Author Interview: Kate McIntyre

Hello everyone! Today I have an interview with Kate McIntyre, author of the Faraday Files series. The newest book in the series, The Timeseer’s Gambit, came out this August.

The Faraday Files mix many different genres, from fantasy to mystery. How would you describe the series?

I’ve come to dread the question “what kind of books do you write?” My answer is usually a fumbling version of “um, fantasy murder mysteries with a lurking political and conspiracy narrative.” But the fact is, The Faraday Files doesn’t really fit into any boxes… and at the same time, fits into way too many.

Instead of giving the short answer, how about the long one. I try to juggle three main plot threads in each book:

The first is the mystery du jour, the val Daren case in book one, or the serial murder of Darrington’s young priests in the new release. This case provides the main framing of the book in question. A lot of other things might be going on, but the book essentially begins with Olivia getting the case, and ends when she solves it.

Second, there’s the overarching political plot. The traditionalists and the reformists, the Combs family and Doctor Livingstone and Garrett Albany, the fate of Darrington and Tarland and categorization, and the mystery of the Floating Castle. It’s a big magical political conspiracy yarn with a focus on both the overreaching and intimate social implications of a world order falling apart. While Olivia’s cases provide the basis for each book, this thread is the unifying plotline of the series as a whole.

And third and finally, there’s Olivia and Chris’s personal journey, both as a partnership and separately. They’re both complex and flawed people who’ve found each other and are growing and changing together as they learn about themselves and each other. This is the emotional core that holds the whole thing together, and hopefully acts as the glue that keeps people reading as I juggle the meaty plot stuff!

I think that as long as someone doesn’t hate any of the other parts, they can enjoy the series for any of these three things! Most of my readers have a ranking of which aspects they prefer and where they’re more invested. The good thing about providing such a range of genre is that a lot of different types of readers can find something to enjoy.

How do you balance the murder mystery with the ongoing political intrigue and character arcs?

This sure dovetails well with the first question, doesn’t it? Haha.

In all honesty? It’s really, really hard. I think all three ingredients are crucial to what makes the stew taste good, so to speak, and in truth it’s kind of a death-defying tightrope walk to get it just right.

Partly, I feel it out.

The political and personal plots are the easiest and funnest for me to writes, so I need to be sure to not overindulge there. I have a standing 45% rule that I try to adhere to, which is that at least 45% of the words in a given book need to be dedicated to the book-specific mystery story, where the political and personal arcs need to fit into the other 55%. All three can’t have equal screen time and keep the pace up!

But this rule shifts a bit with every book and we spiral deeper down into the characters’ personal lives and work towards the climax of the conspiracy plot. Where The Deathsniffer’s Assistant probably used about 60% of its words for the case, The Timeseer’s Gambit floats closer to fifty, and the third book, The Heartreader’s Secret, which I’m working on now, is going to have a hard time getting over that magical fourty five. I think working on the fourth and final book is going to be a relief! Finally, I can just give in and dig deep into the overarching narrative.

But the real heroes here are my dedicated group of beta readers, especially my fiancee Elzie, who are honest and dutiful and wonderful. The most important thing for them on their first time through a new book is to tell me as soon as they start feeling bored with one plot, or disconnected from another, or when they think it’s strange that Chris is worrying about this personal thing when something more pressing should really be on his mind from one of the other plots. They’ve honestly helped me strike that balance better than I could ever handle on my own and I’m eternally grateful to them.

Finally, a more practical trick I use is to try and link the mystery and overarching plots together as much as possible, either literally in The Deathsniffer’s Assistant, or thematically in The Timeseer’s Gambit, and then thread Chris and Olivia’s lives in through the cracks. Sometimes, an avenue doesn’t appear, and I have to have scenes that only serve one plot. But ideally, I try to get a scene that serves two, or even, on those rare occasions, all three.

I like to lie to myself and say that my next project will be smaller in scale and scope, but who am I kidding? The Faraday Files were my attempt to massively scale down my usual ideas. Sigh!

The world of the Faraday Files doesn’t feel like any standard fantasy setting. Is there any inspiration behind the world of the series?

First of all, thank you so much for saying so! One of the things I set out to do when I created the nation of Tarland and Darrington City was to make them feel truly unique. Those are the fantasy worlds that have captured me the most in my long career of reading, and I wanted to capture that same feeling of I have honestly never seen this before that I personally love so much.

I started working on the first Faraday Files book shortly after I had decided that I was done with West European Medieval fantasy. Those had been the only settings I’ve had any interest in back when I was a teenager, and I’d actively resented and felt repelled by fantasy settings that had firearms, trains, or other modern technology. But sometime in my 20s, it was like somebody flipped a switch in my head, and I just… got bored! I’d read every possible variation on fantasified Medieval England and I just didn’t feel there was any new territory to explore. Around this time I also became a lot more socially conscious and learned more about both medieval and modern history and realized that there are so many awesome eras we could be threading with magic that are just being ignored in favour of yet another castles and swords colour by numbers, and also, that Western Europe in the medieval era was honestly kind of the actual worst and it’s messed up we keep romanticizing it. Because it was the worst.

After deciding what I didn’t want my world to be, I started thinking about what I did want. And I started thinking about how the magical and mundane overlap. I mean, in our world, humans have achieved flight! That’s the coolest goddamn thing ever! What the hell! But we don’t say oh my god you guys I just paid to FLY THROUGH THE FREAKING AIR, we say bleh I have to go book my flight to Oregon. I loved the idea of a fantasy setting that is totally full tilt Lisa Frank spirits and unicorns and mind-readers and magic mirrors, but the people living there don’t think much about it because it’s just the way things are.

That got me thinking about the way we modern folks consume energy and resources without giving it much thought, because it’s also just the way things are. Humanity is incredibly adaptable and incredibly complacent. We’ll change when we’re absolutely forced to and not a moment before.

As for the little bits of flavour and spice? It kind of all fell together once I’d discerned the themes of the setting. The Floating Castle Incident is largely inspired by the sinking of the Titanic. I chose the Edwardian era as my aesthetic and technological touchstone because it’s such a  crazy crossroads between the Victorian era and the Roaring 20’s, and I wanted to evoke that era of change sort of feeling. Steampunk art and fiction inspired a lot of my aesthetic, but I also draw a lot of that from my not-so-guilty pleasure: historical romance. I like combining the glitz and sparkle of HR’s old England to the grit and spittle of steampunk’s. I drew little pieces of everywhere and pulled them all together into what I hope is a unique and cohesive world.

What are your thoughts on the series’s LGBT representation?

I have a lot of thoughts about this, in all honesty.

I’ve played so much of this close to the chest for so long, because I really do want my readers to go into the second book blind. I want them to experience Chris’s journey uninformed, without preconceptions. So… if you haven’t read it yet, shoo! Go away! Come back for the next question! Because I’m going to talk details.

Are they gone yet?

… okay.

I am bisexual.

I was a teenager in the late 90’s and early 00’s in Canada. My country and our media and our national conversation were just starting to accept and acknowledge what “gay” was. I was raised a very conservative Christian, and my life was in so many ways defined by my community’s fight against the inevitable national recognition of gay marriage in 2005.

Those were the most confusing days of my life. It wasn’t LGBT back then. It was just “the gays.” That B was a non-thing. I couldn’t make sense of my attraction to women when I had a steady, serious boyfriend and had absolutely no doubt in my mind that I was attracted to him. Something was wrong with me, surely. A wire had gotten crossed in my head. I was somehow encouraging myself to indulge in gay thoughts. I knew that I wasn’t one of them. I was normal. I knew I wasn’t gay! So what was I?

I’m in my thirties now. I’m extremely happy with who I am. I’m getting married this fall, to another bisexual woman. My identity is a part of me and I celebrate it every day. But I’ve still never really seen a good coming-to-terms bisexual story. I’ve seen good gay stories, but nothing that’s ever tapped into the way I felt. I’ve never seen anyone tell my story.

So I decided that I would.

More than anything else in my books, even Chris’s struggle with grief, which I wrote shortly after losing a very dear family member to cancer, it’s the LGBT aspects that are most deeply personal to me. Chris is a cipher for my own journey, and I’ve uploaded so much of my own experience into his naive little heart and brain. His confusion and his fight to understand and love himself is intensely me. But I didn’t just want to tell that aspect of my story, of the LGBT story as a whole. I wanted queer characters who love themselves just fine, thanks, so shut up and sod off, like Will. Queer characters in intense, supportive, loving committed relationships who nevertheless have to make sacrifices, like Emilia and Maris.

I’ve had a lot of people ask why my incredibly gay cast passes as straight in the first book. And honestly? It’s all about sleight of hand. I wanted it to be something the reader learns and unearths after they’ve already formed a bond with these people. It was empathy for queer fictional characters, more than anything else, that helped me come to terms with my own self. I want to introduce the world to a bunch of loveable, flawed, compelling, frustrating characters, and then gently pull back the curtain and show them that these people are LGBT! Stealth gets you into the doubters’ hearts.

What’s your favorite part of the writing process? What was the greatest challenge of writing this series?

My favourite part is when I’m at Starbucks, with my drink, and start really feeling a scene come together, especially when it’s a dialogue-heavy scene between Chris and Olivia, which are just my favourite parts to write. When I first start writing, I usually don’t want to be there, I’m hot or cold or bored or hungry, I’m aware of every little itch on my body and keep checking my word count and the clock.

But then something shifts. Sometimes it’s ten minutes after I start writing, sometimes it’s two hours, but if I sit there long enough, it always happens. I sink into the scene and I’m there and it flows. The Faraday Files are built very much around my love for snappy, funny, character-driven, intense dialogue, and when I connect with the characters and start bringing those voices to life, it’s the best feeling in the world.

As for the biggest challenge, it’s the outlining. I’m a reluctant outliner at best anyway, and the nature of my series my outlines especially dense and labyrinthine. Trying to get all of the pieces in position, how to bring them together, how to thread the multiple plots together as much as possible… in all honesty? NIGHTMARE!

When I write without an outline, I get bad, meandering, unfinished books. But god, I wish it was different, because I hate them so much!

What are you working on now?

I’m desperately trying to finish up on book three, The Heartreader’s Secret, which is quite late because it’s proved very challenging. It takes place in a new location instead of Darrington City, it prominently features the character I find the most challenging to write, Rachel Albany, and there are just so many moving pieces I need to get set up for the final book. So it’s proved to be a harder beast than I’d anticipated. I think it’s going to come out considerably longer than the first two, but it’s hard to say how much will end up on the cutting room floor!

After The Heartreader’s Secret, it’s on to the fourth and final book in this series! And then, after that? God, it’s so hard to say!

I have so many ideas. I’m glad I started my writing career relatively young, because I just have tons of stories left in me that I want to share. I think what I’ll focus on next is a standalone novel set in Ireland in the 1960’s. The main character is a half Irish, half English lawyer whose parents split and divided their children a long time ago. When he receives a letter from his estranged sister asking for help, it seems like a good opportunity to get away from the pressure of his controlling politician father to visit his mother’s homeland, except that when he gets there, he finds out that his sister has actually been taken by faeries! I’ve been working on this book in the background for years, and I think it’ll be a fun one-off palette cleanser after this long, complicated series.

About the Author:

author photoKate McIntyre was born and raised in the frigid white north, having spent her entire life in Moncton, New Brunswick. She learned to appreciate the quintesstial Canadian things: endless winters, self-deprecating jokes, the untamed wilderness, and excessive politeness. Somehow it was the latter that she chose to write about.

She has been writing since she was five years old and nothing has ever stopped her for long. Her first novel was about a lady mouse detective saving her turtle janitor boyfriend from kidnappers, so it’s nice to know she always loved lady detectives. She is the proud author of sixteen embarrassing hidden novels and one publishable one.

Kate loves crochet, video games, board games, reading, and listening to bad pop music very loudly. She spends several months of the year in Illinois, and the rest of the time lives in a big country home with two cats who refuse to stay.

Find Kate Online:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads


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