The following is an interview with author David R. Slayton regarding the release of the epic fantasy series, Dark Moon, Shallow Sea, through Blackstone Publishing. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Slayton about his creative process in bringing the story and characters to life, what he is most excited for readers to experience with this first book in the series, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the release of Dark Moon, Shallow Sea! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the series’ premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
David R. Slayton: Dark Moon, Shallow Sea is an epic fantasy set in a world slowly dying. The moon goddess’s murder darkened the night sky, stopped the tides, and left the ghosts of the dead without a path to the Underworld. Now they rise every night in a blood hungry mist called the Grief, threatening anyone who so much as scratches themselves. The problem worsens as more people pass away and fuel for light, whale oil, wood, etc. become more scarce.
Phoebe’s last worshipper, Raef, ekes out a living on the streets. When he learns that the knights of the sun god, who killed her, have hidden a box inside their temple he goes to steal it, hoping for a little payback, but instead he finds another man, Kinos, sleeping inside. Thinking that Kinos may be the key to bringing back the moon, Raef steals Kinos.
I love dark fantasy, especially when it has glimmers of light to add contrast. I wanted to write something in that vein and add everything I love about fantasy: dead gods, ghosts, ancient secrets, and pirates, because I love those, too.
BD: This first book in the series deftly combines dark and atmospheric fantasy with truly well-rounded and three-dimensional characters. What can you share with us about your creative process in bringing this world and characters to life on the page?
DRS: I always start with the main character so for this book, I started with Raef. From there I try to think of who they are and what problem they could have. In fantasy that is usually going to be world-based. The more I looked at Raef and what matters to him, the more I realized that the problem had to stem from his faith, how it could be broken and in turn break the world. The death of his goddess, and the sliver of hope he finds that might let her return, made a great driver for him and the plot.
Seth, the second point of view character, started out as a true villain, but the more I delved into his nature and how broken he is, the more I fell a bit in love with him. I found it a challenge to make him a powerful threat but also sympathetic. I hope readers fall in love with him too.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Raef and Seth’s story will connect with and impact readers?
DRS: I grew up in a time and place where finding characters like me, specifically gay people, was really hard. When we did show up, we died tragically, were villains, or died tragically. We were never the heroes and never the main character. I love fantasy so much but I just didn’t feel like there was a place for people like me in it. I tell the stories I do because stories matter. Representation matters. I want to help close that gap and write stories about gay characters who just happen to be, without the isms or phobias of our world. Dark Moon, Shallow Sea is a dream come true for me because while the world is broken and there is conflict, so much of what we face in our world doesn’t have a place there. I want to create worlds where everyone feels welcome and has a seat at the table and where their identity isn’t the source of the conflict.
BD: What makes Blackstone Publishing the perfect home for Dark Moon, Shallow Sea?
DRS: Blackstone has been a perfect partner for my work. They’re smaller, but growing, and collaborative. It’s really important to me that my books are accessible, so audiobooks are a must. Blackstone started as an audiobook publisher, so I knew I was in good hands there. They gave me a choice among a few auditions for my narrator on my first series with them, and I was lucky to get to work with Michael David Axtell, who co-narrated Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House. We won best of Audible 2022 for my third book, Deadbeat Druid, and I cannot wait to hear Michael’s take on Raef and Seth.
Blackstone is also doing a lot with film and TV lately, but one of the most important things that I love about them is that they print everything at the headquarters in Ashland, Oregon, using local labor. I got to visit and meet everyone a few years back and you really get that sense of a family, community-based business.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
DRS: We’re finishing edits for next year’s book, Rogue Community College. I love this one. It’s Doctor Who meets Umbrella Academy. Like my Adam Binder series, it’s urban fantasy, and a spin off from it. We’ll get to see some familiar faces and spend time with a new, wider cast. It’s out in 2024.
I’m also starting work on some new stuff, including 2025’s book, but I can’t talk about it much yet because the contract isn’t final.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Dark Moon, Shallow Sea and your other work?
DRS: I’m all over social media, but the easiest place to find me is my website: www.davidrslayton.com – just don’t forget the r! If you sign up for my newsletter there, you’ll get any news first.
Dark Moon, Shallow Sea is up for preorder everywhere in every format. It’s out on October 31, 2023, which really is the perfect date for this book.