Synopsis: 50 years ago, the dawn did not come. Again. Everyone in Telthan knew it would happen. Monsters roamed the land, killing virtually everyone in their path, laying waste to anything in their way. Only a precious few survived to rebuild the wreckage of civilization, just like last time. No one questions the Darkening. Not even the children.
That is, until four strangers set off in search of answers, braving a forbidden city, a forgotten library, and foreboding mountains for the truth that has to exist. But the past does not give up its secrets easily, and the truth is far darker than the blackest night.
Darkness Concealed releases September 23, 2014
I met Emery on Twitter and immediately fell in love with his quirky and witty responses to my tweets. It wasn’t long before we were responding to each other’s tweets daily. Not long after that, my Twitter-verse was thrown wide open. I have a tribe of different writer friends thanks to him. He a nice guy with a good sense of humor and willing to play strange games with me on Twitter. The kind you start playing without even saying what you’re playing, you both just know what you’re playing. Also, dude can rock a fedora like no one else on Twitter.
I was fortunate enough to be included in his last round of beta readers for Darkness Concealed. The book starts in the middle of an event called the Darkening and you’re left with questions. What is it? Who are these creatures? As the story progresses, the questions pile up. Questions for which the four protagonists leave to see answers. I admitted to him that I didn’t allow myself to attach while reading for him, but detachment aside, I loved the book. (shhh, don’t tell him that). I’m looking forward to reading it again in it’s final format.
Did you have a moment when you knew you wanted to write novels?
I always wanted to write stories. One of the first things I did in Keyboarding class back in 5th grade is jump ahead of everyone in the material, and started writing a story about Montus and Conindo, with their galaxy star battle thing of extremely bad writing. My classmates loved it anyway.
But for the longest time, I convinced myself that I was too concise, that I cut all the density down into the Cliff’s Notes version of the story that could be told. So I was resigned to writing short stories that wouldn’t even break 5,000 words.
Then I wrote a short story that broke 8,000 words, called Heart. I finally stopped making up excuses, and pulled the trigger on National Novel Writing Month in 2011 (I learned of it in 2006). 50,280 words later, I had a rough story that wasn’t brief, wasn’t cut-down to the point of losing all its meaning, and I’ll eventually get back to.
I could actually write novels.
Do you feel you chose your genre or did it choose you?
I don’t have a particular genre in the literary sense. While Darkness Concealed is a dark fantasy, and Normalization (a short story setting I’m also working on) is a cyberpunk, they don’t really define me as a writer.
What does define me is my obsession with subverting and averting the expected conventions. What do epic fantasy stories have? A hero. What does Darkness Concealed have? A guy who is told he’s a future hero and knight, but can’t wield a weapon, and can’t speak five words without stuttering.
The book is littered with cases where I knew the expected result, and either poked fun at it, or dodged around it entirely. I respect the conventions, but it’s when they’re knowingly ignored that I get excited. So I saturate my own work with the same approach.
How does gaming influence your writing, if at all?
Gaming, along with reading, kindled my interest in storytelling. I didn’t get around to playing D&D until 2008, at age 20. But I would eat up the storylines of every game I played, from StarCraft and Red Alert to Descent and Commander Keen.
It also influences my writing work ethic. I’ve spent tons of time getting absurdly good at Game X or Game Y, and I’ve often applied the same “it’ll get there, I just need to keep at it and evaluate what I can do better” approach.
What’s your writing process?
Unorthodox, but it works for me:
- Get an idea. I tend to start from a high concept and drill down (Telthan is peaceful and beautiful…except that one day apocalypse), or take one cool concept and branch it out. This includes a rough idea of the plotline. The end will always be known.
- Write a first draft. I introduce the characters, get them the story, letting them lead me around to what actually happens, and meander around to “the end”.
- Throw the first draft out. Write a second draft from memory. My first drafts are amazing at getting my brain to move in the right direction, but terrible at being something that can actually be revised. I tossed the entire first draft of Darkness Concealed out and wrote based on the memory of where they had been until I reached the end. It’s night and day.
- Send the second draft out to beta readers. Take note of comments. I’ve got a solid plotline and good continuity in the second draft, so this is where to find the characterization weaknesses and unclear concepts. Beta readers are amazing at this.
- Write a third draft, focusing on characterization, continuity, and smoothing out stilted wording. I directly revise the second draft, though it tends to end up completely reworded piece by piece. I have a clear idea of who the characters are, and where the book needs to go on a scene by scene basis, so I make sure that it’s written as such. I also start cleaning up any bad wordings.
- Send it back out to (different) betas, with a single beta from the first round retained for continuity. Fix the minor stuff. My third draft is just a touch away from final editing. This second round of beta readers is to make sure the story is actually fun to read, and to remove any minor snags remaining.
- Get a final line and copy edit done on the book. For Darkness Concealed, I did this myself due to lack of money, but I’m not against soliciting an editor for future books. This is my final wording and typo removal, and the book is done.
- Promote and Publish. Self-explanatory. 😉
Darkness Concealed is the first book in your dark fantasy series that starts bleak and ends with many questions. What can readers expect?
For Darkness Concealed, several things:
- An ongoing mystery that gains deeper nuance as the story continues
- Four different characters of vastly different personalities, slowly figuring out how to not just put up with each other, but rely on each other.
- Countless epic fantasy tropes and conventions flipped on their head
- Lots of humor amongst the dark discoveries
- Double and triple meanings everywhere. Every single chapter title (and the book title) has more than one meaning. Have fun figuring them out! [Hint: Darkness Concealed has four, only three discernable from the text]
For the series, I can guarantee that the veritable pile of unanswered questions (I suggest keeping a tally, and I encourage you trying to answer them with your own theories) getting answered. The sequel, Darkness Revealed, steadily unravels the mystery built in Darkness Concealed. And if you think that Darkness Concealed is dark, just wait for its sequel.
Why put together four near strangers together for the hero’s journey?
Several reasons, but only a couple of which I’ll talk about now (so many future spoilers if I give all the reasons).
First, I dislike the “merry band of travelers meeting in a tavern” archetype. I understand its near-necessity in something like a friendly game of D&D, but I wanted to write a story where the band of friends is just meeting up, and aren’t friends at all.
Second, I wanted to be able to show different sides of the same tragedy, using each character as a lens. Their differing personalities determines how they react, and how what they discover shapes them. I didn’t want the “group gasp” effect. I wanted unique people reacting in unique ways.
The characters go through changes some readers might not expect. How does this play into their character development?
Each character starts the story with a flaw of some kind, and as the story progresses, these flaws come to the front, sometimes in crippling and surprising ways. I drop tons of hints of what will happen if the flaw is ever “exploited” by circumstance. But sometimes, it’s hard to see those hints until hindsight reveals them.
What was your thought process behind creating your antagonist?
I don’t consider it a spoiler to say that the setting itself is the antagonist. I even blogged about it months ago (Setting as Antagonist). Essentially, the world-defining event of the Darkening opposes the characters at each turn.
It’s a necessary result of it being world-defining and recurring. It’s unavoidable, because everything about the world is in some way affected by the Darkening. Thus, when people try to find out about something that by nature can mask its full nature, they’re fighting against a big, black Unknown that won’t give its secrets up easily.
Debi’s Note: Emery addresses this more in a recent post – A Most Atypical Antagonist: The Setting
What motivated you to write Darkness Concealed?
Initially, I wrote it because I tried and failed to use the setting as a play by post D&D campaign twice. I could never get it rolling, but I had this awesome story, this amazing arc that would span what turned out to be three full books.
But now, I’m writing it from a different perspective. I’m a very logical person, but I’m also a Christian. I take extra effort to know the rational basis of all that I believe, and one of the chief objections I hear is that there is so much evil in the world, how can God be good?
So I’ve crafted a world where evil is blatant and seemingly omnipotent, where God as a concept has been reduced to a bad joke at best, and outright lies at worst. Darkness Concealed lays out the objector’s argument in full: a good God cannot exist, here’s why.
The sequels will lay out my counter-argument. As the darkness grows deeper, and the secrets revealed ever more mind-rending, I aim to show that there can be a purpose in even the darkest evil, even if it’s not clear.
If you were joining your characters on their journey and could only pack five items, what would they be?
A sword, a bedroll, a journal, a book of matches, and beans.
Where do you find inspiration when creating stories?
Seemingly anything. My love of flipping things on their head does determine some of my ideas, because if I consider something too expected or derivative, I won’t write it.
Name your top five books/comic books.
Oh gosh. I hate top X lists, because I can never choose. But if it comes down to books that formed my desire to write and tell stories, in no particular order:
- The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
- Dune by Frank Herbert
- The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov
- Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
- Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
You need to make a playlist of twenty songs that mean the most to you to share. What’s on the list?
See above. My music collection is gargantuan (6400+ tracks and climbing), and picking is freaking hard. But I’ll give it a shot:
- Stand My Ground by Within Temptation
- Hands Held High by Linkin Park
- The Last Resort by The Eagles
- Turn the Page by both Metallica and Bob Seger
- Heaven’s a Lie by Lacuna Coil [winner forever for best misleading song title…there’s an “or” before it in the chorus]
- Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd
- Guardians by Inon Zur (from the Crysis soundtrack)
- This Ain’t Goodbye by Train
- Somewhere by Within Temptation (Live duet version)
- Northern Downpour by Panic! at the Disco
- The Final Countdown by Europe
- Scenes from an Italian Restaurant by Billy Joel
- Drops of Jupiter by Train
- Who Painted the Moon Black by Hayley Westenra
- God Bless the USA by Lee Greenwood
- In the End by Linkin Park
- Lucy by Skillet
- Trail of Broken Hearts by DragonForce
- Mama, I’m Coming Home by Ozzy Osbourne
- Nearly Witches (Ever Since We Met…) by Panic! at the Disco
I hit twenty tracks…and I’m only on playlist 21 of my 91 playlists, representing the music I’ve gotten over the past 4 years. Told you this was a bad idea.
What would your ultimate Halloween (or ComicCon, or both) costume be?
Honestly, I was never much of a Halloween person. I always joked each year in high school that I dressed up as the scariest thing I could think of: myself.
But I’m not that scary any more…except when I smile like a majorly unhinged crazy person. So I’ll go with mob boss in the style of the godfather. Because I love my fedora.
Author Bio: D. Emery Bunn is an author, editor, and engineer, though his pile of interests keep on getting larger. He got his start on writing thanks to National Novel Writing Month, and is an avid supporter of free culture, the power of writing, and the creative arts. Darkness Concealed is his first novel, but he will be working on the sequel and a cyberpunk short story collection. He lives at his home in Clovis, New Mexico.