The cardinal rule of real estate is “location, location, location.” And apparently the same rule applies to calling a story an “urban fantasy.” Which is just one of the things I learned doing the following email interview with writer dave ring about his urban fantasy novella The Hidden Ones (paperback, Kindle).
Photo Credit: Farrah Skeiky
To start, what is The Hidden Ones about, and what kind of world is it set in?
The Hidden Ones is an urban fantasy novella set in modern day Ireland. Ne’er-do-well Baird is the youngest scion of the Macha, one of the immortal tuath courts. When death comes to the Macha and exposes a flaw in their saol, the mystical power that sustains them, Baird is forced to wise-up, enlist the help of his friends, and patch things up with his estranged consort in order to get to the bottom of it.
Where did you get the idea for The Hidden Ones?
I wrote the beginning of The Hidden Ones while I was living in Dublin as a young 20-something, tearing through Laurell K. Hamilton books. I finished it as a late 30-something with a very different perspective. I think those two perspectives both informed the immortal young-but-old viewpoint of Baird.
You said The Hidden Ones is an urban fantasy novel…
I think I’d be more comfortable calling The Hidden Ones an urban fantasy if more of it happened in a city, but plenty does, and honestly that’s the best genre category. I’ve just shied away from it a bit because half of it ends up running around the Irish countryside, so it feels like a misnomer.
Now, unless I’m mistaken — and please correct me if I’m wrong — The Hidden Ones is your first published novella.
It’s my first stand-alone novella. I also wrote an interactive novella called “Fool’s Gold” for the app Sana Stories that came out earlier this year. That one is also urban fantasy (or perhaps paranormal romance? Though I’m still not quite sure I nailed those tropes), but quite smutty, and a continuation of an interactive novelette called “Sterling,” that won Sana’s first writing contest.
Cool. You’ve also had a bunch of short stories in different outlets. Are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a particularly big influence on The Hidden Ones? You mentioned Laurell K. Hamilton a moment ago.
Laurell K. Hamilton’s books are a big influence on The Hidden Ones, but I think Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles Of Amber is probably equally so. The immortal infighting and politicking of those books had a pretty long-lasting impact on me.
How about such non-literary influences; was The Hidden Ones influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?
While I can’t say that they directly influenced The Hidden Ones, I think a certain True Blood-esque television influence has somewhat infiltrated my writing style? I certainly wouldn’t object to someone wanting to make it into a series.
Along with writing, you’re also the publisher and managing editor at Neon Hemlock Press, the co-editor of Baffling Magazine, and have assembled the anthologies Glitter + Ashes: Queer Tales Of A World That Wouldn’t Die, Broken Metropolis: Queer Tales Of A City That Never Was, and the upcoming Unfettered Hexes: Queer Tales Of Insatiable Darkness. How do you think editing other people’s work has influenced yours, and especially The Hidden Ones?
Editorial wisdom accretes, in my opinion, but I’m not sure how useful it is in hindsight for my own creative projects. Sometimes it makes me look at something I’ve written previously and I’ll think “Hmm, that doesn’t work as well as it should, does it?” but it doesn’t always translate to seeing the gears beneath the surface and knowing how to tune them.
I think the biggest effect editing has had on me is my relationship with endings. I’m much better at spotting one that isn’t working as well as it could.
Speaking of the anthologies you’ve edited, Unfettered Hexes will be out soon. What is that collection about?
Unfettered Hexes is a thick anthology — more than 400 pages — with dozens of illustrations and just some incredible gems inside. In addition to all the stories, there are two poems, two comics, two story games, and just a lot of witchery. I think the crux of the stories come down to power, and how we choose to wield it. In whose name, and for what purposes. Plus rad spells, eldritch incantations and the other occult ephemera you’d expect.
Are there any stories in Unfettered Hexes that you think would appeal to people who like The Hidden Ones, and vice versa?
Hmm. C.B. Blanchard’s story, “Undercity Spellwork,” also explores urban fantasy tropes. Danny Lore’s story, “The Passing Of Sinclair Manor, or, The House Of Magical Negroes,” also deals with family legacies and a somewhat reluctant scion. And Craig Gidney’s “Antelope Brothers” has some milieu-affecting magic that is similar to the way the courts manifest in The Hidden Ones.
Going back to The Hidden Ones, urban fantasy tales are sometimes stand-alone stories, and sometimes they’re part of larger sagas. What is The Hidden Ones?
I’m not sure, to be honest. I certainly could write more with these characters, and this universe. It’s certainly stand-alone as is. And we’ll see what the future has in store for the tuath.
Earlier you said you wouldn’t mind if The Hidden Ones was turned into a TV series. If that did happen, who would you want them to cast as the main characters?
Careful, this is a can of worms…I’ll start casting every character. Hmm, maybe Oliver Jackson-Cohen or Jamie Dornan for Baird. Tadhg could be Robert Sheehan or Tyler Gaca (@ghosthoney from Tiktok) if Tyler would go blonde and could do a decent Irish accent — I believe in him. Ruth Negga could play Maeve. Michaela Cole would be an incredible Kandace, or maybe Ataui Deng depending on her acting chops. Cern would be Pierce Brosnan. Niamh is Theo Germaine, without a doubt. Caoimhe would be Jessie Buckley (though I picture her as a young Gillian Anderson). And Fea would be Maria Doyle Kennedy.
And if someone wanted to turn The Hidden Ones into a game, what kind of game should it be?
First thought: I would probably take all that AAA video game money and try to make a cross between Skyrim and Watch Dogs. Second thought: I’d make a co-op game somewhere in the vicinity of Pandemic or Eldritch Horror, where folks have to work together in order to stop the Hunger.
Finally, if someone enjoys The Hidden Ones, what urban fantasy novella of someone else’s would you suggest they read next?
I see some comparisons between The Hidden Ones and books like Trail Of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse or maybe Aliette de Bodard’s Dominion Of The Fallen series, but I think it’s more likely that folks will have read those before mine! If you like The Hidden Ones you should probably check out The Last Sun by K.D. Edwards.