Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Guest Post & Giveaway: Nancy Holzner

I am pleased to have Nancy Holzner, author of one of my favourite urban paranormal series, Deadtown, who is here today to discuss Annwn from Welsh mythology.  Fans of the series will know that the author draws on a lot of Welsh mythology in her stories and its fun to see how she weaves those strands together in very interesting, and unique, ways.  For those of you who are new this series, you are in for a treat, but I would start with Deadtown, the first novel in the series.  Here is a summary of her newest novel, Darklands, just released July 31st.

They call it Deadtown: the city’s quarantined section for its inhuman and undead residents. Most humans stay far from its border—but Victory Vaughn, Boston’s only professional demon slayer, isn’t exactly human…

Boston’s demons have been disappearing, and Vicky’s clients are canceling left and right. While fewer demons might seem like a good thing, Vicky suspects foul play. A missing Celtic cauldron from Harvard’s Peabody museum leads her to an unwelcome conclusion: Pryce, her demi-demon cousin and bitter enemy, is trying to regain his full powers.

But Pryce isn’t alone. He’s conjured another, darker villain from Vicky’s past. To stop them from destroying everything she loves, she’ll have to face her own worst fear—in the realm of the dead itself.

Annwn and the Darklands

My Deadtown urban fantasy series features Victory Vaughn, a shapeshifter who kills other people's demons for a living. In Darklands, the fourth book in the series, Vicky travels to the realm of the dead in a race to stop an old enemy from regaining his full powers.

The Darklands are loosely based on Annwn from Welsh mythology. In its original depictions, Annwn was not a place of death and suffering. On the contrary, it was a realm of eternal youth, pleasant weather, and abundant food. Time passed differently there, as travelers discovered when they returned home greatly aged after spending a mere couple of weeks in Annwn.

Some sources located Annwn on an island. According to the poem Preiddeu Annwn ("The Spoils of Annwn") King Arthur led three ships full of warriors on a raid into Annwn—but only seven men returned. Whether those who stayed behind succumbed to the pleasures or the dangers of Annwn, the poem doesn't say. Those who escaped carried out a magical cauldron—and this stolen cauldron becomes central to the plot of Darklands.

Other sources locate the entrance to Annwn underground. (I use this tradition in Darklands; at the full moon, a doorway into the realm may be opened inside a shallow cave known as The Devil's Coffin.) Sometimes, it was possible to wander across the border into Annwn by going too deep into the woods. In the First Branch of The Mabinogi, the great medieval collection of Welsh myths and legends, a Welsh prince named Pwyll learned this when, on a hunting trip, he gets separated from his party and effectively poaches on land belonging to Arawn, lord of Annwn. To make up for trespassing, Pwyll must switch places with Arawn for a year and a day, taking on Arawn's likeness to rule Annwn and defeat Arawn's enemy. The fact that he doesn't sleep with Arawn's wife during his time there makes Pwyll Arawn's fast friend for life. (Although Arawn's wife must have been deeply confused and more than a little annoyed!)

In Darklands, Arawn is a minor god and the source of the realm's magic. He is a stern but fair ruler. The rules of his realm must be obeyed, yet he tries to protect his subjects. He has forbidden demons from entering the Darklands, creating a massive range of enchanted mountains on the border between the two realms. After Arthur's theft of his cauldron, he also closed the borders to the living, so Vicky has to use her wits to find a way in—and it's far from a sure thing that she'll be allowed out again.

Eventually, medieval Welsh depictions of Annwn shifted to make it less of a parallel world and more of a realm of the dead. In the poem Cad Goddeu ("The Battle of the Trees"), Annwn is a frightening place filled with tormented souls and monstrous creatures. Still, many sources distinguish between Annwn, a place of rest for departed souls, and Uffern, the realm of demons. (The word Uffern comes from "inferno.") I follow this latter idea—the Darklands are a way station for departed souls, a place where they spend time before being reincarnated or regenerated. Not all souls find their way there, and it is not a place of punishment. It is a place of strong magic that follows its own rules, its own time.

Welsh mythology is incredibly rich in stories and symbols, and I have fun mining its depths for materials I can incorporate into my Deadtown stories. Annwn is a fascinating place, and I loved exploring it in Darklands. I hope you'll explore it with me!
DARKLANDS, the fourth novel in Nancy Holzner's Deadtown series, is now available. For information on Nancy and her books, visit her website. You can also find Nancy on Facebook and Twitter. And visit her Kickstarter page to find out about her plans for a Deadtown prequel!


Nancy Holzner grew up in western Massachusetts with her nose stuck in a book. This meant that she tended to walk into things, wore glasses before she was out of elementary school, and forced her parents to institute a “no reading at the dinner table” rule. It was probably inevitable that she majored in English in college and then, because there were still a lot of books she wanted to read, continued her studies long enough to earn a master’s degree and a PhD.

She began her career as a medievalist, then jumped off the tenure track to try some other things. Besides teaching English and philosophy, she’s worked as a technical writer, freelance editor and instructional designer, college admissions counselor, and corporate trainer. As Nancy Conner, she writes how-to and reference books on topics ranging from classical mythology to using Office 2010.

Nancy lives in upstate New York with her husband Steve, where they both work from home without getting on each other’s nerves. She enjoys visiting local wineries and listening obsessively to opera. There are still a lot of books she wants to read.

One lucky reader will win their choice of Deadtown, Hellforged, Bloodstone, or Darklands

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. The series is new to me, it would be interesting to try it :)

  2. I would love to win Bloodstone! Great giveaway!

  3. I don't normally like paranormal, but I'm intrigued that Welsh mythology is woven in.

  4. Thanks to Stephanie for inviting me to stop by. I remembered that you liked the mythological elements of the series, so I thought you'd be interested in the spin I put on Annwn.

    Thanks for the comments, too! If you haven't yet taken a look at the world of Deadtown, I hope you'll give the series a try. Good luck with the giveaway!

  5. It looks like an interesting series.

  6. I would love to win Deadtown. I am so happy you are having this giveaway. It is a great way to discover a new author and their books to follow!
    Thanks so much.

  7. Thanks, Laura--I hope you'll check out the series. Entering the giveaway would be a great way to start at the beginning and see if you like it.

  8. It sounds, from what you describe, that Welsh myth is a treasure trove of inspiration for you.

    1. I love mythology and have been fascinated with it for years. To see some of my favourite legends incorporated in unique ways in novels is always a treat.