I met Thorn Coyle years and years ago, through Borderlands Bookstore. Although I barely knew them, Thorn contacted me just after my kid was born and told me that they were going to start writing in a cafe every week — and that kind of structure was exactly what I needed, so they would expect to see me there. I was a little taken aback and didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but to be honest, those writing dates saved my sanity. I plunked the kid in the stroller, hopped on BART, and wrote my way out of postpartum loneliness and depression. Thorn may not even know they saved my life, but I’m grateful nonetheless.
Officially, T. Thorn Coyle is author of two contemporary fantasy series, The Witches of Portland and The Panther Chronicles. They have written multiple books on magical and spiritual practice, including Sigil Magic for Writers, Artists, & Other Creatives, Kissing the Limitless, and Evolutionary Witchcraft. Thorn’s short fiction, poetry, and essays appear in many anthologies, magazines, and collections such as Fiction River, Pulphouse, and Fantasy in the City. Thorn has taught globally for decades and currently teaches online at Lifelong Creative.
An interloper to the Pacific Northwest, Thorn likes long walks, trees, and tea. They’ve been arrested at least five times.
Their most recent book is By Dark, the 8th book in the Witches of Portland series. If you like fast-paced plots, real-world issues, and a dash of romance, then you’ll love this magical series.
A witch with a bad feeling. A partner facing her own challenges. With the help of the ancestors, can they stop danger in its tracks?
Alejandro has it good, except everything in his life feels wrong. But when his partner challenges him, and a possible new love interest comes knocking, the last thing he wants is to face another challenge, this time from a long-dead family member. As this ancestor desperately tries to communicate the danger targeting Alejandro’s friends, he gets the sense there’s more to the situation than meets the eye.
With the help of his coven, Alejandro must uncover the deep secrets of his family’s past, and the secrets Portland holds. To protect his relationships and his life, he must risk everything he knows before death strikes yet again…
Did something in the real world inspire By Dark?
The whole Witches of Portland series is inspired by real world problems and events: police violence, greedy real-estate developers, the sweeps of homeless camps, violence against women, fascism…
Plus, By Dark includes navigating queer, polyamorous relationships, which is a real world thing that doesn’t often get written about. At least, not in my experience.
Still, despite a grounding in the real world, the paranormal elements are key to the plot, as they are in the entire series.
What is your favorite scene in the book?
There are two scenes I particularly love, which are diametrically opposed. The first is when Alejandro flashes back to an ancestral memory and realizes he’s in real, personal danger. I felt a lot of tension in my body as I wrote that scene. It gets a bit hairy.
The second scene is the meet cute with his new lover, Thomas. It’s both delightful and a bit awkward, as so many meet cutes are. It was so refreshing to write a bisexual poly meet cute!
What was your writing process like as you wrote the book?
I brainstormed the whole series while flat on my back, laid out with my chronic illness, barely able to work. I let my imagination run wild with images of a coven of witches fighting for justice in the streets of Portland, Oregon. I couldn’t be out in the streets myself, but with Arrow and Crescent, I could imagine all sorts of exciting scenarios: Avenging Goddesses. Insistent ancestors. Ghosts. Black-clad anarchists. Magic. Love. During every phase of the moon and every season of the year, the witches were busy.
These books were fun to write because—unlike my previous series, The Panther Chronicles—they weren’t research heavy. After I pick the two central POV characters, which are Alejandro and Shekinah in By Dark, I jot down loose scene brainstorms onto 3×5 cards and then let the characters lead me further and further into the story. They characters are always changing things around, which is why I’m not a heavy plotter.
I use a combination of dictation and typing, of scene cards and writing into the dark. It’s a pretty loose, organic process. Every book is slightly different.
What was the best thing that happened during your promotion of the book?
There was no one thing, other than the ongoing positive response. People have become attached to Arrow and Crescent coven, which is great. It’s always a wonderful feeling when people relate to something you’ve written. I’ve had a few people tell me they’ve already read the series more than once and are waiting for Book 9, which is the conclusion!
One piece of feedback I’ve gotten on By Dark in particular is that folks enjoyed seeing the challenges a stable couple go through, even while they are both involved in romances with other people. Since I enjoyed writing it, it was great to hear that people resonated with that.
One thing that didn’t happen during promotion, but was a bit of delightful synchronicity, happened around book one: By Earth. There’s a café that figures largely in the series, based on one of the places I regularly write. In By Earth, Cassie—a witch with curly red hair—works in that café. Months later, I walked in for a writing session and there was a new barista. She had curly red hair. Her name was Cassie.
That was pretty cool, and the café owner—who loves the series— was very excited!
What do you have planned next?
Witches of Portland Book 9 launches in mid-December, completing the series. I’ve been brainstorming and world-building a new series for months now. It’s a post-apocalyptic epic fantasy called The Steel Clan Saga. I’m really excited by it. It’s been great to research different technologies and explore some of the characters, plus, I’m working with an amazing artist on original art for the covers.
It’s always great to stretch myself. I try to learn something new with every new series. Epic fantasy is something I’ve enjoyed reading, but this will be my first time writing it. I look forward to the challenge.
Other than that, I write essays and short stories regularly for my Patreon folks, teach online creativity classes, and go for long walks in Portland, dreaming up new ideas. Walks, tea, whiskey, and story. That’s what’s always next.
Get to know Thorn at www.thorncoyle.com
Pick up a copy of By Dark on Amazon at: https://amzn.to/2PddFn1
Or explore the whole Witches of Portland series: https://amzn.to/34QEbcu