Etzweiler. Rhianon Etzweiler. Resident of Hershey, PA. The eccentric owner of an equally odd speckled dog. Writer of speculative fiction – read that as a catch-all term for anything not contemporary, historical, or mundane (lacking fantastical aspects) – and romance stories with varying degrees of erotica and abnormal queerness. “Gay romance” is so limiting.
When I’m asked to label my stories within a specific genre, I run into difficulties. There are aspects of many. And then there are the stories that blatantly defy labels beyond the most general. Well, it’s fiction. Speculative fiction. And, um… I’m not a big fan of labels, but I understand the need for them, in defining a story. A reader needs to know what to expect on the pages between the cover art and the blurb on the back.
I don’t consider myself a romance author. The romances in my stories rarely have first chair when it comes to plot arcs. They develop organically, from the interactions of two characters through the course of the story. I don’t make an attempt to downplay the romantic aspect or emotional involvement, but neither do I highlight it. As a theme, it’s a minor one.
One of the prevalent themes of the stories I write is, quite simply, The Unexpected. I don’t mean anvils falling out of the sky like a Wyle E. Coyote cartoon, but the sort of plot twists that resemble unmarked hairpin turns on the Autobahn. Please secure the lap bar firmly against your hips, and keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times…
I revel in writing situations that force my characters to make tough choices where neither option can be clearly pointed out as the ‘correct’ one. I won’t hesitate to strip them of everything, down to the core of their being, and stand them naked before their enemies. Preferably in a corner, so they have to fight their way out, or surrounded on all sides so that even their back is unprotected from attack. That’s the only way to truly show, I think, the hard indestructible core of a strong character. Not everyone will like or sympathize with them; some might want to smack them around, instead. If a reader has to pause and question which warring faction is antagonist and which is protagonist… then I’ve succeeded. If the reader cannot find the answer to the question, I’ve done it in spectacular fashion.
Despite this, not all my stories are dark and gritty. Dark Edge of Honor was written that way deliberately – Blacker Than Black is quite the opposite. Though still indelibly twisted, the aspect and execution are entirely different. Much of it has a humorous side, thanks to the POV character and the first-person perspective. Black is definitely not a depressive pessimist, quite often highlighting the humor in situations intended to be somber or serious.
Black’s story began about four or five years ago, during NaNoWriNo. My original goal had been to write a short story for an anthology call titled “The Red Light District.” (Black still laughs every time I mention that.) The first chapter was designed as a standalone, but I kept writing until I hit 50k on it. The next year, I continued on during Nano, and ended up with a rough draft. It was actually that version of the story, which an established author offered to beta for me, that resulted in DEoH even happening. Aleksandr Voinov fell in love with Black and, on the merits of that first draft, asked to jump in on the war romance.
The heavy editing that transformed the storyline of Blacker Than Black into what it is now took place early in 2011, during lag in DEoH’s editing schedule. When Riptide began formally approaching authors for their First Wave, they offered to contract me for it. I expect it will be the first of many stories that find a home at Riptide.
Here's the blurb from Blacker than Black:
Apparently, my twin and I are two of York’s most notorious criminals. We’ve been Nightwalkers in the blue-light district since the vamps took over the world. Don’t know how many years it’s been. Long enough that a stream of fellow ’walkers have come and gone. Most don’t last long selling their chi. End up face-down in the gutter, or worse.
For us, one night and one sale change everything.
Monsieur Garthelle is the first john to hunt me down. He calls me a chi thief in one breath and offers absolution—servitude—in the next. Maybe I’m a sucker, but I like living and breathing. Strange that such a powerful vamp would show leniency to a mere human. And something’s not right with the chi I took from him. It won’t go away.
Neither will he, and he’s forcing us to spy on his peers. Then a vamp turns up dead, and we go from playing eyes and ears to investigating a murder. This isn’t what I signed up for. All I ever wanted was to sell a little chi, maybe steal some in return. I should’ve kept my damn hands to myself.
This is my story. Look through my eyes.
Blacker than Black will be released on December 12, but is available for pre-order by clicking on the cover above.
Rhianon Etzweiler spent her formative years seeped in military culture, and many of her writing inspirations bear that mark – with a definitive twist. Her main genres are science fiction and fantasy, but she enjoys spicing things up with a speculative mixture that sometimes defies an easy label. Next to Elizabeth Moon and Meredith Ann Pierce, she still counts Jane’s Defense and Popular Science among her influences. “I used to read these articles about cutting edge technology and science, and wonder what impact it would have on society and culture. How it would change us.”
Her biggest failing is the inability to write a "short" story – they may begin that way, but they rarely stay small. “It’s like asking someone to tell you about their life,” Rhi says of her muses. “Like any real person, once you get them talking, it’s unlikely they’ll shut up any time soon.”
Where to find Rhianon: