Erin Casey’s debut novel, The Purple Door District, is an assured entry into the urban fantasy realm. The novel features a variety of parahuman species—including the intriguing avians, Casey’s own creation—struggling to be accepted and to accept one another. The book follows in the tradition of other literary works (The X-Men and the Charlaine Harris True Blood novels, for example) that use fantastic differences among characters as a metaphor for exploring difference and understanding among run-of-the-mill humans. The second book in the series, Wolf Pit, was released in December 2019.
Casey is the Communications and Student Relationships Manager at the Iowa Writers’ House in Iowa City and one of two directors of the Writers’ Rooms organization devoted to creating safe, inclusive spaces for writers. In this e-interview, she discusses the origin of the avians as well as her decision to self-publish.
Rob Cline: My understanding is that The Purple Door District books are an offshoot of a larger, collaborative project with another author. How does that relate to your two books?
Erin Casey: The main collaborative project is multigenerational and referred to as Fates and Furies. It started out as a role-playing game between us and exploded into its own world that we’ve steadily developed over the past 10 years. I’d say we have at least seven books planned (my co-writer AE Kellar says it’s more), and the very first one starts with a love story. The Purple Door District and Wolf Pit are set in the same world as Fates and Furies. There is a crossover of a couple of characters, though you won’t meet them until a few books into Fates and Furies. So my novels are set in the future of the first Fates and Furies, but eventually their timelines will merge. . . . We’re hoping to release it sometime in 2021.
As for AE Kellar, she’s my partner in crime. She thrives in harassing me at odd hours with world-building ideas and storylines. In Fates and Furies you’ll see there’s even more to the world than just the Purple Door District and one of those places is really her baby. AE isn’t published, but she has a short story called “Remember Nevada” she’d like to see in print if she can ever work up the nerve to release it. She’s a perfectionist—we tell each other to calm down and chill a lot. She’s also my lifeline and an incredible friend, and I couldn’t do this without her.
What was the inspiration for your avian characters?
You’re going to laugh, but part of the reason I created a werebird is because I have seven birds at home. I also used to work at a raptor rescue center where I learned how to treat injured owls, hawks, kestrels, eagles, falcons, and the one duck that bit me in the face. I’m a bird lover, so I wanted to have a character with wings.
Kellar and I have worked on our avian culture for a long time and originally developed them around Christian origins (though our avians have existed for much longer than that and have some ties to the Egyptian God Horus). You’ll notice that their group name is called a Cloister, a term typically associated with the covered walkways of monasteries or cathedrals. One of their forms is a winged human, so sometimes if caught they were mistaken for angels instead of demons, so they weren’t hunted as much as say vampires or werewolves. Centuries later, the term Cloister just kind of stuck, even though each person has their own beliefs.
The Purple Door District is a story about coexisting and caring across difference. Why are those issues at the forefront of your work and what do you hope readers will take away from these stories?
With the state of our world, I wanted to write about a place where you could be accepted and help each other no matter your differences. There’s so much racism and hatred towards “the other” or people who don’t “belong” in this country, especially right now, so I wanted to combat that with my writing. My hope is that many kinds of people can read this book and see themselves in the characters. I want them to feel included and part of the District. That’s why when I sign the first book, I always write, “Welcome to the District” because, really, we’re all part of a community. . . .
I hope, too, that people might treat each other just a little bit better if they can see what a community can do together. We see enough hatred and bigotry on the news. A little act of kindness can go a long way in a person’s life.
Tell me about your decision to go the indie route with your books.
Kellar and I decided that we wanted to go the indie route so we’d have more freedom to work with our books and our marketing strategies. I actually like it a lot, because I’m in control of everything. I make my own deadlines for writing and editing, I design my marketing plans, set up my signings, etc. It helps me feel pretty accomplished and knowledgeable in multiple areas.
At the same time, it can be daunting. Marketing is honestly a full-time job, and since I already work a full-time job plus lead organizations and write, I can’t devote as many hours to marketing as I’d like. . . .
I’m also working on going the traditional route with a YA LGBT dragon book. I’ve been querying it for about a year and received a lot of rejections, but most of the responses have been positive, so that lifts my spirits. In the end, I’d like to be a hybrid author.
What are you working on now?
Too many things! I’m planning to revise my YA LGBT dragon book and query it again, as well as participate in #pitmad and #pitchwars on Twitter. I’m outlining book three in The Purple Door District series and working on Fates and Furies with Kellar. At the same time, I’d like to write more short stories to send in to anthologies, and also keep updating my Patreon with new chapters and stories from the world of the District.
What’s the best writing advice you can give to new authors?
Don’t compare your Chapter 2 to another’s Chapter 15. Everyone is on their own personal chapter in their writing journey, and you shouldn’t compare yourself to other writers when it comes to how much you’ve written or done. It can only lead to self-doubt. Write to your pace and enjoy the journey. And don’t forget, in the writing community, you’re never alone.
Find Erin Casey’s books on Amazon, or visit ErinCasey.org.