Join me in Conversation with author, Diedra Drake.
Mary Anne: It is so good to see you on the blog, Diedra. Could you tell my readers a who you are and what kind of books you write?
Diedra: My name is Diedra Drake and I write mythic fiction. I’m working on a series called The Cursed Elves, a tale of Vikings, Elves, and Gods. I’ve published the first book in that series called Cursed by Furies, and I am currently working on the fourth book while edits are going on for the next ones.
I’m a huge fan of history and studied the classics formally in school, becoming fluent in Latin and learning a bit of Ancient Greek. That interest has continued throughout my life, and expanded into historical fiction, romance, both in books and film. I’m very fond of poetic rhythms, and some of my most re-read classics would be Homer’s Iliad, Dante’s Divine Comedy, and pretty much anything Shakespeare.
Mary Anne: What inspired you to write the Cursed Elves Series?
Diedra: I was inspired to write this series when I stumbled into a theoretical conversation with my daughter about the origins of Vampires. We’re not huge fans of the vague origin stories, nor do we like the whole supposedly dead/undead, so we started talking about how they could have originated.
I said that the whole sunlight thing seemed like a pretty intense curse, which reminded me of the Furies. Then we started talking about their abilities, general appearance, and so forth. I noticed there were a lot of things in common between the beautiful powerful Vampires so many people love… and Elves.
So that’s how it began.
Mary Anne: How did you come up with your setting, and your characters?
Diedra: Once I decided to start writing about the Elves, I just began writing. My writing method doesn’t involve planning at all. I’m a complete ‘pantser’ (fly by the seat of my pants) style writer. When I first began typing up the story I didn’t know who the main character was going to be, or what was going to happen or where. I just decided to begin.
I did want to go more into the present day to begin with, although other books in the series will split their time with different points in history. I think my setting being present day and starting with relatively familiar concepts, such as Vampires, Elves, Vikings, and Greco-Roman Gods, worked toward easing people in. There are a lot of characters in my story, a lot of history, family houses, sigils, and I think that naturally adds a layer of complexity to the story. I feel like if I had also set the first book in another time and started off with a lesser known mythology set, it might have been too much for readers. This way, they can ease in and get the basics of the world without getting too overwhelmed.
As a Texan, I was drawn toward setting a great deal of the series in my home state. A lot of things go on in Texas, Houston in particular during the first book, and I realize that’s not a strange thing for authors to do. Write what you know. Well, I know a lot about mythology and my family has lived in Texas for a dozen generations so it’s something I’m familiar with. However, my Vikings live in Sweden and there is a lot set there in future books. Some of the events in the first book take the characters to Greece, which is another ‘home base’ sort of location that is returned to throughout the series. A little bit different is that Humans aren’t really an important part of my story world. They’re rarely spoken to, the story isn’t about them at all, it’s about the other world living alongside them.
Mary Anne: There are many books in the historical fantasy genre. Can you tell us three things that set your novel apart?
Diedra: I think the first big difference with my books is that it’s considered mythic fiction, versus straight historical fantasy, because it’s built on top of actual Earth mythologies. So my stories refer to Gods and beings out of the Greco-Roman, Norse, Egyptian, Hindu, etc… mythological histories, rather than doing a re-telling or a completely different world filled with different mythologies. I try not to change anything in that existing mythology, it’s the baseline and accuracy to that is important to me, but I do weave some things in between it and occasionally fill in gaps where they exist.
Now since I’m writing in a time frame that is after the historical creation of these myths, I take license with how each of the members of those mythologies continue on into the present. For example, the God Hephaestus (aka: Vulcan / Sethlans) is an actual character in the first book, Cursed by Furies. His personality and relationships were frequently spoken about in mythology, so extrapolating how he would continue to exist into the modern day is fairly straight-foward.
I think another one of the differences for my series, even with comparison to other mythic fiction, is that I’m not limiting myself to Greco-Roman mythology. I’m starting with it because it’s largely the most familiar to my English-speaking audience. However, I almost immediately start expanding that into Norse mythology because the Norse actually have other-worldly realms named for Elves. I intend to continue expanding into other mythologies and cultures as I add books to the series. It will be a great opportunity to not only talk about lesser known myths and beings, but also to show where there is overlap in cultural mythos (such as the same God going by multiple names).
Finally, I think I’m doing something very unique in that I’m attempting to address some cultural differences that are frequently glossed over or entirely changed in some mythic and historical fantasy. Gods and creatures of other species are often written in such a way as to inherit our Human morality and social constructs. It’s very important to my story to show that my Elves are not Human, and that their societal and cultural differences are significant. For example, my Elves have very different relationship morality than Humans. They’re also more open physically, such as not being shy about their bodies and being more physically affectionate. Any classics student knows that the Gods and other mythical beings are historically depicted as having very different morals than Human’s, particularly in interpersonal relationships, so I do try to stay true to that - even knowing that is going to push some people out of a comfort zone.
Mary Anne: Last question! Can you tell us what you currently working on?
Diedra: Currently I am writing a book to squeeze in between books one and two. I originally put a two year gap between them, but I had some beta reader feedback that felt like that was too long. They wanted to know what happened after the end of the first book, how everyone dealt with the changes to their lives, and so forth. So I decided to push book 2 into book 3 and write a book talking about what happened during those two years. I’ve committed to keeping my promise to release the next book in time for Christmas this year.
The other two books, already complete, are named Well Deserved Wrath (book 3) and Memory of Betrayal (book 4). In Wrath, the Forester Elves encounter an old enemy from House Morales who greatly harmed them in the past. In Betrayal, there is some suspicion that dangers occuring may be coming from somewhere within the trusted circle of the Forester Elves and Eklund Vikings.
Each of the upcoming books contains a new God who is introduced into the story, and often other beings and creatures as well. Warlocks, banshee, merpeople, satyrs, berserkers, rock giants, valkyrie, and fawns are all part of the cast.
Cursed by Furies:
A Tale of Vikings, Elves and Gods (The Cursed Elves Book 1)
By Diedra Drake
1000 years ago the Elves nearly destroyed their species through war. As punishment, their ancestors cursed them and trapped them on the Earthly plane.
Priscilla Forester is a 500-year-old Cursed Elf, with abilities far different from most. She knows there is some secret about her origins, but has given up thinking she will ever discover the truth.
However, Fate was only waiting for the right moment to reveal its secrets. As Priscilla and her lovers battle against warring Elf Houses, her true nature begins to emerge, and it is more than anyone had bargained for.
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Diedra Drake is a life-long student of mythology and history, with a particular interest in the ways that different cultures tell the same stories using name variations. She is competent in classical Latin, and enjoys reading the classics – particularly Homer, Plutarch, and Shakespeare. For relaxation, Diedra loves to crack open a new historical romance novel or binge a new series on streaming.
After a couple of decades being a business owner in the technology industry, she decided to explore her other interests through the creation of a mythic fantasy romance world. She lives in Central Texas with her family, which includes a small cat colony and a couple of dogs, and tries to ensure she gets a daily serving of ice cream for continual inspiration.