I love sharing the background of my stories. It usually takes me anywhere from many months to several years to finish a story. I always have about a dozen in the WIP queue, and work on them as time permits. Research is sometimes a holdup. I love it a little too much.
For my dark paranormals, research involves everything from The Underworld to Greek mythology to goddesses to angels.
Dancing with the Devil was no different. The myth of Persephone and Hades has always intrigued me. The gods and goddesses were a strange and incestuous bunch (Persephone was Hades' niece, in fact). I wasn't about to touch that aspect of it.
But that aside, Hades is, after all, the devil. The ultimate bad guy. The guy you can never trust, never be friends with, never turn your back on. Yet somehow, he managed to make Persephone fall in love with him. After their marriage, her mother Demeter protested and basically earned Persephone a Get Out of Hell card for at least part of the year. Persephone ultimately chose to return to Hades.
Why? Did Hades have some redeeming qualities? He wasn't a faithful husband. He spent a little too much time with the nymph Minthe. Persephone took notice, and violently murdered Minthe. Maybe a little of her husband rubbed off on the goddess, eh?
Much of the story is set in The Underworld. Not many have visited and returned to describe the setting, but there are plenty of resources to make up for that.
Hades refers to both the ruler of The Underworld and Hell itself. For the most part, it refers to the ruler in Dancing With the Devil. Tartarus is the least desirable of the realms, where the damned souls reside, and where Hades keeps his main castle in my story.
As far as the realm being broken into sections, well, that was something I imagined. Each section has its own archduke, chosen by Hades. For Section Six, Zeveriah is archduke, and has fallen into Hades' favor with his financial expertise. Hades is about to appoint Zeveriah as CFO. As an extra perk, he's throwing in his granddaughter Lily.
Carrying on in the tradition of Hades and Persephone, the two arrange the marriages of their offspring with prominent figures in The Underworld. Persephone's daughter Illiana, however, chose to buck that tradition and instead married an angel, Zacharel. Their daughter Lily was kidnapped as an infant and placed into the care of a woman who turned out to be a double agent - friendly to the angels, she secretly worked for The Underworld, and helped set up Lily on her 21st birthday.
When she steps into the waiting limousine, Lily has no clue she's taken the first step toward fulfilling her role as The Destined One.
It's funny how elements come together in a story. When I first began Dancing With the Devil, Lily's a pole dancer. Not your stereotypical exotic dancer, she just loves to dance. So it seemed natural to include a scene in which Persephone and Hades arrange a performance during Lily's visit. As a starting point, I researched belly dancing and stumbled across information on slave dances, which I'd never heard of, but which fit the story perfectly.
Slaves dance performances tell a story in and of themselves. They might be a woman's personal story, or it might be a traditional dance which relays a part of the culture.
In Dancing With the Devil, the performance depicts the origin of The Destined One, and shows how the woman will fulfill her role. Lily's enamored of the dancing itself, and asks to learn the method. I'd never understood much about it, but apparently using the finger cymbals, or zills, is extremely difficult to master.
Not for Lily, of course. :)
Angels provided another reason for research. I dusted off my copy of A Dictionary of Angels and searched through it for what might be an appropriate angel. The one who caught my eye was Bodiel.
As The Ruling Angel of the Sixth Heaven, Bodiel would seem to be in a position of direct opposition to the archduke of Hades Section Six, Zeveriah. A good excuse to make them foes since the beginning of existence.
Bodiel's also part of the Sixth Order of Angel, known as Thrones. The array of angels is astounding, in fact - one for every month, every day, and every hour of the day. And more beyond that. But that's all for another story. :)
Literally, Bodiel means "The Enlightenment of the Source of the Whole of Existence." For my story, he focuses on enlightening Lily. He understands the risk in becoming personally involved, yet it doesn't stop him. Besides being a warrior angel, he also rides a motorcycle. True hero material.
My research files for this story go on for many, many more pages. I'll wrap it up with Lilith, who's somewhat of a mystery. Apparently much of what was formerly recorded about Lilith was stricken from history. Some referred to her as the first goddess, and the first wife of Adam - in fact, created alongside Adam rather than Eve, who came later to replace Lilith. It seems Lilith was somewhat of a party girl, and liked to keep her options open rather than commit to one guy. She "mated" with the archangel Samael (who became the original fallen angel, or Satan). So some referred to her as a demoness, and she may or may not have been the serpent who tempted Eve with the apple in the Garden of Eden.
It seems to be the general concensus that Lilith was banished. So she became the go-to goddess for desperate Veronica, who's in love with Zeveriah, who's determined to make Lily fall in love with him. But he also is addicted to relieving the pain of waiting for Lily by, ahem, spending time with Veronica.
As I've mentioned before, Dancing with the Devil is a much higher heat level than I normally write. I think I mentioned I stopped writing it a few times because of it. But then I realized the sex was not gratuitous. In Dancing With the Devil, it's more of a power struggle than anything. It made perfect sense, so I stopped trying to limit my characters and let them tell their story.
The most important element of all.