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.

Interview a Blogger: Becky from Becky’s Barmy Book Blog

Becky Barmy Book Blog

In this new feature, I’m interviewing my favourite fellow book bloggers. 
Today I’m featuring Becky from Becky’s Barmy Book Blog. I ‘met’ Becky a few years ago. We’ve been critique partners, and I’ve been stalking her blog ever since. Becky lives in the UK and works as an assistant librarian. Her book blog tends to cover a lot of YA.
1. What made you decide to start a book blog?

I always loved books and wanted a way to keep track of everything I had read. I looked at notebooks and excel sheets but I didn’t like it. I then realized that I wanted more, not just a list of books but also a short recap of each book to remind me when I looked back.

One evening I was scouting the web and I came across some book blogs and thought they looked like a great idea. I hadn’t realized such a thing existed until then and when I found out how big it was I was amazed.
All at once the pieces fell into place, I could have a blog where I keep track of all the books I read, do little reviews to remind me what they were about etc and at the same time I could meet other bookworms and maybe make some friends and get some recommendations for other great books. And I am so glad I did.

2. What has surprised you most about book blogging? 

The response and the community. There are so many awesome people on the blogosphere, each one friendly and willing to help if you need it. People really do come together and it’s like being part of an extended family. I’m also amazed just how big it is and how many authors/publishers use the blogs too. I never expected to get so many followers or offers of reviews, it’s astonishing.

3. What’s been the most challenging?

I would have to say the time. I never realized how much work goes into maintaining a blog, it’s almost like a full time job and sometimes trying to think of fresh content is hard especially when you fall behind on reviews. But I still love it and I wouldn’t change anything. As long as I have a passion for it, it’s still fun and fresh. 😀

4. What’s been your favourite moment (or book or author) so far? 

Wow, what a question! There have been some really good moments. Doing an interview with Alexander Gordon Smith was really cool ( I met him in real life and he has been a great support to my blog and so friendly. I now have him as a friend on Facebook too. So I suppose that is one of the best things – the networking opportunities, realizing that authors are people too, and are friendly and willing to talk.

5. Which books and authors are on your wish list? 

My wish list is loooonng. I can’t wait to read ‘Dreamless’ by Josephine Angelini. I just got a copy in the post and I am desperate to get stuck in.
Also Insurgent by Veronica Roth.
Reached by Ally Condie is a massive ‘can’t wait for’, I love her series and I really want to know what happens next.
The Kingdom of the Wicked by Derek Landy is bound to be EPIC, it comes out in September and I cannot wait!!! 😀

There are loads more but I will leave it there for now. What’s on yours?

Thanks very much, Becky! Keep up the great work.

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?

“Interrogate the Author: Starring Jocelynn Drake”

Posted by Harry Markov

Tonight we have the pleasure to bathe in the moonlight presence of Jocelynn Drake, a new priestess of vampire fiction. I was excited to take the opportunity to dissect the secrets of yet another author. As it turned out Jocelynn was willing to thrust the scalpel in my hand and guide me along the path of all her confessions. There is pretty much nothing she doesn’t discuss with flare and great detail and this is exactly how we like our authors… chatty, not dissected. So let’s give a warm welcome to Jocelynn, without whom I wouldn’t have been able to interrogate yet another person.

Harry: I thank you whole heartedly for taking a seat in my virtual chair this evening and will be answering some of my questions. Shall we cut to chase and begin immediately? As we all know “Nightwalker” has been released several months ago. First how does it feel to be the newest in the new generation of UF writers and does the experience amount to your expectations?

Jocelynn: How does it feel? Thrilling, exciting, overwhelming and more than a little intimidating. To be included in such a fun genre is both thrilling and exciting – like being invited to an exclusive party. Yet, at the same time, I’m following in the footsteps of some amazing writers, forcing me to live up to some extremely high standards if I want to please my readers. So far, the experience has surpassed my expectations. Nightwalker received a very warm welcome from both readers and reviewers. I hope that I am able to maintain this kind of excitement through the rest of the books in the series.

H: So let’s dig a bit in your writing career and start at the very beginning. What motivated you to pursue writing as a career and what was your first encounter with the art form? Also how did your family and friends receive the news of your decision that you wrote and planed to make money off it?

J: I started writing when I was about 12 years old. I spent one summer rewriting the story of Robin Hood so that it now included a strong female lead to match Robin Hood. That officially got me hooked. From there, I have been constantly writing, jumping from one genre to the next, following whatever caught my attention at that moment.

In college, I reluctantly changed my major from engineering to English when my parents had a talk with me about pursuing what would make me most happy in life. To me, engineering insured that I had a solid financial future, while writing did not. However, after a single miserable semester of calculus, I decided it was time to pursue my dream of writing. I was terrified that I would spend the rest of my life as a starving artist since I was already aware of exactly how hard it was to get published.

But the novelist part of my life came several years after college. For the past 8 years, I have been a stock market analyst and financial writer, which has allowed me to write every day about the craziness of the stock market. If I can’t spent my day with my vampires, I have no problem spending it with Wall Street, as long as I get to write.

H: Was “Nightwalker” your first manuscript and if not can you describe what you have been writing before that? Did you take any courses or classes in creative writing during your days before getting published?

J: In college, I graduated with a degree in English with a minor in journalism, with a focus on creative writing. I’ve also attended the University of Iowa summer creative writing program (which I highly recommend). I’ve also toyed with the idea of going back to school to get my MFA in creative writing. Even after getting published, there still more things that I could stand to learn.

Nightwalker is not my first full manuscript, but it is the first one I ever tried to get published. Prior to publication, I wrote whatever occurred to me. In high school, it was silly romantic tales of high school love. By my senior year, I had moved on to traditional fantasy, which I am hoping to return to some day. By college, I was onto poetry and short stories in the Raymond Carver vein along with some more contemporary literature. The vampires didn’t really start to show up until about 5-6 years ago, and they appeared in all forms – short stories, poetry, and finally novels. Happily, I think the vampires are here to stay for a while.

H: As we trod into the matters at hand, can you share why did you choose vampires as the leading species in the Dark Days series? What was the quality for you that set them apart from all the rest for you? Hopefully that won’t involve Anne Rice or sexy aura.

J: Ha! I read Anne Rice. I read Laurell K. Hamilton, and Kim Harrison, along with Charlaine Harris, Christine Feehan, and dozens others. Naturally, I also read Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I liked the darker vampires the most, those where their humanity was just a veneer. For me, the fun part of the vampire is taking something that was once human with human memories, but giving them super-human powers and the instincts of a deadly predator. You end up with a creature in constant turmoil as it struggles to reconcile the two sides. Is it still human? Is it more animal? Is it something else above what is human? It’s something that Mira struggles with, particularly when she is around others of her own kind.

H: Your Mira is quite the contradiction. How did it occur to you to add her fire powers and does it stand as a symbol for you hidden from the reader? Also doesn’t there exist the threat she can get herself burned by the fire she manipulates?

For some reason, Mira was always the Fire Starter in my mind. It was how she was born in my brain. I’m not exactly sure of the “how” beyond that. I know the “why,” though. It is linked to her lineage, which will come up in more detail in later books.

Can she get burned? Not while she’s conscious. Unconscious? I’m honestly not sure.

H: To what degree did research get involved in constructing you vampire society, its ties between one another and the hierarchy and what was fiction? Due to the Triad I think it was hinted that vampires have some sort of other magical skills, perhaps even their own vault of spells based on their peculiar nature. Can we expect some spell casting power from vampires?

J: I didn’t do any specific research for my vampire society. I just tried to imagine how they would act according to the destruction of their human morals, and the general need for control within the chaos. You will meet more of the vampire hierarchy and its working in Dayhunter. The Coven, which rules the nightwalker world, is a dark, manipulative group.

My vampires will never be major spell casters. There will be the occasional spell and some are very specific to their race. Others are just powers they gain with age. Jabari, my oldest nightwalker, can disappear and reappear over vast distances. Sadira can use telekinesis and fly.

H: Speaking of making up things your new races naturi and bori are the hot topic among reviewers. What are your plans for them and will we be able to witness more of their power, magical and their history? How did you decide to involve these races, are there any guidelines you are following or reinventing the whole archetype and how did their names come to be?

J: The naturi and the bori will remain major plot topics for quite some time within the series, even though there are a few other things that I would like to tackle. We will be able to see more of their history and their abilities with each book that is released, but I’m reluctant to give away all my secrets here. Dayhunter will give you a closer look at Rowe and his abilities along with his past with Mira. Meanwhile, Book 3 will give a closer look at the naturi hierarchy.

I created them because I needed a powerful villain for the nightwalkers and I didn’t want their natural enemy to be the shapeshifters, so I essentially had to come up with my own race. Furthermore, I believe in keeping things in balance. The naturi were created first, but they needed a polar opposite to keep them in balance, so I also created the bori. The naturi name was created because I needed a creature linked to nature. The bori name was taken from some old mythology out of Africa.

H: Danaus is one of a kind man and has captivated me with his unusual scent as Mira has described it, his mysterious part, origins and power. Quite frankly I have been using boiling blood in a project of mine, so I am very interested to know what intentions lurked in your head to give him such an ability and whether there are other like him as type of being?

J: And I thought I was the first to use boiling blood! Just teasing. I needed a creature that could stand up to Mira and put a little fear in her. Why not a creature just as deadly from a distance as her? I can say with complete confidence that there are no other creatures like Danaus. I promise you find out about his unique heritage in Dayhunter.

H: As you know great minds think alike, so boiling blood shouldn’t be an issue. *grin* “Nightwalker” left the two mortal enemies, Mira and Danaus, closer as allies. I can feel the budding seed of something more than an alliance. Could you confirm any actual romance in the following novels or is it just going to become a strong friendship?

J: Ha! You do want all my secrets! I am building the book so that it can actually go in either direction. The characters have a lot of respect for each other’s sense of honor and sense of duty, which I think is important for any kind of relationship. However, there are still some pretty massive barriers standing between them. IF they do end up more than friends, it is undoubtedly going to be a rocky road for them.

H: From your blog stats I see that you are working intensely on new titles in the Dark Days series. How far do you think the series will reach, how many books is your contract for and how many do you think you can keep writing for the coolness of the world? Do you have any other ideas for series?

J: I recently was offered a second contract for another 3 books by HarperCollins, so the series is looking at least 6 books, but I would like to go much farther than that. It’s hard to say how many books, but it will be a while before I tire of Mira and Danaus.

I do have an idea for a shorter series that would run parallel to the Dark Days series. It would involve the same world, but completely different characters – though there would be the possibility for Dark Days character to make cameo appearances. However, it may be a few years before I can get about to working on that series. I have a few other books in other genres that I would like to finish first.

H: Your day job involves close work with the stock market. With the recent crisis over at Wall Street how are things developing to handling the crisis and do you have any involvement in saving the financial world as we know it? I can already hear the puns “Financial Woman is here to raise your economic benefit”.

J: LOL. No, I’m not currently in a position to save the financial market, but at least I can also say that I am not the cause of our problems either. I am just an observer of the market. I write my observations for a website and I am pleased to say that that is the extent of the damage I can cause.

H: Now around the Black Wednesday that the publishing industry is suffering, how much in danger are new authors such as yourself? It is true that you had a really strong debut, a debut that turned in an instant bestseller at position 117 from 150 spots is quite an achievement, but do you have to fear anything regarding your books.

J: I am pleased to report that I appeared on both the New York Times and USA Today Bestseller list, and stayed there for 4 weeks, positively stunning my publisher. I think that helped to win me a second contract. But even with that second contract in hand, there is always that fear that you will be next on the chopping block. I think most writers have that fear right now as book sales slow. It just forces you to make sure that your next book is better than the last. It demands that you are more aggressive in your self-promotion. For me, the greatest fear is being forgotten between books. Luckily, 2009 will be a busy year with the release of Dayhunter, the anthology short story, and then Book 3 in the fall. In the end, you just keep plugging along, being the best writer that you can be.

H: So let’s cut with the more serious questions. How does one writing day pass for Jocelynn Drake with maintain both a professional and personal life?

J: Typically, I’m in the office before 7:30 in the morning, reviewing the market news and beginning to prep my stories for the day. I work straight through until about 5. I’m home again by around 6:30 in the evening. I try to give myself about an hour to eat dinner and relax a bit. Then for the next few hours, it’s catching up on email, blogging, and a little light writing until bed. My heaviest writing days tend to be on the weekend, where I work all day with little to distract me.

H: Who would you like to have Mira or any other character from your book fight in a death match, if you could choose from all popularized characters from all mediums, meaning games, comic books and etcetera?

J: Wow! That’s a good question and a hard one. For fear of showing my geekiness, I would love to see Mira in an all out death match with Sephiroth from SquareEnix’s Final Fantasy 7 video game. He probably one of the best villains – and best conflicted villains—ever created. He also has some mad skills. I would love to give Mira the opportunity to just get into a fight and totally get dirty and violent, which is what Sephiroth would offer.

H: Oh, I did watch AdventChildren so I know that one. He would be an interesting one to fight and be killed by Mira. Can you tip young writers all around the world with some writing advice that has been accumulated through your own experience? Reading and writing and then some are all very fine and dandy, but there is a lot more to the craft to expect in the advice department.

J: For me, the devil is in the details. And I mean that mostly when it comes to characters. Know your characters inside and out. Their motivations, their hopes, their fears, their dreams, and their naughty, naughty thoughts. You have to know things that will probably never hit the written page. That kind of depth makes your characters so real and so alive to the reader. Give them faults that you know all too well. Make them fallible and broken. It’s something every reader will be able to understand.

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.