Diana Rowland, former police officer and author of the new urban fantasy crime thriller Mark of the Demon, told Tor.com that the book is about a homicide detective with a secret—she has the ability to summon demons and bind them to her will.
“However, when she discovers traces of arcane power on a body, she quickly realizes that this is no ordinary murder,” Rowland said in an interview. “A serial killer who is well-versed in demonic lore is terrorizing her small Louisiana town, and she knows that she may be the only person with the ability to stop him. But matters are complicated by a powerful demonic lord with an agenda of his own, and an FBI agent who seems to know more than he should about arcane matters.”
The initial idea for the book came to Rowland while she was working as a forensic photographer and morgue tech. “A body came into the morgue with unusual injuries on the torso, and I began to wonder what sort of explanation a pathologist would make of wounds caused by a supernatural creature, or arcane markings on the body,” she said. “Fortunately this pathologist is an easy-going guy, and when I began to ask what-if questions he was more than willing to answer as best he could. From there I developed the basic mystery and the characters involved.”
Rowland said the hardest part of writing the novel was accepting that one could write a noir police procedural with a hefty dose of fantasy thrown in as well. “Urban fantasy was just beginning to take off when I began to write this, and at first I felt the need to tone down the arcane side of things,” she said. “But as it developed I came to realize that it was a lot more interesting and fun to do an equal mix of crime thriller/police procedural/fantasy, and so that’s the direction I took it. It also helped that I could see that urban fantasy was enjoying an enthusiastic reception among readers.”
The novel is set in a south Louisiana that is very much like the one we know in real life, albeit with some key differences. For instance, Kara, the protagonist, has the ability to open a portal between our world and an alternate sphere and summon the denizens to Earth. “While the creatures who reside there are called ‘demons,’ they are not the ‘seduce you into evil and then drag you to hell’ demons from religious mythos,” Rowland said. “Instead they are arcane creatures with a variety of unique abilities, and with a sense of right and wrong that is very alien to our own perceptions.”
Writing Mark of the Demon gave Rowland the chance to relive much of her career as a police officer. “When I began writing this book I’d very recently left police work to take a job with the Coroner, and even though it was the right move for me to make at the time, there was a big chunk of me that missed it a great deal,” Rowland said. “Working on Mark of the Demon gave me opportunities to stay in touch with the friends I’d made in law enforcement, and helped me get over the feeling that I’d completely left them—and police work—behind.”
Mark of the Demon is a stand-alone novel, but the main characters will be back to investigate a new mystery in Blood of the Demon, which is currently scheduled for release in February 2010.