Jaqueline Carey talks quirky small towns, urban fantasy, and her inspiration for DARK CURRENTS
You know those quirky small towns that seem to exist only on TV shows? Towns like Twin Peaks, Cicely, Alaska or Stars Hollow, filled with quirky, loveable characters, where everyone knows everyone else’s business? Well, I live in one.
Or three, to be precise. My conjoined home community of SaugatuckDouglas, Michigan consists of the City of Saugatuck, the City of the Village of Douglasyes, that’s actually its official nameand Saugatuck Township.
We have a beautiful harbor on the Kalamazoo River and gorgeous white sand beaches on Lake Michigan. We have a 100yearold art school. We have more bars and churches per capita than anyplace else in the state. We have parades; not just Fourth of July parades, but Halloween parades, Easter parades, Mardi Gras parades, Venetian Day boat parades. We have a parade in honor of a wonderful lady who founded many of the parades.
We have an Episcopal priest who plays the bagpipes, a Town Crier, a guy who dresses up in a bee costume for no particular reason, and a beloved local plumber known only as River Man.
I always knew I’d write about this place one day. In the back of my mind, it was going to be a Very Serious Book, maybe even a mainstream literary book, a Northern Gothic affair that delved into the seething underbelly of this seemingly charming, idiosyncratic community in which I live.
My Muse, however, decided otherwise. I’ve always loved urban fantasy, and it seemed like it would be an awful lot of fun to write. I was toying with the thought of what might imbue a place with magic and hit on the notion of an underworld, a play on the Hermetic principle of “As above, so below.”
That’s when it hit me. Oh, did I mention we have a buried town? Well, we have an old lumber town that was swallowed by the shifting sands of deforested dunes in the late 1800s. Where better to place an underworld?
I named the fictional version of my town Pemkowet, although of course there’s also an East Pemkowet and Pemkowet Township. I added a population of fairies, naiads, werewolves, vampires, ghouls and mythological creatures. I relocated Hel, the Norse goddess of the dead, to the American Midwest.
And I gave Hel an agent, someone to serve as a liaison between the underworld and mundane authorities: Daisy Johanssen, reluctant hellspawn, fathered by the demon Belphegor and raised by a teenaged mother determined to instill good oldfashioned human values in her tempestuous halfbreed daughter.
Daisy’s far from perfect. She struggles with the temptations of the Seven Deadly Sins, and the knowledge that if she ever claims her demonic birthright, it could unleash Armageddon on earth. But she loves her community, and when a local college kid drowns and eldritch involvement is suspected, she’ll do whatever it takes to solve the crime, including working with her childhood crush, a sexy werewolf on the downlow.
It turns out I was right: Urban fantasy is a lot fun to write!