Interview with Jocelynn Drake: Get the scoop on ANGEL’S INK

Recently, Jocelynn Drake closed out her Dark Days series, and started penning some new ink– ANGEL’S INK. The first book of the new series will release in October, and in the months leading up, Jocelynn has published a couple of short stories to give us a taste of the series while getting to know the new characters:
The Asylum Interviews: Bronx
The Asylum Interviews: Trixie
We caught a chance to chat with Ms. Drake about her new series.

UFL: Please tell us about your new series.
The city of Low Town is filled with all types of creatures living together with the humans.  As a result, sometimes a person will need a little extra help in life.  A little extra good luck?  Some help with your love life?  This is where your local tattoo artist comes in handy.  A tattoo artist is also skilled in stirring potions that can be placed in the ink.  The new series focuses on Gage, a tattoo artist and former warlock, and his friends Bronx (a troll) and Trixie (an elf) and their misadventures together.  Low Town is a strange place, where anything can happen.

UFL: How did you come up with the concept of the story/series?
I was getting close to finishing the Dark Days series and I was sitting at a tattoo parlor, talking to the artists there while waiting to get some fresh ink of my own.  They knew I wrote stories about vampires and the suggestion came up that I needed to write about a tattoo artist.  They made some very strange suggestions and we all had a good laugh, but the idea stuck with me.  After toying about with the idea and making notes of all the things that I didn’t have the chance to do in the Dark Days series, the Asylum Tales was born.

UFL: What are you most looking forward to seeing in terms of character development from Gage and Trixie?
Gage has been a fun, interesting character to work with and the ending of the second book shocked us both.  With him, my immediate concern is him dealing with the Ivory Towers, who represent the resident dictators and tormentors of the world.  A large part of his development is him learning to deal with that past and find his place in the world. Let’s just say that it’s not where he expected to be.

Trixie is also about getting free of her people.  For the two of them together, it’s largely about trying to manage a relationship and weigh the important things in life as the world is constantly falling apart around them.

UFL: I loved your fight scenes in NIGHTWALKER. Will there be fight scenes in ANGEL’S INK?
There will be fight scenes in ANGEL’S INK, but they are mostly going to be less physical than Mira because Gage usually finds himself going up against witches and warlocks, so there’s more magic in these fights.

UFL: You have a wide variety of creatures populating the world of ANGEL’S INK (elves, faeries, trolls, werewolves, and vampires), but will there be angels?
After two novellas and two novels, an angel has not yet appeared in the series, but if there are more books contracted by my publisher, the door is certainly open for an angel or two to appear.

UFL: Will there be romance or a significant relationship in ANGEL’S INK?
Yes, there will be a little romance in the series, which isn’t very easy to write from a man’s point of view.  But yes, Gage is quite enamored of a character and he struggles to make a relationship work despite of his past and the dangers that he brings into her life.

Coming October 16: 

Angel's Ink (The Asylum's Tales, #1)

[Interview] Linda Grimes, author of IN A FIX

I’m so excited to introduce you to Linda Grimes, author of IN A FIX. As you will soon see, Linda is very witty and imaginative– much like her novel! [Be sure to sign up for the Urban Fantasy Land newsletter for a bonus anecdote from this interview.]

UFL: IN A FIX is about people with the ability to alter their appearance by taking on another person’s aura, which is a very interesting super power for urban fantasy. Could you tell us about how you came up with this idea and how it evolved into a story?

As soon the character of Ciel popped into my head (after I saw the name on a vanity license plate), I knew she could look like anyone she wanted to—that ability was an integral part of her from the beginning. I also knew she wasn’t a “shape-shifter,” not in the same sense shape-shifters are generally thought of, anyway—that there wasn’t some physical metamorphosis going on when she changed appearances. She could change instantly, by altering the energy that surrounded her—her aura.

To be honest, I didn’t try to think of the concept; it just … well, was.

UFL: Would I be correct in assuming taking on an aura is similar to acting? How has your experience as an actress helped you write this story?

Oh, definitely. Taking on an aura is like Method acting in the extreme. Ciel goes through much the same process to get the “internals” of her clients right as I did when I “got into character” before going on stage. I think most writers probably do something similar when they’re deep in their characters’ POVs.

I’ve found a background in theater to be extremely helpful with my writing. Not only in the character development sense, but also in the directorial sense—how to set the “stage” for each scene to its best advantage in order to further the plot. “Blocking” your characters in a scene is like blocking them onstage. Always knowing where they are keeps the confusion to a minimum, I find. This is essential for me, because I tend to write rather *cough* complicated plots.

UFL: I’m sensing some influence from Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. Was she an influence? What other authors influence and inspire you?

Yeah, I’d say so. I love Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, so I’m sure I was influenced by her, among many others. Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden, for instance (what smart-ass—I love that!) and Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar (another wise-ass … are you sensing a theme here?). I’ve always appreciated a mouthy character. *grin* And I think all writers are influenced in some way by every book they read.

UFL: In IN A FIX, Ciel travels to Sweden. I understand you’ve been to Sweden and other countries around the world. Do you have plans to take Ciel around the world as well?

Absolutely! Book 2 (QUICK FIX) is set mainly in NYC, but I suspect there are more international adventures for Ciel on the horizon. I do love Ireland … and France … and Australia (though I haven’t been there yet), so who knows where Ciel may wind up? All I know is, wherever she goes, trouble will surely find her.

UFL: Ciel is caught between two very hot guys. Who would you dream cast as Mark and Billy?

That is kind of tough, since no actor I know of looks exactly like the guys in my head. I can narrow it down to types, but that’s about it.

Billy is kind of a combination of Matt Bomer (from the TV series White Collar), Callum Blue (from the TV series Dead Like Me) and Ian Somerhalder (from The Vampire Diaries). They all have that dark-haired bad-boy charm like Billy.

Mark makes me think of a young Steve McQueen (only, yannoh, not dead) or perhaps Charlie Hunnam (from Sons of Anarchy). Hot, blond, and dangerous.

But, really, I think readers should “cast” the book however they see fit. Different strokes for different folks, especially when it comes to whom we consider hot, right?

Thank you so much for hosting me on your marvelous website, Sara!

Thank you for being here, Linda! Best of luck with IN A FIX!

About The Author: Linda grew up in Texas, where she rode horses and embarrassed herself onstage a lot. She currently resides in Virginia with her husband, whom she snagged after he saw her in a musical number at the now defunct Melodrama Theater in San Antonio. (There’s nothing like a rousing chorus of “If You Wanna Catch a Fish You Gotta Wiggle Your Bait” to hook a man for a lifetime.) Like her globetrotting main character, Linda has spent her fair share of time overseas, though fortunately under less stressful circumstances. Kidnapping and daring rescues are all well and good in fiction, but she prefers sanity in her real life.

About The Novel: Snagging a marriage proposal for her client while on an all-expenses-paid vacation should be a simple job for Ciel Halligan, aura adaptor extraordinaire. A kind of human chameleon, she’s able to take on her clients’ appearances and slip seamlessly into their lives, solving any sticky problems they don’t want to deal with themselves. No fuss, no muss. Big paycheck.

This particular assignment is pretty enjoyable… that is, until Ciel’s island resort bungalow is blown to smithereens and her client’s about-to-be-fiancé is snatched by modern-day Vikings. For some reason, Ciel begins to suspect that getting the ring is going to be a tad more difficult than originally anticipated.

Going from romance to rescue requires some serious gear-shifting, as well as a little backup. Her best friend, Billy, and Mark, the CIA agent she’s been crushing on for years—both skilled adaptors—step in to help, but their priority is, annoyingly, keeping her safe. Before long, Ciel is dedicating more energy to escaping their watchful eyes than she is to saving her client’s intended.

Suddenly, facing down a horde of Vikings feels like the least of her problems.

Six Shooter Interview with Chandra Rooney

Posted by Harry Markov

January 13 marked the release date of one of the more interesting titles for 2009. “The Tarot Cafe” published by TokyoPop is paranormal romance from a totally new dimension. Inspired by the Korean style of comic books called the manhwa, not to be mistaken with manga, and based on a successful and translated into English seven volume series, carrying the same title, Chandra Rooney presents her take on Park Sang-sun’s story and characters.

About the Author: “Chandra Rooney can’t remember exactly when she got her first Tarot deck, but she can remember she wrote her first short story in grade five. In the years since, she’s graduated from high school, been an English teacher in Japan, studied both fine arts and design, and worked as a freelance graphic designer in Los Angeles. Presently, she’s probably writing. When she has her cards read, she likes to use the Queen of Wands as her signifier.”
About “The Tarot Café: Wild Hunt”:

Based on the best-selling manga!…Bryn McCallister’s fiance, Jack, has gone missing. She has the nagging suspicion that something terrible–and otherworldly–has happened to him, a feeling that only increases when she has vivid visions of Jack being chased by a vicious hunter intent on owning Jack’s soul. Always one to consult psychics, Bryn finds herself at The Tarot Cafe seeking a way to aid Jack in his spiritual struggle. But when she discovers what has happened to him, Bryn finds herself with an impossible choice between a life without love or an eternity of pain by her soul mate’s side.

Harry: So Chandra, January 13, will mark debut in the writing. The synopsis above shows only as much for people who are already acquainted with the manga “The Tarot Cafe”. Can you add a bit more about the world and your own story?

Chandra: The Tarot Café is a seven volume dark paranormal romance manhwa (Korean comic) by Sang Sun Park. Pamela, a Scottish woman cursed with immortality, uses her psychic abilities to aid her customers. During the day, she helps humans. At night, she greets her Midnight Visitors—all sorts of paranormals who need her guidance. Each story unfolds along the frame of the Tarot card reading. Park does a fantastic job of weaving western fairy tales and mythology with her own take on dragons and devils to create a multilayered dark fantasy world. As the series unfolds, we learn more of Pamela and her tragic past… including how she became immortal and the bargain she’s made to end that immortality.

With the novel, we’re adding a fresh story to the collection. Bryn is a contemporary Londoner poised on stardom, but her happy moment is ruined by the disappearance of her fiancé. Through circumstance, or Fate if you like, she finds her way to Pamela. Pamela and Bryn have a lot in common, emotionally, and Bryn’s reading dredges up some of the nasty bits of Pamela’s past. By drawing events from the comic and blending them with this new vignette, I think we’ve managed to create something that rewards the fans of the comic without alienating new readers.

H: As a debut author, I can imagine that you feel pretty stressed and/or excited at the upcoming release date. What are your expectations at just one step before crossing the line and do you think it will be a debut to be reckoned with?

C: Mostly, I’m relieved. Which is not to say that I’m any less stressed and excited than any other debut author, but I’m just grateful to know the book has made it. TOKYOPOP has been on a bit of roller coaster this past year and I really want this book to do well for them and Park. We’ve all worked so hard on it, and it’s gratifying to be able to see that work pay off.

Now, that it’s available the true anticipation begins as we wait for the fandom’s response.

H: How did you strike a deal to do a sort of collaboration with the original manhwa creator Sang Sun Park? As far as I understand you are bringing new characters and situations in her world and the light novel itself features illustration by Sang. Can you reveal more behind working with the artist?

C: TOKYOPOP already owned the rights to produce The Tarot Café comics in English. From what I understand, Park was approached about the possibility of a prose tie-in series. She agreed, so they sought to hire a writer for the project. After that is when I was contacted by Jenna Winterberg, the Senior Prose Editor, who had found my blog. She asked if I was interested in working with TOKYOPOP, and if I had any writing samples she could look at. When she was confident that the samples displayed the narrative voice and style that would fit the project, TOKYOPOP made an offer.

As for bringing in new characters… when we discussed the concept for the novel, Jenna and I agreed that we did not want to do an adaptation of an existing story. We wanted to create a new story that could serve as a welcome to the world for readers who were unfamiliar with the comic.

Park’s involvement was to approve the outline and sample chapter of the novel and to create ten original illustrations to accompany the prose. All of my dealings with her were on a removed scale—our correspondence went through my editor, translators and Park’s representative.

H: As far as genres go I understand that this is a light novel, which is a special Japanese format, but on the other hand it has fit American genre standards. Is it safe to say that this is going to be Japanese approach to fantasy translated into current urban fantasy?

C: “Japanese” only in how the time I’ve lived and spent in Japan, added to my exposure of Japanese story-telling, has influenced the way I approach fantasy. Which is probably a great deal more than I realize.

One of the things that I admire about Park’s series is that it is so accessible to a Western reader. This a woman who knows her English folklore and fairy tales and has mastered the art of reworking them.

However, I wouldn’t say The Wild Hunt is an urban fantasy. I would classify it as a dark paranormal romance, because the relationships in the novel are what drive the plot. The spooky hunters and immortality and devils are background elements to the emotions of the characters.

H: Can you share a bit about the process of writing the novel? Which was the hardest moment for you to write and cope and where do you feel exceptionally proud of?

C: This was the first time I’d worked with a professional editor from concept to completion, so I wasn’t used to having the feedback or the collaboration that Jenna provided me. Through working with her, I came to understand how you need the right editor because she has an incredible influence on the quality of the final product. Jenna is perfect for this project.

The hardest moment in the process of writing The Wild Hunt was coming to terms with the fact that what I was writing didn’t belong to me. I was an invited guest in another author’s world. If I was writing Bryn’s story as a standalone young adult novel, it would have been different from what it is. Not “better” or “worse,” mind you, just different. Ergo, the flipside of the coin is when I realized this and ego ceased to matter. I could concentrate on just creating the best addition to Park world. Being able to remove myself from the writing and see it objectively doesn’t just benefit this work-for-hire project, it means I’ll be able to do that when comes time to work with an editor on my own manuscripts.

Proudest moment so far—aside from completing the contract—was finding the Sequential Tart review. It’s an incredible thing to see a fan of the source material respond so positively to what you’ve helped produce.

H: And as a finally, is “The Tarot Cafe” going to be the first novel within a series or is it a stand alone? What are your future plans? I mean you have agent Miriam behind your back. You can’t go wrong.

C: At this time, I’m unable to confirm either my involvement or any sort of release schedule for the rest of the volumes. However, I would suspect that so long as The Wild Hunt is well-received, TOKYOPOP will go ahead with their plans for a series.

Miriam sent my adult novel, THE TALE OF ARIAKE, out on submission a few months ago. We’re waiting to hear back from several houses, and it’s all very exciting. That’s the first of a proposed three book adult contemporary fantasy series that adapts Japanese fox lore and Western fae in a North American setting. Much like The Wild Hunt, it involved a great deal of research and care to get the details right and the setting realistic. I should imagine within a few months I’ll be starting to write the second book, THE BELOVED OF INARI.

I’m also working on a far-future young adult urban fantasy series. It’s something that’s captured me completely, and I’m so excited to be writing it. The influences are largely the manic tone and adventurous plots of the new Doctor Who series with various reoccurring fantasy and technological elements of anime and manga. Mirim and I have revised the first manuscript, FRAGMENTS, and I’m finishing the second, SHARDS.

Despite the common association most paranormal romances evoke in reader’s minds, this one promises to be something different and by the sound of it Chandra Rooney is a brand new name that in time will could be to look for eagerly. Be sure to check her blogs: Dreaming in Red and Good Karma Reviews. For those, who are really excited, you can order from AMAZON.

Six-Shooter Interview with Justin Gustainis

Posted by Harry Markov

Hello, and welcome to the special New Year Six-Shooter interview with author Justin Gustainis. Tuesday, December 30th, marked the official release date of “Evil Ways”, the second novel in the Quincey Morris Paranormal Investigation series [Promo Post Here]. One day later we have Justin to answer some basic questions to poeple, who have yet to be introduced to the series. Now before we start, here is the blurb for Justin’s first novel “Black Magic Woman”:

“Occult investigator Quincey Morris and his partner, white witch Libby Chastain, are called in to help free a desperate family from a deadly curse that appears to date back to the Salem Witch Trials. To release the family from danger they must find the root of the curse, a black witch with a terrible grudge that holds the family in her power.

The pursuit takes them to the mysterious underworlds of Boston, San Francisco, New Orleans, and New York, stalking a prey that is determined to stay hidden. After surviving a series of terrifying attempts on their lives, the two find themselves drawn inexorably towards Salem itself—the very heart of darkness.”

Harry: Justin, here is the first question to set the tone and get a reader in the loop. How was “Black Magic Woman” received? What was the general vibe from readers and had you had any contact with your readers in terms of what they wish to see incorporated as themes in further installments?

Justin: Well, Harry, I should note that writing a novel isn’t really a cooperative venture. I don’t mean that I don’t get information, and even ideas, from others while I’m writing, but the readers, bless them, don’t determine the contents of the books. True, if I saw the same concern cropping up over and over, whether in fan mail or reviews, then I’d have to pay attention, but nothing like that has arisen, so far.

I suppose you could say that the readers vote with their wallets. And the true test of that will be sales of “Evil Ways.” I assume those who liked “Black Magic Woman” will pick this one up, as well. I sure hope they do, and I hope they tell their friends. And I hope they have a LOT of friends. Still, if as many people buy “Evil Ways” as purchased “Black Magic Woman,” I’ll be a pretty happy little writer.

H: Now judging from the blurb in the promo post and the excerpt “Evil Ways” will team up Libby and Quincey again on a new case together, but this time their mission seems a bit heavier. Both have their guns out and ready to shoot. Can you hint how Evil Ways extends and evolves the formula?

J: Walter Grobius, the crazed zillionaire who was largely behind the scenes in “Black Magic Woman,” occupies center stage this time. Just because his plans for a “super ritual” of black magic were frustrated by Quncey and Libby (and others) in the first book, doesn’t mean he has given up. He’s a persistent old bastard.

Quincey and Libby are drawn into the case from different places, not realizing the connection at first. Quincey is blackmailed by the FBI into investigating another series of ritualistic child murders – but this time it’s on a grander scale than in “Black Magic Woman.” In the meantime, Libby is nearly killed by a team of professional assassins, and yet she has no idea who could have sent them, or why. Quincey and Libby agree to help each other out, and they eventually realize that they’ve been holding opposite ends of the same rope.

Then it gets REALLY interesting.

H: I remember from a previous interview that they will have to save the world. That tension must bring out both the rest and the worst in people. What are the readers to expect from the characters? What character traits did you find yourself exploring in the character this time around?

J: Quincey and Libby have some conflicts this time out. Quincey hires a professional bodyguard whom Libby strongly disapproves of, and Libby is unable to pull off some impromptu magic when she and Quincey need it badly. Of course, you also get to see how much affection the two of them have for each other, which makes the conflicts resolvable. There are also conflicts between FBI agent Fenton and his partner, a lady with some unusual abilities of her own.

H: Quincey has been seen talking to agent Fenton, an old face from “BMW”. Will we see any familiar faces like agent Van Dreenan? And on an opposite note who will be the new faces included in “EW” and will they remain permanent figures in the series? What are your plans?

J: Van Dreenan puts in a brief appearance – a cameo, really. And I’ve already told you that Grobius is back. New characters include Pardee, an evil, powerful wizard in Grobius’s employ, and I’ve already mentioned Fenton’s new partner – an FBI agent named Colleen O’Donnell who, like Libby, is also a “white” witch. And Fenton doesn’t know.

Then there’s Hannah Widmark, occult bounty hunter – although, when it comes to “Wanted: Dead, Alive, or Undead,” Hannah much prefers “dead.” For a fee, this deadly lady will hunt down any supernatural creature you designate. She charges a lot, but, truth be told, she’d probably do it for free. Hannah’s got issues.

As for who will be back for the third book, that’s just a sneaky way of asking me who lives and who dies in this one, isn’t it, Harry? Shame on you. Let’s just say that not everyone will die whom you might expect, and not every character you think will survive is still standing when it’s over. There are casualties – on both sides.

H: I see that “EW” will involve quite the travelling. Iraq is one of the countries the action will take place. Is this the only stop on road and what geographical surprises are we to expect?

J: Actually, Iraq is the only really exotic location in the book – unless you count Cleveland, Ohio, which some people from Akron probably consider exotic. The climactic scene in the book is set in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. It’s not exactly a thriving metropolis, but that’s where Grobius has a huge estate, out in the middle of nowhere. It is there that the battle lines are ultimately drawn. And in this battle, there will be no quarter given — by either side.

H: Last, seeing how Libby and Morris will be together again the question pops by itself due to the genre of the series. Will there be a romantic relationship? Somehow urban fantasy always leads there…

J: Yes, but as you’ve pointed out elsewhere, I don’t write typical urban fantasy — do I?

Interview with J.F. Lewis: Excommunicated author on what happened

There seems to be some discussion about Jeremy F. Lewis’s “excommunication*” being a publicity stunt. It’s not, folks. Here’s more to the story: (And thank you to J. F. Lewis for agreeing to answer my questions.)

1) Is it true? Or is it a publicity stunt?

Yes, it’s true.  While it certainly wouldn’t hurt my feelings if some good came of it, I’d rather the elders had taken the time to read the book, evaluate it in whole rather than part, and given me the benefit of the doubt.  I also wish that I’d brought an audio recorder with me to the various meetings we had so that when they denied (in later meetings) having said some of the things they said (in earlier meetings), I’d have had some sort of documentation, so that I could go…  No, let me play it back for you.  This is when you made the stoning comment.  This is when you called me a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  This is when you accused me of committing adultery because I wrote a sex scene.  Etc.

2) Who is your target audience, and what did you have in mind when you wrote Staked? Clearly not anything like excommunication, but what did attract you to urban fantasy and vampires?

My basic goal for writing anything is to entertain people.  That’s it.  Sure there are things that I was addressing in the book, but entertainment is my end goal.

As far as target audience, I intended Staked to be the perfect vampire book for people who hate vampire books while still appealing to the urban fantasy lovers out there.  When people ask me if Staked is appropriate for their children to read, I tell them that, in movie terms, it’s a very strong R and leave it up to them to decide.

I’ve always been intrigued by vampires, whether in the form of Dracula… in the book or the Hammer films, other films like Fright Night, or even roleplaying games.  Before trying to write about vampires, though, I tried to write family friendly fiction.  Very light.  Very fluffy.  Very unsold.  I’d had the character of Eric in my head for a long time and I’d tried various ways to write his story, but I kept watering him down.  Eric is the guy who is not afraid to express himself in whatever terms he feels appropriate, so trying to censor him never worked.

With that caveat, the first draft of Staked was written in  direct response to a vampire novel I was reading.  It was a book I’d enjoyed before, but for some reason, in that particular read through, the main character’s whining irritated me.  He was drowning in his own ennui.  I kept thinking there is no way Eric would be whining like that.

So I thought… if that character thinks he has it rough, I want to write a book about a vampire that really has it rough, set in a world where being a vampire truly *is* unpleasant.  Vampires would have cool powers, but the price they paid for those powers would be more than staying out of the sun and having to drink blood.  My main character also needed to be someone that could endure it all without whining and still find the time to crack-wise… a sort of vampire John McClane, if you will.  Which suited Eric just fine and when I wrote him in Staked, if he would have said it or thought it or done it… I wrote it.

With that in mind, when people ask me if Staked is appropriate for their children to read, I tell them that, in movie terms, it’s a very strong R.

3) Some would argue that this isn’t much of a loss, since the church clearly isn’t such a welcoming place. Kind of in the same way that a friend who stabbed you in the back couldn’t have been much of a friend. What does this loss mean to you? Were you active in the church community?

My attendance certainly wasn’t the best.  We participated in the work groups (folks who help out members in need or send cards to visitors, provide rides to the elderly, that sort of thing.  We went and helped one of the elderly members of the congregation move).  When it was my turn to serve on the Lord’s table, or give the invitation, I gladly did so.  I will say that our participation in the group meetings were somewhat curtailed when we discovered the extent to which our two boys are allergic to nuts.  Not everyone really reads the packages on everything reliably enough and since my eldest is off the chart allergic… well, if the meeting was at the church building and didn’t involve food, we tried to stay, but otherwise, we stopped going to them.

That’s the easy part to answer.  The harder part is talking about how it affected me.  I think I’ll hold that for one of the other questions though.

4) Did you have any idea the church would hold your fictional work as truth? That is, to your knowledge, has the church shunned any other works of fiction? (Some readers out of spite have speculated the church may have been part of the Harry Potter backlash.)

I wouldn’t say they held my fictional work as truth.  I’d say that have a very unfortunate failure to understand the process of writing fiction.  To my knowledge the Elders haven’t singled out any books and said don’t read these (not even mine except by example).  I’d previously felt very welcome there, because I’d never before attended anywhere where the preacher might use the Lord of the Rings as a positive example in a sermon.  They aren’t bad people, by any stretch of the imagination.  Everybody makes mistakes.

5) What will you do now? Will you seek another church?

We’re stilling thinking it over.  My wife is still a member there, so she and the boys still go and the times I’ve gone since they withdrew fellowship, I get some weird looks, but no one says anything or refuses to pass me the plate during the Lord’s Supper.  They aren’t mean people.  And scripturally, they aren’t supposed to do anything worse than refuse to participate in social situations with me… and so far, they are doing their best to hold to that.

6) How has this ordeal affected your faith? And your family?

Not to sound overly dramatic, but it felt like God was personally turning his back on me.  And since the Elders didn’t just hold me responsible, they held my wife responsible, too… I really can’t describe the turmoil it unleashed in my home.  Things have calmed down considerably, but it’s still an issue we deal with every day.  It’s silly of me to hold God responsible for what are essentially the actions of a few men, but for awhile I was very angry with Him.

7) How has this ordeal affected you as a person? As a writer? Will this affect your desire to write about vampires or other paranormal stuff in the future?

It still messes with my head, but I’m in a better place now, which is why I let the announcement run in Locus.  I wanted to stop worrying that people would find out about my getting kicked out of church somehow and hold it against me.  I thought, “Fine.  Let people know.  So what.”

It was very hard to write while I was going through the process and afterwards, I could revise what I’d already written, but writing vampire stories in Void City made me feel guilty… like I was doing something wrong even though deep down I knew that I wasn’t.  Fortunately, I’m a very bull-headed person about things like that.  I just needed time to let that part of my nature kick in.  After all, I decided to write genre fiction when a creative writing professor told me that he wished I’d stop wasting my time at something that was “a masturbatory effort.”  In short, I guess what I’m trying to say is – as long as I have good ideas for paranormal stories and as long as people want to publish them and read them, I’ll keep writing them.

8) What bothers you most about this whole thing? Is there anything you’d like tell readers?

They went after my wife, too…. tried to hold her partially responsible for what I wrote because she did my website.  They used my dedication against me, tried to make her ashamed of being named in it.  I’m still mad about that.

* Although the church in question is refusing to use the word “excommunicated”, Merriam-Webster defines the word as “an ecclesiastical censure depriving a person of the rights of church membership” and “exclusion from fellowship in a group or community”. Both definitions seem to fit this case to me.

Interrogate the Author: Starring Karen Chance

In this issue of “Interrogate the Author” I have yet another urban fantasy diva to present you and namely Karen Chance. Thank you Karen for your cooperation in this interview, otherwise we reviewers would be left with very little to do with our spare time. Now let’s proceed to the best part aka the questions, where Karen leaves everyone in suspense with short, but very promising answers about her writing career.

1. Hello again Karen. Let’s cut straight to the chase and start with the writing questions. So how and when did it occur to you to start writing?

My first book was published in 2006 and written the year before that. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but for years I was a full-time student and also worked a full-time job, leaving me little time for it. Then I graduated and went to teach history in a university in Hong Kong for a couple of years, and discovered that there weren’t many recreational activities in the immediate area (I was in Tuen Mun, which is sort of the back 40 as far as HK is concerned). So I used my free time to begin writing for pleasure and things just evolved from there.

2. What did you originally write? Was it urban fantasy or something else?

I’ve always done fantasy thrillers with a little romance and a little mystery thrown into the mix. They end up shelved in a variety of different genres, including even horror occasionally. But I think they fit the fantasy genre best.

3. How did the idea for the Cassandra palmer series come to you? The usual answer is a dream like with Jeaniene Frost and Stephanie Meyer. Did the awesomeness visit you during your sleep as well?

No, I can honestly say I have never dreamt up a storyline in my life. I suppose the idea grew out of my background in history and my desire for a different kind of character. No one in urban fantasy was doing much with seers, and I thought it might make for a fun dynamic. And the time travel aspects open up a huge range of potential plots.

4. As far as my Greek mythology knowledge goes Cassandra is one of the most talented seer back in her time. As the myth goes she was cursed by the gods to make the greatest premonitions and yet no one to believe her. Is there some parallel between this Cassandra and your Cassandra?

Quite a bit, in fact. Cassie came by her position in a roundabout sort of way, and as the series begins, few in the supernatural community are willing to accept her or pay much attention to anything she has to say. Also, the original Cassandra wasn’t cursed by the gods so much as cursed by a god, the lover she’d spurned. He’d given her her ability and expected to control her, although that didn’t turn out quite like he’d planned. Something similar happens to Cassie, who also tends to be rather independent minded.

5. “Claimed by Shadow” in my opinion competes for most dynamic novel. Can you describe the process of vacuuming so much action in just 371 pages? Was it layouts, clipboards or something else?

I don’t write out elaborate plans for my stories. I normally have four or five main plot points that I know need to be in each book, and the challenge is to present them in the most interesting way possible. But that tends to evolve naturally. I have more fun with it that way, and I think it makes for a stronger end result. The few times I have tried to force myself to write to an outline have not gone well.

6. Mythology seems to play a vital part in the series. How much of it featured is actual researched myth and how much is fiction? In particular the Pythia, Graeae and the runes.

All of the points you mention are my interpretation of older myths. The Pythia’s position in ancient Greece was that of the most respected seer in the county, but she wasn’t a time traveler, obviously! I embroidered on the myth to create an unusual heroine. The Graeae, likewise, were the guardians of Medusa as stated in Claimed by Shadow, and their names and some basic physical features are as the legends describe them. But, of course, I gave them their distinct personalities and their quirks. The runes are actual Scandinavian runes and the story I included on their origin is also as legend describes. However, there are no such things as battle runes outside fiction, so that was my twist on the old tradition.

7. How did you decide to involve famous characters from fiction such as Dracula, Casanova and real people like Rasputin and Bram Stoker? Were there any copyright issues? I have always been curious.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula is in the public domain, so copyright no longer applies (books lose their claim to copyright 75 years after the death of the author). Anyone can legally write a Dracula story, and many have done so. However, even were that not the case, I highly doubt that anyone would bring a case against Claimed by Shadow! It bears little resemblance to anything Stoker wrote.

As far as using real historical characters is concerned, especially those hundreds of years dead, it’s open season. Anyone can incorporate them in books with no legal issues arising. Few people do so because they don’t want the research headaches that come with the decision. But I have a Ph.D. in history; research for me comes under the heading of ‘fun.’

8. Well I am happy that at least one person enjoys digging up info. I usually get sidetracked by colorful art sites. Apart from Merlin, who I feel might make an appearance during Cassandra’s time shifts, do you plan to enter any more celebrities?

That’s pretty much a given. Cassie will meet many more people, both vampires and not, who may be familiar to some readers.

9. I think that we shall be having some “Guess the Historical Celebrity” moment. I am up for that. So now let’s wind time forward. How many books does the Cassandra Palmer series have until the end? And what are your future plans after that?

I originally envisioned nine books–three trilogies each centered around a different theme. The first trilogy is now complete, concerning Cassie becoming Pythia. The second one begins with Curse the Dawn, out in April 2009. How many books there will end up being, however, I can’t say. That depends on how many it takes to tell the complete story.

As far as my future plans, I’ve begun a second series, which together with the Cassie books should keep me busy for quite some time!

10. Speaking of your new series, what is “Midnight’s Daughter”, the first novel, about? As far as I can see it is set in the same world as Cassandra Palmer series. What are the prospects for this idea?

I think the best answer to that is the back cover copy:

Dorina Basarab is a dhampir—half-human, half-vampire. Subject to uncontrollable rages, most dhampirs live very short, very violent lives. So far, Dory has managed to maintain her sanity by unleashing her anger on those demons and vampires who deserve killing.

Now Dory’s vampire father has come back into her life. Her uncle Dracula (yes, the Dracula) infamous even among vampires for his cruelty and murderous ways, has escaped his prison. And her father wants Dory to work with the gorgeous master vampire Louis-Cesare to put him back there.

Vampires and dhampirs are mortal enemies, and Dory prefers to work alone. But Dracula is the only thing on earth that truly scares her, and when Dory has to go up against him, she’ll take all the help she can get…

11. From what I gathered so far during the first two installments in the Cassandra Palmer series, there is this strange geometrical love figure between Cassandra and Tomas, Mircea and even Pritkin for a moment. Do you plan to elevate this to a 3D figure like a cube?

No. Cassie may have more than one man in her life, at least for a while, but it won’t be quite that complex!

12. So now let’s get a tad serious. Do you think that with the number of paranormal romance and urban fantasy novels increasing every year, the market will saturate fast? I ask this because there are already several categories of clichés established.

Are there? You know, I don’t have time to read much in my genre anymore, which is a shame. I have a rather large TBR pile, but with two books out a year, I haven’t had time to make much of a dent in it. As far as saturation is concerned, I think that fantasy is a strong genre and will continue to be so. Writers who don’t do their research or take time with their novels probably won’t last, of course, but that’s true in any genre. But good, well-written, fun books will always be popular.

13. Very well said. Class is difficultly destroyed. And to further the topic of clichés, what do you think are the most wide spread clichés in those genres and what are your pet peeves, when reading such novels? And on the opposite side, what is your favorite scenario?

As far as clichés go, the only one I can think of that really bugs me is picking up a book that is advertised as a fantasy only to discover that it is something else entirely. This happens most often with romance books that have a few fantasy trappings scattered around (because that’s what is selling right now), but which are clearly not fantasies. Of course, that may be more of a problem with marketing departments misrepresenting a book than with the writers.

14. If the market does saturate and you find yourself with a literary niche, do you have a backup genre you want to write in?

Historical mysteries would be fun. I like Lyndsey Davis’ Falco books and the Cadfael mysteries, so doing something along those lines would be fun.

15. Here comes the last question in the bunch. What kind of writing advice can you give to aspiring writers apart from writing and reading constantly, which is the most commonly used advice?

Well, it helps to get out and see and do as much as possible. At least, it does for me. The more I travel and experience, the better I tend to write. You just have so much additional material to draw on.

But, of course, persistence pays, too. People tend to think that you are born with the ability to write or you aren’t. There are prodigies out there, certainly, and also people who are never going to make writers no matter how much time they spend on it (rather like me trying to play music—I just don’t have the talent). But I suspect that many people fall somewhere in the middle. They have ability, but it needs to be fostered and trained. But a lot of them won’t stay with it long enough to gain any polish. It’s a shame, because there are probably a lot of good stories out there that aren’t getting told.

As the traditional finishing touch of “Interrogate the Author” I have included Karen’s site: Take a Chance or as I like to call it: Spooky Castle. There a very inviting demon will welcome you with open arms to Dante’s.

Interrogate the Author: Starring Rachel Vincent as the Interviewee

After much torture and moaning and psychological damage I inflicted on poor Rachel Vincent, unintentionally of course, I got the dream interview with my urban fantasy icon. Here is what she dropped in. I promise that next time I will squeeze her out even more, just wait until her newest project arrives. *Evil Grin*

1. Hello Rachel and thank you so much for fitting this interview in your schedule. I’m really thrilled about this interview as you have been the reason to start blogging in the first place and getting to love UF and somewhat get a glimpse in the writer community. I did some background check up and it seems that you have had a very dynamic childhood. How did you find living in so many different parts of the US and why did your family move so much?

Um, I liked most of our moves. They were each a chance to try something new. A new house or apartment, a new school, new potential friends. But of course, I missed the old one. As for why we moved, I’m not sure. We settled in one town the year I was ten, so most of the moves were before that. My parents got divorced, remarried, found new jobs, needed a change. Lots of reasons, I guess. 😉

2. So as we all know, writers usually get this bang on the head by an invisible epiphany and suddenly from ordinary human beings we all get the strange notion to start creative writing. When did your epiphany bang you and how did that happen? I mean it could have been either a novel or an actual hit in the heat. Details are usually wanted here.

I didn’t really have that epiphany. I’ve wanted to write for as long as I can remember. I wrote my first short story when I was five, and wrote all the way through school. I took about a five-year hiatus from writing after college, while I tried out the “real” world, but after that, I dug into it with renewed enthusiasm, and haven’t looked back since.

3. Reading your short bio I came across a sentence, which mentions your college years and I had to wonder. What did you study?

I have a Bachelor of Arts in English, with a concentration on literature. Even most of my electives were extra lit classes. Though I also took an interest in Philosophy, Women’s Studies, and French.

4. That same paragraph mentions you dabbled with short fiction at that time as well and since I do dabble with that one as well I am curious to know what you exactly wrote about. Did Urban Fantasy always ruled your artistic heart from the first story you have ever written or have you been influenced by a popular at the time genre? Stephen King is in question here, since you seem to be his fan.

Um, actually, none of my pre-published writing is in urban fantasy. They were contemporary short fiction pieces, mostly about people who were whatever age I was at the time. One that sticks out from high school was a story I wrote about a bunch of strangers on a bus. The bus had an accident and rolled down an embankment, leaving the survivors to get to know each other—including the requisite Deep Dark Secrets—while they wait to be discovered. Of course, since I can’t seem to write anything without blood and death, only one passenger survived in the end, after seeing all her new friends die off one at a time, waiting in vain for rescue. 😉

5. You also mention that “Stray” started out as a short story and then became a novel. Was the transition hard and why did Faythe made such an impression that you decided to tell her story more fully?

No, the transition wasn’t really hard. It just sort of happened. Faythe’s tale began as a short-story tie-in to the two previous (unpublished) novels I’d written. I was hoping to break into publishing in the short-story market. But her tale didn’t end after a few thousand words, and eventually I realized I had the beginnings of another novel. So I kept writing. I ended up making a clean break between her world and that of the original two novels, and I knew I had something good. Or at least something with real potential… 😉

6. Speaking of Faythe (I seriously can’t stop snickering, cause I love her) isn’t she too powerful and assure of herself for her own good? I mean her stubbornness left quite an imprint in my mind and even though I knew she was acting immature her motives were steel solid. Good job about that one. So will we see a Faythe that is a bit more wise and patient?

Do I think she’s too powerful and sure of herself? No, not really. Physically, she’s not as strong as her fellow enforcers, and there’s nothing she can do about that. And she’s less and less sure of herself with each mistake she makes. But because of that, she’s growing and maturing with each novel, and I’m having fun watching her transition. I hope everyone else enjoys it too. 😉

7. Now let’s go on to the world at hand. I personally am not a great fan of that kind of shapeshifters, since werewolves over flooded the media. Count me as a massive scale guy like woman growing to be a dragon or so, but I fell in love with yours. Why did you choose feline shape shifters and why did you made them solely black panthers? I would have liked to see lions and tigers, but the author knows best and I wanna know the logic.

I chose cats because I’m a cat person. I like puppies as much as the next person, but I tend to lose interest in dogs when they grow up. But I love cats. They’re graceful, and strong, and stubborn, and they definitely know their own minds. Just like Faythe.

As for why they’re all black, I don’t know. They just kind of came out like that, and I ended up tying their physical description into lots of actual sightings of black cats, everywhere from the southern US to Europe. This gave me a chance to try and explain those sightings, by making up my own species. Whereas I would have had a hard time explaining lion and tiger sightings in Texas. They’re not even native to this continent.

But if you’re looking for other cat species, like tigers and lions, I think there are several other writers out there who write those kinds of books… 😉

8. Another reason to ask that question why big feline shapeshifters is because I know for a fact from your blog that you are scared to death from big cats. Normally I would be scared too, if the distance between one and myself were less than a meter and I had no chainsaw. Isn’t this a bit of an oxymoron?

Oh, maybe. 😉 It’s also a way to face my fears. I’m also terrified by tornadoes, but I live in Oklahoma, which sees more tornadoes every year than any other state in the US. What can I say? I’m a woman of many contrasts. 😉

9. Now to continue with the big cats I would like to ask how the hell researched them so well that you would know how your characters move, how they react in their cat forms and well have such a well developed society. You must have watched days’ worth of Discovery Channel movies.

I did! I watched Animal Planet, and the National Geographic channel. I read articles on feline anatomy, behavior, and instinct. I studied the cats at my local zoo, and scoured the internet for clips of the various sounds they make. I also studied the cats in person, at an animal rescue organization in Tulsa.

And, of course, I watch my own house cats. Some of my Shifters’ features and abilities come from house cats, rather than big cats. Like their vertical pupils, and ability to purr. 😉

10. So far in your world we only see these shapeshifters and many UF novels I read feature some sort of other beings. Jeaniene Frost adds some ghouls to spice things up, Karen Chance does the same with ghosts, while Vicki Pettersson adds the mysterious Tulpa. Do you plan to introduce something paranormal-y into the good mix?

Not in this series, no. In my Shifters series we’ll see only humans, werecats, bruins, and thunderbirds. There were werewolves once, but they went extinct.

However, I have a new (young adult) series coming out next fall, and in that, we’ll see a whole host of beings, most of which I made up from a combination of “creature” characteristics I wanted to use. The main character of that series is a banshee, and I can’t wait to introduce the world to my take on her species… 😉

11. Okay, it’s a new round in our interview called “Play Psychic” and it will discuss your future. Now let’s start with something you do know about. ”Rogue” hits the bookstores in just about a week and what can the readers that love Faythe expect?

Well, since I’m answering these questions late, some people will already have read Rogue. But in case they haven’t, readers can expect to see a more mature Faythe dealing with the consequences of past mistakes, while hunting for a rogue in their territory.

As for Pride, the third installment in my Shifters series, we’ll be seeing the outcome and fallout from her trial, and we’ll also be introduced to a couple of new characters, at least one of whom will have a permanent effect on her life and her outlook.

12. I somehow missed the exact details about the length of your series. If I had to rely on my rusty memory it’s around five or six, but you can say with total accuracy. For how many books will we enjoy Faythe kicking ass?

Faythe will have six books, all of which are already under contract with Mira books. The first two (Stray and Rogue) are available now. Pride will be out February 1st, 2009, to be followed by Prey on July 1st, 2009. I’ll be writing book five early next year.

13. When her story eventually ends as with all good things happen, have you prepared something that will blow our minds? So any future plans?

Well, I have my young adult series coming out next fall, and it will run concurrently with my Shifter books. And I have the first book in a third urban fantasy series ready to go. Whenever I find the time… 😉

14. I know by reading your blog that you have a side project that is titled as “Side Project”. How much aside does it stand from your world and what does it explore?

“Side Project” sold this past spring, so it now has a title! It is a young adult novel called MY SOUL TO TAKE. It does not overlap with my Shifters’ world, and contains no animal shapeshifters. It has lighter violence and sexual content, and is appropriate for readers fourteen and up. Though I think it will also hold appeal for adults. The second in the series is half-written, and is called MY SOUL TO SAVE. I’ll be writing the third one this fall.

15. I’m sure that success lies, where your work appears and in this one it counts in which country Faythe will be saying her punch lines. Has your agent scored you some foreign rights and if you could wink and get a contract for any country what would you choose? Also as an extension of the question would you like to see Faythe on the big screen doing what she does best, surviving barely?

Um, I sold foreign rights to my US publisher, which means that Mira Books will shop those rights for me. I believe that the werecat books will be out in Australia next year, but I don’t have any information beyond that. As for where I’d like to see the books? Europe, definitely. I get a lot of mail from people in Western Europe, asking how they can get a hold of my books, and other than ordering from Amazon, I don’t know what to tell them.

Would I like to see Faythe on the big screen? Of course! But mostly because that would widen the potential audience for the books. 😉

16. Do you outline or write straight from the heart and see what happens later on?

I outline straight from the heart. 😉 Every book I’ve written since Stray I’ve outlined in advance, because my publisher requires me to hand in a synopsis. At first, that was pretty hard, but now I’m really happy to do it. Having the plot outlined in advance allows me to write the rough draft very quickly.

17. Does writing pay the bills or do you have to drag yourself somewhere at 8pm and do what other mortals do aka waste brain cells at a hell hole for green paper?

I feel very fortunate in that writing pays my bills. It is my full time job, and I love it. I hope to still be doing this twenty years from now. 😉

18. Now for a grand finale. How do you feel being interrogated by a foreigner, not yet fully stepped into legal adulthood, who speaks English as a second language?

Actually, I’m really impressed! I didn’t realize you were so young, and I only wish I had such a wonderful command of a foreign language. So, congratulations, and keep working! I have no doubt you’ll get wherever you want to go with that kind of hard work. 😉

And this was Rachel Vincent, cool as always! If you would like to become a fan start with:
1) Rachel Vincent’s Website

2) Rachel Vincent’s Blog

3) “Stray” by Rachel Vincent

4) “Rogue” by Rachel Vincent