Kira Brady’s studies in urban planning and historic preservation helped her create a fantastical alternate Seattle in Hearts of Darkness, the first in a paranormal romance trilogy.
A trilogy is a major undertaking, especially for a first-time author. Why go that route?
I knew I wanted to break the world and put it back together. That’s too big for a single novel, but it fits perfectly into three: one to rend the world, one to catch the broken pieces, and one to fuse them into a new, more beautiful whole. There is something infinitely creative in the process of destruction, and Tiamat, the Babylonian goddess of Chaos, personifies this dual nature. She both birthed all creation and attempted to destroy it. I wanted to explore this contrast and have the space to tell the tale that in the greatest darkness, love is our greatest hope.
How did your graduate studies influence the world you’ve created?
I fell in love with the city as its own immortal character. The built environment is a powerful but often unnoticed actor that shapes our daily routines, assumptions, and beliefs about the world and our place in it. I’m fascinated by the way past prejudices, obsolete technologies, and long-dead politicians continue to change our perception of the present. Studying historic preservation also introduced me to the ghosts that haunt landmark buildings like Pike Place Market and the Butterworth Mortuary. As an undergraduate in Philadelphia, I witnessed terrible blight shoulder-to-shoulder with million-dollar mansions. The effect was brutal, but people become immune to it. Those impressions, combined with the ghost stories of Seattle, forged the Deadglass version of my beloved native city.
Where did the paranormal events come in?
Two famous sayings are attributed to Chief Seattle: “These shores will swarm with the invisible Dead of my Tribe,” and “There is no death, only a Change of Worlds.” Reading that, I immediately imagined a gate to Hell in Seattle bursting at the seams and ghosts slipping through the cracks. Inspired by scandalous stories about the city’s founding, I envisioned an alternate Seattle with the same Wild West attitude of the pioneers, and supernatural explanations for real events. My alternate Seattle overlaps the past with the present. The influx of ghosts wreaks havoc with modern technology. It’s this overlap of history and modernity that fascinates me. Maybe the specters of the past still influence our supposedly logical, scientific world, and we are just too blind by our rejection of the supernatural to see it. The Deadglass is all about peeling off one’s blinders to the truth of what is standing right in front of us, be that deceit and betrayal, the spirit realm, or true love.
What led you to weave in Norse, Babylonian, and Native American mythology?
Growing up in Seattle, I’ve always been surrounded by stories from Pacific Coast Native American and Scandinavian cultures. Scandinavians settled much of Seattle and were major players in building the city. Thunderbirds live on top of Mount Rainier, our dominant landscape feature and impending volcanic disaster. When I started researching more about them, I found a brief mention that the Sioux believed that thunderbirds destroyed dangerous reptilian monsters called the Unktehila. I immediately thought “Dragons!” and started researching dragon mythology from other cultures. Dragon legends are found in almost every corner of the globe, including Scandinavia, and the oldest is about Tiamat, the Babylonian goddess of Chaos. She birthed the monsters of the world, including dragons, and is personified by a dragon. In the Deadglass world, the Scandinavian power brokers who built the city are really megalomaniac, soulless dragon-shifters. I love the idea that dragons have existed around the world in every time and every culture and are still here living beside us.
What led you to write paranormals as opposed to another category of romance?
I’ve always loved fantasy. My favorite novels growing up were Dealing with Dragons, Watership Down, The Last Unicorn, Sabriel, and The Golden Compass. What are paranormal romance novels if not Disney movies for grown-ups? Writing fantasy allows me complete freedom to build the world as I please, mixing magic and mayhem and mythology. Anything is possible as long as I follow the rules I’ve set up. I simply can’t resist that lure of ultimate power. And writing paranormal romance lets me explore the idea that there is still magic in the world, and the most powerful force of it is love.