K. Caffee - Queen of Dark Fantasy

A while ago I had the pleasure of reviewing a book by K. Caffee from her 'Followers of Torments' series. Since reading that book, her work has come to define for me the epitome of 'dark fantasy'. So it was a real pleasure to have the chance to hear from K.Caffee herself how she sees that sub-genre:

How do you define 'dark fantasy' as opposed to other kinds?

For me, dark fantasy examines the underbelly of society - crime, vice, abuse, and the other "hidden" horrors no one wants to talk about. Not only do these create the central themes for the work, they are also thoroughly examined. (I've had a few say that my own work should be shelved in paranormal horror, rather than dark fantasy - at least until the truth of the story sinks in. Then I'm told I don't have enough gore for a good thriller or horror. ::Grins:: Makes 'em thinks I does!)

Do you think dark fantasy is a separate genre or can any fantasy have 'dark aspects'?

My answer would be both. Just because there are elements of dark fantasy woven into a tale does not mean the tale itself is dark fantasy. Same as having elements of erotica woven into a fantasy does not mean THAT story is erotica. It is the central theme of the story that initially defines if the story is dark, urban, high, or any other sub-genre of fantasy.

Which authors would you say exemplify dark fantasy, both mainstream and indie?

(Shameless self plug) My main books tend to wander around on the dark side of fantasy. I wind up exploring the plight of feral children, slavery, mental illness, and personality/spiritual crisis, all of which are often swept under the rug and never exposed to sunlight.

Another indie that I feel hits the genre's description squarely is Tanya Simmons. Her debut fiction book "Mystery's Choice" has a way of really making you think about the dark side of Christianity and what that all entails.

Traditional... I'm not sure if it's really dark fantasy, but it definitely covers the right themes: Gail Baudino's "Strands of Starlight". This one makes you really think about just what happened during the Crusades, and how a personality crisis can really mess with someone's future.

You write dark fantasy, what draws you to that particular expression of the fantasy genre?

Self-therapy, pure and simple. I can't do to people what I do to my characters. When I have a bad day, or have a particular person whose managed to REALLY get under my skin and tick me off, dark fantasy is a safety valve. I get to write in the bits and pieces of the events, or the perception concept of the person, and gruesomely, painfully, lovingly demolish it/them. Very, VERY cathartic experience! (Not sure the people would appreciate what I do to them, however. Something about being turned into spider soup and slurped up seems to make folks distraught when they are the victim.)


If you would like to check out the Followers of Torments series, you can find the first book 'Out of the Darkness' HERE .

My review of 'Into The Sunlits', the third book in the series, is HERE.

And you can connect with K. Caffee herself HERE

Just Good Friends


I asked the  members of the Roundtable:

'Which of your characters would you most want as a friend and why?'

Robert Lee Beers

Robert Lee Beers: Pat Monahan.

E.M. Swift-Hook:  A good choice in my opinon. Care to share your reasons why? And also, maybe, why not Tony himself? Just 'cos I'm curious...

Robert Lee Beers: Pat is me in many ways. I like me. Tony is me minus filters. It would be a bad combination.

E.M. Swift-Hook:  Good answer and makes a lot of sense


Eric Michael Craig

Eric Michael Craig: Sophia Warner. Why? Because she is a very tough and very smart woman. She lives far enough outside the box, that she is also a real problem solver. I think I would trust to have my back in any situation as well. She's is also passionate about life and plays well with others.

E.M. Swift-Hook: I can  see her as a good choice - I was wondering who I'd go for in your universe and am still thinking about it. Hmmmm..

Eric Michael Craig: I'd be interested in seeing who you thought the most likable character in my book was. (or barring likable, maybe some other quality of friendship) There are a few to choose from.

E.M. Swift-Hook:  Oddly - having given it a lot of thought, the person I like most is probably Sylvia Hutton - nowt to do with her job, just how she comes over as being a woman trying her hardest to do the right thing by her people and by the world. As a friend - ok it would come down to survival so has to be Colton.

Eric Michael Craig: Interesting. Thank you for your insight. I think Ducky's favorite character is Kuromori but I don't know if she'd see him as a friend type or more of a person to look up to. I wish I had time to develop him more fully - there was a lot more of him in the earlier revisions.

E.M. Swift-Hook: I can see why Kuromori - but he does not leave so much of a 'footprint' maybe. If that makes sense.

Eric Michael Craig: He is my Jedi Master.

E.M. Swift-Hook: Yup - he has that problem too!

Ducky Smith: Actually we talked about this and I also chose Sylvia. Although Sophia would be great to have in your corner and so would Carter Anthony, since he does whatever needs to be done, even when it comes to being a hero. Jonathan Merrill would be a good drinking partner. I think I would like to choose several and have a tribe from Eric's books.

E.M. Swift-Hook: That is cheating!


Zora Marie Brewer

Zora Marie Brewer: Such a hard one! Limiting to the first half of Book 1, I'd have to say Luxly - aka Lucky - or Jones. Both are super sweet Knights. Luxly has a humorous personality, and Jones is almost too caring for his own good.

E.M. Swift-Hook: They definitely sound like the kind of people I would like.


Lyra Shanti

Lyra Shanti: Ayn, hands down, though he is a little too much like me, so we might cancel out. Lol But he has the best heart. He'd always be there for me, no matter what. Meddhi-Lan, Ayn's teacher and high priest, would be good to have as a father figure type friend as well. I often feel I need advice and someone to ground me. He'd be good to depend on.

E.M. Swift-Hook: Seems good reasons to choose them both. When I have read a bit more I shall let you know if they would be my choices too

Lyra Shanti:  Cool. Everyone is different, so I'm expecting your answers to vary.


Jesse Toldness

Jesse Toldness: OK, this isn't from anything anyone's read, on account of its not finished, and I know its stereotypical, but I think I could be friends with my current main, Morgan Gannis. We're both Earthmen, both like a good beer and he's a just regular guy trying to make a living... granted a regular guy of the 3800's, but still... man's got some stories. This might just be because I've been working on this bloody thing long enough that he's started feeling like a damn roommate.

E.M. Swift-Hook: I soo know that feeling.


Kat  Caffee

Kat Caffee: Any of my pukah (except Nameless - though I'd still try if I could stay out of a collar.) Celeca, Bes, and even Thelda. Though, I also admit to being a glutton for punishment with Thelda.


Ricardo Victoria

Ricardo Victoria: Funny, I wrote my characters as if they were actual friends of mine. Considering that one of the members of the main cast is based on my younger self of a decade ago, that makes sense. So I guess the main 5?

E.M. Swift-Hook: An interesting way to approach writing characters. Is there one you would feel might be a better friend than the others?

Ricardo Victoria:  Probably the non human.

E.M. Swift-Hook: Care to share what in their personality gives them an edge? Or will er have to wait for the book?

Ricardo Victoria: Well, he is a former assassin that decided to take under his wing one of the characters and train him and in the meantime build a spaceship, his only real weakness is the love he has for that piece of junk. That doesn't means that he is serious and broody all the time. On the contrary, he rarely takes anything seriously, so when he does you know shit hit the fan, and is usually being a smartass and complaining of everything. Has a bit of contempt for stuffy people, most humans and beings from his own race, and is fascinated by human pop culture. He also has a lot of obscure jokes with the human he took under his wing. He is a loyal friend and has a honor code so despite all his complaints when the chips are down he not only has your back, but also has the big guns to back you up - there is no such thing as an overkill for him. So underneath his slacker personality, he is kinda a pragmatic warrior poet that doesn't take himself very seriously and dreams with exploring space.

E.M. Swift-Hook: Sounds a good choice for a friend - I look forward to meeting him 'in the flesh', so to speak, one day soon


Francis LaLonde

Francis LaLonde:  I'd like to hang around with Jake Balsum. He is a member of the Boston Police Department, and partner of Carl Trimbley.

Lieutenant Jake Balsum has a thin, athletic build. Jake dresses in a freshly pressed suit, with shoes polished to a bright shine. A little more easy-going than his partner, Carl Trimbley. However, Jake still approaches his job in a professional manner. Loves his partner like a brother, but can't repress a little chuckle now and then at Carl's foibles. I would almost call him a "Scully" type character, but he really isn't that efficient. At any given opportunity, will try to get his partner to 'pull my finger.' Jake likes the finer things in life, but isn't afraid to let loose now and then. He fits in well with both high society and a 'fight club' atmosphere. Jake is in top condition and exercises regularly. Jake has no special speaking accent.

Goal: Aiding Carl (his superior) in any investigation. Mostly Jake will throw out a stray question, or 'perk up' at the mention of something related to their investigation. Essentially, he is the "Watson" character to Carl's out-of-shape "Holmes." He occasionally asks a question when he catches an odd statement. Such questions often trigger ideas in Carl, which lead to further developments in their cases.

Background: Middle- to Upper-class. A decent enough family, with a caring mother, strong father figure, and a younger sister. Had an older brother who died when Jake was only about 6 or 7 years old. Graduated from college, but his degree isn't related to his work. So his educational background is - flexible. In Dutch Oven (screenplay), though, his lack of local historical knowledge becomes evident.

Likes: Clubbing. wine walks, baseball, tennis.

Habits: Loves to ad-lib a line - either to himself, or occasionally out loud - when a humorous opportunity presents itself. Likes to pester Carl to "pull my finger." Exercises regularly, Doesn't brag about his activities, but isn't shy about talking about them if he's asked. He does have one vice: Jake enjoys playing the horses. But, he's not very successful at it. Jovial. The type that's beloved by everyone he meets. Could easily be a close friend of Janet Bush, in Dutch Oven, though he can also lean against an alley wall and chat with a wino or drug addict.

Dislikes: Not really much, except he really detests classical music.

So - bottom line: Jake seems to be quite the sort of person to just hang around and have some laughs - take in a comedy show, head to the race track, maybe see a wrestling *match* or whatever. A lot more easy-going than his partner, Carl.

Oh: age 30-35. Haven't really figured out height, but would think about 6' - not much taller.

E.M. Swift-Hook: I can see why he'd be a good friend :


Darrel Merke

Darrel Merke: I would have to go with my main character, Cole Daniels. As a pilot and astronaut, he's had some interesting experiences. He's also an everyman with a good sense of humor who likes to sit back and enjoy a beer - blended into the stories of both Sensabria and the sequel. He would certainly have some good stories to tell you. Because of his past however, he's also vulnerable, which can lead him into precarious situations. Fortunately, he can also be rather clever in finding his way out.

Some of his other character traits include: adaptive, appreciative, courageous, resourceful, adventurous, curious, honorable, idealistic, independent, and observant.

E.M. Swift-Hook: So which particular aspects of his personality you mentioned would you see as being the prime ones in making him a good friend?

Darrel Merke: I would say that appreciative and honorable would be the two most important qualities in terms of being a good friend. He's also very quite humble too, so that would also be a factor.


Aaron-Michael Hall

Aaron-Michael Hall: There are a few: Danimore, Symeon, Thalassa, Ayrmeis, and Ahvixx would be at the top of my list. Each are unique, yet encompass what a true friend should. Their honesty, inner and outer strengths, loyalty, passion, and compassion exude through and from them. However, each also has an innocence that is endearing.


E.M. Swift-Hook

And me? Well, since you asked...

E.M. Swift-Hook: I have to admit I struggle a bit with who of my characters I'd want as a friend. Those who have read any of the first trilogy will know that some of the individuals are not exactly 'free agents' - they bear the weight of agendas which they would place above even those they care for. Not good people to have as friends!

If I had to choose someone from the Transgressor Trilogy, maybe I would step away from my main characters and go with one of the significant others - Aisha, the leader of a group of travelling performers.

Lyra Shanti: Travelling performers are cool, but they can't always be trusted.

E.M. Swift-Hook: Very true - and some of Aisha's people prove that very point - but she shows herself to be a very good friend. The fact I would not choose any of my main characters in that first trilogy as a friend tells me something about them. That said, there is more than one character in the, as yet unpublished, second and third trilogies who I would see as being excellent friend material - the only problem is gaining that friendship would be something of a challenge....

Ducky Smith: Aisha for sure.

E.M. Swift-Hook: She would have your back, be great for advice and good for a chat - perfect!

Ducky Smith: And I have a bit of the gypsy soul in me. I could live in a vardo, traveling the world with my home going with me.

E.M. Swift-Hook: Yup! It occurred to me - after the event - that the quote I have used on the graphic for this post is something Aisha said...