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Laura Anne Gilman on the Cosa Nostradamus Kickstarter

Posted on April 6, 2012 by Flames

Today, sits down with author extraordinaire Laura Anne Gilman to talk about Miles To Go / Promises to Keep: a Cosa Nostradamus Kickstarter which ends on Saturday, May 5th.

Let’s listen to Laura as she dives into what the Cosa Nostradamus series is all about and why she’s pursuing new stories on Kickstarter.

Tell us about the Cosa Nostradamus series. What’s happened so far?

    Oh dear. Covering, what, ten novels and six stories so far? That’s a lot to ‘splain… so let me sum up.

    Magic is real, and tied to electricity (as determined by Founder Ben Franklin and his kite-and-key thing). Therefore, rather than magic dying in the modern world, it’s actually gotten stronger, since it’s easier to access.

    In this world, there are Nulls, Talents (magic using humans, and the fatae – the non-human members). Talents and the fatae make up the Cosa Nostradamus, which is worldwide, but most organized in the New World, where immigration patterns forced them all to mingle. The Cosa Nostradamus novels focus on the community in New York City, with forays outside (and, briefly, to the Old World).

    There are two arcs, within the series.

    The first six books, the Retrievers arc, focused on The Wren. Genevieve Valere is a Talent with a particular quirk to her magic, one that makes her fade from people’s awareness (almost the opposite of charisma). She has turned this into a very successful career as a thief. In the first book, STAYING DEAD, we are introduced to Wren and her business partner, Sergei, and Wren’s best friend, a fatae named PB, as they try to retrieve a stolen item, get rid of a restless ghost, and deal with some secrets Sergei had in his closet, that, in the next five books, nearly get them killed, and NYC destroyed, several times over. Y’see, Sergei, before he got tangled up with Wren, worked for an organization called the Silence, whose main goal was to bring Talents (and all magic) under Null control. They’ll do anything to achieve that, including manipulating humans AND fatae into a race war…

    Wren wants nothing to do with any of it. Her philosophy is “don’t get involved.” But, she discovers, she can’t walk away from things she knows are wrong…and she won’t let her city, human and otherwise, be go down in flames. Even if the fight ends up destroying her, and Sergei – and their evolving relationship – as well.

    The books are caper novels, really: each one, in addition to the on-going arc of the Silence, features one of Wren’s jobs, and whatever you think will go wrong, will, and only fast-thinking, fast-talking and a bit of magic lets our heroes slip through. But everything has a cost, and even when you win, you lose a little, too.


    Published after, but occurring more-or-less in tandem, are the PSI novels. In the Retriever series, I introduce Bonnie Torres, who is a PUP – a Private, Unaffiliated, Paranormal Investigator, a totally new organization determined to bring some order, if not law, to magical crimes (they investigate and prove whodunnit, they have no power to actually punish…technically). In HARD MAGIC, I tell the story of how 20-something Bonnie is recruited, along with the rest of the team, and force the Cosa Nostradamus to accept them, mainly by solving cases that otherwise would have been shrugged off or ignored. They’re making it up as they go, driven by a determination to make a difference – and more than a little bit of ego. Bonnie Torres is the POV character, moving from slightly spoiled, raw college grad to a seasoned investigator as they try to make the world a little safer for people otherwise at the mercy of strong Talents – even when it runs them up against the Council, the “political movers and shakers” of the Cosa Nostradamus, and the fatae community, which doesn’t trust them a bit.

    Each book is also a crime investigation, ranging from insurance fraud to murder, all with a magical origin or perp.

    The books are, in order, HARD MAGIC, PACK OF LIES, TRICKS OF THE TRADE, DRAGON JUSTICE (August 2012).

    There’s romance in this series, too: Bonnie and her boss, Benjamin Venec, are caught in a magical “Merge” that wants them to produce magic-strong babies. Neither one of them has any interest in being told what to do by magic, fate or genetic, so part of their evolution is learning to have a relationship THEY want, on THEIR terms (I was very deliberately riffing on the ‘destined love” trope, as seen by modern, career-focused characters).

    The Sylvan Investigations stories, which I’m Kickstarting, take on an entirely different aspect of the world – seeing the Cosa Nostradamus from a POV character who is not a magic-user, and not-human. But he’s part of this world, and the “real” (Null) world, too, and has to straddle a whole bunch of dividing lines, while trying to be true to his nature, whatever that actually is. And oh yeah, not get killed, which – when you’re a PI specializing in missing-under-magical-circumstances people – can get difficult!

    2. Why are you using Kickstarter to fund the next book in the series?

      Originally, I was under contract to do two more Cosa Nostradamus novels, featuring Danny Hendrickson, a fatae character described above, who had appeared throughout the first ten books, but never gotten a chance to be front and center. But Luna (my publisher) came to me and said, basically: “Ten is enough. Can you do something else?” So, instead, I came up with a project for them that I love a lot (a geek girl, a homicidal pony, an unsexy werewolf, malicious elves, and internet dating).

      But, I felt like I was breaking my promise to Danny, not telling his stories. And I thought about taking them elsewhere, and I talked it over with my agent, and I decided to go directly to the reader rather than adding another publisher (I’m already under contract with two houses, one for fantasy, one for mystery).

      As for why Kickstarter, rather than the more “traditional” self-publishing? I love all my stories, but the Kickstarter projects are special: they’re between me and the readers, directly, and their energy and enthusiam feeds into my writing, so we’re actually creating this as a partnership. The potential financial rewards are smaller, but there are emotional satisfactions, too.

      So, if enough people want to read these stories, I get to tell them. Everyone wins. I’m fortunate in that I get to write things I love for a traditional publisher AND have opportunities like this, too.

      3. What does this series mean to you?

        This is where I started. STAYING DEAD was the first original novel I wrote (after short fiction and media tie-ins) that I felt was good enough to send out, that my agent really got behind. And this was in 2001-2002, when, for the most part, urban fantasy was “dead.” But these characters, and this world – it spoke to me, my love of capers and mysteries, and my need for magic to have a definable, logical root in the real world, my desire to tell a story where the goal wasn’t to win a kingdom or save the world, but get through every day a little better than the one before, and if that made you a hero – or a villain – then so be it.

        In fact, I really like the fact that, to a lot of people in this world, my characters ARE the villains, the ones who are upsetting a perfectly nice way of life, challenging the status quo and/or preventing others from challenging the status quo… I believe that black and white are both dangerous extremes, and most of the interesting stuff happens in the shades between. The Cosa Nostradamus is ALL about those shades. Even my three main characters (Wren of the Retrievers, Bonnie of the PSI, and now Danny of Sylvan Investigations) are all shades apart from each other, and often in opposition or aid on a changeable basis. Having the multiple arcs within the universe has allowed me to play with that, and to play them off each other.

        And people have played along, for ten books – and now, if the Kickstarter succeeds, for two more. That means I did it right, that I tapped into something real, and made it live for other folk. That means… everything. That means joy. Seriously: why else do we write, but to sweep other people into our worlds? And to spend – so far – a decade doing that? Oh yeah. Joy.

        Intrigued by the Cosa Nostradamus? Visit the Miles To Go / Promises to Keep: a Cosa Nostradamus Kickstarter to pledge for new stories.

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