As an artisan jeweler, I often attend Renaissance Fairs and Highland Games to sell my wares. When I met Chris and Heather Dunbar via an online Writer’s Cabal, I was delighted to find two kindred souls that enjoy these venues much as I do. They’re genre is historical fantasy and their participation on the RenFaire circuit certainly helps them get into the spirit. I am delighted to feature them both here on No Wasted Ink.
I am Christopher Dunbar, and along with my wife Heather Poinsett Dunbar, I write the historical fantasy novels and other works of the Morrigan’s Brood Series. I also dabble in leatherwork and the playing of ancient musical instruments, such as the didgeridoo and the Djembe (from Ghana); lately, I have even taken up street performing during lunch outside of the building where I work in Downtown Houston.
When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing creatively, outside of school, after I met my wife-to-be. I wrote with her on a few projects, but she really drew me in when she needed help with her first book manuscript. I helped her revamp the plot, spice up the characters, and provide a masculine perspective for the men in the story. The funny thing is that the writing started before we got married, and we still write together. She really helped bring out lots of creativity in me that I did not know existed. Just look at my bio blurb…
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I don’t consider myself a writer. Rather, I am a storyteller. Some the stories I tell are expressed through the written word… or sometimes with the spoken or the sung word, sometimes with music (although this is my weakest medium thus far, but I work at it), and of course sometimes through the Celtic knotwork in my leatherwork. Heather, however, I consider to be a writer. I think I first considered myself a storyteller when I could first string together elaborate fibs, that were obviously made up lies, to my parents, but they apparently found them entertaining.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
The most current release from our series is Dark Alliance: Morrigan’s Brood Book III, although it is really the fourth book, counting the novella between books 2 and 3. Book 3 takes place in 801 CE, the year after Pope Leo III crowns Karl der Große Imperator Romanorum. Heather and I felt that the era of Charlemagne would be an excellent backdrop for our historical fantasy series… in fact, novels 3 through 8 take place during Charlemagne’s lifetime and even include him and Pope Leo III as characters. An eruption of heinous murders all across the empire cause ripples in the delicate balance between emperor and pope, bringing each closer to their doom, but only through the intervention of beneficent races of blood-drinkers will they have any hope of saving themselves.
What inspired you to write this book?
Heather and I felt that history glosses over Charlemagne the man… What kind of man was he? What kind of leader was he? What drove him to conquer? Who did he love? We wanted to delve into him and into his world. He is such a dynamic person that six of our novels will occur during his reign.
Do you have a specific writing style?
From a construction perspective, Heather and I have developed a style that creates one voice, rather than two. We both work together on the first pass of the manuscript, without editing, until we get to the end of the story, and then we rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. From a content perspective, our stories are journeys that enable the reader to explore other times and places as well as characters we hope people find dynamic… not just one- or two-dimensional. We also strive for a level of historical plausibility, if not accuracy.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
I think Heather came up with this one… In the story, two lines of blood-drinkers that were at war with one another in the previous two books find themselves with a common enemy. With that in mind, and considering that our blood-drinkers cannot come out at night, “Dark Alliance” seemed like a good title, especially considering the various meanings of ‘dark’, given the right context.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I am sure the novel contains several messages, both hidden and obvious… some intentional and some accidental. The fun is finding them, so I do not wish to cheat our readers out of their fun.
Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The premise of the series is that these ancient lines of blood-drinkers have formed secret societies that are the powers behind kings, emperors, and popes, but that these lines are also in conflict with one another… so to are their mortal pawns. One has to wonder, given our current (and previous) political strife whether blood-drinkers are the puppet masters behind the scenes today… one wonders.
What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?
I wouldn’t say that authors have influenced my life… perhaps my writing style or storytelling, but not my life. Some of my influences for storytelling include skits at the various powwows when I was in Indian Guides and reading about old Irish legends and tales. Influential authors include Jack London, Edgar Allen Poe, and H.G. Wells. I liked Wells. because he was far ahead of his time and could imagine worlds few others could fathom. Poe, I feel, can horrify with sweet words. I like London because he invented himself… he deliberately lived a tough life and wrote about it, I thought he wrote great adventure stories.
If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor?
R.A. Salvatore. I met him at a book signing recently. He said to me that he started writing fantasy because he had read everything ‘fantasy’ out there and he wanted more. I told him I wrote historical fantasy because I don’t see a lot of good works from our ancient history out there. Some of our readers have compared our writing to his… I just smile. I have read most of his Forgotten Realms books, which I started reading in college, and I even got him to sign his first… my first of his. I think he would be a cool author to consider as a mentor.
Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?
Khanada Taylor is the brilliant artist behind the cover art for all of our books thus far and to come. She has a keen ability to gleam the physical realities of form, color, and texture from the written word and depict them in a manner that conveys meanings both shallow and deep. Just a few observations off the top of my head from book three’s cover… a man, Mandubratius, is sitting casually in Charlemagne’s throne, dangling the Emperor’s crown on his toe, hefting the Emperor’s sword in his left hand, and with his right he dangles marionettes of Charlemagne and Pope Leo III… oh, and there is a mysterious black cat. In the background is the triskel of Morrigan’s Brood, which I helped draw. The cover contains lots of symbolism, if you know where to look. Khanada is also an activist for many good causes, as well as a dear friend.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Work… hone your craft… learn, practice, do… and keep doing it. If you need something else to do for a bit, do something creative.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for delving into the universe Heather and I have created, and we hope you enjoy your visit.
Heather Poinsett Dunbar and Christopher Dunbar
She, the librarian-author, who once sauntered through the picturesque Epping Forest, danced around the awe-inspiring standing stones of Avebury, and traipsed through the misty moors and vales of Scotland, not knowing that her experiences in those mystical places would spark creative passions within. He, the often kilt-clad disaster prognosticator, leather smith, author, and pseudo-musician who never thought he possessed a creative bone within him, yet one woman encouraged his creativity to flourish. Together, they write.
Dark Alliance: Morrigan’s Brood Book III (paperback: 978-1-937341-20-6, Kindle: 978-1-937341-21-3, Nook: 978-1-937341-22-0)
Khanada Taylor: Cover Artist
Free ePub of Morrigan’s Brood Book I on Goodreads
AMAZON for Dark Alliance: Morrigan’s Brood Book III
BARNES & NOBLE for Dark Alliance: Morrigan’s Brood Book III