I am excited to welcome Daniel José Older, who started out the new year with the release of Half-Resurrection Blues, the first novel in his Bone Street Rumba series.
“Because I’m an inbetweener—and the only one anyone knows of at that—the dead turn to me when something is askew between them and the living. Usually, it’s something mundane like a suicide gone wrong or someone revived that shouldn’ta been.”
Carlos Delacruz is one of the New York Council of the Dead’s most unusual agents—an inbetweener, partially resurrected from a death he barely recalls suffering, after a life that’s missing from his memory. He thinks he is one of a kind—until he encounters other entities walking the fine line between life and death.
One inbetweener is a sorcerer. He’s summoned a horde of implike ngks capable of eliminating spirits, and they’re spreading through the city like a plague. They’ve already taken out some of NYCOD’s finest, leaving Carlos desperate to stop their master before he opens up the entrada to the Underworld—which would destroy the balance between the living and the dead.
But in uncovering this man’s identity, Carlos confronts the truth of his own life—and death.…
Make sure you stick around to the end. We’ll be giving away 3 copies of Half-Resurrection Blues.
Literary Escapism: For those of my readers unfamiliar with Half-Resurrection Blues, can you give us a brief look at your novel and what readers can look forward to? Something we haven’t seen yet?
Daniel José Older: Carlos Delacruz thinks he’s the only half-dead half-alive guy in town. Then his bosses at the annoying bureaucracy of death send him to kill another inbetweener. Then tiny, imp-like creatures start appearing all over Brooklyn, spreading havoc across the spirit world. Then Carlos falls in love and things really get interesting. Half-Resurrection Blues is about straddling the strange line between life and death, a stranger in two worlds and at home in none.
LE: What was your inspiration when you created your characters and the world they live in? How did you determine how they were going to interact with each other?
DJO: I think a lot about how we tell stories when I write. I took a lot of inspiration from the storytelling that happens on the ambulance, between calls – I was a paramedic for ten years and that experience formed a lot of the way I created the Bone Street Rumba world. Being a medic, you learn to laugh in the face of death without being callous or shut off. I also look to the people around me, moments walking down the street in Brooklyn, how the city speaks, how it changes, what powers are at play.
LE: Why Carlos Delacruz? What was it about Carlos that drew you to him and made you want to tell his story?
DJO: Carlos struggles along this strange, uneasy line of love and death, responsibility and survival. A lot of his questions are ones I thought about as a medic, dealing with human lives amidst bureaucracies that are often more interested in protocol, poltics and face-saving than life. I also love writing him because he keeps trying to be that lone-wolf badass that fantasy heroes are supposed to be, but his heart always gets the better of him.
LE: Can you introduce us to a few of the side characters that we’ll be meeting or who will play an important role to/for Carlos in Half-Resurrection Blues?
DJO: Riley Washington is Carlos’s partner; they spend most of their time making fun of the Council of the Dead and unraveling diabolical plans. Baba Eddie is a santero that runs a botánica in Bushwick, selling herbs and doling out spiritual advice. Mama Esther is a gigantic house ghost who runs an ancient library where all of Brooklyn’s afterlifers come for guidance.
LE: Was there any character that didn’t make as big of an impact on the story that you thought they would? Was there a character who stayed on the page longer than you thought they would?
DJO: No characters fell back, but Kia Summers, a teenager who runs the counter at Baba Eddie’s botánica, definitely jumped off the page and took on a life of her own. So much so, in fact, that she’s one of the three POV characters in the sequel to Half-Resurrection Blues.
LE: What is your favorite scene in Half-Resurrection Blues? What makes it so special? Characters, setting, dialogue, action?
DJO: It changes, but I always love the moment when Riley describes the night he found Carlos and saved his life. He really gets into the act of storytelling and it’s a welcome humorous moment in the midst of everything being about to go to hell.
LE: What was it about the fantasy genre that drew you to write in it? Was there a certain book that captured your imagination and lead you to think you could do it or did it come to you naturally?
DJO: I’ve always adored fantasy and speculative fiction. I was a huge Lord of the Rings and Star Wars fan as a kid, but I think Octavia Butler and JK Rowling are the authors that brought me back to it in my twenties. I love how they both infuse good storytelling with such a deep understanding of history and worldbuilding. Set my imagination on fire. I had been doing a lot of organizing, teaching workshops on power and privilege and empowerment, and I loved finding, in Butler’s work especially, books that were in conversation with that work, thinking deeply about freedom and oppression.
LE: Which do you find is more central in your writing: the characters or world creation? Why?
DJO: Tough question! World building is so huge to me, in large part because of the organizing work I talked about above. I’ve found context to be a really useful tool for discussing the nuances of power and developing complex conflicts. Having said that, characters are the ultimate engines behind my stories. Once a character comes to life in my mind, the story almost tells itself.
LE: Do you know where it is going or is the storyline evolving as you write?
DJO: I let the story evolve as I go. It’s more fun for me that way – I actually write in order to find out what happens next, so the experience is almost akin to reading a book and wondering where it’ll go. It’s one of the things I love most about the process: figuring out the story as I go.
LE: When you’re not writing, what are you reading? Have you found an author that’s new to you or one that the rest of the world really needs to find? Is there a certain niche in the fantasy genre that you prefer to escape to? If so, why that one or if not, why not?
DJO: I’ve recently been checking out epic fantasy for the first time since I was a kid and I’ve been loving it. On Game of Thrones now (finally), and I adore Steven Erikson’s Malazan Books of the Fallen series (Garden of the Moon) and Glen Cook’s Black Company books. There are so many amazing up and coming writers in the speculative fiction world – I had the honor of publishing a bunch of them in Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, an anthology I co-edited with Rose Fox. Among them: Rion Amilcar Scott, Jamey Hatley, Kima Jones, Sofia Samatar, Shanaé Brown, Sabrina Vourvoulias, Lisa Bolekaja, Troy Wiggins and many others. Ashley Ford, an amazing essayist, has some ghost stories about the history of the blues in the works that are going to be incredible.
LE: Which authors do you read and/or think “Damn! I wish I had thought of that”?
DJO: Essayists like Saeed Jones, who’s also an amazing poet, and Kiese Laymon, who’s also an amazing novelist, blow my mind with how they spin words and thoughts together to say something beautiful, heartbreaking and defiant.
Meet Daniel José Older!
Daniel José Older is the author of the upcoming Young Adult novel Shadowshaper (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015) and the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series, which begins in January 2015 with Half-Resurrection Blues from Penguin’s Roc imprint. Publishers Weekly hailed him as a “rising star of the genre” after the publication of his debut ghost noir collection, Salsa Nocturna. He co-edited the anthology Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History and guest edited the music issue of Crossed Genres. His short stories and essays have appeared in Tor.com, Salon, BuzzFeed, the New Haven Review, PANK, Apex and Strange Horizons and the anthologies Subversion and Mothership: Tales Of Afrofuturism And Beyond. Daniel’s band Ghost Star gigs regularly around New York and he facilitates workshops on storytelling from an anti-oppressive power analysis.
Want to purchase Daniel José Older’s novels?
Half-Resurrection Blues (Bone Street Rumba #1)
Shadowshaper (Jun 30, 2015)
Kia and Gio: A Tor.Com Original
Anyway: Angie: A Tor.Com Original
Skin like Porcelain Death
Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History
Thank you Daniel José Older for taking the time to stop by Literary Escapism!
Daniel is giving away 3 copies of Half-Resurrection Blues. To enter, all you have to do is answer this one question: Which new series are you looking forward to in 2015? Remember, you must answer the question in order to be entered. (US Only)
Even though I’m not giving the additional entries any more, you can still help support the author by sharing their article, and this contest, on your blog, Twitter, Facebook, or anywhere you can. After all, the more people who are aware of this fabulous author ensures we get more fabulous stories.
The winner must post a review of the novel someplace. Whether it is on their own blog, Amazon, GoodReads, LibraryThing or wherever, it doesn’t matter. Just help get the word out.