Monday, 23 January 2012

Article: Rhi Etzweiler

Welcome, Miz Love readers. I’m Rhi Etzweiler. Today marks the release of “Blacker Than Black” and Miz Love invited me over to talk about the book.

Writing a story is very much an art form. The medium is different, words instead of paint or clay or metal. Some authors find success in breaking it down into a formula with variables, swapping values and churning out books. For me, it’s like writing music, perhaps because they’re both read—in this, the musician is the audience. The act of reading should create a symphony in the mind.

Each story demands a different octave, a different cadence, rhythm, and beat. I have a variety of tools in my arsenal. Choosing which ones fit a given story can be tricky. Sure, there are a number of best-selling authors within the dark/urban fantasy genre that employ first-person. It’s tricky, though. The character presentation requires care and attention to translate into reader immersion and engagement, as opposed to simply “the easy way out” as some call it.

I disagree with that “easy” label. No aspect of “Blacker Than Black” was easy. Not the first-person POV, not the present tense, not the world-building, the plot arc, the climactic sequences, the resolution. Every single moment spent writing this novel was a labor. Like Wolfgang Amadeus slaving over ‘Requiem in D Minor’, it was a labor of love and passion. I shed the blood, sweat, and tears because more than anything I wanted every word and sentence to be perfect.

But then, it’s not just an urban fantasy story told in first person, present tense.

It’s all that, with a narrator who obscures sex and gender identity, who only knows the events of the past in sweeping, broad brushstrokes. Without any meaning from a political or cultural standpoint, or the way they’re presented in the annals of history, never mind the finer details of the truth that lie in the greyer areas of actual events.

The reader learns all this as the narrator does, piece by piece uncovering a jigsaw puzzle from the rubble and the dust.

But the story would be destroyed if even one aspect were altered. If any tool were substituted for another. The English language is funny like that. It’s difficult –I would say impossible—to present a story with a gender-obscured narrator in third person without resorting to gender neutral pronouns. Those pronouns would’ve been constant flags, counterproductive. “Blacker Than Black” is designed to encourage assumptions about the narrator. It leads the reader down a path of discovery.

That discovery is not something every reader will appreciate or enjoy. I’ve already accepted that. The story wouldn’t be what it is if I hadn’t employed the tools I did, though. To change any one of them would have weakened what it was meant to be, what the muse wanted it to be when Black first began sharing the story with me over five years ago.

If told in third person, past tense, for instance… Black’s story would just be yet another urban fantasy story about vampires and the humans they subjugate. And though I’m biased, I think you’ll agree it’s a great deal more than just that.

Thanks for having me, Miz Love, and thank you to all the readers for stopping by! If you haven’t already read the expanded excerpt on Riptide’s site, it’s over here. Be sure to follow along for the rest of the blog stops this coming week, as there’s some exclusive content coming up! Tomorrow I’ll be at Dawn’s Reading Nook ( and on Alex Whitehall’s blog, Between the Covers (

For more info about Rhi’s writings:
Twitter: @musefodder
Facebook Profile: here
Goodreads Profile: here
Amazon Author Page: here
Google+ Profile: here
Get “Dark Edge of Honor” here
Get “Blacker Than Black” here


booklover0226 said...

This was a really interesting post. I enjoyed reading it, Rhi.

I look forward in reading Blacker than Black.

Tracey D

Amanda said...

In no way do I think first person is easy. Trying to keep the story flowing and reveal information without losing that rhythm takes talent and hard work.

First person isn't right for every story (or every author), but from what I've read of Blacker than Black I couldn't imagine any other voice working.

Patti P said...

I am always in awe of writers. I have never been able to express myself in words written or spoken. But I am a voracious reader and I honor you for your skill and your courage in sharing your work with the world. Thank you!
Patti P

Rhi Etzweiler said...

@Tracey: I'm hoping you enjoy reading it, too!

@Amanda: It was certainly a challenge, but worth every ounce of effort it took.

@Patti: I envy you that reading time, I haven't found a moment to enjoy a good read for a few months now. If I can get a vacation, that's probably what I'll do the entire time!

Thanks to each of you for stopping by; you'll be entered in the swag drawing, but if you each send me an email at I'll send you out an autographed cover flat. (I'm too generous to sit here and play "eenie meeny miny mo" with y'all.)

Thank you to the fabulous Miz Love and crew for hosting me and sharing their space!

Anne Brooke said...

Fascinating stuff - first person writing always gives a story a special edge :))


Kassandra said...

I find first person to be one of the hardest for an author to do well. It's much harder to convey the whole scope of emotions when seen through only one set of eyes. So when an author does it well (I have read the extended excerpt of Blacker than Black and Rhi does first person quite well) I find myself unable to put the book down until finished!!