Darin Kennedy is the author of over twenty books, including one of my favorite recent reads, The Mussorgsky Riddle. The novel is the first of his Fugue & Fable trilogy. I confess, most of the fiction I’ve been consuming lately has been either in the form of an audiobook or helpfully read to me by my tablet while I’ll simultaneously trying to get in some exercise or housecleaning. This book, however, I had the pleasure of enjoying in physical form, starting on a somewhat lengthy train ride. The pages engrossed me right from the beginning. The protagonist is a character with supernatural abilities who never comes off as too perfect, but at the same time, knows her strengths and uses them to her advantage. Her determination to see her goal through despite building dangers and a lack of direction made her easy to cheer for.
The setting shifts between the physical world and the world inside a young man’s mind. Both are vividly described with intriguing characters and plot twists of their own. It kept the story moving
Please enjoy our interview, and if the book sounds interesting to you, be sure to check out the links at the end, as it’s currently on sale for on 99 cents from now until September 10th.
Psychic Mira Tejedor possesses unique talents that enable her to find anything and anyone, but now she must find a comatose boy wandering lost inside the labyrinth of his own mind. Thirteen-year-old Anthony Faircloth hasn’t spoken a word in almost a month and with each passing day, his near catatonic state worsens. No doctor, test, or scan can tell Anthony’s distraught mother what has happened to her already troubled son. In desperation, she turns to Mira for answers, hoping her unique abilities might succeed where science has failed.
At their first encounter, Mira is pulled into Anthony’s mind and finds the child’s psyche shattered into the various movements of Modest Mussorgsky’s classical music suite, Pictures at an Exhibition. As she navigates this magical dreamscape drawn from Anthony’s twin loves of Russian composers and classical mythology, Mira must contend with gnomes, troubadours, and witches in her search for the truth behind Anthony’s mysterious malady.
The real world, however, holds its own dangers. The onset of Anthony’s condition coincides with the disappearance of his older brother’s girlfriend, a missing persons case that threatens to tear the city apart. Mira discovers that in order to save Anthony, she will have to catch a murderer who will stop at nothing to keep the secrets contained in Anthony’s unique mind from ever seeing the light.
Urban Fantasy Magazine: Appreciate your taking the time for an interview! First off, tell us a bit about Mira. If I started chatting with her at a coffee shop (in a mythical time when sitting within six feet of someone is safe again), what would be my first impressions of her?
DARIN KENNEDY: Mira is pretty striking looking the way I have her imagined, but I think the first impression you would get is that she knew something you didn’t. She can’t exactly read your thoughts, but your emotions would be an open book to her strange psychic olfactory sense. If you needed a friend or were sad, I think you’d find her pretty empathetic, but if you harbored any ill will in your heart, she’d likely know.
Urban Fantasy Magazine: What makes Mira a bit unique among urban fantasy heroines is that magic is not hidden from the general world in the traditional sense. Most people have no way of seeing her powers, only the results of her efforts. How does she choose who to open up to about her abilities?
DARIN KENNEDY: Mira’s powers are more a natural extension of who she is and not necessarily “magic” though the line is a bit blurry there. I pictured her as more like a Steven King psychic type like a Carrie or a Firestarter or (the closest) Danny from The Shining. Since she uses her powers to make a living, she is pretty open to potential clients or people in need about what she can do, but in casual conversation, she’d likely play it a little more coy, because (like she mentions in Chapter 1) most people who find out she is a psychic either think she is a fraud or insane.
Urban Fantasy Magazine: There’s a rich and varied cast of minor characters as well. Which of
them was your favorite to develop? Which one was the most difficult?
DARIN KENNEDY: I loved developing both Mira and Anthony a lot, and since they are stuck in a psychic dance together for most of the first book, it would have been difficult to build one without the other.
As to who gave me difficulty? It was a little difficult putting together the villain of Book I, The Mussorgsky Riddle, (who shall remain nameless here) as I had to make their motivation believable and their ability to evade Mira’s talents logical within the framework of the story.
Urban Fantasy Magazine: The book has a rather unique (and precise) plot structure. How did you go about planning it?
DARIN KENNEDY: I always joke on panels at conventions that for this series, and particularly Book I, I didn’t need to do an outline because Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky drafted one for me over a century ago. This whole book is based on his masterpiece, Pictures at an Exhibition, and at every step, I just searched my story and the music for what would be the next logical extension of the story that was building. Honestly, like Stephen King talks about in On Writing, this book and this entire series pretty much wrote themselves. So many happy coincidences!
Urban Fantasy Magazine: Were there any moments during writing when you had to totally change your plans?
DARIN KENNEDY: It’s funny you ask that. One of the reasons that all the red herrings in the mystery of The Mussorgsky Riddle work so well (IMHO) is that at various points, different people were (in my mind) the villain. Truth be told, as I wrote this book, the identity of the bad guy kept changing as the story continued to reveal itself to me and when I finally figured it out, even I was a bit surprised. They say, “no surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader,” and I believe it.
Urban Fantasy Magazine: What can readers who finish this book expect from the rest of the series?
DARIN KENNEDY: The rest of the series continues on with the same cast of characters with new settings based on the work of different composers, constantly increasing stakes, and ever-shifting identities of hero, victim, and villain. Book II is based on Stravinsky’s first three ballets, The Firebird, Petrushka, and The Rite of Spring, and Book III is all Tchaikovsky, with Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, and Sleeping Beauty taking centerstage. And, to the best of my ability, I really worked hard to stick the landing on the third book.
Urban Fantasy Magazine: I’m looking forward to reading it! Thanks again for chatting with us.
Links to The Mussorgsky Riddle:
– Ebook on Amazon (Affiliate link, on sale for 99 cents until September 10th)
– Audiobook on Audible (Affiliate link)
– Barnes & Noble