The Midnight Sea by Kat Ross
(Fourth Element #1)
Publication date: May 10th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
They are the light against the darkness.
The steel against the necromancy of the Druj.
And they use demons to hunt demons….
Nazafareen lives for revenge. A girl of the isolated Four-Legs Clan, all she knows about the King’s elite Water Dogs is that they bind wicked creatures called daevas to protect the empire from the Undead. But when scouts arrive to recruit young people with the gift, she leaps at the chance to join their ranks. To hunt the monsters that killed her sister.
Scarred by grief, she’s willing to pay any price, even if it requires linking with a daeva named Darius. Human in body, he’s possessed of a terrifying power, one that Nazafareen controls. But the golden cuffs that join them have an unwanted side effect. Each experiences the other’s emotions, and human and daeva start to grow dangerously close.
As they pursue a deadly foe across the arid waste of the Great Salt Plain to the glittering capital of Persepolae, unearthing the secrets of Darius’s past along the way, Nazafareen is forced to question his slavery—and her own loyalty to the empire. But with an ancient evil stirring in the north, and a young conqueror sweeping in from the west, the fate of an entire civilization may be at stake…
Interview with Kat Ross
So where did the idea for the Fourth Element series come from? And why ancient Persia?
Well, I really wanted to write a fantasy, and I wanted to have supernatural creatures that no one had seen before. Delving into mythology is a great way to spark ideas, and that’s where I learned about daevas. They’re the demons of Zoroastrianism, a religion founded some 3,500 years ago and that’s still practiced today (Freddie Mercury is one of its most famous followers). I thought it would be interesting a tell a story that flipped this moral judgment on its head and asked, what if they were actually good? What if the whole demon thing was a justification for their enslavement by human priests? So I gave them some cool magical powers and threw in a healthy dash of sword-fighting and forbidden love, and The Midnight Sea was born.
What’s your writing process like?
I’m not especially fast, and I can be really hard on myself for having a relatively paltry wordcount at the end of several hours’ hard labor. Rachel Aaron Bach is my hero in this respect, and she has a great book out called 2,000 to 10,000 that I highly recommend. That said, I do write every day, and I write in the mornings before anything else because it’s the most important thing to me and I’ll be cranky if I get sucked into other things and end up blowing off my manuscript. But even if I only turn out a thousand words, it adds up pretty quickly! Honestly, I think you can do it any way you like, the main thing is to not worry too much about what others think and to keep believing in yourself, because if you don’t, no one else will.
I’m also a heavy-duty plotter and outliner, which means that my final draft is generally pretty clean. Most of the editing tends to be adding quieter scenes where the characters reveal themselves in more subtle ways, since the full-tilt action bits come quickly to me.
Any tips on how to vanquish writer’s block?
There’s usually a reason why I’ve lost my enthusiasm for a project. Sometimes it’s a very real problem in the story that a nagging little voice in my head is already aware of and that I need to listen to. If I’m bored, the reader will definitely be bored. So I work on identifying the problem. I take long walks, I scribble out flow charts, I consult wise people like Beth Revis, whose Paper Hearts is just awesome for plotting and structure. What worked for me recently on another project was to write a new, one-page summary. I realized there just wasn’t enough suspense building toward the final third. The fix required some work, but it was completely worth it in the end.
And sometimes you try all that and it doesn’t work because there isn’t a real problem: the storyline is brilliant, the characters are loveable/hateable, the prose is exquisite. Your head just isn’t in the game for whatever reason. If so, sit down and write as often as you can anyway. Otherwise, the not-in-the-mood excuse will get too comfortable and you won’t ever finish anything.
Finally, whether you are working on a self-imposed deadline or one set by an editor, take a breath and remind yourself that this is a first draft. You can—and will—go back later and polish, adding scenes, deleting others, and generally reworking the whole thing. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be the best thing you’ve ever written, and in fact you wouldn’t want it to be, because that means it’s all downhill from here, right?
What are you reading right now?
Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan, The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey, and A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. I keep a pile next to my bed and graze depending on my mood. It’s probably a terrible habit, but I can’t seem to break it.
Do you write in more than one genre?
Yes! I think because I’ve always read pretty widely in more than one genre (mainly fantasy and mysteries of all stripes, with a side of sci-fi and thrillers), it’s natural for me to try my hand at writing different kinds of stories.
My first book was a YA dystopian thriller, this series is solid fantasy, and I have another Sherlockian mystery series in the works that’s set in the Victorian era. The first book, The Daemoniac, is available for free right now in serialized form on the Radish app for iPhone (and Android later this month), and I’m planning to publish it this year once I get a breather from working on the Fourth Element series.
So where is the series headed?
I have two more books planned to conclude this story arc (there’s still an evil queen to contend with, among other things), so the first set will be a trilogy. Then the idea is to jump forward a couple thousand years, although probably not all the way to the modern era. After spending so much time immersed in Victoriana for The Daemoniac, I would love to return to that period. Daevas and their bonded live a very, very long time, so I don’t have to say goodbye to my most beloved (and despised) characters from The Midnight Sea. I looked it up and there is a mash-up called gaslight fantasy (adore that!), which sounds just my speed. (:
My eyes flew open at the crack of dawn. I groaned and rubbed my forehead. My scalp tingled, an icy, unpleasant sensation. I knew right away where Darius was and what he was doing. It was another side effect of the bond, I’d discovered. I could feel his heart beating. I knew that one of his boots was too tight. I could shut my eyes and tell you exactly where he was, even if he was hundreds of leagues away.
Why had no one told me what it would be like? I supposed Tijah did, but this was much worse than I’d expected. Much, much worse.
I threw on my new scarlet tunic and marched down to the river. Tendrils of mist swirled through the dead reeds at the edge. It was late autumn and the air had a dank chill that promised snow.
My daēva stood there, stripped to the waist, pouring water over his head with his right hand. He wore a gold faravahar on a chain around his neck, its eagle wings spread wide. His left arm lay at his side, grey and dead. I stared at his shoulder, at the juncture where smooth skin met rough. His Druj curse.
It slowed me for a moment, seeing that pathetic arm, but I wasn’t yet ready to forgive him for waking me. That was my excuse, anyway. Of course, what really angered me was the terrible realization that I was burdened with a sorrow not my own, but that bled me nonetheless. What really angered me was him—everything about him.
He was calmer this morning, but I wasn’t. I stopped about twenty feet away. He didn’t turn around although he knew I was there.
“It’s nice that you’re so pious,” I said. “But don’t you think it’s a little early to be down here performing the morning rites?”
He paused, then dumped the last of the water from the bowl. I felt the cold trickle down my spine and my lips tightened.
“I was taught by the magi to come at first light,” Darius said. “Did you expect to sleep in? I’m afraid that’s not the way it works for Water Dogs.” He smiled, and we both knew it was fake. “I’m sorry if I’ve offended you in some way.”
I stared at him, at the dark hair plastered across his forehead, his stubborn mouth. He looked so human. And yet there was something in the way Darius held himself, perfectly at ease in his own skin. Still but coiled, like the wolves I’d seen in the mountains.
“You haven’t offended me in the least,” I said. “I suppose you need the blessing more than I do.”
I spun on my heel and walked away, knowing I had wounded him. A small stab to my own heart. And I felt slightly ashamed. But that wasn’t the end of it. Then I felt his satisfaction at my shame. And my own anger that he knew and was glad.
And then his amusement at my anger!
I stalked off, determined to think nothing, to feel nothing, ever again.
If only it were that easy.
Kat Ross worked as a journalist at the United Nations for ten years before happily falling back into what she likes best: making stuff up. She lives in Westchester with her kid and a few sleepy cats. Kat is also the author of the dystopian thriller Some Fine Day (Skyscape, 2014), about a world where the sea levels have risen sixty meters. She loves magic, monsters and doomsday scenarios. Preferably with mutants.