Featured Novel: Darkest Nights: Awakening by Lee Ferrier
In Lee Ferrier's urban fantasy novel, Darkest Nights –Awakening, eighteen-year-old Jewel Hudson thought she was going to have the perfect Christmas. But that was before the murders started. Fear and paranoia soon take hold of her hometown and the police are holding back a secret. The corpses are beginning to heal from their lethal wounds and the only explanation is a Supernatural Force. Jewel is thrown headfirst into the investigation when she meets half-werewolf Peter Wharton and his best friend Lucy Beaumont, a very talented witch. They are then roped into helping Dante Tybalt, a vampire investigator, and Scott Baxter, a below-average wizard, who are both seeking the killer for their own personal gain. Only Jewel can get them the information they need to solve the string of murders and to prevent any more deaths.
Interview with Lee Ferrier
What inspired you to write this book?
When I was about fifteen, I went through a huge Buffy phase. It was on during the day so it was the censored version and my friend and I were talking about what we would like to be if we were supernatural creatures. He said he’d be a half-vampire and I replied that I would be a half-werewolf and to make it complete we’d need a half-wizard and that idea stuck with me.
I had been writing stories since I was eleven but I hadn’t taken any of them seriously. I knew I that I wanted to write a novel series at some point but I just wasn’t sure what it would be about. I was seventeen when I remembered the conversation between my friend and me and I decided to use that as the blueprint.
I quickly decided that all three of them couldn’t be half bloods because that would be boring and it certainly couldn’t just focus on three male protagonists. There had to be strong female protagonists and the audience needed a surrogate to ask questions on their behalf.
I thought it's a fun idea to bring a werewolf, a vampire, and a wizard in this story. How do you portray these supernatural beings in "Darkest Nights- Awakening"?
My vampires aren’t particularly strong, but they are very quick and have an incredibly fast healing factor that is very handy, as they have quite a few weaknesses. I wanted to have fun with the more traditional vampire mythology, so they can turn into bats and only enter someone’s home if invited inside, or they meet certain requirements but I won’t spoil it for you. Breaking from tradition, they do have a reflection.
My werewolves also have some traditional traits in that they turn on a full moon and are weak against silver, but they can also turn at will and have two levels of transformation. They have their first form when they’re teenagers and turn into an actual wolf. But, later on their transformation shifts to a more Hollywood Wolfman concept, making them far more dangerous to be around.
When it comes to my wizards and witches I wanted them to be powerful, but I also wanted to show just how difficult it is to become that skilled. So I created different skill sets. The standard level for an adult witch or wizard in my world is level 3, but there are levels beyond that where the magic becomes more difficult and dangerous. You see one of the exams for one of the higher level skill set and it gives you a rough idea just how powerful they can really be.
With so many characters and plot twists, how do you keep track of them? Do you usually outline before you write?
Surprisingly I didn't find it hard at all. It was all very natural to me and I don't think I had many notes to work from. I pretty much had it all stored away in my head in one giant diagram. I knew exactly where I wanted the story and characters to go and how to get there.
What horror elements could we find in your novel?
I had one rule going into this book and that was "nobody is safe". I tried to make that very clear as I was writing. Anyone can die at any time, so it creates more suspense when you're not sure if someone is going to make it out alive. The readers will feel hopefully the weight of the situation as the stakes become higher.
I love movies and my favourite horror films are Halloween and Scream, so I tried to emulate that kind of tension they both had. You know there's a constant threat. You're not sure where it is but it's definitely there and it could attack at any moment.
What do you think is the biggest difference between your work and Buffy?
Buffy's basic premise was "horror at high school". Darkest Nights' premise is a lot bigger in scale- or at least it will be as the series goes on. I feel "Awakening" is similar to the original Halloween film in a way because it's just an ordinary small town that suddenly finds itself the victim of a violent and shocking tragedy.
Tell us about an interesting character or group of characters in your novel
Well the main five are certainly the most interesting characters but my favourite character to write for is the half-werewolf Peter Wharton. Because of his half-blood status he has dealt with a lot of prejudice from the supernatural community so his response to most of it is sarcasm. He’s a trash talker and he knows how to get under people’s skin. He’s physically weaker than most supernaturals but he doesn’t let that hinder him. He knows that he can’t win a fight through strength alone so he wins by technique.
He doesn’t want to admit it but his werewolf instincts mean he naturally jumps into the role of the leader and that occasionally will cause conflict within the group. He will confront any problem and will he always look for a solution. Despite this, he’s not perfect. He can go from being caring and supportive to completely dismissive depending on the situation because of his lack of life outside the Pack. The only two people he interacts with outside his Pack are his best friend Lucy and his Vincent, a vampire who has been teaching him to fight for two years.
His social skills aren’t up to standard. Usually he’s OK talking to people but occasionally his werewolf side will pop up and he might say or do something that rubs people the wrong way. His heart is in the right place but he’s flawed. It was great to write.
Tell us about the world of your novel. How did you develop this setting?
The world of the Darkest Nights series is very much intended to exist within our own and I started to wonder how these people would live in the modern day. How would vampires live in a time where everything is monitored closely through CCTV and records? How would they remain a secret?
How would werewolves live in an urban environment? How would they react knowing there’s another Pack with their own territory just a twenty-minute bus ride away?
What about the wizards and witches? How would they go about practicing magic in a time of camera phones and YouTube? Everything had to feel as though it could exist in our world but just slightly out of sight.
It sounds like you explore themes about disconnection from society and the prejudice that the supernatural beings have to face. How do you explore these themes in your novels?
Peter is the key when it comes to these themes. He's very much at the centre of it all. Lucy has had to give up many things due to their lifestyle but she still has a social life. Dante, despite his nocturnal lifestyle, is constantly up to date and his whole survival depends on his ability to blend in. Scott is a bit socially awkward but that's due to his own shyness. Peter only has two friends at the start of the story and his half-blood status puts him at odds with the other werewolves so he's naturally lonely and that's explored quite a bit.
Not only that but you can see that the leaders of the different Supernatural species are at odds with each other, and that's understandable. The vampires wouldn't want to give up their independence up to the wizards and witches and the werewolves would hate the idea of being told what they can and can't do on their own territory so how do they live in society with each other? Turns out not very well and that will have to change at some point.
So you have a vampire investigator as one of your main characters. What kind of mysteries do readers expect him to investigate?
It's too early to give any details about what's to come in later stories. In "Awakening" he is solely focused on catching the killer, but he has 500 years worth of secrets so it's safe to assume that some of his secrets will rear their ugly heads at some point in the future.
How would you describe the battles in "Darkest Nights - Awakening"?
The fights mostly feature Peter or Dante. Because of the age difference and their different abilities I felt it was a great opportunity to show the differences between them. Dante is slick and fast so he relies on his speed to gain the upper hand while Peter has been training specifically to combat vampires. Dante's fighting style is more flashy and showy but Peter's fighting style is a mixture of boxing, CQC and KFM so it's far more brutal. If he needs to head butt someone to win a fight then he'll head butt them.