eSpec Books interviews Diana Pharaoh Francis, contributor to The Weird Wild West edited by Misty Massey, Emily Lavin Leverett, and Margaret McGraw. Check out our Kickstarter campaign at http://kck.st/1udizgM:
What is your favorite western movie and why? Just one? I’m afraid I can’t go with just one. In the humorous category, I love both Blazing Saddles and Little Big Man. Both are hilarious, and yet they have a biting commentary on society. And Little Big Man actually exposed to our culture that Custer was not actually a hero. On the more serious front, my favorite two westerns are The Outlaw Josey Wales. Oh wait, and add to that Two Mules for Sister Sarah. Both are Clint Eastwood movies and well acted with strong stories. And Two Mules is also funny, with a tiny bit of romance. The other is Once Upon a Time in the West, which is this amazing story with Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson and Jason Robards. It’s complicated and well acted. But as I wrote that down, I remembered how much I like Unforgiven. And then two cheesy westerns: Silverado (I mean, John Cleese as the sheriff!) and then Tombstone (I’ll be your huckleberry). Love those two. Could watch them over and over, and Silverado has a great score, too.
What does the wild frontier mean to you? It’s two things. For one, it’s the open land that is not tamed. I used to live in Montana, and there was a lot of that. It’s beautiful, and hard, and dangerous, and amazing, and unarmed humans are not the top of the food chain there. The other wild frontier is the one where you go and you know nothing. Where there are no rules, no law, only you and your brains and your ability to survive.
Who would you say is your wild west role model and why? Hmm. I’d say right now, in some ways, Mexico with the lack of law and the whoever-has-the-biggest-guns-and-might wins. Maybe, too, the middle east where ISIS is doing the job of bandits. But it’s also space, and the frontier of discovery. Or the deep ocean.
What is your favorite spec fic/western mash-up? I really like Patricia Wrede’s Frontier Magic series. It deals with homesteading in a magical old west. I love her story telling.
Can you tell us anything about your story/artwork for The Weird Wild West? It’s set in a frontier where magic abounds. The natives perceive the humans as livestock and vermin. The humans perceive them as vicious animals. Neither are correct. In the frontier territories, the humans encounter a magical sort of virus. Most survive. A few come out the other side with magical powers. The women who do are called Neffs. They are incredibly valuable because they have the ability to see through glamors and illusions. They become barren, however, and while they are valued, they are also semi-shunned. Everyone is suspicious of them. The communities also view them as sexually available for the relief of single men. Neffs can say no, but community pressure is against them.
Some men who are changed become sorcerers, which an ability to manipulate magic. Some more strongly than others. They are the main defense against native attacks.
My story is about Gray Neff, who gets caught up between a hated sorcerer and a native enemy, and she finds that Neffs are far more than anyone ever expected they could be.
What interested you in working on this project? I love westerns. I grew up on a cattle ranch and it’s in my blood. Plus I’ve wanted to play I this world for awhile.
How do you research to capture that western feel? I grew up on a cattle ranch and lived in Montana. I don’t have to do a lot of research. I’ve lived a lot of it. But for what I will research, living history places are invaluable, and then talking to people who still live the life.
Have you had any weird western experiences of your own? Please tell us about it. Hmm. Weird Western experiences. I don’t know if it’s weird or not, but when we used to work cattle in the corral, my sister and I would get bored and take the whips and flick cow poop at each other. (Whips were not so much for whipping the cows, btw, as for extending your arms to guide them where you wanted them to go. We had to sort them—cows from bulls and steers, cows from heifers, cows from calves, sick animals from well—in order to perform the various needs. Though the older animals knew pretty much what to do, the younger ones didn’t, and the whips allowed us to push them to another direction when they started to break wrong. We didn’t use horses in the corral, and we didn’t use dogs for sorting. It riled up the animals too much). Oh, and we had a cow who was perfectly black except for a donut of white in the middle of her forehead—her name was bullseye. I’m an idiot because I never took a picture of her.
Describe your idea of a weird western chuck wagon meal. Cumquats with frog legs with beans. Because even in the weird wild west, beans are a staple.
Which Wild West archetype (Gambler, Outlaw, Saloon Girl, School Marm, Railroad Man, Pioneer, Cowboy, Lawman or Indian) would you chose to be and why? Gambler. I don’t gamble well, and I’d probably get shot, but it would still be fun.
Have you written/created anything else in a weird western vein? Please tell us about it. Not really. Though in fact, with my Horngate books, I hit the world with a Magical Apocalypse and part of the reason was to return to a frontier sort of world.
What are some of your own works readers can look for? I’ve got four series out. The Path series, The Crosspointe Chronicles, The Horngate Witches books, and the Diamond City Magic series. The last two are more contemporary, the first two are more traditional. They are all fabulous. Really. You should read them. Right now!
What projects of your own do you have coming up? I’m working on the second Diamond City Magic book (alternate history noir urban fantasy with romance and crime), the last in the Crosspointe Chronicles (epic fantasy set on a werid inland sea, heavy on intrigue and politics), and two more Horngate books (magical apocalypse urban fantasy). Plus a few other smaller things.
Diana Pharaoh Francis has published The Horngate Witches series, The Crosspointe Chronicle and The Path trilogy, as well as a variety of short stories and essays. Her novels have been translated into German and French. Bitter Night was nominated for the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice for Best Urban Fantasy of 2009, Crimson Wind best urban fantasy heroine for 2011, and Blood Winter was nominated for the Mary Roberts Reinhart Award. Her latest book, Trace of Magic, was published in August of 2014, and she is currently working on sequels in the Crosspointe and Horngate worlds. She hold a P.D. in Victorian literature and literary theory, and an MA in fiction writing. She’s been teaching for more than 15 years, and now writes full time as well as teaching for the M.F.A. in Creative Writing program at Western Colorado State Universitry. She’s a member of SFWA. For more about her writing, visitwww.dianapfrancis.com. She can also be found on twitter as @dianapfrancis.
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Blog Address: http://www.dianapfrancis.com