It ended up being a coin flip. The show of hands for Patricia Briggs to read a section from Adam’s point of view had been about even with the number voting for a section with Mercy interacting with Asil. The fates apparently wanted to hear about how everyone’s favorite coyote got along with the Moor, and the audience at Powell’s was treated to ten minutes from the new Mercy Thompson book, Frost Burned. Listening to author Patricia Briggs give voice to her main character might have had everyone spell bound, but even a tense fight scene kept everyone laughing…including Patty.
The following Q and A brought even more laughter as fans asked about favorite elements of Mercy’s world. The opening question about Mercy’s profession as a Volkswagen mechanic instantly proved that Patty’s story telling abilities aren’t regulated to the page. As she wove the story of the Volks Vanagon their in-laws had gifted them, the same timing of crucial elements and the same dry humor of her books quickly became evident, as did the complexity of the world she has created. There was a strong feeling that we could have remained on this one topic the entire evening. So many little asides begged for questions of their own. Was the mechanic in Tri-cities who taught Mike Briggs how to repair the families many different Volkswagen cars the inspiration for Zee? At any rate, he gave Patty enough facts to make Mercy’s job real – and she liked what it said about Mercy. It grounded her in a practical, manual job and also mirrored her drive to fix all things – a trait, she suggested, Mercy isn’t fully aware of yet. But even book research only goes so far. “Don’t ask me to fix your Volks,” Patty cautioned. “Because it wouldn’t work again. Ever.”
One fan asked what would happen if someone with a birth defect became a werewolf. While she admitted upfront that she hadn’t considered that scenario and worked through it, Patty shared she was leery of using the Turn as a cure. In fact, she opposed werewolfism being a good thing at all. In her world, it’s mostly a bad thing that individuals learn to live with.
How different is her original manuscript from what we see? Pretty different it would seem. The editing is Patty’s favorite part of the process. As she writes the first draft, she leaves out details for sake of finishing the plot, and editing is when magic happens. The first time through she leaves notes about what a scene needs for the sake of character development, humor and dialog, and adds the fun parts later while editing. This is also the stage that any serious problems are ironed out. For example, in Frost Burned, Asil disappeared half way through by accident and was replaced by an entirely different, and wrong for the plot, character. Editing is also where she smooths out long convoluted sentences, and cuts scenes that don’t push the action forward. Overall, she said, she looks at writing books like weaving with many different strands that all have to help make the final product. “And be very grateful I have editors,” Patty joked before asking for the next question.
The next question was clearly one everyone had hoped would be asked. What’s with Mercy’s tattoos on the covers? Patty’s face lit up as she begins the “ever changing tattoos story.” It started with an image by cover illustrator Dan Dos Santos which had Mercy covered in tattoos. Patty loved the artistry of the tattoos but, “this isn’t Portland or Seattle.” That level tattooing would stand out in the Tri Cities and alienate Mercy. So they scaled it back to the coyote paw print that Mercy really did have. But in something of a nod to the first illustration on each book Mercy is shown with a different tattoo that is representative of the story. But while a great element for the covers, the character still only has the paw print and a band around her arm.
While vampires and fae abound in these books, the heart of the story remains with the werewolves. Why wolves? Patty shared she always really loved horses and wolves. But Mike’s sister had a dog that was 15th/16th wolf and part Malamute. At that point, they basically had a wolf, and the dog may have looked like Malamute, but moved like a wolf. He hated collars and walks, but compromised and would take your hand in his mouth, never breaking the skin and would walk beside you “holding hands.” The family’s German Shepherd was a great dog too, but there were many small children at the time and the bouncing shepherd would walk through the room accidentally bumping into all the kids, catching them with it tail. The wolf hybrid would walk through the same room and never so much as brush one of the children. That experience, plus the fact wolves were so blatantly predators, helped shaped the feel of the Pack.
As for the world itself, the next project is a collection of all the Mercy’s world short stories, with the exception of the Alpha and Omega story since Patty feels she “can’t ask people to buy it again.” So far she’s added a story about Ben, a story about Samuel, and feels the next things it needs is funny story. After that, we have Mercy Thompson Book 8, Night Broken, expected to release next year.
The signing portion itself was a great deal more engaging than many other similar events. Patty took time to chat with each attendee, and her husband Mike kept the folks still waiting equal parts fascinated and entertained with stories about writers, house building, horses, and cars. But the best part of the evening? Heading home to a large cup of coffee and a brand new Mercy book. With Asil in it.