British author Amelia Faulkner’s first novel never saw the light of day. “It was a dumpster fire of epic proportions and utterly unpublishable,” she says. Today, she is the author of two intriguing contemporary fantasy series. Under the name Amelia Faulkner, her books include the five-volume adult paranormal Tooth and Claw series, about a werewolf and a vampire—both male—who fall in love.
After a brief and “random” segue into World War II–era novellas, she shifted gears. Writing as A.K. Faulkner, she began Jack of Thorns, the first book in her well-received Inheritance series, centered on two damaged young men with supernatural powers fated to meet under fraught circumstances. Over the course of the series, Faulkner reveals how both men came to be something more than human. The series continues with Knight of Flames, Lord of Ravens, Reeve of Veils, Page of Tricks, and Rites of Winter. Sigils of Spring will be published November 2019; an eighth book will be released in 2020.
Because her Inheritance books fall within the new-adult category, Faulkner publishes them under her initials to differentiate them from her adult paranormal romance novels. Both of Faulkner’s series have received Rainbow Awards and honors for outstanding LGBT fiction.
Jack of Thorns—praised by Kirkus for its “striking prose and characters” and for “lustrous passages [that] turn basic scenery into beautiful imagery”—isn’t for the squeamish. Set in a modern-day San Diego shadowed with otherworldly corners and a being out of mythology, Faulkner’s book draws on issues of male toxicity, drug addiction, and cycles of abuse to craft a tender love story between pagan Laurence Riley, an American florist, and Quentin d’Arcy, a British earl. Beset by dangerous forces and perilous choices, the two find strength together to begin reaching their powerful potential.
“I wanted to portray a healthy masculinity where men are allowed to have feelings and can talk about them without being feminine,” Faulkner says. “I wanted [Quentin and Laurence] to be vulnerable on the page and in front of each other. The suicide rate amongst men is bonkers high,” she continues, “because they believe they are not allowed to have feelings or express those feelings.”
Quentin, a man at odds with the 21st century, remains something of an enigma in Jack of Thorns despite disturbing glimpses into why he may have fled England for temporary digs in San Diego. Used to having everything done for him, he is remarkably ignorant about computers and cellphones.
Movingly, the compassion and kindness that Quentin offers Laurence is something the self-hating young florist has experienced only from his late father and supportive mother, who, significantly, has her own powers of precognition. Quentin is demisexual, Faulkner explains, someone unable to respond sexually to another person without feeling a strong emotional connection. He has no conscious sexual thoughts, nor is he aware that his telekinetic powers are triggered by what his subconscious perceives as a sexual threat.
Laurence fights his fierce attraction to Quentin, aware that something fragile in the young Brit and between the two of them would be destroyed if he forces the issue. It’s a visceral struggle for a man whose idea of consent has been blurred through manipulation and coercion in past relationships.
Faulkner is frank in her depictions of male sexuality as both a human response and misuse of power. She is equally frank with her graphic but empathic portrayal of Laurence’s heroin addiction and how it feeds his destructive self-loathing.
The threat at the center of Jack of Thorns is the title character, the Green Man of Celtic mythology. He manifests in response to a plea for help from Laurence, whose life is “all kinds of screwed up,” Faulkner says. Leading to a terrifying twist, Jack’s offer to teach Laurence how to claim the full range of his powers is both threatening and seductive:
Jack circled around and stopped behind him. Warm hands settled on Laurence’s shoulders, and then Jack stepped in so close that his chest rested against Laurence’s back. “It’s okay,” Jack breathed. “I’m here.We’re going to make this right, aren’t we?”The sweat returned to Laurence’s spine and the press of the god against him made it feel uncomfortably hot. “We are?”
Jack draped his arms around Laurence’s, and rested his chin on the florist’s shoulder. “Let me tell you what’s inside you,” he purred. “And once you know, you will understand what we can do together, okay?”
Faulkner, who punctuates her conversation with ready laughter and self-deprecating humor (“I’m a horrible person,” she says, referring to what she puts her characters through), lives with a bouncy corgi named Luna in a small town within London’s Green Belt (“if you drive five minutes in any direction, you’re in farmland”). She is also a frequent world traveler, although she hadn’t yet visited San Diego when she placed Jack of Thorns there so that “the gorgeous weather and beautiful scenery” would “contrast setting with theme and tone.”
When at home, Faulkner is a self-described “hermit. I think it allows me to explore the world without having to go out into it,” she says.
Before she began writing fiction full time, Faulkner spent 15 years as an information technology specialist. She wrote nonfiction pieces for SFX and SciFiNow magazines and published short stories under a name she prefers to keep separate from her work as both Amelia and A.K. Faulkner. Faulkner’s love for SF and contemporary fantasy—“anything in a modern real-world setting with magic or vampires, or superpowers, or whatever”—is a lifelong affair that fuels her writing.
A voracious and precocious reader from very early childhood, Faulkner was all of 5 years old when she decided to be a writer. “I was so obsessed with books and stories, and as a child, I always read way above my age,” she says. “So, it was never really in question.” She would steal her dad’s copies of Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat SF paperbacks, and at age 10, started reading X-Men comics, a strong influence, she says, because metaphorically, “they’re dealing with bigotry, really.”
These days, a lot of her fans have clearly cut their teeth not on pulp SF but on TV series in the genre. “I have a bunch of readers,” she says, “who describe Inheritance as ‘The X-Men meet The Magicians.’ ”
A Southern California–based writer and editor, Lynne Heffley is a former Los Angeles Times staff writer.
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