Thursday, March 18, 2010

Interview With R. Garland Gray, Author Of The DARKSCAPE Trilogy

R. Garland Gray DARKSCAPEOne of my favorite perks when it comes to this blog is the chance to discover off-the-beaten-path books, not to mention meeting the authors who pen them.

While I’d known about R. Garland Gray’s DARKSCAPE trilogy for a while, it was a conversation with author Jennifer Leeland that made me realize I was overdue to read it. The funny thing was, days after learning about how much Ms. Leeland enjoyed DARKSCAPE: REDEMPTION, I was in my local library and while browsing the upper shelves of the romance section, a strong feeling—could have been The Force, you never know—directed my gaze downward at one point. Lo and behold, my line of vision connected directly with DARKSCAPE: REDEMPTION. I kid you not. It was quite surreal, because I don’t believe the library had had a copy previously, and I frequently do searches to see what kind of science fiction romances are available.

In my excitement, I checked the book out and read it, forgetting that it was the second in the trilogy—oopsie! REDEMPTION works as a standalone, but it does contain spoilers for the first book.

The trilogy begins with THE REBEL LORD and continues with REDEMPTION. The third in the trilogy, FIRST HEIR, will be released in December 2010 (Medallion Press). According to the author’s Web site, “Set in a distant and grim future, the Darkscape books depict the heirs of the Scottish clan of Douglas.” Clan Douglas is a real one, by the way. I did not know that!

Based on my reading of REDEMPTION, this trilogy should appeal to romance readers—especially pre-Culloden Scotland historical romance fans—who have yet to try a science fiction romance, or have dabbled infrequently in the subgenre. My take is that REDEMPTION, at least, contains many traditional romance elements and accessible science fictional concepts that would ease the learning curve for readers new to the subgenre. Also, if you prefer a gentler SFR, or need a break from edgier fare, the DARKSCAPE trilogy might be up your alley.

You can read the author’s bio here, and learn more about the books themselves (as well as excerpts) here.

Now for my interview with R. Garland Gray—an interview that also includes an exclusive excerpt of DARKSCAPE: FIRST HEIR!

The Galaxy Express: What was the inspiration for the Darkscape series?

R. Garland Gray: That is an easy answer for me: Star Wars, the original 1977 release. Even as a young girl, I recognized that George Lucas’s space opera was amazingly unique. His fictional universe depicted a grimy and sort of lived in life compared to the pristine science fiction films I had seen before. It also contained many elements of the fantasy genre, like a princess in peril and a hero on a quest. Material like that has always captured my attention. I am a hopeless romantic, I suppose.

TGE: The Rebel Lord and Redemption were previously released by another publisher “who went out of business,” according to your web site. Please describe the challenges you faced while striving to bring this trilogy to readers. What was your path to publication like?

RGG: My path to the publication of my Darkscape books has included many potholes, holes that I tumbled into and had to climb out of. LOL

I penned Darkscape: The Rebel Lord on paper during my college days. Yes, this author did say paper. I sat at my small metal desk in the late evening with my tabby cat purring by my elbow and batting away at my pen. Tigger was a bit of a brat. After I graduated college, I went to work for an educational software company. From time to time, I would pull the book out of my desk in the evenings and work on it. Eventually, I entered it onto a computer. For years it remained on a disk until the software that I had used was no longer available. By this time, I had married my tall, engineer husband. He found out about my story and encouraged me to try and get it published. He wrote a software program that translated the code of the book from the old desktop software to MSWord so I would not have to retype the book yet again.

Over the next year or so, I polished the story, learned about the writing business, joined a couple of writing clubs, made some wonderful writing friends, and began to send out query letters to publishers. Queries are one page introduction letters where you tell a little about yourself and your book to a prospective editor.

A Canadian publisher responded to one of my queries and asked to see the manuscript. To say that I was thrilled would be an understatement. I sent the book to them and waited. And waited. And waited some more. A year went by and nothing. I know the publishing industry moves slowly, but a year? I decided to write to them.

Immediately, I received a flurry of emails. The acquisition editor wanted the book but had lost my contact information. They wanted the book? Well, sort of wanted it. They did not like my ending. They wanted me to change the ending and listed their reasons why. I went from being thrilled to being depressed. My husband suggested I take a few days and think about what they were asking. Would the change make it a better book? I decided to give it a try. I rewrote the ending. When I finished, I sat back and grinned. The editor had been right. The book rocked with the new ending.

When I think back about that time, I know that was a defining moment for me. If I had not swallowed my pride and made the decision to rewrite that ending, my writing career would probably have ended there. Thank goodness for calm and supportive husbands. I resubmitted the book to the acquisition editor who loved what I had done and forwarded it to the main editor. I received a contract soon after.

The Canadian publisher was a small house and they spent a lot of time with their authors. I will always be grateful to them for guiding me through the art of writing and the business of publishing. When Darkscape: The Rebel Lord was released, it soared to a slot in their top five best seller list. My editor requested a second book. They were interested in the hero’s cynical brother. I wrote Darkscape: Redemption in a matter of months and submitted it. I received a contract and when the book released it too hit their top five seller list as well.

What I did not recognize at the time were the warning signs of a publisher in trouble. Not soon after Redemption came out, the Canadian publisher closed their doors. Although my two Darkscape books were in their top five best seller list, it was the top list of a very small distribution, and the books never made it to the books shelves in the United States. A few days later, the publisher contacted their authors and returned our rights with wishes for success.

It was an uncertain time for me. Was my writing career over? I was glad I had my rights back, but what now? I was in the middle of writing another book, so I took The Rebel Lord and Redemption and placed them in the desk drawer along with my outline for the third book in the trilogy. As luck would have it, I finished that other book (Predestined,) and sold it very quickly. It was one of those rare instances, where an author sends a book out and receives an offer a couple of weeks later. Typically, it takes a lot longer for a response, as I had already experienced. Medallion Press, my new publisher, was very supportive. After Predestined came out, my editor requested a second book and then a third. My Darkscape books fell into the background as I focused on crafting the Faery Faith series.

When I handed in Fey Born and White Fells to my editor, I had some free time to myself. I did a little bit of soul searching and decided to look over my Darkscape books. I reread The Rebel Lord and Redemption. I remember feeling that I could improve the books and that I had grown as a writer. I faced two choices. Forget about the books and move on, or go through a major rewrite. I chose the major rewrite, knowing full well that publishers shy away from previously released books, no matter their history.

It was challenging, and at times I thought I must be insane for doing this. I had to research and update all the resident technology and revisit my interweaving plots and character studies. But then it became a kind of catharsis for me. I rewrote The Rebel Lord and Redemption for myself because I wanted to give the best that I am capable of.
When I finished, I rested for a month before sending a query letter to my editor explaining the history of the books. I asked if they would be interested in looking at them. They said, yes. I took a deep breath and sent The Rebel Lord and Redemption out. Rather than wait and worry, I focused on First Heir, the third book in the trilogy. The story about the twin symbiotic male heirs of Clan Douglas had been dancing around in my brain cells for years. A few months later, my publisher made an offer for the two books and I gave them a promise for the third book.

My Darkscape trilogy was given a second chance. I was ecstatic. Upon The Rebel Lord’s release, my publisher featured it in Book Expo of America in Los Angeles, a pretty amazing new start for a trilogy that almost did not make it. Medallion Press created a wonderful banner of the cover that hung in the expo center hallway. Here is a picture of it below:

Darkscape banner

Darkscape: Redemption’s release has done well also.

And a few months ago, I handed in the manuscript for Darkscape: First Heir. This one, I am especially looking forward to seeing in the bookstores because it lived inside me for so long.

TGE: What kind of research did you do for the Darkscape trilogy? What was the most fascinating discovery you made, even if the information didn’t end up in the book?

RGG: Most of my readers know that I am a “researcholic.” I enjoy delving into different times and places and flavoring my stories. For Darkscape, I got hold of the special issue of Astronomy magazine, which featured a wonderful beginner’s guide where I learned about the realm of the stars and galaxies. In fact, I still have the magazine. I also read some of my husband’s engineering books and trade magazines to become familiar with different technologies. And of course, I spent time learning about the history of Clan Douglas, one of the most powerful ancestral families of Scotland. I started with library books and graduated to Internet research. Clan Douglas has many websites dedicated to it.

The most fascinating discovery that I came across was the concept of Hydropathy, healing through water therapy. When an injured person becomes immersed in water, there is a calming which indirectly can help with their healing. I decided to take it several light years further and created the emulsion healing tank for all injuries.

Here is an old illustration of Hydropathy, or the cold-water cure as it was sometimes referred to (1842).


TGE: Tongue-in-cheek question alert: “Darkscape” – any relation to “Farscape?”

RGG: Good question, Heather. Darkscape: The Rebel Lord originally had a different title. When my editor asked me to change the book’s title and make it sound more like a dark science fiction romance, I decided to sleep on it and see what I could come up with. When I awoke the next morning “Darkscape: The Rebel Lord” popped into my head. As a viewer of Farscape, I knew there had been a “cross-over event” in my brain (LOL). Thereafter, the other two books in the trilogy featured the “Darkscape” title as well.

TGE: What’s unique about hero Declan de Douglas and heroine Princess Fallon MacKendrick?

RGG: I think an author’s interpretation of a story and the characters of the hero and heroine is what makes a book unique. In Darkscape: Redemption, Declan is a charismatic and bitter hero who buries his emotions deep, protecting himself. Even though he has suffered, his appreciation of life and his ability to be surprised by it make him unique among most dark heroes.

A princess born to privilege, Fallon is used to doing what she wants and getting what she wants. Coming from that kind of advantageous background, you might think her intolerant or prejudiced, but she is not. She sheds that perception soon after the readers meet her. Fallon accepts the world without judgment; she only needs the guidance of one who knows to show her the way. I think that makes her unique.

TGE: Please describe a few of your favorite science fiction romance books, films, and/or television shows.

RGG: Let me think …. Okay, here are just a few that come to mind:

My favorite books: Justine Davis’s Lord of the Storm and The Skypirate

My favorite TV series: The original Star Trek and Babylon Five

My favorite films: Forbidden Planet, Star Wars (all of them), Star Trek Classic films, and Avatar

TGE: Please tell us about DARKSCAPE: FIRST HEIR. Can you give us a sneak peek?

RGG: Darkscape: First Heir is the story of the symbiotic male twins of Lachlan and Kimberly, my hero and heroine in Darkscape: The Rebel Lord. The war years are over, but the distrust among the clans remains. When a bridal offer arrives, their world abruptly changes.

Here is the exclusive sneak peek:

He enjoyed the quiet of a day’s ending and had a soft spot for the tiny animals known as wee-gadhars, or poodleflys, as they were sometimes called. At mealtimes, he preferred a plate of chocolate ice cream to any other dessert, except for ones of the female flavor.

He was noted as having a strong chin and hair the color of rich dark coffee. His eyes were considered uncommon, the color of cobalt blue with a bevy of metallic flakes slicing the inner edge of the irises. When he looked at you, an alien ancestry watched. It was a silent and elemental regard, having been described by more than one frightened young woman as the piercing gaze of crystallized light.

Since Drumlanrig knew what other people saw, he no longer cared to hide the strangeness resident inside him.


TGE: Is there anything else about the Darkscape series you’d like to share? What else do you have in store for readers?

RGG: My Darkscape books took nearly 25 years to make it to your bookstores. If this author has learned anything about the journey of life, it is to persevere and never give up on your dreams.

What comes next you ask? Hmmm, I am of a mind to wait and see where my lady muse takes me. She can be fickle at times so I try not to answer for her. However, every month on my website I share my thoughts and your readers can find news and updates about my books there.

Thank you for having me, Heather. And a special thank you to your readers. I had a wonderful time sharing my Darkscape trilogy with you, and with them.

With Kind Regards,


Ms. Garland, thanks for your time, and for your art!

Joyfully yours,