H. A. Titus
Title of book and/or series:
Forged Steel, Book 1 of the Crucible Series
Brief summary of the story:
Downtown. Coffee shop. 2 AM.
One minute, Josh is firing off sarcastic remarks at his best friend Marc – the next, they’re running from shape-shifters. Apparently, even best friends don’t share all their secrets.
Now Josh is in danger. He can see the monsters among the humans.
When Marc is kidnapped, Josh finds himself pulled into the schemes of the fae courts, and throws in his lot with Marc’s allies: the lovely Larae, a human named David, and the fighter, Eliaster. But what began as a rescue mission becomes something much more involved…
And all Josh wants to do is get out before it’s too late.
Brief description of the world or location you created for this story:
Much of the story takes place in our world, as it is urban fantasy. However, the fae have in many locations established underground cities collectively known as the Underworld. An Underworld city is usually established underneath an existing human city, in a cavern hidden by fae glamour to human eyes and instruments. There are hidden Overworld entrances in various locations–in Forged Steel, those locations would be a breakwall on Lake Michigan (for the Chicago Underworld), and the lowest level of a parking garage (in Springfield, Missouri). Each Underworld city is comprised of residential areas ringing a central business area known as the Market. At the outskirts of the cavern, there are usually several mansions or nicer homes where the elite rich fae live.
If we were to visit The Underworld as tourists, what would you recommend that we see or do there?
The Market would be a must-see. Weapons shops with swords and daggers, booths where you can get traditional Celtic food, weird little shops that are a mix of restaurant, bar, and personal goods store, fae glamour potions–it’s all there. It’s kind of a mix of a human carnival and a medieval festival.
What dangers should we avoid in The Underworld?
Don’t go down any streets that look deserted, or where there are only a few people. Stick to crowds and don’t wander off. Also, if you see any fae with any sort of raven tattoo, run. They’re most likely a member of the Lucht Leanuna, who want to bring their evil king Fear Doricht into our world, and they do not like humans in the least.
Is there a distinct or unusual type of food or meal that we might be served in The Underworld?
Irish Boxties are griddle cakes made of ptotatoes, milk, flour, and seasonings. Cranachan is an oatmeal pudding with raspberries and cream–it’s traditionally washed down with really strong whiskey, but there are a few places that also serve it with homemade cream soda. Another popular dessert are sandbakkels, which are Norwegian cookies with lots of butter and sugar.
Fae are also, strangely, really fond of hot curry. You can find it everywhere, with any sort of meat you want.
Basically, don’t expect to find any diet food. Fae really don’t understand that human obsession.
What types of weaponry or fighting styles are common in The Underworld?
Swords are preferred, though most fae carry a gun or two as backup. A popular type of sword is called a glamour sword, which is any kind of sword infused with fae glamour to keep humans from noticing the weapons quite as much. Since fae have short tempers and are volatile, a lot of them also know at least some hand to hand combat, and a lot of the fae warriors are basically glorified street brawlers.
What types of vehicles, animals, technology, etc. are used to travel in or to The Underworld?
As it’s underground, there aren’t a ton of vehicles in the Underworld. Mostly mopeds and dirtbikes/motorcycles. A few fae who do a lot of things aboveground have regular vehicles, and you’ll see a lot of the richer fae with muscle cars, supercars, and flashy, high end vehicles. Fae like to show off.
What types of plants, animals, or sentient races might we encounter in The Underworld that we don’t see on Earth?
There are all sorts of sidhé (which is pronounced shee) other than fae. Trolls are common, as well as goblins and cat-sidhé (goblins with mangy fur, claws, and pointed ears). Other monsters include the bean sidhé (what Americans know as the banshee), the sluagh, (pronounced sloo-ah, rumored to suck out people’s souls), the faoladh (benevolent werewolves who are known as protectors, especially of the elderly and of children), and the droch fhola (pronounced drok-o-la [yes, as in Dracula], which is theorized to be the actual basis for the Irish Bram Stoker’s novel, rather than the legends of Vlad the Impaler.) That’s a sampling. There are many creepy, deadly monsters in the lives of the fae, though thankfully they seem to be pretty scarce in modern day.
What role, if any, does magic or the supernatural play in the lives of people in The Underworld? If there is magic, please give some examples of what it involves or how it’s used.
Fae, and most other types of sidhé, have a natural “magic” called glamour. They use it to alter their appearance, most often to appear human, though they can also use it to appear younger, older, or disappear altogether. Some glamour also gives fae other abilities, though this is rare. All fae posses glamour, as well as very few half-fae.
Another type of magic, blood magic, is employed by Fear Doirich’s followers. This is regarded solely as evil and unnatural, as the practitioners use it to harm others, and occasionally, bind demons and monsters.
Some fae follow Druidic practices, though they’re pretty secretive about their beliefs and rituals.
Many fae believe in God, whom they call “the Almighty”, and they certainly believe in angels and demons, though stories of supernatural involvement come from long ago and most believe they’ve been embellished in the telling.
Is there any advanced or unusual technology in The Underworld? If you haven’t described it already, please give some examples.
Fae generally aren’t very good with technology, so that tends to be pretty limited. Some fae have basic cell phones and computers, but other than that, they tend to steer clear of it.
Tell us about any sports, games, or activities that are available for entertainment in The Underworld.
Well, there’s always hand-to-hand combat events, and sword matches. Some fae treat these with the same enthusiasm that wrestling meets in the Overworld. Fae also enjoy darts, rounders (similar to cricket), and soccer.
Are the days of the week and months of the year the same in The Underworld as on Earth? What holidays or special events are celebrated regularly there?
The four mid-season holidays are important to fae, as it was then that their original world Tir Ni-all was said to be the most easily accessed by those on earth. Rather than Halloween, fae celebrate All Souls Day on November 2, when they remember and honor their ancestors, especially those who fell in battle. They also celebrate Yule (Christmas).
Is there a particular religion practiced in the Underworld? Please describe what it involves.
Typically, religious fae fall under three categories–Christian, Druidic, and the Lucht, who follow Doiricht as if he is a god.
What is the political or government structure in The Underworld? Who is in charge there at the moment, and what kind of leader is he/she?
Fae politics are pretty fragmented. Fae are typically split into two courts, Seelie and Unseelie, and each Underworld city has a Highlord from each court. Underneath him, there might be various counselors and lords who have separate tasks (such as acting as a liaison between the Highlord and the local faoladh pack), but it depends on the size of the city.
Are there any other unique cultural practices that we should be aware of if we visit The Underworld?
Fae are extremely respectful of their dead and cremate the remains rather than allowing them to rot in the earth. They also tend to look down on humans, especially humans who do not adapt to the culture.
Has anything in your actual life inspired the locations, cultures, etc. in your book?
I grew up in Springfield, Missouri, where the first book partially takes place. Eventually, in The Crucible series, the characters move up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where I currently live. I have plans to use a lot of places up here, because it’s such a unique area that has a lot of potential for fae wars and intrigue…not to mention a few abandoned open-pit copper ore mines that will make perfect dumping grounds for bodies. *evil grin*
What, if any, “hot-button” or controversial topics do you touch on in your book?
I didn’t deliberately set out to write about anything controversial. I just wanted to tell a good story. But some folks have found it controversial with how my characters never really rise above their ‘flawed hero’ status. At the end of Forged Steel, I leave the two MCs with some unresolved issues that I plan on bringing up in the rest of the series. Certainly things will get better for them, a lot better in some certain cases, but I don’t ever really plan on them becoming “perfect” or fully putting their problems to rest, because I don’t see that as something that’s realistic. In my own personal life, I may be able to put some of my issues to rest for a time, but inevitably, they will rear their ugly heads again, and I think that’s normal, because we’re flawed human beings.
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