GoneGod World by RE Vance finds mankind in something of a situation. All the gods and mystical creations have abandoned their posts, which is one thing, but now they’ve come to Earth…to stay. It’s the start of an exciting new urban fantasy series with a wicked sense of humour, and we were very excited to talk to the author about his inspirations, the importance of a sense of humour in fantasy, and the world of Paradise Lot.
How would pitch GoneGod World to a potential reader?
I guess I would start with the premise:
The gods are gone. All of them.
Their last message to humanity was, “Thank you for believing in us, but it is not enough. We’re leaving. Good luck.”
At first no one took them seriously. Until, that is, all the denizens of all the heavens and hells started showing up on people’s doorsteps. Creatures that were once thought of as myth are now refugees striving to adapt to life on Earth. Trouble is, after eons of living forever, they’re not very good at being mortal.
I’d then go on to explain that I wanted to see what would happen if I took a myriad of once-divine creatures, made them mortal, second-class citizens and part of a world of which they had little to no understanding.
Combine that with the desire to write a kick-ass urban fantasy series … and what more could you ask for?
How much fun was it to take all these creatures and characters from myths and folklore and throw them together?
It was intensely fun. To the point where I would be laughing to myself while plotting or writing at a café. I’m sure the other patrons thought I was losing my grip on reality, and in a way I was. The important thing for me though was making sure that I didn’t just focus on Judeo-Christian creatures or the ever famous Greek mythological beings; I tried to bring in creatures from many cultures, faiths, time periods and traditions. That requires a lot of research—I say research, but what I really mean is a lot of brain candy. I now know so much about the weirdest beings you can imagine. Some of them are so unbelievable that they’ll never make it into my books.
How did you go about creating a relatable character that would be situated at the centre of all of those otherworldly beings?
I needed to create a hero who is empathetic to Others (Paradise Lot’s catch-all term for mythological creatures), while at the same time fed up, wants out and is tired. This required creating a lot of backstory for him. He needed to have both internal and external reasons to stay (and leave).
As for making the secondary characters relatable … Many of them started by my wondering what kind of mythological creature some of the more colourful people in my life would be. From there the characters wrote themselves.
Did you find that the humour came about quite naturally to fit the story?
In a way, yes. I went to an international school in Bahrain and was exposed to many different cultures and religions. Often we’d have misunderstandings that led to comical outcomes. One example of this was when I accidentally ate a Filipino Egg called a Balut, which is essentially a hard-boiled egg with a nearly fully-formed chick—think of it as a prepackaged omelet. I remember biting into one and being disgusted. The hostess on the other hand was angry with me for wasting one of her prized eggs, which in her culture is a delicacy. I drew on those experiences—those clashes of culture, if you will—when bringing in the humour.
Throw in a drunken fallen angel, a succubus, a poltergeist for a mother-in-law and demigod of refuse—“CaCa”—and well, those situations write themselves.
But beyond humour, I also wanted to address some of the more serious elements of our world (the real world) and I used the otherworldly beings’ lack of understanding to highlight those parts of our world. Perhaps one of the most poignant moments is in a short story in Interludes (also out now) in which Aau—an Egyptian jackal-guard—is confused as to whether the father across the alleyway is being abusive to his son, or if it is normal for human dads to come home drunk and be aggressive toward their families. As soon as he understands that this isn’t acceptable, Aau decides to protect the child. That was a hard story to write, but I wanted to illustrate how, when seeing something horrible like that, simply doing nothing is still a choice (and, in my opinion, the wrong choice).
Had you always conceived it as a series as opposed to a one-off novel?
Absolutely a series. The story started with the characters: Penemue, the drunken fallen angel who is seeking redemption; Judith, the protagonist’s ghost of a mother-in-law; Astarte, succubus and probably the most well-adjusted Other to find mortality … and many more. Those characters are too big to be contained to one story and as soon as I realized that, I started planning the series.
As it stands now, the series will be nine books. Two are out, with the third one to be released in October of this year. I’m also releasing several short stories set in the Paradise Lot world because I wanted to give some of the secondary characters a chance to be in the spotlight.
Were there any particular inspirations for the Paradise Lot world?
My father emigrated from Egypt to Canada. Even though he had an engineering degree, he spent the first few years of his life in this new land fixing up old Volkswagens and working for a gas station company calculating gas volumes—work that was far beneath his skills. But he worked his way up and eventually opened his own engineering firm.
Fast forward 20 years later, and he’s married, had a kid (me) and eventually settled in Bahrain—a small island state in the Middle East—where I grew up as a welcomed outsider. I went to an international school filled with kids from all over the world, each with different cultures, traditions and backgrounds. We couldn’t have been more different from each other, except for one thing—none of us were from Bahrain. We were all outsiders, living together in this beautiful island state.
Fast forward another 30 years or so and I’m married, living in southern Turkey with my wife who (at the time) was working with Syrian refugees. It was in that small Turkish city that I met the best and worst people I’ve ever known—angels and demons, if you will. But no matter what kind of person they were, they were all suddenly—and often violently—evicted from their homes without warning, and with very little hope to ever return.
I guess it was those three experiences, coupled with the desire to write a fun and fast-paced urban fantasy story that led me to create Paradise Lot and the GoneGod world.
Do you remember your first encounter with genre fiction?
This will probably date me, but it was a movie called The Flight of Dragons. I must have been five or six when I first watched it and that set me on the path to love the fantasy genre. Since then, I have consumed everything I can get my hands on, from movies to playing ADnD to books to comics. I just can’t get enough, and I am very proud that I’m able to add to the genre in my own small way.
What advice would you give to a first-time author?
Write every day. Writing is like any skill … you can only improve with practice.