When the Elder Gods extend an invitation, be wary of the strings attached
While browsing in a rare book store in Arkham, Sean finds an occult book with an ad seeking an apprentice sorcerer, from a newspaper dated March 21, 1895. Even more intriguing, the ad specifically requests applicants reply by email.
Sean’s always been interested in magic, particularly the Lovecraftian dark mythology. Against his best friend Edna’s (“call-me-Eddy-or-else”) advice, he decides to answer the ad, figuring it’s a clever hoax, but hoping that it won’t be. The advertiser, Reverend Redemption Orne, claims to be a master of the occult born more than 300 years ago. To prove his legitimacy, Orne gives Sean instructions to summon a harmless but useful familiar—but Sean’s ceremony takes a dark turn, and he instead accidentally beckons a bloodthirsty servant to the Cthulhu Mythos god Nyarlathotep. The ritual is preemptively broken, and now Sean must find and bind the servitor, before it grows too strong to contain. But strange things are already happening in the town of Arkham….
SUMMONED is my debut novel and the first in a series about Sean Wyndham, semi-hapless and semi-awesome noob to the wizardly arts. It’s set in the fictional New England created by H. P. Lovecraft, with the Salem, MA analogue of Arkham featured in this book. Much of the action also takes place in the Providence, RI area, where I’ve lived for many years.
To the chagrin of his BFF Edna, Sean responds to an ad for a wizard’s apprentice and so comes to the attention of the Reverend Redemption Orne, who claims to have been “in practice” since the time of the infamous witch hunts. He offers Sean a spell to summon a harmless ethereal familiar, but Orne’s own master, the Outer God Nyarlathotep, has other plans for Sean. Influenced by the god, Sean instead summons a monstrous and only too solid Servitor. When Sean fails to bind the Servitor to his will, it threatens to extend its appetite from neighborhood pets to the neighbors, and to Sean’s own friends and family. The race to dismiss it is on.
What genre does your book fall into?
I would say YA urban fantasy or YA dark fantasy.
What are the magical “rules” of your paranormal world?
My magical system is based on Lovecraft’s invented mythology, often called the Cthulhu Mythos. It takes a cosmic view that humanity is far from the first or most powerful of the universe’s intelligent species; indeed, earth life from microbes to proto-humans may have been created by one of the waves of alien races who colonized the planet after its initial cooling.
Greatest of the aliens are the Outer Gods; Azathoth, a seething energy at the heart of time and space, may represent the Big Bang itself. It is blind and mindless and not much fun, but its Soul and Messenger Nyarlathotep makes up for that. I have imagined him as the Master of Magic, wearer of countless masks, including the Dark Pharaoh avatar known to the ancient Egyptians and later, uh oh, to Sean.
Magicians, human or otherwise, have an innate ability to channel the energy that emanates from the ultimate Source, Azathoth. The trick is to shape that energy so that it doesn’t just whistle down dangerous entities or blow up stuff, the magician included. As Sean has big capacity and little control, magical mayhem is likely to dog his heels for some time to come!
Who’s your favorite paranormal character in pop culture, and why?
I’m fond of Susanna Clarke’s fey king from Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. The Man with the Thistledown Hair, as he’s called, is delightfully amoral — delightfully for those who don’t fall into his capricious clutches, that is. I believe he looks much like David Bowie in Labyrinth, which is a very good thing.
I must admit to a long time sympathy toward the three weird sisters who share the castle with Stoker’s Dracula. They just don’t seem to get out enough. In my take on the classic novel, these vampire ladies would take over the Transylvania territory as soon as Drac headed to England, and they’d be more than ready when that tiresome Van Helsing showed up, satchel loaded with stakes. Lefanu’s Carmilla would survive to hang out with them, too.
The second novel in the series, DEEPER, will explore Lovecraft’s shadowy Innsmouth and the underwater race that holds sway there. The third novel, UNMORTAL, takes us to Dunwich and its stone-crowned mountains, where the fabric between dimensions may be wearing perilously thin.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’d love to give a shout-out to all the people who’ve helped make SUMMONED a reality. To Deb, bestest beta and friend, there from the beginning. To beta Jared Millet, whom I met during the 2008 NaNoWriMo, where the first draft was born. To the world’s best agent, Craig Tenney, and to not one but two insightful and inspiring editors at Tor, Jim Frenkel and Miriam Weinberg. The writing gods (and Nyarlathotep?) have blessed me with all of them.
I was born in Troy, New York, but I currently live just outside Providence, Rhode Island, at the head of beautiful Narragansett Bay. New England has long been my spiritual home, and the region informs much of my fiction. One day I hope to find Lovecraft’s portals to his mythical towns of witch-haunted Arkham and Kingsport, shadowed Innsmouth and accursed Dunwich. Until then, I’ll just have to write about them..
I am a member of SFWA and HWA and a rabid Austenite. Don’t those three always go together?
Apart from writing, I like gardening, swimming, king cobras, jumping spiders, and cats. No cobras or cats at the moment, but the jumping spiders are always with us. In spite of maintaining a mental age of between twelve and sixteen, I have just married my partner of more than thirty years. Thanks to the RI Legislature for finally living up to Roger Williams’ philosophy of crabbing at people he disagreed with but never denying the primacy of the personal conscience.
Giveaway is open to International. | Must be 13+ to Enter
3 Winners will Receive a Copy of Summoned+Tote Bag by Anne M. Pillsworth.