So without much further ado, I present Kelly in her own words, writing about one of her favorite fairy tales, complete with an excerpt from Three Days to Dead. If you (like me) just can't wait the next four days to get your hands on her book, you can read some free fiction set in her new world at Suduvu, where a five part serial will be posted over the next ten days. And now... Kelly!
Books and stories have been a part of my life for as far back as I can remember. As a child, many of my favorites were fairy tales, legends, and nursery rhymes. I had a book of Mother Goose tales and a cassette tape that read the tales aloud as I followed in the book. One of my favorite things to watch on television was Shelly Duvall's Faerie Tale Theater.
Urban fantasy has a wonderful tradition of taking those old stories and putting new spins on them. Sometimes they remain recognizable, and sometimes they don't. But what is fiction, if not a chance to take an idea and explore it?
In developing the world of Three Days to Dead, I had a wealth of information and choices at my fingertips. Some folks don't like the "kitchen sink" idea. They prefer a narrow slice of the paranormal. I wanted to toss in as much as I could without bogging down the book. Beyond the staples of vampires and shifters, I wanted Fey and trolls and gremlins and gargoyles, but I had to make them my own.
One of my favorite folk stories is that of the Three Billy Goats Gruff. I can't possibly say why that story sticks with me, but it does. Simply, it's the story of three goats who wish to cross a bridge and feast on the grass on the other side of a stream. Under this bridge lives a terrible troll who wants to eat the goats. The first, smallest goat crosses safely by telling the troll his brother his larger and a better meal. The second, middle goat does the same. When the final, biggest goat crosses, he has big horns and gores the troll to death, allowing the three goats to feast and grow fat.
This evil thing that lives under bridges and demands a toll for crossing is what my mind has always first associated with a troll. I wanted to use trolls in TDTD, but I wasn't sure how to do it. So I Googled.
Google is a wonderful tool. I found hundreds of images, but one in particular really stuck with me—the Seattle Bridge Troll. If you've not seen it, it's an amazing work of art. As soon as I saw it, I knew there was a character in it. I had found my troll. He would still live under a bridge, but he doesn't charge a toll for crossing. In fact, his actual role in this world came out a bit later in the book and surprised even me.
And so was born Smedge, the Bridge Troll.
Excerpt from "Chapter Five," Three Days to Dead, by Kelly Meding
"Are you sure he's going to recognize you before he decides to pound on us with a big, gravely fist?" [Wyatt asked.]
"Bridge trolls are blind, remember?" I stomped my foot again. "They don't rely on five senses like humans. He'll know me."
Sure enough, the solid concrete began to vibrate. Slowly at first, like the gentlest shiver. Then it built to a roar, and what was once solid began to run like quicksand. It drew inward, gathering like a miniature tornado beneath the bridge. I raised my hand against the wind, as every bit of dirt was drawn toward its center.
An arm reached out from its whirling vortex, a hand uncurling and dividing into four fingers. Those fingers splayed against the ground by our feet. Wyatt stepped back, but I stood my ground. A second arm joined the first, and then a head pulled out, forming from the dirt and sand and stone, as large as my entire body, with pronounced eyes that couldn't see and a mouth that couldn't taste. A neck and shoulders grew last, until Smedge the bridge troll appeared to have pulled himself out of a giant hole in the ground, only to lounge beneath the bridge, perfectly at ease.
Sounds rumbled deep within his throat, as he remembered how to communicate with other, more verbal species. Bridge trolls were part of the earth itself and communicated through tremors and vibrations of the crust and core, rather than of wind through the larynx. Some of the largest earthquakes in recorded history were because of troll wars--something no one taught kids in geology class.
"Him," Smedge ground out. His voice came across like sandpaper against metal--harsh and unpleasant. "Not…welcome."
"I'll make sure he behaves," I said. "Smedge, do you remember me? It's Stony."
Sandy eyes made a show of looking at me, but I knew better. Air circled me like a cyclone, caressing my skin with fine particles of sand. He was smelling me in his own way, making sure I was telling the truth. I only hoped his unusual senses could "see" past my new appearance and identify his friend.
"Yes, Stony," Smedge said.