Francis, Diana Pharaoh
Francis, Diana Pharaoh
Married; husband's name Tony; children: Quentin, Sydney. Education: University of California, Davis, B.A., 1989; Iowa State University, M.A., 1992; Ball State University, Ph.D., 1999.
Academic and writer. University of Montana—Western, Dillon, began as associate professor, became professor of English.
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Novelists, Inc., Association of Writers & Writing Programs.
Path of Fate, Roc (New York, NY), 2003.
Path of Honor, Roc (New York, NY), 2004.
Path of Blood, New American Library (New York, NY), 2006.
The Cipher, Roc (New York, NY), 2007.
The Black Ship, Roc (New York, NY), 2008.
Author of the Diana Pharaoh Francis blog. Contributor of music reviews to Score. Contributor of articles to Medusa's Hairdo, Dreams of Decadence, Sorcerous, Writers Post Journal, Montana State of the Arts, and Glyph. Contributor of scholarly articles to the Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts. Contributing reviewer to the "St. James Press Contemporary Popular Authors" series, Science Fiction Research Association Review, Science Fiction Book Review Annual, and Magill Book Reviews.
Diana Pharaoh Francis is an American academic and writer. Having grown up in California, Francis earned a bachelor of arts degree from the University of California—Davis in 1989. Several years later she earned a master of arts degree from Iowa State University, and in 1999 she completed a Ph.D. in literature with a cognate in literary theory from Ball State University. Francis entered academia, eventually becoming a professor of English at Dillon's University of Montana—Western. She has contributed scholarly articles, music reviews, and stories to a number of periodicals and journals.
Francis opened the "Path" series with her first novel's publication in 2003, Path of Fate. The novel introduces Reisil, a healer who is chosen to be ahalad-kaaslane, a position of leadership. She refuses the honor to maintain her freedom, but in the process, she risks her life and that of her people in this warring land.
Victoria Strauss, writing on the SF Site Web site, commented that "at first glance, many of the elements of Path of Fate feel familiar…. But these familiar tropes are enlivened by a varied cast of well-drawn characters and gripping, fast-paced action." Strauss concluded that "though only the first of a trilogy, Path of Fate draws to a nicely self-contained conclusion. But rich possibilities have been established for future action, and I'll be looking forward to finding out where Reisil goes next." Jenny Ivor, reviewing the novel on the Rambles Web site, noticed that "the book begins a little slowly," but it "holds the reader in a magical suspense." Ivor concluded that "Francis has written a stunning debut book." Jen Talley Exum, writing on Romantic Times Online, commented that "unnecessarily difficult names litter the writing," noting that it makes the book "tough going at times."
Cindy Lynn Speer, reviewing the novel on the SF Site Web site, mentioned that "while reading Path of Fate, I found myself looking forward to a lot of things besides the resolution of the main story line. I couldn't wait for Saljane and Reisil to make peace, and for Juhrnus to get his comeuppance." Speer stated in conclusion: "I truly enjoyed Path of Fate. It is filled with adventure and joy." Booklist contributor Frieda Murray claimed that "plausible, engrossing characters, a well-designed world, and a well-realized plot distinguish Francis' debut." Lesley S.J. Farmer, reviewing the novel in Kliatt, noted that "clear writing and good character development make this a satisfying read."
In 2004 Francis published the second novel in the "Path" series, Path of Honor. Reisil finally accepted the position of ahalad-kaaslane and bonded with her animal companion, Saljane. She is distrusted, however, by those around her, and the plagues and famines that sweep the land create a difficult condition for her as she is unable to improve the situation.
Exum, writing again on Romantic Times Online, thought that the novel's "world-building is strong and characters are multifaceted." Exum noted, however, that because of the names throughout the text, it "is needlessly difficult to read." Booklist contributor Murray stated: "Well plotted and exhibiting superior characterization, it is definitely a worthy sequel."
Francis concluded the series in 2006 with Path of Blood. Once again the land is torn to breaking point by war, and a rift among the wizards only makes the situation worse. Reisil and Yohuac, her lover, attempt to reach the city of Mysane Kosk to heal the land but are tempted from all sides along the way.
Natalie A. Luhrs, reviewing the novel on Romantic Times Online, mentioned that the "battle scenes tend to run together." However, Luhrs praised the novel, noting that "this is a solid conclusion to the series." Booklist contributor Murray found the series conclusion to be "blood and action without letup," but cautioned that the novel "shouldn't be read out of sequence." Dierdre Root, writing in Kliatt, warned that "it can be hard for the new reader to follow at first" as it does not contain a map or glossary. Root nevertheless called the novel both "suspenseful" and "exciting."
Francis started the "Crosspointe" series in 2007 with The Cipher. Lucy Trenton is a distant member of the royal family and a customs inspector who can sense majick and those who possess magical ability. This gift, however, is looked down upon and would bring scandal to her family if it became known to others. She also illegally collects ciphers, magical devices that, when touched by a person, will eventually kill them. One attaches itself to her as she is battling monsters while at sea, but she must remain silent about it so others will not uncover her secret. Later, however, she finds that she is being blackmailed and is torn by what to do as the consequences of defying the blackmailer will reflect poorly upon the royal family.
Harriet Klausner, writing on the Genre Go Round Reviews Web site, noted that "genre fans will enjoy Diana Pharaoh Francis' fine character driven saga as Lucy learns any ‘Path’ she chooses is at best personally disastrous." A contributor to the Dear Author Web site remarked: "On the one hand, the book is clearly imaginative but on the other, it was so disjointed with mismatched words, phrases, entities, characters, and magics/magicks that it was a real struggle to finish."
Mervi Hämäläinen, reviewing the novel on the Curled Up with a Good Book Web site, wrote that "the world of Crosspointe is intriguing but not medieval: it has newspapers, and women seem to be as independent as men. On the other hand, many people live in poverty, and although Lucy and her family have servants to wait on them, Lucy does not seem to be especially wealthy." Gail Pruszkowski, writing on Romantic Times Online, observed that the "secondary characters are realistic, the dialogue is believable, and the world-building is solid." Booklist contributor Murray found the series debut to be "action packed and quite innovative," adding that it is suitable for "anyone looking for a good read."
Francis told CA: "I have always been a storyteller—at least as long as I can remember. I played with dolls and Breyer horses and wove these long, elaborate, epic tales around them and acted them out. I did the same on horseback out on the ranch. I was a daydreamer and I read voraciously. I learned the knack of hearing nothing else while I was in a book, which aggravated my family to no end. In high school, I started writing poetry. Very bad poetry. Before that, I had never written anything aside from basic homework. Then, in college, I took a creative writing class that did not go well. I wasn't allowed to write what I liked (fantasy) and the atmosphere was one of cutthroat competition, as if writing is a zero-sum game. But by then I wanted to write, so I just began. After college, I wrote in notebooks in my car during my lunch hour. Then I went into a master's program in creative writing and learned a lot about craft. And then I just wrote for the love, trying to get better and tell better stories.
"I keep trying to change my writing process. But there are a few things that remain stable and unchanging. I begin a novel with trying to write an outline, and lately I've taken to interviewing the characters about themselves and each other. My goal for both of these is to really get involved in the world of my novel so that as I begin to write, things will just emerge from the primordial ooze of my imagination. The outline allows me to forget what I want to do. If I write down what I want to do and where I think the story is going, then my mind clamps down on those details so I don't forget them. But that inevitably leads to shutting down my imagination, since my mind is so worried about forgetting that it doesn't play. So I write the outline. It is hardly ever truly useful because I always deviate, but it's a necessary part of my process. I then try to write the first draft very quickly. That's actually a change, too. I used to write in a spiral, where I began each day by going back a few pages or a chapter. I'd read those pages and revise them and then move forward. What that meant was the novel would be fairly polished by the end. But I would often be polishing things that could not stay or had to be entirely rewritten because happenings later in the book trumped earlier things. So now I try to get that draft done very quickly. I want to get the story down and learn about my characters. Then I go back and revise."
When asked what influences her work, Francis replied: "This is a very difficult question. The obvious is probably everything I've ever read. I try to learn things from other writers—good, bad, or indifferent. After all, it's just everything around me. A writer's job is to really notice things pay attention. That accumulates into [Virginia] Woolf's ‘primordial ooze’ and becomes the fertilizer and the dirt for growing my writing."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 15, 2003, Frieda Murray, review of Path of Fate, p. 578; November 15, 2004, Frieda Murray, review of Path of Honor, p. 571; April 15, 2006, Frieda Murray, review of Path of Blood, p. 33; November 1, 2007, Frieda Murray, review of The Cipher, p. 32.
Kliatt, January 1, 2004, Lesley S.J. Farmer, review of Path of Fate, p. 22; September 1, 2006, Deirdre Root, review of Path of Blood, p. 32.
Vision: A Resource for Writers, July-August, 2007, Russ Gifford, author interview.
Voice of Youth Advocates, June 1, 2004, Arlene Garcia, review of Path of Fate, p. 141.
Curled Up with a Good Book,http://www.curledup.com/ (June 11, 2008), Mervi Hämäläinen, review of Path of Fate.
Dear Author,http://dearauthor.com/ (November 24, 2007), review of The Cipher.
Diana Pharaoh Francis Home Page,http://www.dianapfrancis.com (July 23, 2008).
Diana Pharaoh Francis MySpace Profile,http://www.myspace.com/difrancis (June 11, 2008).
Genre Go Round Reviews,http://genregoroundreviews.blogspot.com/ (September 13, 2007), Harriet Klausner, review of The Cipher.
Rambles,http://www.rambles.com/ (June 5, 2004), Jenny Ivor, review of Path of Fate.
Romantic Times Online,http://www.romantictimes.com/ (June 11, 2008), Natalie A. Luhrs, review of Path of Blood; Gail Pruszkowski, review of The Cipher; Jen Talley Exum, review of Path of Fate and Path of Honor.
SFF Net,http://www.sff.net/ (June 11, 2008), author profile.
SF Site,http://www.sfsite.com/ (June 11, 2008), Victoria Strauss, review of Path of Fate; Cindy Lynn Speer, review of Path of Fate.