Devon Taylor was born in Las Vegas, Nevada and currently lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and two daughters. His day job consists of sneaking around the house with ninja-like stealth to avoid waking up his kids. When not writing, reading, or tediously typing out text messages with all the correct spelling and punctuation, he spends his time with his family. THE SOUL KEEPERS is his debut novel.
There are worse things than death.
The Harbinger is lost, sunk to the bottom of an otherworldly sea. Every soul that ever died and was protected within its hold has been lost along with it. But at least that precious cargo is out of reach of the demon Urcena and her army of soul-devouring monsters.
The soul keepers are broken, scattered, and barely clinging to existence without their ship or any way to collect or protect the souls of the newly dead. If they are to have any hope of stopping Urcena’s horrifying plans to destroy the fragile balance between living and dead, they will first have to survive long enough to locate the ghost of one of their own, who sacrificed himself to save the rest of the crew.
Devon Taylor’s cinematic and pulse-pounding duology comes to a thunderous conclusion in The Ghost Seekers.
Urban Fantasy Magazine: When did you first get the idea for the Soul Keepers series?
DEVON TAYLOR: The first time I really started to write things down for this story was back in 2016 when I quit my day job to be a stay-at-home dad. When I knew I wanted to try and finish writing a book, this was the story that I gravitated toward first and finally started jotting notes on whatever paper I could find and working out plot details while washing the dishes. But I’d been carrying around the nugget of the idea for the series for probably a few years even before that, inspired of course by Greek mythology and some elements of a book called The 13 ½ Lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers.
Urban Fantasy Magazine: Did you enjoy hearing ghost stories as a child?
DEVON TAYLOR: I was always into scary stories, especially ghost-related ones. Even if they weren’t necessarily frightening, I was fascinated by the idea of ghosts and the afterlife. One of the very first short stories I ever wrote as a kid was a ghost story. And that was in middle school for a creative writing class. My dad recently dug up a story I wrote when I was nine about a mummy. So the short answer is yes, absolutely.
Urban Fantasy Magazine: The Harbinger is such a vivid setting. Did you have to do a lot of research about ships while writing or was this familiar territory?
DEVON TAYLOR: I wish it had been familiar territory. I put a lot of time into trying to make the Harbinger feel as real and accurate as I could. Or at least as real and accurate as giant ghost ships in the afterlife can get anyway.
Urban Fantasy Magazine: Fair enough. Rhett starts the first book having not only lost his own life but also his family’s. And the crew starts the second book at a similarly low point. How do you raise the stakes for characters who have essentially already “lost it all”?
DEVON TAYLOR: I love this question. There are a few moments throughout both books where the concept of “life after death” is discussed, and the idea that even though these characters have technically lost who they were in the living world, they’ve kept going in the afterlife, finding things to be passionate about, finding new friends and family, finding love. So as a writer in that scenario, raising the stakes meant finding things in the afterlife for these characters to care about, and then threatening to take those things away. Which is probably why authors get such a bad rap for the things they do to their characters.
Urban Fantasy Magazine: The characters’ lives sure would be boring otherwise. But so far, this series has had a lot of exciting, action-filled sequences. How do you plan those out?
DEVON TAYLOR: I’d really love to tell you that I have whole notebooks filled with meticulously detailed outlines for these books, including blueprints for choreographing some of those sequences. But that would be a total lie. I guess I’m caught somewhere between being a pantser and being a plotter, because I know all the major plot points ahead of time, and I lay them out ahead of me kind of like stepping stones, then I just sort of write my way from one stone to the next. Some of those major plot points usually involve those action-y moments, so when I get there I just try to take it one line at a time, keep track of everybody in my head, where they’re at, what they’re doing, who they’re fighting, and hope that I don’t accidentally misplace a character and have to go back and rewrite the whole thing (which has happened).
Urban Fantasy Magazine: Oh! I can see how that would be frustrating. Speaking of major plot points, Rhett made a lot of character growth in the first book. Who would you say sees the most growth in this book?
DEVON TAYLOR: To answer this question with the way that I truly feel, and with the character who I think made the most growth in this book, I’d have to give away some spoilers. So I’ll dodge it a little bit by saying that the first book focused a lot on Rhett’s journey by himself in the strange new world of the Harbinger and the afterlife, and I wanted the second book to focus more on the journey’s of Rhett’s friends in their quest to rescue him and rescue their home. I think that they really found a lot of purpose and found those things to care about over the course of the book.
Urban Fantasy Magazine: Sounds like there’s lots of surprises in store. What’s one thing that surprised you while working on this series?
DEVON TAYLOR: The thing that surprised me most was probably how little control I had over the story. Even when revising sections that my editor and I had discussed and agreed would work better a different way, the story took on its own identity and took me down paths that I never would have expected. It sounds like such a cliché to say that my characters wrote themselves, but they really did come marching out of the void ready to tell their own stories.
Urban Fantasy Magazine: Did you know from the start how the first book would end or was that also something you discovered while writing?
DEVON TAYLOR: The ending of The Soul Keepers was one of the first (and maybe only) things that I had written a very, very rough version of before I even finished writing the first half of the book. I knew that’s where I wanted to take it: Spend most of the first book establishing all the rules, end that book by breaking all of them, then spend the second book trying to restore what was lost.
Urban Fantasy Magazine: Switching gears a bit here, I listened to the audiobook for Soul Keepers, and Urcena sounds absolutely terrifying! What did you think when you first heard her?
DEVON TAYLOR: I was shocked and thrilled to learn that The Soul Keepers would be getting an audiobook version at all. It was one of those weird author goals of mine that I feel very lucky to have had come true. And I absolutely love the way the entire book sounds, including and especially Urcena. The voice actor who performed the book, William Dufris, is immensely talented and brought the characters to life in ways I could never even have hoped for.
Urban Fantasy Magazine: One more question to wrap things up. Who is your favorite fictional ghost (either in literature or film)?
DEVON TAYLOR: I feel like I should go old school with this answer and say something like The Shining or Poltergeist, but I’m a 90s kid and I think I need to stay true to that. One of my first experiences with a version of Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House was Jan de Bont’s 1999 movie The Haunting. It’s a very, very loose adaptation of the novel, kind of a terrible film in retrospect, and in my opinion, a classic. The Haunting also features the extremely malevolent ghost of Hugh Crain, who, instead of just being the owner and creator of Hill House, is also a really bad dude. At one point his ghost comes bursting out of a painting of himself in a plume of gray smoke, looking like pure vengeance. This was one of the first times that I saw a ghost portrayed as more than just a wisp of smoke that occasionally goes bump in the night. This was an eternal being who had almost complete control over the home that he was doomed to haunt, and he could manifest himself into this raging smoke monster. It was the idea that, given enough time, a ghost could draw power from the emotions still residing in the place that it haunts and subvert the notion that it’s trapped there. Maybe it wants to be a ghost. The Haunting helped to spark my interest in the mechanics of the afterlife, which ends up playing a really big part in both The Soul Keepers and The Ghost Seekers. So, thanks Hugh Crain.
Urban Fantasy Magazine: Thanks again for taking the time to chat with us! Readers can find more info on Devon Taylor and his book below. There is a giveaway going on, too, so be sure to check it out!