Here we are: midway through the Moonfall Mayhem series.
Actually, readers, you’re midway. A writer’s perspective is somewhat skewed. It’s odd for me to be writing about book three, Into the Moonless Night, when I’ve recently sent a draft of book four to my invaluable editor, Laura Harvey, and am already looking forward to working on book five. Even though it was less than a year ago that I finished the “good” draft of Moonless—the draft that became the book you’re hopefully looking forward to reading—it seems an event far in the past to me.
So, casting my mind back...
Into the Moonless Night was a devil to write. I remember that vividly. It’s the midpoint of the series, and possibly the most serious of the lot. It deals with issues such as social injustice, fate, and PTSD. While the humor that pervades The Falling of the Moon and The Meddlers of Moonshine remains present, Into the Moonless Night asks weightier questions.
Part of the reason Moonless became a darker book stems, unquestionably, from the fact that the world has seemingly become a darker place recently. I don’t believe it’s correct to say racism is on the rise. It’s even possible that the reverse is true, that what we are witnessing is racism’s death rattle. I certainly hope that that is true.
But. But. There is no denying that recent political events have made the racists feel empowered. This includes the sexists, and the homophobes and transphobes, and basically everyone who wants the power to persecute those who were not born into the racial and sexual elite. Even if racism (and misogyny and transphobia, etc.) is dying out, it is not dying easily, and I fear many innocents are yet to be injured by its dying spasms.
All these ideas were in my head while I was writing Into the Moonless Night. The action of the book takes place in the Clawcrags, home of the shifters. Shifter society is highly stratified. The animal you transform into determines the role you’re allowed to play in society. Lion-shifters and other large cats get to act as leaders, while dog-shifters must be guards and vulture-shifters tend the dread. Unusual shifters, such as Tasmanian devils, have no place at all, and are subsequently outcast.
It’s a ridiculous system. Catch Starthorne, rogue, Smilodon-shifter, and protagonist of Into the Moonless Night, certainly thinks so. It’s part of the reason why he escaped from the Clawcrags. One of the beauties of writing fantasy is that you can set up a system whose flaws are so readily apparent. Many readers, myself included, want entertainment, not a lecture, when we read. It’s only after we put down the book that we start realizing the parallels between our escapist entertainment and events happening in the world around us.
And, for me, privileging a person who turns into a lion over one who turns into a weasel is no more ridiculous than giving preference to a person with lighter skin, or a man over a woman. If there’s anything I wish readers to take away from Into the Moonless Night, it’s the idea that people should be judged on their actions: who they’re trying to be, rather than what society says they must be.
It’s a lot to pack into a book, especially when I also had to keep it humorous and make sure my whole merry gang of Ascot, Dmitri, Rags-n-Bones, and Moony all had their part in the story, as well as Catch. I hope I succeeded, and I’m proud of myself for trying.
Into the Moonless Night was a devil to write. I love it all the more for that fact. It may be my best book yet. I hope you enjoy it.
I hope it makes you think.