Today I am interviewing Alyc Helms, author of the new urban fantasy novel, The Conclave of Shadow, second book in the Missy Masters series.
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DJ: Hey Alyc! Thanks for stopping by to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Alyc Helms: Thank you so much for having me!
I’ll try to keep it down to ‘a little’. The thing I usually lead with is that I did my undergrad and graduate work in Anthropology and Folklore. That alone explains 75% of how my brain functions. I love stories, I love tropes, I love the structure of narrative, and I love how stories reveal both the particularities and the generalities of a cultural system. My areas of study definitely feed into my writing. I have a whole treatise on different tendencies in worldbuilding that I don’t have room to go into here. Suffice to say that I lean toward anthropological worldbuilding, which comes out through how characters view and interact with the world and the assumptions they make about it (as opposed to, say, getting your worldbuilding out via an omniscient-view history of a location or a custom – nothing wrong with that style. I love that style. I just don’t do it very often myself).
The other 25% of my brain is occupied with the various hobbies I’ve picked up over the years. I’m a big gamer–I’ve written some freelance content for Green Ronin for their A Song of Ice and Fire and Dragon Age lines. I’m a former competitive Scottish Highland dancer, and I still keep my bell kicks a’rockin’ at my local Renaissance and Dickens fairs. I’m pretty handy with a sewing machine (which helps for the making of corsets and costumes for the aforementioned fairs), and I just taught myself to crochet.
DJ: What is The Conclave of Shadow about? What can readers of the series expect in the latest installment? Anything new? Any surprises?
Alyc: Like I mentioned before, I’m a sucker for narrative tropes and structures. With The Dragons of Heaven, I played with the idea of a pulp adventure-style origin story. For the sequel, The Conclave of Shadow, I decided to write it using the structure of a caper story along the lines of Ocean’s Eleven or Escape from Alcatraz—the sorts of stories that depend on complex plans, many players, and many moving parts. Also, things going wrong, and the creative ways that the characters work around those roadblocks.
One of the worldbuilding elements I left (mostly) unexplored in the first book was the role of the Argent Aces in Missy’s world. These corporate-sponsored heroes act as a sort of private army and give the ambiguously motivated Argent Corporation much of their power. In Conclave, Missy reluctantly teams up with several Argent Aces (and drags a few of her old allies along for the ride) to investigate the theft of Argent technology by the Conclave of Shadow. But of course, there’s more going on than just simple theft, and everyone on the team has their own secrets and reasons for helping. Things get… interesting. Continue reading