This post first appeared on my public Facebook page.
When people have asked me what my books are about, I have two stock answers: the longer, thematic literary answer and the shorter, to-the-point genre answer. For example, my first novel, The God Catcher, was about the duality of identity and the conflict that occurs when your sense of self doesn’t match up with the self that others perceive you to be. Which “you” are you in that case and how do you integrate the two when they’re miles apart? The second answer was, “It’s about dragons.”
Brimstone Angels is about control. I started shaping the story this way because the main character of Brimstone Angels is Farideh, a seventeen-year-old warlock, and if there’s any time I’ve felt like I was fighting for control of my own life it was at seventeen. (I won. Good game, Mom).
Until the year I wrote Brimstone Angels. I was laid off from a job I loved like a second spouse. (A demanding, occasionally neglectful spouse who gave me a crappy pen for our anniversary and then dumped me). My husband’s grandfather passed away abruptly, followed a week later by his other grandfather. My editor
abandoned me left my publisher. I turned thirty. I got pregnant—which, as it turns out, is as not-in-control as you can possibly be . . . until labor, which is as not-in-control as you can be . . . until you have a newborn hollering at you at all hours of the night. And because of all that, Brimstone Angels became solidly about control and the things we do to take control of our lives—particularly the things we do which are utterly futile and crazy-making in the hopes that they’ll let us feel a little less like the world is careering on without them.
None of these things are terribly strange or extraordinary, and plenty of you are probably well aware of how you personally felt during one or more of these events. For me, it seemed that the more things slipped out of my direct control, the more I realized how much I clung to what I could control. Even if trying to do so actually took more control from me—obsessing over cures for morning sickness, only made morning sickness take up more of my day.
The sense of needing to seize something while other parts of your world slip out of your hands—I think that’s pretty universal. Whether it’s entering a relationship that you know is bad news because it gets you out of the life you feel trapped in. Or trying to keep your twin sister playing the same part she always has so you don’t have to reassess where you are. Or fighting to keep your teenaged daughters from growing up too fast in a world that’s never going to be kind to them—the characters in Brimstone Angels all do things to feel more in control that ultimately take more power out of their hands.
Also, it’s about devils.