T.A. Pratt's Poison Sleep Might Just Infiltrate Your Dreams
T.A. Pratt's Marla Mason urban fantasies, Blood Engines and now Poison Sleep, relate the adventures of a "smart, saucy, slightly wicked witch of the East Coast" who combats murderous hummingbirds, weird frogs, and all kinds of human enemies in these lively, imaginative supernatural thrillers with elements of humor and whimsy. I talked to Pratt recently via email about this evolving series...
Amazon.com: You have tentacles of fungus in your latest book--and that's the first page I flipped to, oddly enough, given my fascination with both squid and mushrooms.
Pratt: There's even more fungus in the fourth book--a whole sorcerer dedicated to things fungal, who worships the giant honey mushroom colony in eastern Oregon as a god...
Amazon.com: Okay, now you're just pandering! However, if you had to pitch your book to Hollywood in two sentences, what would you say?
Pratt: "Ass-kicking sorceress fights plague of nightmares. She also gets laid." Speaking of Hollywood, a company called Phoenix Pictures optioned the series a few months ago, and, without getting into specifics, it looks like cool stuff might potentially be happening, barring the usual sorts of distractions and derailments. Though, this being Hollywood, it'll be a while before anything definitively materializes--or definitively dissolves in a puff of vapor. I try to cultivate an air of detached optimism...
Amazon.com: What does the title, "Poison Sleep" refer to?
Pratt: There's a character in the book named Genevieve Kelley--I hate to call her the "antagonist" since she's more a catalyst for the bad things that happen--who suffered a pretty traumatic experience about fifteen years ago. In the aftermath of her attack, she went catatonic. Which wouldn't be so bad...but she happens to be a powerful psychic, and her nightmares have a way of bleeding over into reality, with disastrous results. As the novel begins, she's just rather inadvertently escaped from a hospital for criminally insane sorcerers called the Blackwing Institute (sort of my homage to Arkham Asylum and other such fictional places). Now she's wandering around loose, transitioning between this world and her own dream world, and her nightmares are increasingly potent...and sentient. My main character, Marla Mason, is chief sorcerer in the city of Felport (sort of a rust-belt place that's seen better days), a kind of secret ruler in charge of protecting the city from supernatural menace, and keeping the ordinary citizens from discovering the monsters in their midst. She has to stop Genevieve's nightmares from destroying the city, preferably without killing Genevieve in the process (though she's open to that as a possibility of last resort). To answer your actual question, Genevieve's sleep is literally poisonous, and the title comes from the Shelley poem "Mutability": "A dream has power to poison sleep."
Amazon.com: You have what sounds like a "slow assassin" in your novel. In what sense of "slow"?
Pratt: Ah, the slow assassins. Basically, in the world of my novel, there's a group of incredibly skilled, very expensive, highly trained hired killers who specialize in mixing psychological torment with murder. You can hire a slow assassin for contracts that last from a few months, to a few years, to decades. They'll stalk a target of your choice for the assigned duration, first introducing themselves and letting the target know he's marked... but without letting him know how much time he has left to live. The idea is to destroy the target's ability to rest, make them look over their shoulder for the rest of their life, etc. And then eventually bump them off. (Obviously it's a small coterie of killers, servicing a very sadistic and wealthy niche clientele.)
Amazon.com: Any particular reader response you've enjoyed?
Pratt: Most people seem to think this book is better than Blood Engines, the first in the series, which is incredibly gratifying to hear--one always worries about a sophomore slump in a series like this. I mean, I think Poison Sleep is better, but what do I know? People also seem to appreciate the fact that the books are standalones, with a plot in each book that actually resolves. Readers who like my protagonist more because she's a teeny bit sociopathic and callous also please me.
Amazon.com: Any influences on these books the readers of the series might be surprised by?
Pratt: They might be more surprised by what my influences aren't--I actually didn't read much "urban fantasy" at all before writing these books. Though after people like Kim Harrison and Kelley Armstrong and C.E. Murphy started giving me blurbs, I did go and read their books. I've never read Laurell Hamilton's Anita Blake novels (though I have the first one on a shelf somewhere, waiting), or Jim Butcher's Dresden Files novels...I didn't set out to write in a hot subgenre, though it was a happy accident. I was just writing contemporary fantasy, like I always do, mostly influenced by Stephen King, Clive Barker, Charles de Lint, and Jonathan Carroll. They were the ones I read at 10 or 12 years old, who really formed the DNA of my writing.