Thursday, June 7, 2012

Archon by Sabrina Benulis: The Interview

Angela Mathers is plagued by visions of angels, supernatural creatures who haunt her thoughts by day and seduce her dreams by night. Newly released from a mental institution where she was locked away for two years, she hopes that her time at the Vatican’s university, the West Wood Academy, will give her a chance at a normal life. Unlike ordinary humans, Angela is a blood head — a freak, a monster, the possible fulfillment of a terrifying prophecy of overwhelming death and destruction. Only in Luz, the Vatican’s wondrous enclave, are blood heads accepted and encouraged to discover what kind of powers or special abilities they might possess.

But within West Wood, a secret coven plots, and demons and angels roam the streets searching for the key to open Raziel’s book — a secret tome from a lost archangel. Some are determined to destroy Raziel, while others, like the beautiful Supernal Israfel, one of the highest of the high, wish to free him. And when the Archon — the human chosen to possess the spirit of a dead angel — rises as foretold, they will control the supernatural universe.

Torn between mortal love and angelic obsession, Angela holds the key to Heaven and Hell — and both will stop at nothing to possess her.


I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Archon takes everything I enjoy in a YA and crosses over into the murky politics of Heaven and Hell. It is a steady read that will have you turning the pages. Add in some pretty wicked witchery, spirits, demons and a prep school with a pretty interesting cast of characters and you have yourself one great novel. I asked the wonderful author if she would do an interview and she was very happy to share some information about herself and Archon.

What I liked:

The dynamics of Heaven and Hell in this book are really gray. Elements of witchery, angels gone amok and priests that have a lot to hide made this a page turner that you won't want to put down.

What I didn't:

The term "blood head" was odd. I get the gist of it, but wished there was another term that rolled off the tongue better, so to speak. I keep seeing trolls with redcaps and bloody wounds when I hear the phrase. 


The plot was well formed, the characters compelling, dialogue believable, action non stop and I love that there will be more in the series. If you enjoy books about angels, teens with edgy attitudes, witchy characters with an agenda and boarding schools with lots of intrigue, you need to give this book a try.


Now for the interview!!!

1. What first interested you in the politics between Heaven and Hell?

When I first thought about the version of Heaven and Hell that I wanted to create, I envisioned these realms not in a spiritual sense, but more with the idea that Heaven and Hell were other worlds with creatures and beings calling them home much like we call Earth home.  It then followed that angels and demons would have their own culture, and since they were advanced beings, their own kind of government and "political system."  The idea of the Devil's failed war against Heaven also being a revolt against a decadent regime instantly followed.  I knew this would also be a story that had a very intense past influencing a very dramatic present, and so it followed that the political drama that makes up the history of our three great angels Israfel, Lucifel, and Raziel would be as important as the supernatural side of things.

2. What is it that inspired you to write about "blood heads" and the idea that an angel can be killed and brought to life again within a human being?

In Archon the term "blood heads" is a derogatory name for people with red hair.  They are called "blood heads" because at least one of them will be the prophesied Ruin of humanity, making their destiny a "bloody" one.  Thus, the red hair is seen as symbolic of the Archon's dark future.  My creative reasoning behind this actually had to do with witches.  In the past, red hair was sometimes seen as the mark of a witch or someone with supernatural powers.  In Archon, all blood heads are suspected of being the prophesied dark messiah, especially those with said supernatural powers.  To me, it all just interconnected seamlessly.

    The idea of an angel being killed and brought back within a human host had a lot to do with how I wanted to portray angels and demons in the novel.  In the world of Archon angels are superior beings and immortal, but they can be killed.  It this followed that they would have a soul that could possibly possess a host or even reincarnate, much like a human ghost or spirit.  Tha "afterlife" for angels and demons is hinted at very subtly in the novel, but explored much more in the later installments of the trilogy.  To explain any more would involve major spoilers!

3. Do you write to music? Is there a playlist for your book that gets you in the right frame of mind?

I wouldn't say there's a definite playlist, but yes, I write a lot of scenes to music! Or, maybe I should say I listen to the music and then write the scene after that extra little bit of inspiration.  I listened to everything from Lady Gaga to the soundtracks to Pirates of the Caribbean and The Dark Knight while writing Archon.  The Dark Knight probably makes the most sense. lol

4. In your books, the Devil, commonly known as a man, is a woman. Can you tell us how you came to see Her in that light?

The Devil being a woman instead of a man just felt so right for the story.  I'll admit, I was so tired of how the Devil is portrayed in most books and movies that I really wanted to do something different, yet complimentary to tradition at the same time.  So part of the decision was just me trying to think outside of the box.  However, Lucifel (the name of the Devil in Archon) and Israfel were in many ways meant to be two sides of the same coin.  Much of Lucifel's masculine behavior and demeanor has to do with her jealousy of her angelic sibling.  Also, it felt right that as the Archon's number one rival for supremacy, she was a female who will battle another female on equal grounds.

5. Usually, the sides of good and evil are very black and white. In your book, they operate on multiple shades of gray and often the lines blur. Can you tell us how you came to create this world?

In this story, angels and demons are more like alien beings than they are embodiments of pure good or evil.  But to explain further, this is also a story demonstrating the  unsettling idea that good and evil can, in some cases, amount to a point of view.  For instance, in some cultures of the world a certain action might be considered terrible, while in another and for the same action, no one would bat an eyelash. I think this quality of the novel also emphasizes that realistically, no villain is 100 percent evil, just as no hero would be 100 percent good.  Every character has their own motivations, dreams, dark secrets, and hopes that move them in one direction or another, regardless of whether they are angels, demons, or humans.

6. The idea that the insane can see into the abyss and glimpse what we can not is an idea long put out there for discussion. Do you think that is true?

I think it is very true that "there is a fine line between genius and insanity."  Very often, people with fractured minds seem to see a world that perhaps is always in front of us, but which our conscious minds have learned to filter out.  If you are talking about the supernatural, I firmly believe that altered states of mind sometimes reveal "another side" to reality that is often off limits to human senses, and usually for very good reasons.

7. You use arcane magic and church mythology in an inspired way. How did you find them intertwined and what first made you think of merging them?

Theology and "magic" go hand in hand when you are talking about angels or demons.  Most of the "religious" inspiration for Archon was taken from what we might call the arcane face of Christianity, how it deals with the occult.  If you are taking an excorcism at face value, for example, you are dealing with a supernatural creature who is being commanded and manipulated by words (in that case by a priest).  It all seemed to come together so well for Archon, where you have a city like Luz dominated by the supernatural and an almost medieval atmosphere, where angels and demons are taken seriously and feared for the powers that they possess.  Most real life books about angels and demons speak about them quite convincingly, and I wanted that tone to permeate the novel. I hope that answers your question!

8. What are you working on now?

Right now, I am working on Book 2 in The Books of Raziel trilogy, as well as another YA project I have had on the backburner since publishing Archon.  Book 2 has the working title of Covenant and takes us from Luz and farther into the supernatural realms that make up the trilogy.  The main conflict of Book 2 centers a lot around the Archon's decision to become a force for that indefinable good or evil, and how that choice can be made in the face of a dark destiny that seems inescapable.  Whereas Book One has a dark atmosphere of foreboding, Book Two has a breathtaking beauty and solemnity to it and moments of great heroism and emotion.  Angela really comes into her own as both a heroine and a force to be reckoned with.

9. For any would be writers out there, what is one piece of advice you would give them to help them succeed?

To all would be writers, there is one key to this industry.  It is always good to have talent, and a great and original idea for your book, but no one will ever read it if you don't have persistence.  No matter how many rejections you receive (and believe me, every author and writer gets them at some point) you have to write and write and send out your work until you're blue in the face.  Do that, and you will achieve your dreams.  It all comes down to how much you want it.  Ask yourself about your writing, "If no one ever read my book/story, would I be happy?"  If the answer is "no" then don't stop.

10. What is one book that inspired you as a writer and why?

The number one book that inspired me as a writer was The Lord of the Rings.  No matter how cliche it sounds, it is not only one of the best trilogies ever written, but it is the perfect example of sucessfully creating a fantasy world that seems only a step away from reality. Its only downside is that it starts slowly--but let's face it, the rules of popular fiction were different decades ago.  Sometimes novels that require a little bit of patience turn out to be the most spectacular. :-)

Many thanks to Sabrina for taking the time for this interview!

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