There was a time when people who heard voices were thought to be possessed or be witches or have some kind of supernatutal affliction; now we know they have schizophrenia or some other mental issue. But what if they did have magic powers? This is the world that writer David R. Slayton is presenting in his comedic rural fantasy novel White Trash Warlock (paperback, Kindle, audiobook). In the following email interview, Slayton discusses what inspired and influenced this story, and why it’s only the first part of a larger tale.
I find it best to begin with an overview of a novel’s plot. So, what is White Trash Warlock about, and what kind of world is it set in?
It’s about Adam Binder, who lives with his great aunt in a trailer park in Guthrie, Oklahoma, where I’m from. He’s been estranged from his older brother ever since Bobby had Adam committed for seeing things and hearing voices. Now Bobby’s wife is showing signs of possession and thinks maybe Adam was right after all. Adam is happy to drive to Denver and help, with a bonus of getting to say I told you so, but things are so much worse than either brother suspects.
Warlock is set in our world, but with magic and fantasy creatures lying atop or under it. The Spirit Realm barely touches ours, so most people don’t know it’s there. It takes the Sight or magic to see it or walk into it.
Where did you get the original idea for White Trash Warlock, and how, if at all, did that idea evolve as you wrote this story?
It came to me in two parts. One was living near a hospital they were tearing down here in Denver. As I’d walk past it or through it I’d imagine the things set loose in its demolition. When I first imagined Adam, the main character, I put a lot of my Oklahoma childhood into him. The trick was mashing them together, giving Adam a reason to come to Denver. It kept evolving as I wrote and edited. They say writing is rewriting and I really feel that it’s true.
And is there a reason why it’s White Trash Warlock and not White Trash Witch?
A lot of people think Warlock means “male witch,” that it’s a gendered word, but that’s not its origin at all. It’s actually an old Persian word meaning oath breaker and I definitely dive into that meaning in the book.
Ah, my mistake. Anyway, it sounds like White Trash Warlock is a comedic urban fantasy novel. Is that how you’d describe it?
People do think it’s funny in parts, and I hope so. It’s also pretty dark, so be warned, it’s comical but has its heavy parts. It is urban fantasy, but I wanted it to be more rural and to give it a deeper layer than I often find in most of my urban fantasy reads.
So maybe comedic rural fantasy?
Yes. I think that works.
Speaking of the comedic aspects, is the humor in White Trash Warlock more situational, like in John Scalzi’s The Last Emperox, or is it more jokey, like in Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy?
I’d say it’s situational with a healthy side of quip, probably because I read too many comic books and watch too much British TV. I find humor is often the best defense when something shocking or unexpected happens. I put that into my characters, especially Adam. He gets cocky sometimes, usually as a defense mechanism, and it definitely gets him into trouble.
Who do you feel were the biggest influences on the humor in White Trash Warlock?
Gail Carriger, Darynda Jones, Terry Pratchett, and T.J. Klune especially. They taught me that books could be funny. I also get really tired of fantasy novels where everything is grim and dour. Life isn’t like that. We laugh. We cry. I love stories that reflect that and want my books to have that range.
Aside from those people, what other writers do you feel had a big influence on White Trash Warlock? And I mean just on this book, not on your style as a whole.
Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series. She’s a master plotter with a long game. It’s one of my favorite urban fantasy series. I also credit my mystery and crime writer friends for being a big influence in how I structure my books. Hilary Davidson and Sara J. Henry were important influences. If you want to learn to plot, study mysteries.
What about non-literary influences; was White Trash Warlock influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games (board or video)? Because on your website you’re pretty open about being a fan of the role-playing game Dragon’s Dogma.
I can lose myself in Skyrim or a single player RPG for days. Don’t ask me about Mass Effect unless you have an hour to listen to me babble about it and how to mod the first game so you can romance Kaiden in the first and second game.
In television, the first season of Veronica Mars is just perfectly scripted. I long to write that tightly. This book has some horror elements in it which is funny because I get scared way too easily to watch horror or anything really spooky.
I also learned a lot about how to write from playing Dungeons & Dragons, which I’ve been at for decades. It’s really a great way to see how the characters have freedom inside the plot structure. The Ravenloft setting is full of gothic horror and creeping dread. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it. It’s another thing I can geek out about for hours.
I also write a lot to video game soundtracks. They’re perfect for setting the mood and I have a playlist for each book.
You mentioned a moment ago that you read too many comic books. Does that include Robert Kirkman’s Outcast? Because it sounds like White Trash Warlock is sort of similar to that.
I have to admit that I haven’t read that one. I loved his Invincible series, so I should probably try Outcast.
Now, White Trash Warlock is the first book in a trilogy you’re calling the Adam Binder Novels.
I wanted that clear in case of spin offs. While there are other players, other points of view, it’s very personal. It’s his story.
What made you realize this was not a stand-alone story or the first book of a duology or the first book in a series you’d write annually for the next sixty years?
Warlock definitely has an end. The major problem of the story is resolved. Since it was my debut I wanted it to be that way, with the option to keep the story going if the publisher agreed, and I’m so happy they did. There is a lot I’d like to explore with Adam and the other characters, especially Vic, but I don’t see it going forever. By the end of book three the major mysteries from book one will be solved and most of the big secrets will be out in the open, but not all. Life doesn’t have a clean ending. I don’t think stories always should either. I’d like to leave a little mystery unresolved.
And do you know yet what the other books are going to be called and when they might be out?
Book two, Trailer Park Trickster, is scheduled to release in October 2021, and book three, Deadbeat Druid, is schedule for October 2022. I love that they’re set up for Halloween time. I just about squeed when Blackstone told me they’d set October 13th for Warlock‘s release date. It’s just perfect.
As you probably know, there are people who are going to wait until those other two books come out before they read White Trash Warlock, and some will then read all three back-to-back. But is there any reason why you think people shouldn’t wait?
I don’t watch a lot of TV, but when I do I either binge or watch when it comes out week by week. One thing I’ve learned is that I enjoy the anticipation of waiting for the next episode. To quote Spock, sometimes wanting is better than having. That said, sometimes I just want to dive in, like I’m currently doing with Netflix’s Castlevania.
So I see it both ways, and hope people read Warlock right away but understand if people want to wait. I’m just happy and so grateful that people are reading it. It’s a lifelong dream come true for me.
I do try to give each book a satisfying ending, enough closure for a reader to be happy with it while leaving a hook for them to want to pick up the next one.
Earlier I asked if White Trash Warlock had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. But has there been any interest in turning White Trash Warlock into a movie, show, or game?
I have a film agent. She was really intrigued by the title and story. I’d love to see it as a television show, with each book as a separate season. That said, it’s a whole new industry to me and I’m waiting to see where it all goes.
If White Trash Warlock was going to be made into a TV show, who would you want them to cast as Adam and Bobby and the other main characters?
Okay, I say this with the following disclaimer: I likely wouldn’t have any input, and actors are chameleons. That said, fancasting is a lot of fun. So here’s my imaginary cast for White Trash Warlock.
For Adam: Sean Grandillo [Scream] or Ross Lynch [My Friend Dahmer]. They both fit the look I see for Adam and are no strangers to horror or the supernatural.
For Bobby: Brian J. Smith [Sense8]. I’ve loved him in everything he’s done and I think he’d perfectly fit the range of things Bobby has to go through.
For Vic: Michael Cimino, the lead from Love, Victor or Drew Ray Tanner from Riverdale. Vic is a tough cast, but these guys have the look and the right smile, which is such a weird thing to note. Drew would also make a great Jesse, Vic’s brother.
For Argent: Kelly Marie Tran. I’ve seen her as Argent ever since The Rise Of Skywalker. She pulls off the classic Hollywood look that Argent embodies and I just love her.
For Silver: Ludi Lin [Aquaman]. Another one based on look. Silver often dresses like a mobster and Ludi handles that so well.
For Sara: Nicole Byer [Nailed It]. Her smile and style would make her perfect for this.
For Aunt Sue: Kate Mulgrew [Orange Is The New Black]. Adam’s Great Aunt is the kind of Oklahoma woman I grew up with: tough, kind, but takes no crap (and don’t say crap in her house!). Kate Mulgrew is brilliant and I think she’d fit this part so well.
For Perak: Osric Chau [Supernatural]. He’s such a great actor and cosplayer. I think he’d make a great Perak.
You can see that I haven’t thought about this all at all!
And since such a big gamer, who do you think should make a White Trash Warlock game?
If they went full on RPG, Bethesda, Bioware, or Obsidian. Bethesda because they build such amazing, detailed open worlds. Bioware because they really know how to make the big choices matter down the line, and that’s something you’ll see in my books. Remember what I said about Adam’s cockiness? Yeah, heat of the moment decisions can come back to bite or kiss you. Obsidian would be amazing because they really lean into the writing. I love their games.
I’d also love to get the chance to write a tabletop guide to the world, creatures, and magic.
Finally, if someone enjoys White Trash Warlock, what similarly comedic fantasy novel of someone else’s would you suggest they read while waiting for Trailer Park Trickster to come out?
If you want something similar, I highly recommend K.D. Edwards’s Tarot Sequence. It’s got great action, quick humor, and a deep vein of darkness, while Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant books have a nice bit of wry humor mixed into the supernatural mystery.