In a lot of novels that mix elements of noir crime with urban fantasy, the former takes a cue from the latter and depicts the urban aspects as being like the 1930s or ’40s. But in last year’s Titanshade, the first book of his noir urban fantasy series, The Carter Archives, writer Dan Stout instead set his dark fantasy crime story in a world more like the 1970s. Now he’s continuing that series with Titan’s Day (hardcover, Kindle), which he discusses in the following email interview.
For those who haven’t read the first book, Titanshade, what is The Carter Archives series about?
The Carter Archives is a police procedural mystery series set in a secondary fantasy world with 1970s technology.
Basically, I’d always wondered what would happen to someplace like Middle-earth once the industrial revolution came along. Assuming that increased technology would lead to increased urbanization, eventually these fantasy worlds would need their own infrastructures and regulatory bodies such as fire brigades and police departments. The Carter Archives looks at a world like that, blending the wonder of speculative fiction with a double-shot of classic noir and following it with a disco chaser.
And then for those who have read it, what is Titan’s Day about and how does it connect to Titanshade, both narratively and chronologically?
Titan’s Day picks up six weeks after the close of Titanshade. Carter and Ajax are back on the street investigating another murder.
You don’t need to have read the previous installment to follow along with on the events of Titan’s Day, but the characters and settings you love from the first book are back and in fine form for the sequel.
Where did you get the idea for Titan’s Day and how did that idea evolve as you wrote it?
I had sketched out a half-dozen or so sequel concepts in the course of writing Titanshade. When it came time to start writing, I reviewed them all and chose the one that would be the most fun and engaging for the characters, readers, and me. I was especially eager to examine a wider view of the world of Titanshade and a bigger cast of characters, and that was actually something I needed to rein in. I had to scale back the number of characters and settings in order to be sure that the ones that are featured are properly developed. I think that’s a common problem for writers in all genres, but especially fantasy and science fiction.
The title, Titan’s Day, refers to the name of a big celebration in the city of Titanshade. In deciding how Titan’s Day would be celebrated, did you base it on any real-life city-wide celebrations?
I plucked bits and pieces of a number of different holidays for this one. There’s certainly a little bit of Christmas, or any holiday that’s become a commercial event. Of course, the costumed imps and their pranks have more than a little bit of Krampus in them, and the silver and blue colors of Titan’s Day are a nod to the Detroit Lions.
But the way the holiday really affected the story is that, at its heart, Titan’s Day is a somber reflection about sacrifice rather than birth, rebirth, or community. It has a darker undertone than most modern holidays, and lends itself to the noir aspect of the story.
Titanshade was called both a noir urban fantasy story and a post-industrial fantasy. Can Titan’s Day be described the same way?
Titan’s Day can definitely be described that way. Like many stories, this book has elements of several different genres. It follows lots of classic fantasy emotional beats, while the noir police procedural format gives a clear through-line to the plot. Ideally, that allows readers less familiar with either fantasy or mystery to ground themselves. I’m interested in finding ways to make stories accessible to wider audiences, and I love hearing from readers who are surprised to find they enjoyed a book that’s a bit outside their comfort zone.
Are there any writers, or specific novels, that were a big influence on Titan’s Day but not on Titanshade?
Hmm… Because this book scales outward from the city slightly to get a bigger glimpse of the economic realities of this world, I think that I was influenced by Seth Dickinson’s The Traitor Baru Cormorant and Lara Elena Donnelly’s Amberlough. Both of those books are very different from Titan’s Day, but the mastery that Dickinson and Donnelly bring to their craft was very much in the back of my head, and something I aspired to as I wrote this book.
What about non-literary influences; was Titan’s Day influenced by any movies, TV shows, or video games?
The honest answer to this question is always yes, because everything I see influences me on some level.
But I think the biggest influence on this book was getting a hands-on interaction with law enforcement, both at a Citizens Police Academy and on a ride-along. I did that towards the tail end of writing Titan’s Day, so I expect that there’ll be a heavier influence of that experience going forward.
Now, in the previous interview we did about Titanshade [which you can read here], you said The Carter Archives was going to be an ongoing series of stand-alone but still connected novels. Does that mean you already have a third book in the works?
Yes! I’m already hard at work on the third book, and I am absolutely in love with the way it is shaping up.
Titan’s Day was my first sequel, and it required learning a new skill set — writing a sequel is separate and distinct from writing a true stand-alone. My goal is for each book to stand on its own merits, while still providing the coherence of a tightly-interwoven fantasy series. With each book I get to explore the world a little bit more and show the ways that crime, economics, and relationships affect the characters and bind them together.
Finally, if someone enjoys Titanshade and Titan’s Day, what non-fantasy noir novel of someone else’s would you suggest someone read while waiting for the third Carter Archives book to come out?
I’d suggest checking out Sara Gran’s Claire DeWitt And The City Of The Dead. It’s a contemporary noir mystery with a dash of magic realism, set in post-Katrina New Orleans. It blends hope with deep sorrow in a way that’s really beautiful to read. She’s written a pair of sequels that I haven’t read yet [Claire DeWitt And The Bohemian Highway and The Infinite Blacktop], but if they’re half as good as the first, I’m sure I’ll love those as well.