, wintry mountain castle. If you want mountains in England, you have to be in the north, where the Pennines run from the Scottish border to about a third of the way down England. Northumberland today (it was bigger in the Middle Ages, and was called Northumbria) is still the most deserted area of England, and was even more so, of course, 800 years ago. The more I looked into the culture and dialect and history of Northern England, the more interesting it became. You say “northwest” England, but Something Red only starts there, and then our little family is trying to get over the central Pennine range to get to Durham and York, cities on the northeast coast. They’re stranded in the north-central castle, Blanchefontaine, and only get underway to the east coast at the end of the book. The Wicked takes place almost entirely on the northeast coast, by the “German Sea.”

I started the tale in 1995, then put it aside for a while. Sometime after that Susanna Clarke also made much of the North Country in her excellent Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, but I’d already chosen the area for my story.

I discovered that there’s a sort of cultural unity between northern England and southern Scotland, with a lot of linguistic sharing of terms, etc. There are some Scottish villains in The Wicked (even though my half-Irish, half-Scottish mom was from Glasgow), because the Scots were such a formidable warlike people who presented Norman lords with a constant threat of raids, and when they’re bad, you have to take them seriously.




TQ:  In the series so far who is your favorite good 'guy', bad 'guy' or ethically ambiguous character?

Douglas:  We will meet an ethically ambiguous character in the third volume of this series, the papal operative Monsignor Bonacorso da Panzano, but most of the characters in the first two books fall into the good-guy bad-guy categories.

I find it hard to choose: I’m very fond of our four main characters. Nemain is the most prickly, and has not yet grown into the mature kindness of Molly. Sir Balthasar is interesting to me: he’s frightening even to the men he leads, and more so to his enemies, but he’s absolutely gentle with his wife, Dame Aline, a merry character who was also a pleasure to write. Others: the restless, hyperactive, dangerous Sir Jehan and his wife, the enigmatic Lady Isabeau.

I like a lot of the minor characters, some of whom only appear for a page or two: Hodard Squint, the lawman who warns Molly in Something Red, or the dog groom Herluin in The Wicked. The unnamed aged but strong winch-tender in SR, who tells what is essentially a complete murder ballad in one page of dialect (which I hope impatient readers will sound out and not skip). Also from SR, the atte Well twin daughters, Margery and Parnell, and Osbert atte Well himself. From TW: Erec the Irish wolfhound puppy. Rollo, another Irish wolfhound puppy. (There’s a strong canine thread in The Wicked.)



TQ:  Which character has surprised you the most?

Douglas:  They don’t surprise me: I don’t let them. “Stand there—no, a little to the left—and say your lines,” I tell them. “No, once more, and put a little feeling into it.” I have a story to tell; I can’t let them begin to sass me.



TQ:  Give us one of your favorite lines from The Wicked.

Douglas:  I’ll give you three sentences; two are just for context—the middle sentence is the one I’m fond of:

She watched the road where it curved out of sight. The sea grumbled; the moon burned along the ridges of the waves. Around the bend came a double column of Sir Tarquin’s bewitched knights.



TQ:  What's next?

Douglas:  Next year is the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta. In volume three of this series, Molly will defeat an evil plot by King John to massacre the barons assembled for the signing, including her friends Sir Jehan, Sir Odinell, and Sir Balthasar.



TQ:  Thank you for joining us again at The Qwillery.





The Wicked
Something Red 2
Atria/Emily Bestler Books, March 25, 2014
Trade Paperback and eBook, 368 pages

Interview with Douglas Nicholas, author of Something Red and The Wicked - March 27, 2014
A thrilling and intoxicating journey to a land of legend, where nothing is quite as it seems. . . .

Something evil has come to reside in a castle by the chill waters of the North Sea: men disappear and are found as horribly wizened corpses, knights ride out and return under an enchantment that dulls their minds. Both the townspeople and the court under Sir Odinell’s protection live in fear, terrorized by forces beyond human understanding. But rumors of a wise woman blessed with mysterious powers also swirl about the land. The call goes forth, and so it comes to be that young apprentice Hob and his adopted family—exiled Irish queen Molly, her granddaughter Nemain, and warrior Jack Brown—are pitted against a malevolent nobleman and his beautiful, wicked wife.

Richly set in the inns, courts, and countryside of thirteenth-century northwest England, The Wicked is a darkly spun masterpiece that will leave fans of epic fantasy thirsty for more.



The Demon
An eShort Story
Atria/Emily Bestler Books, March 18, 2014
eBook, 32 pages

Interview with Douglas Nicholas, author of Something Red and The Wicked - March 27, 2014
Mixing history, fantasy, and legend, The Demon is an exclusive e-short story from acclaimed novelist Douglas Nicholas, perfect for fans of Game of Thrones.

In England’s wild North Country, the men of Blanchefontaine, led by the castellan Sir Balthasar, must hunt an unearthly creature that stalks the nearby woods. But all is not as it seems…

Note that The Demon is presently free!



Something Red
Something Red 1
Atria/Emily Bestler Books, June 18, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 336 pages
Published in Hardcover, September 18, 2012

Interview with Douglas Nicholas, author of Something Red and The Wicked - March 27, 2014
In an intoxicating blend of fantasy and horror, acclaimed debut novel Something Red transports you to the harsh, unforgiving world of thirteenth-century England. An evil and age-old force stalks the countryside—who dares confront it?





About Douglas

Interview with Douglas Nicholas, author of Something Red and The Wicked - March 27, 2014
Photograph by Kelly Merchant
Douglas Nicholas is an award-winning poet, whose work has appeared in numerous poetry journals, and the author of four previous books, including Something Red and Iron Rose, a collection of poems inspired by New York City. He lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with his wife Theresa and Yorkshire terrier Tristan.



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Twitter @DouglasScribes





The Something Red Quadrilogy by Douglas NicholasInterview with Douglas Nicholas and Review of Throne of Darkness - March 30, 2015Interview with Douglas Nicholas, author of Something Red and The Wicked - March 27, 2014

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