This month’s Poppy’s Pick is the amazing Black Dog Blues by Rhys Ford. If you’ve been searching for a gritty Urban Fantasy with detailed world building and well-developed characters, look no further! Notice that this book is labeled as an Urban Fantasy, and not a Paranormal Romance. The difference is distinct, especially in this case. Rhys has created a world where the romance comes a distant second to the breathtaking plot.
In order to get more info on this incredible read, I sweet talked none other than the author herself, Rhys Ford into dropping by and answering a few questions!
First off, I’d like to talk to you about your main character Kai Gracen. Kai is one of the most deeply flawed characters I’ve read in a long time. He’s a true anti-hero, the “bad” guy with a heart of gold. And Kai has more secrets than a teenage girl’s diary! Can you tell us a little about how Kai came to be, and how his character shaped the story?
First off back—Thank you for having me here! Smooches!
Ah, Kai. I love writing Kai. He’s a bit younger than the rest of my characters but he is a bit of an anti-hero. I wanted different in urban fantasy. Something rooted a bit in an alternative universe with the Gaelic mythos of sidhe but with a dash of sci-fi and magic. Kai’s a special kitten. Growly. God he’s growly but at the same time, will do the right thing. Sorta.
I wanted to write someone who was mercenary. Because really, Kai IS that. Yes, he’s broken but he’s kind of quiet about his fears. He doesn’t admit them to other people and I needed to write it in first person so the reader knew them. He does have secrets. And secrets have been withheld from him. So all in all, it’ll be a good ride.
He is unapologetically bisexual. That was important but doesn’t define him. He has a good heart but kinda rough in manners. Very visceral character. In a lot of ways, his personality matches the world.
I mentioned in my intro that this story is labeled as an Urban Fantasy. Did you begin the novel with that category distinction in mind, or did it develop more organically as the story progressed?
Oh yes, when I sat down to write Kai, I KNEW it was going to be urban fantasy. It is structured that way and really, a hell of a lot of fun to write in that genre. Different rules but still, great fun.
I’m curious as to how much of the world-building is “real” and how much is from your mind. By that, I mean how much of the world and characters you created are based on actual Fae legends and how much did you create out of your own imagination? (What I really want to know is do those creepy sauce Black Dogs exist in myth? *shivers*)
The black dogs were kind of based on the Wild Hunt. I mingled and mix some of the Gaelic world into the “normal” world. I need logic-based creations, even in magic. It has to make sense. There just can’t be MAGIC. So, the world building took a bit. Nothing could be too crazy and Kai’s not suddenly going to get power-ups. Chances are, he’s going to remain wholly unmagical because his very existence is unnatural.
As the series goes on, we’ll see more Gaelic/Celtic creatures as well as Earth-based mutations and manifestations.
Early in the story, we meet the character of Dempsey who won Kai in a poker game and subsequently raised him to be a Stalker (a monster hunter). Dempsey sent cold chills down my spine. Can you tell us a little more about his character and the role he plays in the story?
Ah, Dempsey. He’s a cold son of a bitch. He really is the foundation of Kai’s upbringing. Dempsey is NOT a nice person. Very selfish and callous. For whatever reason, he took Kai in and well, now Kai’s the product of that upbringing.
Signs of Dempsey are definitely in Kai’s personality although his base nature is more generous. Dempsey’s role hasn’t been explored yet. *grins*
In this world, the Fae and human worlds have collided in a violent Merge where monsters and creatures of legend walk the Earth. It’s a dark and bloody place! So what came first: Kai or the idea for a merged world?
Wow. Hard question. I think Kai first then the WHY of Kai. I knew it was going to be a merge of some sort. The idea sprang from that.
In a lot of ways, Kai embodies the world itself. A mélange of characteristics and ethnicities. A bit violent. A bit bloody. With a spot of beauty when you least expect it.
I can’t talk about this book without mentioning the rest of the supporting cast. Kai certainly has a colorful group of contacts in this world. In particular, Ryder, the sidhe lord who hires Kai for what may be his most difficult hunt ever. Ryder seems to have quite a few secrets of his own. What secrets can you tell us about Ryder and his role in the story?
Ryder really comes from a very political world. Now the Sidhe are very physical with one another—hell look at his cousin. Kai is very NO DO NOT TOUCH ME! So the reader’s perception of Ryder really coloured by Kai’s experiences. He distrusts the casual affection. That’s not a part of who he is. And he’s not really been exposed to the REAL sidhe or unsidhe cultures so he doesn’t really know who his people really are.
Of course so far of the people he’s met, he’s not all that impressed. *laughs*
Okay, I’ll stop there before I give away all the secrets of Black Dog Blues. How about I get a few on you instead? *g*
Why don’t we start by having you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
Shit, I dunno. I’m just me. Um… I was born and raised in Hawai’i. I come from a multi-cultural background and I roamed a lot. I am insatiably curious. INSATIABLY. Really. I love watching the oddest history or science shows. Murder shows are great. I like the inane. I read everything. I cook. Um… hell, I have no idea. I just like exploring the world and people in it.
If we were to look around the desk where you sit to write, what would we find there?
Sleeping dogs, a fat black and white cat, coffee cup and music. LOTS of music. I tend to write in the morning. In my living room. The house is usually quiet unless my fool broken cairn is having a spaz day. Art. I have a LOT of art on the wall.
How would you describe your sense of humor? What makes you laugh?
My sense of humour is off. Just a step from something. I’m a geek or nerd. Geek really I suppose but without all that chicken head biting thing. A lot of things make me laugh. From Castiel being confused to farting dinosaurs. Really. Sometimes it’s like having a five year old in my head.
I FULLY intend to watch Ghost Shark in a bit.
Of course I thought Angel Heart was hilarious. So, you can deduct what you like from that.
When you have the chance to sit down and enjoy some quiet reading time, what sorts of books are you most likely to pick up? Who are your favorite authors?
Damn. I read… everything. It depends on my mood. I also don’t read M/M if I’m in the middle of a book I’m writing. No influences. Mysteries, historical romances, urban fantasy. Sci-Fi is good if it’s character driven. Hell.
Authors? Dude, I’m going to get into so much trouble there. I’m going to start with Josh Lanyon and spew out. Really. Mary Calmes does her thing brilliantly. I love Amy’s happy books. Clear Water. Love that book. Heh. Your Magic series rocks. Jacob Flores is brilliant. Charlie Cochrane, Rowan Speedwell’s Kindred Hearts—LOVE. My brain! Britta Adams. Seriously, so much trouble. Piper Vaughn’s got some kick ass stuff. SE Jakes, JL Merrow, Josephine Myles.
John Preston. Lynn Flewelling, Gael Baudino, Karin Lowachee (GOD YES), Lynn Abbey’s Dancers of Arun. Jennifer Estep. Jeri Smith-Ready. Nancy Walker.
Fucking hell, just hit up my Facebook friends list. I stalk everyone good 😀 I STALKER GOOD!
I’m like leaving off three-quarters of the people I’d want to include.
Really, people do their things right. I read for THAT particular thing.
Do you have an all-time favorite fictional character?
OOOOOOsh. Um, the White Queen from Alice in Wonderland. Also Bill the lizard from the same series.
Gaet from Courtship Rite.
Han Solo. Nom. Really. Han Solo. *nods*
Who are your latest crushes (celebrity, book character, or otherwise)? Do you ever keep those people in your mind when writing your own works?
Crushes? Young Harrison Ford. Um… Kim Jaejoong? Shit, Too many. Thor! Love that character in the movies. Namor! In the comics. Elric. Love Elric. Cumberbatch’s Sherlock. Captain Jack!
I don’t really keep them in mind per se. I think I like certain bits of archetypes and try to keep those in mind. Love the bad boys. 😀
What are your favorite TV shows?
Ooooooh, hard one too. Supernatural. Justified. Anything with bloody investigation forensics. Cooking shows. Firefly. Perception. Sherlock! Nom Yes. Hannibal. City Hunter. Sungkyunkwan Scandal. Coffee Prince. Faith.
I can’t wait for The Heirs with Lee Min Ho.
What is your favorite meal?
Dude. Really? Hell… 梅菜扣肉. I could eat that all day. It’s um…. Braised pork belly with preserved vegetables. Beef chow fun dry style. Lau-lau and rice. Carne Asada fries. Kal-bi. Purple rice. Spam musubi. All depends on my mood. 😀 Shoyu egg! Miso ramen!
Thank you for having me along. I hope I answered everything you wanted. And really, so much love for this opportunity. We have to exchange spots! And we shall! Wooooot! Can’t wait to read Wild Magic.
You’re welcome! Can’t wait for our spot exchange. LOL
More about Rhys:
Rhys Ford was born and raised in Hawai’i then wandered off to see the world. After chewing through a pile of books, a lot of odd food, and a stray boyfriend or two, Rhys eventually landed in San Diego, which is a very nice place but seriously needs more rain.
Rhys admits to sharing the house with three cats, a black Pomeranian puffball, a bonsai wolfhound, and a ginger cairn terrorist.
Rhys is also enslaved to the upkeep a 1979 Pontiac Firebird, a Toshiba laptop, and a red Hamilton Beach coffee maker.
But mostly to the coffee maker.