Dan Moren is joining us today to talk about his novel, All Souls Lost. Here’s the publisher’s description:
After two years trying to run away from his past, Mike Lucifer’s back in his office less than ten minutes when a persistent young woman shows up asking for help: her boyfriend’s been possessed by a demon.
That’s exactly the kind of mess that drove him from his hometown of Boston to a sunny beach—and the bottom of a bottle—in the first place. But there are some problems that even booze can’t drown, and while Lucifer may be no hero, his dwindling bank account provides a thousand reasons to take the case.
No sooner is he back in the game then the complications and corpses start to add up. The boyfriend’s not possessed—he’s dead. The tech company where he worked is looking shadier by the second. And Lucifer’s client definitely knows more than she should…about everything. The deeper Lucifer digs, the more he wonders if whatever sinister entity lurks behind this case wants him to be the last to die…
What’s Dan’s favorite bit?
As I’ve been gearing up for the release of my latest book, ALL SOULS LOST, it occurred to me that I’d never before written a story that takes place in a real city. In fact, none of my previous novels have even been set on Earth. But nine years ago, as I started conceiving of the tale of a spiritual consultant investigating shady goings-on at a big tech company, it came to me that a narrative so decidedly steeped in the unreal needed the grounding of a place that was decidedly real.
As a kid, I found myself at turns hopeful and fearful of the existence of anything beyond the normal—hopeful that real life could be as extraordinary as the stories I read; afraid that the unexplained might lurk in the closet or beneath the bed. Balancing on the knife’s edge between real and unreal, for me, helps capture a bit of that liminal possibility: the idea that our own world might actually be layered atop a hidden one, and that it might be both amazing and terrifying.
The question was which city suited this particular story. Two of the series that inspired me to write this mash-up of detective story and supernatural thriller (Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London and Mike Carey’s Felix Castor books) were set in London, and though the temptation to borrow that well-worn setting was high, I’ve only spent a few days there in my life. If I wanted to anchor this story in the concrete, I needed a place that I knew like the back of my own hand.
Which is why I landed, somewhat obviously, on my hometown of Somerville, Massachusetts. I’ve lived in this city for more than seventeen years, in the immediate area for about 20, and in the Metro Boston area for most of my life. And though my experience of this city and its surrounds is by no means universal, it’s definitely my own.
The Boston area is of course a region with a long history, and it’s a rich vein to mine for events that might be significant for reasons both mundane and magical, whether it’s the landfill that Back Bay is built upon (which holds up only as the result of a long-term deal with magical practitioners, perhaps?), the hoisting of the Grand Union Flag by George Washington (surely the American Revolution was fought on supernatural fronts as well), or the first subway system in the U.S. (disturbing something otherworldly that lurks beneath?).
Once I decided to set the story here, I found myself looking at my city in a different light. I’ve spent countless hours over the years walking the streets, both aimlessly and with purpose, but now I seemed to see things that I’d never noticed before. Could that third-floor window in an office building near my home be the office of my protagonist, spiritual consultant Mike Lucifer? How we would he feel about the fancy donut place around the block? Might he have cause to visit a certain hidden steakhouse? (Spoiler: the answers to all of these can be found within the book!)
There’s yet another layer on top of this: because it took almost a decade for this book to go from idea to published novel, it’s been fascinating to see how much my city has changed within that time. That twenty-two story apartment building that went up over the past two years, for example, doesn’t exist in Mike Lucifer’s Somerville—at least not yet. In some ways, the setting has become almost as fictional as the story that takes place there: it’s now a time capsule of somewhere that’s already gone, and will never come again. But I love that putting it down on the page means I can always revisit it. That’s why my favorite bit of this particular story is its setting: it’s as familiar as home and as fantastic as any invented land.
DAN MOREN is the author of supernatural detective novel All Souls Lost as well as the many installments of the Galactic Cold War series. A prolific podcaster and freelance tech journalist, he writes regularly for Macworld and Six Colors, and hosts shows on The Incomparable and Relay FM networks. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts with his wife, where he is never far from a set of polyhedral dice.