Risingshadow has had an opportunity to interview Alison Levy about her debut fantasy novel, Gatekeeper. Gatekeeper is the first book in the Daemon Collecting Series.
About the author:
Alison Levy lives in Greensboro, North Carolina with her husband, son, and variety of pets. When she's not writing or doing mom things, she crochets, gardens, walks her collies, and works on home improvement projects.
Rachel Wilde comes from a dimension that exists adjacent to ours. The people there have structured their society around daemon collecting: they locate, catch, and repair malfunctioning daemons (creatures out of phase with our world that tempt people to do good or evil). Now Rachel has been given two unusual assignments: 1) find a person who has been trying to break down dimensional barriers, and 2) track down a missing line of gatekeepers, human placeholders for a daemon that was too badly damaged to repair. Authorities of Rachel’s world believe the missing gatekeepers are descended from a girl who went missing from West Africa hundreds of years ago, likely sold into slavery. With no leads to go on, Rachel seeks help from Bach, a raving homeless man who happens to be an oracle. Bach does put her in the path of both of her targets - but he also lands her in a life-threatening situation. Somehow, Rachel has to stop the criminal, reunite a gatekeeper with her stolen past, and, above all, survive.
AN INTERVIEW WITH ALISON LEVY
1) Could you tell us something about yourself in your own words?
I’ve been writing since I was twelve, when my 6th grade English teacher gave me a lot of praise for a short story I wrote for her class. It was really bad time in my life (in hindsight, I clearly had undiagnosed childhood depression) so her positive reaction meant the world to me. Since then, I’ve been writing as a way to control my anxiety. When I’m not writing, I enjoy gardening, crochet, home improvement projects, and spending time with my husband and son.
2) You're the author of the fantasy novel Gatekeeper. What kind of a novel is it? Could you tell us something about it?
Gatekeeper is an urban fantasy involving another dimension that frequently interacts with our own to monitor daemons. Daemons are inhuman creatures that exist out of phase with reality and tempt humans for good or evil. These creatures are essential machinery of the universe, but they occasionally break down. The citizens of this other dimension track, pick up, and repair the malfunctioning daemons to keep both worlds running properly. My main character, Rachel Wilde, is one such daemon collector. On this particular occasion, she’s given the unusual job of finding, not daemons, but two humans: a woman whose ancestors held a destructive daemon at bay for thousands of years and a criminal trying to break dimensional barriers. Helped by a homeless man with unusual powers, she lands in a life-threatening situation and uncovers a rising shadow organization that’s changing her world forever.
3) Were any authors, books or stories a source of inspiration to you when you began to write Gatekeeper?
Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, one of my favorite books. It’s about people who fall through the cracks of our society and end up in a different society that exists literally underneath our own. I love the way Gaiman takes everyday things (like the names of stops on the London Underground) and gives them a brilliant, otherworldly meaning. I like the idea that there could be another world going about its business right under our noses without our knowledge. It makes you wonder if that guy at the bus stop or that woman in the grocery store line might be more than what they seem.
4) Could you tell us something about the protagonists in Gatekeeper?
Rachel Wilde, a daemon collector, locates and brings in defective daemons for repair. It’s just a job for her—a job that often tries her limited patience—and she’s counting the days until she can go home to her own world. Rachel sees our dimension through a foreigner’s eyes, and she finds our world, at various times, quirky, perplexing, and repulsive. I hope through her the reader will question what they see as normal and ordinary.
Bach is a young man who Rachel meets while he’s homeless and out of his mind. From his ravings, she deduces that he’s an oracle, a person who inexplicably knows things he/she has no way of knowing. When she’s given two jobs by her superiors that she has no idea how to complete, Rachel seeks out Bach for help. Bach is a way for me to show that the dimensions in my story are not divided into fantasy world and real world; he is from our world, but he has fantastical abilities while Rachel, who comes from another world, does not. Bach also shows the challenges of struggling with mental health without a support system.
Leda Morley is a museum employee who has a gifted mind relating to languages. Rachel seeks her out for help translating a document when she can’t get help from her superiors. Leda is very career-oriented and very invested in maintaining her professional image. I’d love to get into more detail about Leda but most of her involvement in the story centers around major plot points.
5) Did you have to do any research before or during the writing process?
I did spend some time researching homelessness in our country, especially as it relates to the mentally ill. I also did some research on museums and how they’re run. Aside from some other minor points, I stuck to my own made-up worldbuilding.
6) What was the most challenging part of the writing process? And what was the most rewarding part?
The most challenging part is always overcoming that negative voice in my head feeds my anxiety. Every time I have an idea that I try to express in words, my anxiety makes me second guess my ability.
Rereading something I’ve written and being happy with it is easily the most rewarding part of writing. It’s the best therapy!
7) How would you advertise Gatekeeper to new and potential readers with a few words?
This is an urban fantasy that has great worldbuilding, intense action, and compelling characters who all see the world differently. I hope my book will entertain you, leave you hungry for more, and make you take an extra moment out of your day to see the world around you with new eyes.
8) Is there anything you'd like to add?
I’m consciously open about the fact that I’ve had difficulties with depression and anxiety throughout my life. I hope that my being open about my struggle with mental health will show others that it’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to admit that everything’s not alright and that you need help. You are not broken, you are not deficient, and you are not an embarrassment. You can ask for help, you are worth the effort, and you deserve to be happy.