Tomorrow, February 1st, sci-fi/fantasy author Sue Duff will be releasing Stack A Deck, the fourth installment of The Weir Chronicles series. In book four, Ian’s alliance with the rebels brings the wrath of the Pur army crashing down on them, but he is forced to abandon his new allies and travels to Earth’s alternate universe to rescue Rayne. As Ian combs the strange, desolate planet in search for her, he discovers the true story of the Weir and his connection to Earth’s imminent destruction. The bestselling author had to dive into the worst possible future for earth and ask some tough questions:
“What if the Earth’s ozone layer decayed?”
“What if asteroids weren’t destroyed by outer atmosphere and impacted us on a regular basis?”
“What if the Earth’s core slowed its rotation, leaving our planet completely out of sync with the gravitational pull of the moon?”
Sue took a moment to answer some of my own questions for Groovey.TV about Stack A Deck, her writing process, and the future of The Weir Chronicles.
GTV: When you started writing The Weir Chronicles, did you originally envision a five-part story, or did each installment reveal itself after you had finished writing the previous book?
SD: About four years ago, I got an idea for a story, what I thought was a short story, and sat down to type it out. It just kept growing and expanding into a lengthy novel. By the time I neared the end of my first draft, I realized that this huge, expanded story had taken hold. At that point, I knew what had to happen in future novels to adequately tell the entire story, and as I plotted it out in my head, an additional four books took shape.
GTV: How did you decide on the title for a Stack A Deck?
SD: My protagonist is a young man born into a magical race of beings. Prophesized to inherit their combined powers and save the Earth of self-destruction, he soon discovers that he hasn’t inherited anything. He’s deeply affected by what he can’t do (magic) and he abandons his people to live among humans, and eventually becomes an illusionist, learning to do what he couldn’t do naturally. All of the titles in the series have ties to the world of magic and illusions. FADE TO BLACK is book one, MASKS AND MIRRORS (a play on smoke and mirrors) is book two. SLEIGHT OF HAND is the third book, and STACK A DECK is the fourth. The fifth, and last book in the series, will be out winter 2018, and that one will be titled DIM THE LIGHTS.
GTV: In Stack A Deck, Earth’s alternate universe, Thrae, is slowly dying. You touch on the destruction that could result if there were changes to the Earth’s atmosphere, rotation, etc. What kind of research went into writing Stack A Deck? What references did you use?
SD: Oh wow, where do I begin! I have an honest love of earth and space sciences, so much of what I originally drew upon came from taking high school and college courses. I also subscribe to a few online science and nature magazines. I’m often found watching nature and science shows on cable channels and that’s where I get a lot of great ideas! At the first Denver Comic Con where I was one of their featured authors, I sat on a panel with NASA scientists! I grabbed the opportunity to ask them about some of the theories I was planning on using in the fourth and fifth books. I was thrilled to find out that my ideas had scientific merit!
GTV: You’ve mentioned that one aspect of writing that you enjoy is creating characters within a world that you can control. The main characters in The Weir Chronicles are in their early to mid-twenties. Did you choose this particular age as a way to vicariously relive your journey into adulthood through the characters you developed?
SD: LOL! No, to be honest, my son was struggling his senior year in high school at the same time I sat down to write the first novel in the series. I probably channeled much of his, and my angst into the protagonist, Ian. Ian didn’t turn out the way the elders expected him to. How many parents struggle with the same frustration? I wanted Ian to find his own niche in both the world of the Weir, and among humans, and then hone what his strengths were, even when those weren’t what his guardians hoped them to be. I believe it would benefit most parents to do the same.
GTV: How does your work as a speech therapist influence your sci-fi/fantasy writing?
SD: I help young students learn to communicate more effectively, and intelligibly. I’m not sure if that influences my writing as much as supporting their writing skills in general. I’m about to help teach a creative writing class at my school, where students between third grade up to high school will attend. I’m super excited about it, and expect to learn as much from them as they hopefully will from me!
GTV: Are any of the characters in The Weir Chronicles loosely based on people you know? Do these people know that their traits have been passed down to your characters? How do they react to their characters?
SD: I can’t answer that because it might incriminate me (wink). Most of my characters have a piece of me, more than based on others I know. Milo is happiest in the kitchen, and anyone who knows me would say the same thing! Patrick has my humor and I give him the best lines. Mara and Tara share the connection that I have with my five sisters. Rayne is the young woman I’d like to think that I was growing up, vulnerable but with a good heart. Jaered is the streetwise-risk taker-bad boy that I love in any story. Even my antagonists have my dark side that only emerges in my imagination!
GTV: The names you’ve chosen for your male characters imply meanings of inheritance and descendance [Ian = God’s gift; Patrick = Noble; Jaered = One who rules/Descended] and the names of the female characters imply strength and purity [Gwynn = white, holy; Rayne = Queen; Tara = Where the kings met]. How did you choose the names of your characters?
SD: I’ve always loved the name Ian and believed that it would be a great hero’s name. Also, he was prophesized to be the gift to the Weir, albeit he didn’t turn out that way. Patrick has a “proper” quality and given his background, I thought it fitting. He also has a Noble quality about him, wanting to do what’s right, even when the odds are against him. Jaered is my take-charge guy, and given that he’s Ian’s counterpart from Thrae, he is a ruler in his own right. To be honest, Rayne’s name came from something “natural” (my variation on the word rain) and because she’s not only a weapon, but she also keeps the tension high between Ian and Jaered. Tara’s name came from Gone With The Wind (Scarlett O’Hara’s plantation was called Tara) and it means “green earth.” Gwynn was just a favorite female name.
GTV: How do you process putting to rest characters and storylines you have spent years developing and revealing to your readers once a book or series is completed?
SD: That’s a great question! I have no idea since I’m not quite there yet, but I can honestly admit that I am already feeling the loss, and I haven’t written the last book yet. A big part will depend on the fans. If they’re not ready for the series to die, I do have some tangent storyline ideas that I can develop to keep a few of the characters going after the final scene!
GTV: Do you ever regret killing off any of your characters? Do you feel a sense of loss yourself, knowing that you can no longer develop that character’s personality and storyline?
SD: Yes, absolutely! I killed off one of my favorite characters in book one and book two! I still miss them, but can deal with that through the characters still feeling their loss even this far into the series, much like I do. I don’t regret killing anyone off, though. I believe that I keep my readers on the edge of their seats because I’m willing to make those tough choices. It keeps the tension alive and the readers truly feel fear for the characters put in harm’s way because they know I’ve done it before.
GTV: 2018 will mark the last installment of The Weir Chronicles. Will this be the last your fans will ever hear from these characters, or do you have other stories to share separate from the Chronicles?
SD: As I mentioned in question #8, there are a couple of different tangents I can develop to keep a few characters going. I’m not a big fan of prequels, though. If you didn’t start your story there, it’s not a key element to the overall story, in my opinion. That said, some fans are curious about the first time Ian and Patrick met, or how Jaered grew up on Thrae. Enough interest and I could be coaxed into writing some novelettes to quench their thirst for more background.
I have a very exciting concept for a new book series that will motivate me to move onto the next project after The Weir Chronicles. I’m never short on ideas ☺
GTV: Many dictionaries will create fictitious entries to brand the intellectual property of their publications [e.g. esquivalience]. If you were responsible for creating this entry for a dictionary publisher, what word would you create and how would you define it?
SD: I’m not as adept at creating fictitious words as some friends of mine. The closest I came in my series was Syndrion. I define it as a gathering of leaders toward a common purpose. I do like snarkalicious. Honest criticism, and get away with it. ☺