Sunday, January 31, 2021

An Interview With T Frohock – Talking Magic in "A Song With Teeth" & The LOS NEFILIM Series


This year, I’m focusing on magic systems in Fantasy – and wherever possible, I hope to do so by talking with a fellow author about the magic systems in their work.

Today I'm really pleased to welcome TeresaFrohock to discuss the magic systems in the world of her LOS NEFILIM series. In particular, we'll be talking A Song With Teeth, the final book in her current series, which is due out on February 9.

At which point I really must pause to vigorously deploy my fan, breathless with excitement.
J By which you may deduce that I am a keen LOS NEFILIM reader, aka a fan!


By way of background for those who may not be as familiar with the storyline as I am, it is set in 1930s Spain, and Europe, during and after the Spanish Civil War. The preceding novel, Carved From Stone and Dream, is set on the cusp of World War 2 (WW2), and A Song With Teeth, the third and final novel takes place during the latter war.
Overlapping the human story of these tumultuous times is a paranormal conflict in which angels and demons war on the human plane. The nephilim (in Spanish, Los Nefilim) are the foot soldiers and frontline troops in their war. Inevitably, the conflict spills over into human politics and concerns, and also reflects them, with nefilim (I shall use the story’s Spanish spelling from this point) on opposing sides in Spain’s civil war and WW2.

Welcoming T Frohock: In Conversation On Magic Systems In A Song With Teeth (LOS NEFILIM #3)

HL:  Congratulations, Teresa, on the imminent release of A Song With Teeth. I imagine it feels like a considerable achievement to see the culmination of a storyline encompassing both this LOS NEFILIM series and the earlier novella trilogy?

TF:  Thank you! It really did. This is actually the first trilogy [tetralogy, if you count the Los Nefilim omnibus] that I’ve had the opportunity to complete for a publisher, so it’s a milestone for me. I enjoyed the ability to follow Diago’s character arc to completion, and I was very satisfied with where the story ended in both terms of plot and characterization.

HL:  How do you feel the magic within LOS NEFILIM influences and shapes the world and the story?

TF: For those who haven’t read the series, the nefilim work their magic through music, light, and movement by creating sigils. They experience sound accompanied by color—a form of chromesthesia—that enables them to use the vibrations of color to shape their sigils, which manifest their willpower into reality.

For example: if a nefil wants to influence the weather, they design a sigil—a magical symbol—that will cause rain. Then they compose the necessary tonal sounds that reflect the strength of the storm they want, and then, as the song unfolds, they use their hands to shape the colors of those sounds into the sigil. The final step is to push the sigil into the clouds.

The world the nefilim inhabit is the very real world of the early twentieth century, so their magic is quite often dependent on the science and music of the period. As they learn new things, they incorporate this knowledge into spells. A good example is Carme’s fascination with the Devil’s Fingers [Clathrus archeri], a type of fungus that she mimics with a very nasty spell that she inflicts on her enemies.

Since the nefilim spend a lot of time together, they also perform together with informal arrangements that deepen their camaraderie. Music isn’t just their way of working magic; it’s also how they relax and form bonds with one another.

When they first meet, often they play for one another. This is a way in which they can see the other nefil’s song, or their soul. They judge one another by the tonal quality of their voices and the complexity of their compositions, including their ability to play instruments.

Although their music plays an important part within their magic, they rely more on their cunning and their ability to manipulate mortals than they do magic. They navigate a treacherous world that can turn on them in a heartbeat, and they know that as the twentieth century moves forward, scientists would love to study the nefilim’s near immortality in addition to their ability to influence events.

Because they distrust mortals, the nefilim spend more time trying to stay hidden from a sense of self-preservation. They move in plain sight, but they keep their magic quiet unless threatened

HL: “Music” is the key word I associate with the LOS NEFILIM magic system, but given the intricacy of the magic system you’ve just described, are there deeper layers that go beyond music alone?

TF: It’s a complex process that relies on physical gestures, as well. Music enables the nefilim to transpose sound into emotion, which is a big component of their magic, but they also have to form the sigils that manifest their will, so it’s as much akin to dance as it is to music.

In A Song with Teeth, Diago notes a young nefil’s magic, which is inadequate because even through the nefil
“understood both technique and style—the accents landed in all the right places, the chords were precise—but the cellist’s execution seemed to lack spirit and emotion, which left the interpretation flat.” In spite of his knowledge of structure and technique, the young nefil can’t convey the necessary emotive chords necessary to work his magic.

This is why older nefilim are much more dangerous than younger ones. Older nefilim have had centuries to design a full repertoire of sigils and sounds and have perfected their techniques. They have a wealth of personal experiences to draw from, and their movements are lightning fast, while younger nefilim, especially those in their firstborn lives, are still having to think their way through their spells.

Magic is never easy. If it was, anyone could do it.

HL: The main character, Diago, and his magic, are unique among the nefilim. Why is that? Is it important to the resolution in A SONG WITH TEETH?

TF:  One aspect to the nefilim’s magic that I haven’t discussed is their distinctive vocal ranges. The angels in the Los Nefilim series have three sets of vocal cords, which allows them to manipulate sound in unique ways. As the children of angels, the nefilim are also able to produce exceptional range with their voices (think of someone like Freddie Mercury or Annie Lennox).

The angel-born nefilim (those born of an angelic parent and a nefil with angelic lineage) have exceptional range in the tonal expressions. The daimon-born, on the other hand, are better skilled at the interpretation of pieces.

Diago is unique in that his mother was an angel and his father was a daimon-born nefil. It was a rare coupling that had never been replicated until an angel manipulates Diago into the sexual relationship that produces Rafael.

Whereas Rafael is one-quarter daimon, Diago is half, which makes him the best of both worlds. His unique tonal range, along with his ability to interpret a piece of music with deadly precision, enable him to compose and work with music far beyond the range of any nefil who is merely angelic or daimonic.

He is able to drift between two distinct cultures and bring what is best to both in the nature of his personal song. His son, Rafael, accidentally discovers the secret to his father’s magic in
A Song With Teeth, and that revelation gives him a deeper understanding of both his own song and that of his father.

HL: Family, both born and found, is central to the main characters and the LOS NEFILIM story. Does this shape the magic system in any way?

TF:  In many ways, yes. The angels want to breed the perfect soldiers, and in doing so, they create nefilim with unique songs. Likewise, so do the daimons. Whoever wins their war wins control of the mortal realm.

The thing to remember is that to be chosen to parent a nefil born of their respective gods (be it angel or a daimon) is considered to be a great honor among the nefilim. Diago’s case is different, because his son’s angelic mother chose to deceive Diago and used her enchantments to rape him. She never intended to give Rafael to either the daimons or to Diago. It was only when she lost complete control of the situation that she was able to hide Rafael and get word to Diago of their son’s whereabouts.

Rather than reject his son, Diago chose to keep Rafael from his abusive daimonic family by acknowledging him and making a place for him in his home and heart. Diago’s husband, Miquel, fully supported this decision. In order to secure his son’s future, Diago joins Los Nefilim. Here, he finally finds the love and esteem that had eluded him with his daimonic kin. He is a part of a unit that respects his individuality and skills. They accept him as a person, something his daimonic family never gave him.

At the same time, the small family of Guillermo, the leader of Los Nefilim, is tight. His daughter, Ysabel, benefits greatly by the presence of her angelic mother, Juanita, who chose to remain on the mortal plane with both Guillermo and Ysabel (not all angelic parents remain in the mortal realm with their off-spring). Together, they nurture Ysabel, enabling her to grow into a strong, confident young woman.

I didn’t want the stories to indicate that either blood relations or found families were superior. The important thing is the respect and encouragement they give to one another. That is where they draw their strength.

HL: Are there any significant new developments readers should look for in the magic of A Song With Teeth?.

TF:  I believe A Song with Teeth probably has more magic in it than all the other books combined. We get to see the daimonic courts in action and experience some of their magic. More important, we get a glimpse of Ysabel and Rafael as young adults, which is something I had a great deal of fun writing.

The best part, for me, was that I was able to resolve all the tiny little threads that spun from the novellas through the novels. I left them all in a good place, and that was important to me, too. You never know what will happen next. I’ve got a few shorts planned for this upcoming year, and we may eventually see them all again one day … until then, watch for them.

HL: Teresa, I definitely shall! By the way, may I say how much I love that catchphrase “Watch for me”? It’s so evocative in itself, but also of the ongoing story. Thank you so much, too, for doing the interview today. I thought I knew the magic system of LOS NEFILIM pretty well but you’ve definitely added more depth – and no question, I shall be eagerly watching for
A Song With Teeth on February 9.


To find out more about A Song With Teeth and LOS NEFILIM, please visit Teresa's website or her publisher's site:
HarperVoyager –
A Song With Teeth 
They'll point you to where the book is available!



About T Frohock

T. Frohock has turned a love of history and dark fantasy into tales of deliciously creepy fiction. A real-life cyborg, T. has a cochlear ear implant meaning she can switch you on or off with the flick of a switch. Make of that what you will. She currently lives in North Carolina where she has long been accused of telling stories, a southern colloquialism for lying.

You can find T. on her website,
here and on Twitter: @T_Frohock

Rocking 2021 with “Magic Systems in Fantasy” on Supernatural Underground: Previous Posts

January 1:
Happy New Year – Ushering In A Year of Friends, Fellow Authors, & Magic Systems

January 2:
An Interview with AK Wilder – Talking Magic In Her New-Out Crown Of Bones (AMASSIA#1)


About The Interviewer:

Helen Lowe's first  novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. The second,The Heir of Night (The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012, and the sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013. Daughter Of Blood (Book Three), was published in 2016 and Helen is currently completing the final novel in the series. She posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog, monthly on the Supernatural Underground, and tweets @helenl0we

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