Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Interview with Tom Doyle, author of the American Craft Trilogy

Please welcome Tom Doyle to The Qwillery. War and Craft, the 3rd American Craft Trilogy novel, was published on September 26th by Tor Books.

The QwilleryWelcome back to The Qwillery. War and Craft, the 3rd and final novel in the American Craft Trilogy, was published on September 26th. What are your feelings about the Trilogy being finished?

Tom Doyle:  Thank you very much for having me back!

My go-to simile about finishing a trilogy is that it’s like sending the last kid to college: bittersweet mixed with a lot of “So now what?”

But it’s also a big victory for me, because back in 2014 when I was diagnosed with throat cancer, I thought this might not happen. But I and the book made it, and we’re both fine, thanks.

TQDescribe War and Craft in 140 characters or less.

TMD:  Lt. Scherie Rezvani faces Furies, vengeful spirit of Madeline Morton, Armageddon in Shangri-La, and the end of the world as we know it.

TQTell us something about War and Craft that is not found in the book description.

TMD:  The strange friendship between 21st century soldier Scherie Rezvani and oft-times evil 19th century ghost Madeline Morton (the smaller figure in white on the cover) is the central bond of this novel, and what these two characters are willing to do for each other is an important hinge of the plot. In a trilogy of odd couples, this may be the oddest.

TQWhat appealed to you about writing an alternate historical America?

TMD:  The original hook for me was writing a distinctly American mythos, like what L. Frank Baum did with Oz, only for adults. That mythos had to emerge from our history, literature, and folklore. I don’t think many SF/F writers have tried that--mostly, they import bits of old European folk & myth and Americanize them.

Once that was my course, I decided that I would follow the Tim Powers rule--I would strive to get all the factual historical details correct, yet I’d give an occult, cryptohistorical explanation to those facts.
The whole process was a lot of fun. I could pick out shining bits of history like a magpie and create connections with paranoid-schizophrenic abandon.

TQIn the American Craft series who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

TMD:  The easiest character was Roderick Morton, who is Madeline’s even eviler twin brother and the main villain of the trilogy. Perhaps I should have made him more difficult to write, more morally gray or nuanced, but I have a lot of those sorts of characters in my books, and I wanted one character who was self-consciously and unabashedly the bad guy. He was so easy to write because he’s usually having so much fun being evil. That’s not to say that he’s beyond reason or that we can’t relate to some of his desires. He wants an immortality that’s not also a cage, and he wants the power to defend it. He’s willing to risk the entire world for his goals, but it’s a calculated risk. Where he goes utterly beyond moral understanding is in his relations with women, and the model for those relations is his abuse of his sister, Madeline. The deep conflict between brother and sister is one of the major arcs of the trilogy.

The Puritan craftsman, Major Michael Endicott, has maintained his position as my most difficult character to write. In the earliest draft of American Craftsmen, he started as an extremely obnoxious two-dimensional foil for the main protagonist Dale Morton. But I found that the story kept on wanting a lot more from Endicott. So I rewrote him as a bit stiff and hapless, but also as a fundamentally decent person in a difficult position. Still, at the end of book 1, he had a lot of room to grow, so I made him the first-person point-of-view character for my second book, The Left-Hand Way. Lo and behold, he turned out to be a great leading character to write. I sometimes wonder if Anne Rice was as surprised by Lestat.

TQIn the American Craft series which character surprised you the most?

TMD:  Madeline Morton has replaced Endicott as the character who most surprised me. If the main character is the one who changes the most, then Madeline is the trilogy’s main character. She begins as joyfully chaotic evil, driven by a desperate yet ambivalent clinging to her centuries-long life. After Madeline’s physical death, she is unusually protective of Scherie, though she offers this protection in a manner peppered with rage, sarcasm, and mockery. As noted above, her friendship with Scherie is central to War and Craft. Madeline’s changes aren’t simple (she doesn’t become a good spirit), but they are nonetheless fundamental.

TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in the American Craft novels?

TMD:  When I started the series, I gave the books a very centrist and what I thought was a largely noncontroversial politics: that America and its institutions could unite people with disparate values in its service. That point seemed more important than my personal views on any given issue.

One of these characters united by American ideals was Scherie Rezvani, an Islamic-American daughter of Iranian immigrants. This wasn’t something I made a fuss over, because structurally this is a very old move: tales of the military heroism of American newcomers are as old as the country. But times have changed since I wrote War and Craft, and Scherie’s background is now a political statement--and one I stand by.

One other statement in War and Craft has become more political than I first intended: “no one in the West seemed to care that, in Russia, that thing from Lubyanka’s subbasement was in charge at the Kremlin.” (This thing is earlier identified as the “Tsar of Bone.”) I was making a small jab at the authoritarian regime in Russia, not realizing that soon the struggle with that regime would move much closer to home.

TQWhich question about the series do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

TMD:  I’m apparently notorious for putting Easter Eggs and other allusions into my writing, so here are a couple of particularly obscure ones that I’ve wished someone would ask about. The names of Dale’s father (Willard L. Morton) and grandfather (Benjamin Franklin Morton) are nods to two fictional characters associated with two different wars. “Willard L.” is from Captain Benjamin L. Willard, Martin Sheen’s character in Apocalypse Now, and “Benjamin Franklin” is from Captain Benjamin Franklin Pierce, a.k.a. “Hawkeye” from MASH.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from War and Craft.

TMD:  Instead of trying to come up with a quote from later in the story, here’s the opening hook from the prologue “Terrible Beauties Are Born”:
        “All was quiet on New Year’s Day before dawn. Near Galway, below a thatched cottage like they kept for the tourists, the quiet old man called Oz came suddenly awake in his cave, as if the lack of noise had startled his sleep. He got up from his warm cavern bed and rubbed his gray stubble, cross with the world. He hadn’t had a foreboding since the peace in the North, except for the gentle one that came to all the old and told him that he must pass on his gifts soon, lest they be lost.

No use complaining. In the dark, Oz put on his worn white Aran sweater and one of the fancy fiber macintoshes the young ones preferred. He slung his rifle over his shoulder and, every joint hurting, climbed up the ladder to his cottage home.

He stepped outside. Beyond his yard’s low wall of rounded stone, the ground was flat and exposed. There’d be no surprises today. He made a sign of the cross in the air, and walked toward the town. They’d be coming from there, rested and ready.”

TQWhat's next?

TMD:  I’m working on a novel-length extension of my edgy space opera, “Crossing Borders.” I’m also creating abridgments of my three American Craft books for possible use in Graphic Audio productions.

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

TMD:  Thank you for your thoughtful questions and your support of my work.

War and Craft
American Craft 3
Tor Books, September 26, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 352 pages

America, land of the Free…and home of the warlocks.

The Founding Fathers were never ones to pass up a good weapon. America’s first line of defense has been shrouded in secrecy, magical families who have sworn to use their power to protect our republic.

But there are those who reject America’s dream and have chosen the Left Hand Path. In this triumphant conclusion to Tom Doyle’s imaginative alternate historical America, we start with a bloody wedding-night brawl with assassins in Tokyo. Our American magical shock troops go to India, where a descendant of legendary heroes has the occult mission they’ve been waiting for.

It all comes to a head in a valley hidden high in the mountains of Kashmir. Our craftspeople will battle against their fellow countrymen, some of the vilest monsters of the Left Hand Path. It’s Armageddon in Shangri-La, and the end of the world as we know it.


American Craftsmen
American Craft 1
Tor Books, June 30, 2015
Mass Market Paperback, 432 pages
Hardback and eBook, May 6, 2014

Ancient magic meets SEAL Team Six-with the fate of the United States hanging in the balance-in Tom Doyle's American Craftsmen.

US Army Captain Dale Morton is a magician soldier-a "craftsman." After a black-ops mission gone wrong, Dale is cursed by a Persian sorcerer and haunted by his good and evil ancestors. Major Michael Endicott, a Puritan craftsman, finds gruesome evidence that the evil Mortons have returned, and that Dale might be one of them.

Dale uncovers treason in the Pentagon's highest covert ranks. He hunts for his enemies before they can murder him and Scherie, a new friend who knows nothing of his magic.

Endicott pursues Dale, divided between his duty to capture a rogue soldier and his desire to protect Dale from his would-be assassins. They will discover that the demonic horrors that have corrupted American magic are not bound by family or even death itself.

The Left-Hand Way
American Craft 2
Tor Books, August 11, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages

Poe's Red Death returns, more powerful than ever. Can anyone stop him before he summons an apocalyptic nightmare even worse than himself?

In The Left-Hand Way, the second book of Tom Doyle's contemporary fantasy series, the American craftsmen are scattered like bait overseas. What starts as an ordinary liaison mission to London for Major Michael Endicott becomes a desperate chase across Europe, where Endicott is both hunted and hunter. Reluctantly joining him is his minder from MI13, Commander Grace Marlow, one of Her Majesty's most lethal magician soldiers, whose family has centuries of justified hostility to the Endicotts.

Meanwhile, in Istanbul and Tokyo, Endicott's comrades, Scherie Rezvani and Dale Morton, are caught in their own battles for survival against hired assassins and a ghost-powered doomsday machine. And in Kiev, Roderick Morton, the spider at the center of a global web, plots their destruction and his ultimate apotheosis. After centuries of imprisonment, nothing less than godlike power will satisfy Roderick, whatever the dreadful cost.

About Tom

Tom Doyle is the author of a contemporary fantasy trilogy from Tor Books. In the first book, American Craftsmen, two modern magician-soldiers fight their way through the legacies of Poe and Hawthorne as they attempt to destroy an undying evil--and not kill each other first. In the sequel, The Left-Hand Way, the craftsmen are hunters and hunted in a global race to save humanity from a new occult threat out of America's past. In the third book, War and Craft (Sept. 2017), it's Armageddon in Shangri-La, and the end of the world as we know it.

Some of Tom’s award-winning short fiction is collected in The Wizard of Macatawa and Other Stories. He writes in a spooky turret in Washington, DC. You can find the text and audio of many of his stories on his website,

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @tmdoyle2


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