Behind the scenes of the Black Dagger Brotherhood…

Behind the scenes of the Black Dagger Brotherhood…

Posted by in Book Extracts, Fiction, Interviews

To celebrate the paperback publication of The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider's Guide by J.R. Ward, we thought we'd treat you to an extract.

Check out this Q&A with the author:

Where did your inspiration come from for the names of the Brothers? Most vampire romances I have read seem to borrow old-fashioned or elegant names, while yours are hard-hitting, to the point, and leave no room for confusion with regard to the types of males these are.


The Brothers named themselves, actually—and I was a little confused at the beginning. When Wrath came into my head and I started outlining Dark Lover, I kept hearing him referred to by others as Roth. Roth? I thought. What kind of name is that? Roth . . . Roth . . .

The Brothers and their stories are always on my mind, but there are two situations in which they really take over: when I run and when I’m falling asleep at night. So there I was, pounding out the miles, staring at the ceiling in the dark . . . and this Roth name was banging around in my head, along with a hundred other things that happened in Dark Lover . . . Suddenly, I realized I’d gotten it wrong. It wasn’t Roth—it was Wrath. Wrath . . . As soon as I got it right, the rest of the Brothers’ names fell into place, and so did the spellings.

The story behind the names, as I’ve said before, is that they are traditional names of the Brotherhood and can be given only to descendants of the Brother lines. Over time the names were bastardized in the English language and came to be associated with strong or aggressive emotions. I think they suit the Brothers perfectly because, as you say, they leave no room for confusion when it comes to what kind of males you’re dealing with!

If you were given the opportunity to go back and rewrite any part of the books published of the Brothers, would you make any changes? Is there anything that was edited that you wish could be added back in? Is there a depth to one of the characters in the BDB that you wish you had explored more? Are there any regrets? —Flowerlady

Well, I never think the books are as good as they should be. I always feel I could do a better job. But that’s my personal makeup. I’m never satisfied with myself or anything I do—so that reaction isn’t specific to the writing. When it comes to editing the books, I am the only one who takes anything out of them or puts anything in them. My editor and I touch base and she’ll give me her opinion and we’ll discuss this and that, but nothing changes unless I want it to and unless I do it. Control freak much? Er . . . you bet! (Also a lifelong characteristic of mine.) Any regrets? Not on that front. Any choices I’ve made I’ve done deliberately and with a lot of forethought.

For the depth issue, I’d have to say no—but only because I try to wring every single ounce of emotion and drama and pathos out of each of the stories. But I do have a regret on this front. As I said, I wish I’d put another couple pages at the end of Lover Unbound so readers saw more of what was in my head with respect to V and Jane’s happiness with how things worked for them.

I was wondering, where did you come up with some of your terms, like leelan, hellren, shellan? Are those terms you came up with? Or are they part of some ancient language you researched? —Beth

Believe it or not, they just came with the stories—and still do. I’ll hear one of the Brothers or the shellans say a word and I use it accordingly. I didn’t expect, while I was writing Dark Lover, to end up with as many as I did! The glossary, by the way, was my editor’s idea. After she read the final on Wrath, she was like, you know . . . you should do one. And she was right.

I was actually wondering how you keep your writing styles separate? I think I heard that you write under a pseudonym and I[’ve] read a couple of other authors who do that as well. I guess I’m wondering how you make sure that your different characters don’t cross into the wrong genre or are written by the “wrong” person? —Rebekah

It’s true, I write contemporary romance under Jessica Bird and urban paranormal romance under the Ward name. And you know, I’ve never had that crossover problem—probably because of the way the stories come to me in my head. The lines are just incredibly clear when the scenes hit, and the worlds are so completely different that confusing them is impossible. I will say that the voice when I draft on the page is not that dissimilar—although in the Brotherhood series the tempo is different and the writing more raw, because the Brothers are more raw.

I like writing in two vastly different veins. It refreshes me as I go from one to the other. The way I look at it, it’s two separate tracks that never cross, and I can only follow one at a time. I’m really lucky that I get a chance to do both.

You mentioned some coffins in the garage. What are the coffins about, and who is in charge of taking care of them? —Meryl

I love this question! It’s something that I get asked a lot in one form or another. If it’s not the coffins, people want to know what the deal with Boo is, or the deets on other things that are shown but not explained.

As I said, I don’t always know what everything means when I see it. When it comes to the coffins, while I was writing Lover Revealed, I saw Marissa walk into the garage with Fritz . . . and there they were. I have absolutely no idea what’s in them, where they came from, or what role they’re going to play, but because it’s happened before, I know that if I see something as clearly as I did them, it’s going to be material. So really? I can’t wait to find out what their deal is!

What is the significance of the lessers’ jars? I know the heart is removed and placed into that ceramic jar, but why? Why isn’t it just destroyed? Why do they keep it? Why do the Brothers always want to retrieve the jars and put them in the Tomb (if there is another reason other than just as trophies), and if it IS just for trophy value, why is it so important to the other lessers to go to the dead lessers’ homes and pick up their jars before the Brothers do, and what do they do with them if they beat the Brothers to them? —Murrrmaiyd

I’m glad you brought this up, Murrrmaiyd, as it’s something I’ve wondered about myself. It has always struck me as odd that the lesser keep those jars after their induction ceremony—I mean, the Omega pretty much demands everything of them that is human, you know?

Their blood is gone, their heart is taken out, they can’t eat, they’re impotent . . . so why keep something like that? And after they join the Society, they have no possessions of their own (they don’t even retain their own names!). The only thing that seems logical to me is that the jars serve as a tangible reminder of the power of the Omega. After all, someone who can replace your blood with his, then take your heart out can come back and get your ass if he doesn’t like the way you’re behaving.

Plus the Omega is subversive—he deliberately creates situations that burden his lessers. By forcing them to keep their heart with them, it gives him one more thing to punish them for if they don’t do it. To this end, I think that the other slayers go after the jars because they know they’re going to have to tell the Omega if one is lost—and that’s a conversation that no one wants to have. As a side note, there is a central Society crypt that is used to store certain artifacts, but if a jar is recovered by another slayer before the Brothers get it, the heart is presented to the Omega. We won’t go into what the Evil does with it. Ew.

In the history of the Brotherhood, has there ever been a Brother who has (for lack of a better word) gone rogue? —Tee1025

If you mean left or been kicked out of the Brotherhood, as a matter of fact there has been: Muhrder. I don’t know a ton about him at this point—but he’s in the wings, so to speak. He gets mentioned in the books for the first time in Lover Enshrined, but he’s had a space on my message board for nearly two years.

Each current Brother seems to have a loss of faculty/curse. Is this relevant to just this group or was it a common thing amongst the BDB (like a Scribe Virgin thing—give and take)? —lacewing

As far as I’m aware, not all Brothers have had issues—though the current members of the Brotherhood certainly do: Wrath didn’t want to lead because of his past. Rhage had (has) his beast. Zsadist was a sociopath. Butch didn’t know where he fit in. Vishous had (has) his hand and his visions. Phury had his addiction. In the case of these “faults,” each is part of the individual makeup of the Brother, often rooted in his past—so it’s not a group curse or group burden, as it were—and Rhage’s beast is the only one directly brought about by the Scribe Virgin. The others are happenstance.

Out of professional interest, I would love to know if the Brothers only get tattooed for reasons involving ritual. Or if they would get tattoos just for aesthetic reasons? —Cynclair

Hey, Cyn! The Brothers for the most part only have tattoos for specific reasons: Wrath has his on his forearms to represent his lineage; Rhage has his dragon on his back; Z unfortunately has his slave bands on his wrists and neck; Vishous has the warnings on his temple, hand, groin, and thighs. As for the other males, Rehv has his two red stars on his chest and his others, all of which are ritualistic. That being said, Qhuinn has his teardrop on his face, which is ritualistic, and the date on the back of his neck, which is not. I think you’re going to see Qhuinn adding to his collection, and John and Blay getting their first ones—although I’ll keep to myself whether they’re ritualistic or not!

WARDen, it is understood that in the ceremonies there is a skull present, and this skull is the first original Brother. If I may ask . . . who is this Brother, and how did he become the first Brother? —Court2130

Okay, so this is a great question. I won’t answer it—except to say that I know some of the details. Ideally, what I’d love to do someday is write the history of the Brotherhood—I’m not talking about time line stuff, but the stories of the early players. Maybe it’s a series of Slices of Life or maybe a full novel—it would be very cool, though. From what I’ve seen, it was a tough life in the beginning. Picture what it would be like for the first vampire warrior to run into a lesser, or what happened during the first meeting of the Brotherhood, or what it was like to be a part of the breeding program. I think that’s all fascinating stuff. So hopefully I’ll get to do it at some point!

Oh, but I will say this . . . Wrath is a direct descendant of the first Brother!

How does one get nominated for the Brotherhood? What is the protocol? Has anyone ever declined? —Danielle

From what I’ve seen, it’s exactly what happened to Butch. The Brothers who are currently members are the ones who make the decision. There is a sponsor, usually the guy closest to the candidate, who advances his name for consideration at a meeting in the Tomb. It’s a blackball situation. If even one of the Brothers has a problem with the candidate, the guy’s out—no questions asked, no chance for reconsideration, ever. The king, who has, since Wrath’s great-grandfather, been a member of the Brotherhood, then takes the name of the nominee to the Scribe Virgin—so there are no surprises at the ceremony. I have seen only one decline thus far. More on that at some point, hopefully. But, as Wrath says to Butch, you are only asked the once. Never again.

What is the background to the things in the museum case in theChosen’s Temple (e.g., the fan and cigarette holder)? —Lysander

From what I’ve seen so far, it’s a case of those objects having been left behind by visitors to previous Primales or having been taken by Chosen who have visited this side. A few (like the gun that was used to shoot V in the beginning of LU) were dropped in the process of that raid seventy-five years ago.

We know that Fritz is a whiz in the kitchen, but what does he consider his speciality? —Mary

Lamb! He’s been cooking it for generations of the royal family. And, wait, I can guess the next question! How did he end up with Darius, then? Ah, now, that’s a story . . . but it’s wonderful that he’s back with Wrath (and that he’s still with Darius in a way).

Of all the things to have your enemy smell like . . . why baby powder? —Haytrid

LOL! Haytrid, I know, right? But when I saw the first lesser . . . that’s what it smelled like. It’s so incongruous—and strangely perfect.

For everything you'd ever want to know about the addictive, passionate world of J.R. Ward's band of brothers, don't miss The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider's Guide, available now.

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