Katharine Eliska Kimbriel
Diana Pharaoh Francis taught herself how to ride a horse at the ripe old age of six years. She lived on a cattle ranch, you see, and everyone was too busy working to pause for a small horse-crazy girl. So she swallowed her fear of heights, and her belief that death was imminent, and crawled up on the most patient, lazy strawberry roan in the world. She then turned her spirited steed and ambled off into the sunset–probably with a book in hand.
The next few years were spent either so lost in a book that her family had to send a search party out after her, or bareback on a horse, herding cattle and still more horses. The best combination was reading until the wee hours, and then sleeping until five minutes before she was due in the barn. That gave just enough time for a bareback rider to eat and get dressed before reporting for chores. Saddling a horse wasted reading or riding time.
Di Francis weaves elaborate fantasy worlds with tough heroines not afraid to get their hands (or bodies) dirty. You will find both the Path series and the Crosspointe Chronicles filled with epic wonder. She also loves to write urban fantasy and paranormal romance, with heroines facing off with demons or other eldritch creatures. For deep city magical skullduggery, see the Horngate Witches series or the Diamond City Magic series. Francis completed high school and dove into the world of the gypsy scholar, pursuing a BA and MA in Creative Writing and a PhD in literature and theory. During this time she was followed throughout the Midwest and into Montana by a very supportive husband, who did not blink when she ended up at University of Montana-Western. Fourteen years later, Di Francis was a full tenured professor and they had brought into the world the two most wonderful children ever produced. But she admits to the occasional fantasy about them, too, as she refers to her kids as Q-ball and Princess Caesar.
Somehow they all ended up in Oregon, where things are a lot warmer and greener than Montana, and it’s easier to grow things. Currently she admits to a fascination with the Victorians, obsessively researches weather, geology, horses, plants and mythology, and can be bribed with spicy food, good chocolate, and quality cheesecake. The most spoiled corgis in the world live with them (she claims they are so spoiled they may have maggots. She is also known for her odd and morbid sense of humor.)
We hope you enjoy the corgi and rock pictures–that’s what she’s photographing this season. Book View Cafe is proud to welcome Diana Pharaoh Francis to our ranks. Her first book from our cooperative is the novel The Incubus Job, Book One of Mission: Magic. This fantasy is a paranormal romance and a caper novel that never stops running. Be sure and check out the sample!
1) You had the childhood I dreamed of–horses and books. Then you trained in writing, and traveled throughout the Midwest and West on your journey to create Home. How much of your life and travels do you think you put into your books? How did you end up in Oregon, after all that work toward tenure?
A.) Like most writers, I’m a magpie and so I put so many things from travels and experiences that I can’t begin to say. Like a logjam on an Oregon river. Or people I’ve seen. Things they’ve said. The way the grass ripples over the Nebraska plains. Or sticking an imaginary city in Colorado because the terrain is perfect. I need all that sensory input to feed my ideas.
There are a couple of reasons I left teaching. One was that the University had become a toxic workplace and I was really struggling emotionally and my health was tanking. The second reason was that I was having a little trouble with the nine months of winter every year, except when it was longer. I love Oregon because I can grow things and the mountains and oceans are so close. Plus there’s a great science fiction and fantasy writer community here.
2) How important to you is success? Do you hope to write exactly what you want, and still find an audience for it? Do you write some things for you, and some for a broader group? Or is the writing what it is, and its own reward?
A.) Success is very important. But on the other hand, it’s a moving target and there are different measures of success from moment to moment. Like being a good mom while still maintaining my writing. Or having enough discipline to get my books written. Another biggie is that readers read and enjoy my books. I try to avoid reading reviews, though, because they can be so destructive to the writing ego.
I write to entertain myself first. (I should say I’m easily amused). If I’m not entertained while writing, I’m sure that readers won’t enjoy it. And why would I spend that kind of time with a project that wasn’t fun? So I write for myself and hope to hell readers will like it too.
3) Where did The Incubus Job start for you? What new things did you want to bring to the table in urban fantasy? Did the characters leap out of your head, like Athena and Zeus, or did the particular magic system and interweaving of mundane and magic show up first?
A.) This is one of those stories that pop into your head out of the blue and then nag to be told. I didn’t have the whole story, but I had the first third in my head. I had other projects and some significant life issues, so I didn’t have time to write it. It refused to go away. So I hit this point where it was difficult to write anything at all. My son had been very ill and we’d moved to Oregon and things had become very hard. I was scheduled to go on a writers retreat, and I decided that my goal would be to find joy in the writing. And this story was the ticket. I knew I’d have fun writing it and while I struggled to just get rolling, I wrote a bunch. It still took a while to finish–my son was still very ill–but finally I managed to find out how it would end!
4) Have you explored all this world yet? Will there be more stories in it?
A.) I’ve hardly scratched the surface. I love these characters. All of them. There are so many jobs to be done yet. The next one involves elves and a talisman and a lot of lies.
5) Is The Incubus Job in the same universe as the Horngate Witches or Diamond City Magic, or is it something totally new?
A.) Totally new.
6) What have you learned from your own writing? To what concepts, intentional or not, do you think you’ve exposed your readers?
A.) I’m fascinated by people who are gray–good people with darkness in their souls, bad people with light in their souls. I tend to explore them quite a bit. I also am interested in thresholds–the step between worlds, between choices, between today and tomorrow, between hope and fear, and so on. That crossing is always fascinating to me. I’m also interested in how people overcome adversity. Do they recover? Rebuild? Become someone new? Something else?
7) What are you working on right now? Will either geology or corgis make an appearance? (And which breed of dog are you referring to when you say Corgis, Pembrokes or Cardigans?)
A.) I just finished up the final edits on the third Diamond City Magic book, titled Whisper of Shadows. I love this series a lot and have been getting some great reader feedback. I’m also about halfway done with the next Job book, though I have no title and the draft is really rough. I’m not sure when I’ll finish it. I’m also working on a short story for an anthology. Oh, and taxes. Gotta do the taxes.
I’ve got two Pembroke Corgi boys. They are about eight years old and littermates. They are Voodoo and Viggo and are my writing companions. Well, pretty much my companions for everything I’m willing to let them do. I grew up on a cattle ranch and we had corgis for herding. My boys herd me quite a bit, too.
No geology in these upcoming books. But I am going to be taking a rockhounding trip soon to look for limb cast . Limb cast is made when volcanic ash covers trees. The wood burns away, leaving a kind of a hollow mold in the shape and texture of the original wood. The limb cast is made when minerals trickle down into the space over time and fill it so that it becomes agatized. I’ve found some that looks like the cleft of a tree branch and is blue. Another is pinkish-purple.
8) Has writing taught you anything you didn’t expect?
A.) That I can write a book. And then do another. And another. I am surprised every time I finish one.
9) How did you become involved with Book View Café? What is it about a cooperative organization that appeals to you?
A.) I’d heard about BVC for a number of years, but didn’t have the time to offer in order to be a useful member. Once I moved to Oregon and was writing full time, I was eager to get connected. I like the idea of the control I can have over the whole process, yet I have the support and expertise of some pretty amazing colleagues. I’m so delighted to have been given the opportunity to join.