Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Author Interview: Jessica Robinson (Undead Obsessed: Finding Meaning in Zombies)

Jessica Robinson's Undead Obsessed: Finding Meaning in Zombies tackles the confluence of zombies and our fears of science. Examining zombies through the lens of popular culture, and mixed with interviews from experts in various scientific fields, Undead Obsessed attempts to crack the code of what makes our attraction and repulsion to zombies such a favorite past time. I am thrilled she took a few minutes to talk about her book and our fascination with these rotting reanimated corpses. 

You went on kind of this epic journey to research this book—visits to water treatment plants and university veterinary medicine labs to learn about pathogens. How did you decide what you wanted to include in the book?

The original inspiration for the book came from watching an episode of The Walking Dead when the living characters have to get a zombie out of a well.  It made me curious about how pathogens travel through water, hence the visits to the treatment plants.  Then, I decided I should probably know exactly how pathogens behave, so the visit to the vet lab.  The more I learned, the more questions I had, so the more places/people I had to visit.  It was a so much fun!

What zombie movie influenced you the most?

This is actually a really hard question to answer because every movie influenced me in a different way.  Although, without Night of the Living Dead, my obsession would have never started.

How did you connect our fear of zombies to fear of science? How are they connected?

Well, it took some thought and looking at a multitude of films.  I think the puzzle pieces really fell into place while watching World War Z and how science played a role in that, then going back and looking at the other films.

Science or scientists are in practically all zombie films in one form or another—and it’s usually not a very flattering role.  They are usually portrayed as mad scientists, and like zombies, they are focused on achieving their goals (whatever those might be) without regard for human lives or morals.

These weird pandemics are kind of in the zeitgeist, between the recent ebola scare to the enterovirus outbreak. Do you see similarities in the way the public reacted to these scares, and the way you envision a reaction to a zombie outbreak?

Absolutely.  The fear of an epidemic usually comes way before the facts.  We convince ourselves that the illness will be the downfall of society and instantly start pointing fingers at people to blame, and those people are generally scientists.  Instead of preparing for the worst, we just blame it on others.  Much like the zombie apocalypse in these films, it catches us unprepared and unaware, so most of us are killed or turned into the undead.  By working together, that’s when things can truly get accomplished.

I generally poo poo the idea of zombies becoming a real thing, but then spot a news story about some weird disease, either unexplained or caused by some chemical compound (bath salts!) that does something shockingly awful, and rethink my “rational” thought. Do you think zombie-ism is possible in our future? 

I think it depends on how you define “zombie.”  If you look at it from a traditional sense—a corpse that is reanimated—then no.  But if you look at it as someone who becomes mindless and is driven by impulse and base desires, then yes.  As you mentioned, we’ve already seen this type of behavior.

Over the past few years, the popularity of zombies has just exploded in pop culture. What do you think is the reason for this sudden fascination?

I’ve been trying to figure this out, and I’m not really sure.  Monsters go through cycles.  A few years ago, it was vampires.  Before that, werewolves.  At the moment, zombie are the monsters du jour.

Your zombies are usually found in your YA fiction. What made you decide to write a non-fiction piece? Was the process different for you? Would you do another non fiction piece?

I’ve always wanted to write nonfiction about zombies, but I never knew what I wanted to write.  When inspiration hit, I had to get it down on paper.  Undead Obsessed is actually my second nonfiction book dealing with horror films.  My first one was Life Lessons from Slasher Films.  I would absolutely do another nonfiction book.  I’m just waiting for inspiration to hit.

The process was much different because I was looking at it from a different perspective.  For my YA books, I look at ways in which people can survive the undead.  In this book, I look at ways in which the undead can be created and how science plays a role in that creation.

Now that Undead Obsessed is released, what’s next for you?

I have another YA book coming out in January.  It is the sequel to The Appeal of Evil, and it is called Dealing with Devils.  Currently, I’m working on the third book in this series.  No title yet.  I have a middle grade book coming out in April/May called The Ifs Return.  It is the sequel to The Ifs.  After that, I plan on doing another YA zombie book.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Not really.  I just squeeze it in when I can.

Where is your favorite place to write?

At home.

What inspires you to write? 

The voices in my head won’t shut up until I get their story down on paper.

What 5 books are on your bookshelf right now?

Crap!  I can only think of two!

What do you recommend people see/read/hear?

Whatever interests them and makes them happy.  

Monday, November 24, 2014

Author Interview: AJ Aalto (Touched, The Baranuik Files)

I recently bought a copy of Touched, which is the first book in her Marnie Baranuik Files series. (How cool is that cover, by the way?) Immediately, I was sucked into Marnie's world, and having a blast with all the characters. So I jumped at the chance to interview AJ Aalto to talk about the series. And she loves goofballs!  

Tell me about Touched. What inspired you to tell Marnie’s story?

I had been working on an epic fantasy novel that was breaking my brain and needed a break. My good friend who was acting as a beta reader suggested I try something lighter, something just for fun. I started Touched as a joke, actually, making up a silly main character who was an amalgamation of several of my goofiest friends and myself, asking myself how they (and I) would face serious monster problems. That's how Marnie was born. I fell in love soon after. I abandoned the epic fantasy and focused on having fun with Marnie.

I am only part way through the book, and I love it so far. She is such a bad ass, take no shit character, and her side kick revenant is just wonderfully drawn, and they have such a tight relationship! Correct me if I am wrong, but in the Touched world, psychics like Marnie are paired off with vampires in a very interesting way. Can you explain that a bit more?  

Usually the revenant chooses a mundane mortal companion to guard him during his daylight sleeping hours, when he is most vulnerable. He will share his particular psychic Talents with this DaySitter. They will live together, and he will feed from her, and they will share a unique metaphysical Bond. In Marnie's case, Harry was an inheritance from her grandmother, Vi. Harry and Marnie both had the option to opt out of this, and it was merely a suggestion in Vi's will, but they both accepted and went forward together. Before Bonding with Harry, Marnie was not psychic at all. She gained her Talents from the Bond with Harry and from continued cohabitation. 

What sparked the idea to pair revenants with human caretakers?  

I always wondered why Dracula and other vampires didn't have an army of bodyguards. Sure, they're immortal, but they have so many vulnerabilities. Even being monsters, they have the ability to sway human minds, and they have an obscene amount of money, it only made sense they'd have protectors. That thought lead to: what if it was just one person, but they had some extra superpowers? Maybe borrowed psychic powers? And that lead to: what if this main character was a bodyguard of sorts, but she kinda sucked at it in funny ways? I mean, who says the vampire/revenant would always pick a successful bodyguard? Maybe they'd choose badly based on some personal quirk. Harry chose Marnie because she made him laugh. That's not the best reason to basically hire someone who will be caring for your life, but Harry was bored by four hundred years of people who were good at things, was surprised by her unusual ways. He also saw an opportunity to take a hot mess and reshape her into someone more manageable. Much to my delight, Harry hasn't had much success with that though bless his heart, he keeps trying. 

When we first meet Marnie, we learn that her first job with the FBI turned out to be a total fail. I love that we were dropped into the world with this situation already done and over. But, I have to ask, have you considered doing prequel?

I have considered it, and may. I'm still toying with it. I'd like to see early Batten. He's really mellowing in the later books (I'm currently writing the fourth in the series) as he gets more familiar with Harry and Marnie and the realities of immortals who live within the law, but I'd prefer to see him at Full Jerk strength, the way we meet him in Touched. I've always had an inexplicable urge to boff jerks. 

Touched is the first in a series, can you tell us about the others?

In Death Rejoices, Marnie starts working full-time with the FBI's Preternatural Crimes Unit and deals with the early days of a possible zombie plague, and an assistant who may or may not be trying to steal her job. You can perhaps imagine how our accident-prone, goofball heroine might deal with that. In Dirt Nap, Marnie must deal with a stone boggle in a pit mine. In Cold Company, a much darker short story, Marnie pops home to Canada to help trace a missing person. In Last Impressions, Marnie returns home again, this time to explore whether or not the Welland Canal is haunted by a killer ghost, and what's happening at an underwater graveyard. The fun part about Last Impressions is that the underwater graveyard I wrote about actually exists about five minutes from my house. I was able to tromp around that area and the local "haunted" Blue Ghost Tunnel for research. Readers can Google the area and learn about the true stories that inspired this book.

What are you working on now? And when can we expect to see it?

I've retired from my day job and am writing full time now, currently working on the fourth full-length novel in the series, called Wrath & Bones. I have no estimate for the deadline yet. I figure I'll be looking at a spring release.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Every night, I get my desk ready for the morning's work, set out my tea supplies and do a quick read to set up what I might need to start with. I set my alarm for 4 AM, and get up early every morning (unless I'm sick). I write until the kids are up for school, and return to writing by 9. I write again until late afternoon. Evenings are for exploring what I've done and deciding what I might need my editor's advice about; he's good to brainstorm with. Some Sunday mornings, I print out a few chapters and take my red or pink pen and go to a local breakfast place to eat eggs and drink tea and do edits on paper. I almost always do my own edits on paper. I do ten or fifteen editing passes before I give it to my editor for him to do his first pass. I may have to do two or three rewrites after he's done his work, so I face more 4 AM work mornings when I get his notes. After release day, it starts all over again with the next book.

Where is your favorite place to write?

My office used to be our dining room. It's been invaded by bookshelves, cork boards, and my desk. I'm most productive there.

What inspires you to write?

The short answer would be: human goofiness. I love all the different, hilarious ways that normal, non-heroic people mishandle difficulties. I'm not interested in writing about people who are awesome at everything they do, or flawlessly beautiful, or always have the right answer. I find that boring and I couldn't face writing that sort of character unless they were truly secondary...or the bad guy. I love regular people who screw things up and then make good. I love the final victory of a lovable doofus. 

What five books are on your bookshelf right now?

I have over four thousand paperbacks on my bookshelves. They groan. They whimper. I have a couple dozen beside my bed right now, too. The one I'm currently making my way through again is Stephen King's The Stand. I hadn't read it in about five years and was in the mood to revisit the characters. I'm also reading the Winter King by Bernard Cornwell. It's excellent.

What do you recommend people see/read/hear?

If you haven't seen Shaun of the Dead, you must. It's awesome. (Warning: graphic near the end.) I loved reading the Janet Evanovich books; she just cracks me up. Exactly the kind of goofy characters I was talking about. I enjoyed the Belgariad series by David Eddings and am still working through the Harry Dresden books by Jim Butcher. I would highly recommend anything by Martin Amis.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Author Interview: Ashlynne Laynne (The Progeny)

The Progeny is book one of a series about half vampire, half human Ascher, a “half-bloodling” from a vampire clan with the purest bloodline. Ascher is like the misfit vamp, unsure of his role in his clan, forced into a prearranged partnering that he does not want. Enter Shauna, a beautiful wiccan, who steals his heart, and you just know why I am cheering for this book! (And did I mention there are tattoos?)

The Progeny is a seriously sexy read, and I am thrilled to chat with author Ashlynne Laynne about the book and the series. 

Tell me about The Progeny.

The Progeny is the first book in a paranormal romance series that chronicles the love story of half-blooded vampire, Ascher Rousseau, and his eternal love, Wiccan-human Shauna McCutchin. In my world, vampires are not night-stalking killers, but rather immortal men who are just as real as any human. They live by an honor code “No fate other than the one I choose.” This motto just happens to be part of a tattoo each Rousseau man bears on his bicep.

What inspired you to tell the story of Ascher?

Ascher began as a weird dream after a grueling day at my morning job. I dreamed him just as he came to be on the pages. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with the dream at first, but I knew there was something there. I immediately woke and began sketching the special amulet each of my boys wear. I am not blessed with the talent to draw or sketch, so to say the picture is hideous is an understatement. My husband and fan artist are the only people to ever see that sketch. (Ed note: Of course, now I want to see it too!) 

Most paranormal romance books are told from the point of view of the women. Why did you chose to tell the story from Ascher’s point of view?

The Progeny starts in Ascher’s POV, but I also use Shauna’s as well. Most romance novels I read as a teenager included both the hero and heroine’s POV. In the beginning, Ascher was my progeny because of his human/vampire existence. As I wrote Shauna, I realized that she too was a progeny of sorts.

This book is spectacularly romantic. From the short excerpt I fell a little bit in love with him! What do you find sexy about this character?

Ascher is beautiful in the literal sense of the word with his silky, dark locks and pale blue eyes. But that is only the superficial surface of what makes him unique. Even as he is in the middle of a hot sex scene, there is still this innocence that shines through. For all of his faults, he loves Shauna’s with a purity and passion that I think endears him to a reader. His appearance and demeanor change over the course of the series, but I am intent on keeping his tender core intact. Under all of the angst and doubt we see in The Progeny, the heart of a warrior beats strong within his chest.  In Blood Bewitched, that warrior finally breaks the surface.

My intention for Ascher was always to show him grow up, so to speak, as the series progresses. I love books where we meet a hero who is already secure and sure of himself. For Ascher, I wanted him to start off as an unsure man, and then show him evolving and changing when Shauna enters his life. I’m a hopeless romantic by nature. I’ve been married to the sweetest man for eleven years. I’ll tell anyone that he is the reason I am able to write such passion between this couple. 

My motto as a writer will always be hard sex mixed with harder love. This simply means that no matter how much these two tear into one another between the sheets, this amazing love will always be the reason for such intense actions and emotions. In life, I believe that to be true as well. Anyone who has read through to book five will also see a shift in the intensity of the love scenes in the books. The Progeny was my test book, it was my first shot at writing a novel, so I wasn’t exactly sure of how hot I wanted to write. In Blood Bonds, I ventured closer to where I wanted to be as far as heat. When I started writing Blood Promise, I was sure that I wanted to write erotically, and the scenes definitely reflect that. 

Some of the best advice my editor has given me was that a writer not only writes a love scene for the heroine, but you are also writing to satisfy the reader as well. I’m always asking my husband if I went too far with a particular scene. His answer is for me to write what is in my heart and I’ll never go wrong. I’ve had readers write to me and say that they don’t usually go for books written as explicitly as mine tend to be, but that they don’t really mind it because of the way they are written. My hero will never force the heroine to do anything she doesn’t want to do. Her pleasure, comfort, and well-being will always be his greatest concern. 

What do you think it is about vampires that make them such wonderful romantic leads?

If I am to be honest, Interview with the Vampire and the yummy Brad Pitt started my love of the fanged ones. I am a vamp girl, through and through. The appeal for me, I think, is the fact that they are usually very self-assured and polished. They are strong and loyal. And I imagine that centuries of experience in what pleases a woman would make them excellent lovers.

Now that The Progeny is released, what’s next for you?

The Progeny was actually my first release back in 2012. Blood Bonds, Blood Promise, Blood Reborn and Yearning have followed since. Blood Bewitched is the sixth in the series and it is set to release February 10, 2015. (Ed note: I have some catching up to do!) Book seven, Belonging, will follow next spring. The Progeny got a voice back in September. I was fortunate enough to connect with this awesome voice artist, Shana Pennington-Baird, and she has taken on the task of giving my books an audible life. She is doing an excellent job, too. She has all of this theater experience and can do crazy accents, so she is literally making these characters came to life outside of the book. The Progeny audio book is in post-production, and will release later this month. Blood Bonds goes into production next week. So, that is exciting. I’m currently writing Belonging, Blood Rising, and a related novella attached to the series. Yes, my plate is full and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Do you have any writing rituals?

I like to do a rough outline before each project, just to have a starting and end point. It was easier earlier in the series. Now, my characters are resistant to the plotting and tend to be most uncooperative when told what to do. I am a Chapstick addict, so I keep it in a tiny glass box on my computer desk. I usually apply it to my lips the entire time I write. 

Where is your favorite place to write?

I write all over the house on my laptop, but when I need privacy to really think about a scene, I go to my writing room. I have a comfy leather chair, my iMac, and huge posters of my characters all around to help inspire me.

What inspires you to write? 

My brain is funny. I dream a lot of the scenes that end up in my books. But anything might set me off—a fight scene in a movie, a love scene. Oddly, I do the most thinking about plot points and such in the bathtub while I’m getting ready for work in the mornings. I usually just keep my tablet nearby and plug the thoughts into my note program for later.

What 5 books are on your bookshelf right now?

Sadly, my own books are on my virtual book shelf right now. I tend to keep them queued to fact check. With a six book history for this series, writing the seventh and eighth requires me to constantly refer back.

What do you recommend people see/read/hear?

For contemporary romance reading, I love Sylvia Day’s Crossfire Series. Gideon Cross is my book boyfriend. The thought process and depth she uses to develop those characters is simply amazing. They are, honestly, the only books I will stop writing to read. For vampire lovers, I recommend the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J. R. Ward. I’ve only read three of them, but they were awesome. I look forward to finishing the series once I’m done writing my Progeny books. I also love Anne Rice’s vampires. She is the mother of the modern day vampire in my mind. My favorite recent horror movies are The Conjuring and Sinister. For a tear-jerker young adult movie, I loved The Fault in our Stars, even though I never read the book. And my favorite TV shows are Chrisley Knows Best, Family Guy, and Stalker

I’d just like to take a moment to thank you for having me on your blog today. It has been an absolute pleasure and delight. I do hope your readers will give the series a try. Book one is only 99 cents, so it’s the perfect way to discover the books and get to know Shauna and Ascher. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Author Interview: Sara M. Drake (Family Heir)

Family Heir is a fantastic book that tackles Big Foot mythology. I am thrilled author Sara Drake joins me to talk about the novel, Big Foot, and how Government bureaucracy is inescapable, even in fictional worlds. (Make sure you read to the end to enter the Amazon gift card giveaway.) Welcome, Sara!

Tell me about Family Heir.

Family Heir follows Kelley’s search for a killer paranormal creature. With her ex-husband and a federal agent in tow, Kelley takes off to the Rocky Mountains. However, what they find is nothing they could have imagined.

What inspired you to tell Kelley’s story?

It started because I wanted to write something my best friend would enjoy! I’d just “forced” her to read a science fiction novel I wrote. She muscled through it even though she’s not a fan of the genre. However, once I started getting the characters worked out, Kelley pretty much told her own story.

Big Foot is a very usual topic for paranormal romance/urban fantasy. What drew you to the Big Foot myth?

I live in Utah, which is rich in local Big Foot lore. I love urban fantasy and paranormal but after a while the normal cast of creatures gets old. I wanted to write about something new and fresh. Plus, I think the genre neglects the rich traditions that already exist in North America. Big Foot fits the bill perfectly. Big Foot tales come from the native tribes, the early settlers, and modern society. I can’t believe there isn’t more literature drawing on those traditions. Some of the tales have a remarkable beauty to them.

I love that the first chapter or so focused on the bureaucracy of the government agency tasked to find this weird monstrous animal—even in the paranormal universe, there is endless paper work! What inspired that idea? 

When I first envisioned the world of Family Heir I had X-Files in mind. However, I’ve worked for the federal government for nearly twenty years and can’t imagine a government agency that doesn’t have piles of paperwork for the simplest thing. Well, they tell you to write what you know but no one warned me that what you know will write itself in regardless of what you want! Brett’s background drew on the stories I hear everyday. I’ve been active duty Air Force, a reservist, and a civilian working for the military for so long that it feels natural to include parts of that world in my writing.

Kelley’s ex-husband is a man of few words — I giggled so much at his one and two word responses to her. Can you tell us more about their relationship? 

I loved writing Troy’s dialogue! He’s a great character for comic scenes. I think we’ve all known someone who’s frustrated us because they can’t communication. I know I’ve worked with a couple I just wanted to shake until words flew out. As for Troy and Kelley, they have that complex dynamic of two people who grew up together. There’s deep affection there but also the built up frustration of two opposite personalities. The real key to their relationship stems from the amount they depend on each other. Neither of them functions at their best alone and that’s something they both need to learn to do. 

You are an accomplished academic—how does that part of your life influence/enhance your writing life? 

Hmmm… the biggest influence may be the weird references that sneak into my writing. My beta readers have to remind me that not everyone knows Plato and maybe I need to explain :-D I’m a geek all the way through and it dribbles out my ears (or mouth or keyboard). My degrees in psychology and history help me with the character and world building and often shape the directions the story goes in. I find the academics and the writing to naturally work together.

Now that Family Heir is released, what’s next for you?

I have a draft for the first book in a quartet based on our modern world after magic suddenly returns. It takes place at a Magic University and plays with the idea of how disrupting magic would be in our society. I also have a science fiction novel featuring an autistic main character that I hope to have out this spring. Next up after that, a Beauty and the Beast tale that focuses on what comes after the happy ending. I can’t believe I’m the only person that thought the Beast was hotter before he became human :-D And how does “species” change effect a relationship?

Do you have any writing rituals?

Not really. I prefer to write in the morning when my mind’s free of all the day’s clutter but I take what time I can find. My only ritual involves writer’s block. For some reason, cleaning inspires me. Or maybe I hate chores so much that my mind hurries up with the next great idea to give me an excuse to stop!

Where is your favorite place to write?

Curled on the couch, under a fuzzy blanket!!! However, that’s not the healthiest posture in the world! I try to write at my desk but somehow I end up back on the couch with my laptop! The best writing ambience: snowy day, fire going, and nowhere to go.

What inspires you to write? 

Everything and anything! I’ve had story ideas running through my head since I can remember. I’ll hear a bit of conversation, song lyric, or see a squirrel and suddenly get an idea for a scene or story. It sounds totally cheesy, but I write because some of the characters seem so “real” that I feel their stories deserve to be told.

What 5 books are on your bookshelf right now?

My to read shelf has

Spells at the Crossroads by Barbara Ashford
Bastion by Mercedes Lackey
Fall of Giants by Ken Follett
With Our Back to the Walls by David Stevenson
The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman

What do you recommend people see/read/hear?

Well (obviously) I think everyone should read Family Heir! :-D Oh, you mean outside of trying to sell my own book! Hmmm…I’ve been on a Lois McMaster Bujold kick recently. If you haven’t read her works, I encourage you to give them a try. I think she may be one of the best writers in fantasy and science fiction. My second recommendation would be anything by Carrie Vaughn.

Thanks so much for having me on your blog! It’s been a pleasure!

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Author Interview: Nicky Peacock, Bad Blood (Battle of the Undead Book 1)

Nicky Peacock’s Bad Blood, book one in her Battle of the Undead series, is one kick ass novel. Set in a futuristic London, the novel features a bad ass female vampire slayer who is also a vampire. (My readers know this is my heart!) What if there was a zombie uprising? Bet the vampires don’t look so bad now! This book is an action packed, fun read.

I am stoked that Nicky took the time to do a Q&A with me. 

Tell me about Bad Blood (Battle of the Undead Book 1).

At its heart, its kind of a Walking Dead meets True Blood for teen readers and up. Once I had the basics down, it came together relatively quickly and ended up being one of my favorite stories - although books are kind of like children, so perhaps I shouldn't say?  

What inspired you to tell Britannia’s story?

Brit, as a character was developed to progress the story forward. To ensure I just wasn't writing a simple zombie survival book, I had to have subplots regarding the vampires. So, I needed a character who although is hopefully like-able, is hard and stubborn and doesn't always see what's in front of her. I didn't want her to start off the hero who fights for humans out of the goodness of her heart, but more like a real person would be - conflicted, but ultimately doing what's right, or perhaps more likely, what they think is right. 

Britannia is almost a savior of humans, at the opening of the book, we see her stopping a young vampire from claiming a victim. Can you bring us into your world a little bit and tell us about it?

At the start of the book Brit is blinded by revenge more than anything else, saving the girl at the start is more a byproduct of what she wanted, rather than her end goal. She's kind of an accidental hero. She still kills people for the blood and has set herself apart from the world as a kind of coping mechanism for everything she has been through. She's tough and kicks some serious ass, but readers get more of a glimpse into her past and how she got that way in the second book I'm currently writing, Bad Timing

I love that you got vampires and zombies in this book as (im)mortal enemies. What was your ‘ah-ha’ moment for that really brilliant idea?

I actually went looking for a book that featured vampires in the zombie apocalypse - and didn't find one. There were plenty of urban fantasies which had both zombies and vampires featured in their series - but none that had real vampires pitted against undead hordes as they spread across the globe. So I decided to write it myself. To be honest, once I had the concept of enemies having to work together to save their food supply and a magic VS science theme, it kind of wrote itself!

Do you often write in the YA genre? What draws you to it? And, what would people who generally read “adult” fiction find surprising about it?

I tend to write more adult fiction. There are obvious limitations with YA fiction which usually turn me off it. But this story lent itself more to YA - and from an evil commercial viewpoint, adults enjoy YA fiction just as much as teens so YA opens up a wider audience for your work. In terms of Bad Blood, it does deal with some very adult themes, and I never pull punches with violence and gore. I don't believe in 'dumbing it down' for younger readers - the only thing I would never include in a YA novel is a sex scene.

Now that Bad Blood is released, what’s next for you?

I'm still beavering away writing whilst promoting at the same time. It's hard work being an author - the work doesn't stop once a book comes out; you have to get online and promote your literary baby in a rather overcrowded marketplace. You have to keep writing to get out your next book and the next, and the next and so on. I've actually just finished an adult horror/thriller which I'm preparing to pitch to publishers and also putting the finishing touches to an adult re-telling of a Hans Christen Anderson fairy story. Of course all the while still plotting and drafting the next Battle of the Undead book too. No rest for the wicked!

Do you have any writing rituals?

I'm not really a ritual type of person - I don't have the time to be. Like most authors I still have to work a full time job and attempt to have a social life, so my writing fits around that. I have a good mini laptop which an excellent battery life (I think this is key to getting more done) I carry it round with me and when I'm waiting to meet a friend, or simply chilling with a cup pf tea in a cafe, I can tap away any random thoughts that come my way, ready to be drafted, edited and slipped into my manuscript when I get home.  

Where is your favorite place to write?

I'm a bit of a hobo writer - so any place really. Coffee shops are good, nice smells and lots of people around, so you don't feel so isolated. I also write in bed, and on my lunch hours at work. 

What inspires you to write? 

The money, no I'm kidding! I've just always wanted to tell stories (not in a liar, liar sort of way but for entertainment) I'm also an avid reader myself, so I know the impact of a good book. The world we live in is a bit dull and painful at times, books can transport you away, introduce you to new friends and make you feel that there's some magic left in the world - I'd really like to do this for my readers.

What 5 books are on your bookshelf right now?

Heart Shaped Box - Joe Hill
Sea of Shadows - Kelley Armstrong
Frozen - Melissa De La Cruz & Michael Johnston
The Witch of Salt & Storm - Kendall Kulper
Among the Missing - Richard Laymon

What do you recommend people see/read/hear?

To See -  The series The Strain (currently on Watch in the UK)

To Read - Any of Sebastian Gregory's 3 books out - really dark and well written.

To Hear - The Album, Broods by the Broods

A huge thanks to Nicky for taking the time to chat. And seriously, guys, buy this book! It's fantastic!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Author Interview: Kathleen Collins (Realm Walker series)

Tell me about the  Realm Walker series.

Juliana Norris is a Realm Walker with the International Law Enforcement Agency. In a world full of werewolves, vampires, demons and more, it is her job to make sure they all conform to the rules of society.

Tell us about the world of the Realm Walkers—what do they do? Did they inherit this supernatural ability or was did they somehow end up with it? 

Realm Walker is actually what the elite agents at the Agency are called. They got the name because they use portal mages to travel around the world, crossing thousands of miles with a single step.

What is the setting for the Realm Walker like? Can they head on over to a Chipotle for a burrito bowl, or is their world pretty different from our own? 

It’s not so different from our world in the little ways but in the big ways it’s obviously very different. After all it’s populated with all those things that we think are myths. And I don’t think I’d want to write a version of our world where you couldn’t go to Chipotle. (Ed note: thank GOD!)

How did the human world learn about supernatural creatures? 

The magic in Realm Walker does not react well to radiation so during World War II when the radiation from the atomic bombs moved through the atmosphere, they were forced out of hiding. 

What inspired you to tell Juliana’s story?

The initial idea came to me while I was editing a different book. And once I got the idea it just wouldn’t let go. I kind of had to write it.

Can you divulge a little bit of the relationship between Juliana and the master vampire Thomas? I am so intrigued by it! 

Their relationship is a complicated one. When Juliana was twelve she was befriended by Thomas’s sister Sara. Thomas took Juliana in off the street. While she was under his protection, he didn’t have much to do with her until she got older and their relationship changed drastically. 

So far, you have two books in the series, plus a short. Are you working on a third full length in the series, or something entirely new (or both)? 

Book Three will be out in January. I am also working on a contemporary romance.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Music. I have to have music.

Where is your favorite place to write?

I have a chair that’s my writing chair. It’s in my bedroom so I can shut the doors if I don’t want to be bothered. 

What inspires you to write? 

I don’t know how not to write. Even when I’m not actually writing, I’m writing in my head.

What 5 books are on your bookshelf right now?

Um…do you mean 500? And which bookshelf? And what about the Kindle, there’s at least a 1000 on there. Five random reads would be Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews, Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, The Mummy by Anne Rice, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs and The Corset Diaries by Katie MacAlister.

What do you recommend people see/read/hear?

Reading wise, I think people should read anything they can get their hands on. If you don’t like a book, put it down and try another. There are so many great books out there. Find your own favorites.

Some of my favorite movies are Pan’s Labyrinth, Like Water for Chocolate, Penelope, Sweet Home Alabama and The Proposal.

My favorite bands/singers of the moment are Needtobreathe, Dirty Guv’nahs, Daughtry and Sam Hunt.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Author Interview: Angela Roquet (Graveyard Shift)

Today I talk to Angela Roquet, whose Graveyard Shift is the first in the Reapers Inc series. It's about a slacker reaper who isn't exactly enthusiastic about her job or her boss. After an unexpected promotion, she ends up with way more than she bargained for. Who doesn't love a sassy heroine and good reaper story? And guys, it's FREE on Amazon!

Tell me about GRAVEYARD SHIFT.

Graveyard Shift is the first book in my Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc. series.

The Inferno has Evolved… Lana Harvey is a reaper, and a lousy one at that. She resides in Limbo City, the modern capital of the collective afterlives, where she likes to stick it to the man (the legendary Grim Reaper himself) by harvesting the bare minimum of souls required of her. She’d much rather be hanging out with Gabriel, her favorite archangel, at Purgatory Lounge. But when a shocking promotion falls in her lap, Lana learns something that could unravel the very fabric of Eternity. If the job isn’t completed, there could be some real hell to pay.

What inspired you to tell the story of a reaper? And what makes Lana a “bad” one?

I guess I’ve always been a bit morbid and fascinated with concepts of death and visions of the afterlife, in all the religions. Reapers seemed like the best way to tie all of those foreign worlds together, and urban fantasy seemed like the best playground to modernize them in. 

Lana has a short story in the anthology Off the Beaten Path that explains the why of her lousy reaping a little better. She and Gabriel both turned into slackers after the death of Saul Avelo, Lana’s mentor, back in the early 1900s. In the beginning of the series, Lana is a peon at the bottom of the Reapers Inc. totem pole. She’s an eighth generation, low-risk harvester, and she often sneaks souls destined for the Sea of Eternity (where atheists and agnostics are dumped) into better afterlives, especially if they amuse her or inspire pity. These “soul violations” are passed off as minor transfer errors, so Lana doesn’t get into too much trouble, but it certainly doesn’t endear her to Grim.

Apart from reapers, what other supernatural elements are in your novel? 

I get to play with all of the gods and their minions! There are Greek and Egyptian deities, angels and demons, nephilim (angle/human hybrids), satyrs, mermaids, and even fairies (since they are totally based off of old European folklore). There are also some supernatural creatures, like Lana’s hellhounds and Anubis’s jackals.

I think you’ve created a really unusual and fantastic world with Limbo City. Can you explain a little bit about it, and your process in its creation? 

There are so many heavens and hells, and such vivid, contradicting descriptions of them. I needed a fresh landing ground for the Reapers Inc. headquarters in the afterlife. Neutral territory. An in between place. A capital. Limbo City felt perfect. I also wanted a sea for the reapers to travel across, since that’s such a prominent feature in so many mythologies about death. The Sea of Eternity came into play from there. And since I wanted the reapers to travel by sea, no matter what afterlife they were heading to, Limbo City had to be an island. Everything really fit together like puzzle pieces. Like a riddle I had too much fun solving.

The city itself is very much like the America of the afterlife. Many, many religions and mythologies have come and gone, and the deities who had essentially retired or who were struggling to make a living in their own territories, were kind of a shoe-in for entrepreneurial ventures within the city. Athena sets up a dress boutique; Artemis has an archery shop; The demon Xaphen runs Purgatory Lounge; The Three Fates have a soul recycling factory. There are loads more, and I had a lot of fun fleshing out the city. Once the series has concluded, I’ll be releasing a guide book with a map and other illustrations. 

I love books that weave lots of humor into them, even if it’s morbid (hello, reapers). Do you gravitate towards writing humor? If so, why? If not, what made you incorporate it into this series? 

I do love humor, and I really hope that I get at least one or two good laughs in, no matter what I write. I adore the works of Christopher Moore and MaryJanice Davidson. And I’m also a big fan of Joss Whedon and his advice to “Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.”

How many books are in the Reapers series? Are any additional books in the works?

There are currently four books and one short story in the series. Next May, another short story will be released in the anthology Badass and the Beast. And then book 5, Death Wish, will be out in the fall. I have at least one more book planned for Lana after that. There could be more, but nothing is set in stone yet. I’m also launching a new series next spring, so I have to see where that’s going to fit into the schedule.

Do you have any writing rituals?

My writing ritual has evolved so much over the years. The first book was written mostly on hotel beds, surrounded by heaps of library books. I traveled a lot, and ebooks weren’t all the rage just yet. Hotel clerks didn’t know what to think when I heaved in my giant Rubbermaid box of books.

Lately, I work from the comfort of my home office, surrounded by all my favorite books. In my pajamas most of the time. I like to burn Indian temple incense, play hippy folk music in the background, and drink pomegranate green tea. I have my sticky notes and plot board nearby, and the Google gods at the ready.

Where is your favorite place to write?

My office. Definitely my office. It really kicks ass. I love having a sacred space to work in. I even built my own desk, since the hutch on my old one didn’t hold enough books. I’m awfully proud of my amateur carpentry.

What inspires you to write? 

Books, television, movies, mythology, comics, music, video games, history, people, places, science. Everything. I originally started off writing scripts and storyboards for an animated series. As a teen, I was just sure that I’d be working for Disney or Cartoon Network someday. No matter what, I knew I wanted to be a storyteller. Writing a novel didn’t really occur to me until my English teacher suggested it during my junior year of high school. It seemed like a more immediate and reachable goal at the time, and now I find that I prefer the control and intimacy of writing. I also enjoy working in my pajamas. A lot.

What 5 books are on your bookshelf right now?

Up next on my TBR list…

  1. The Broken Angel by Monica La Porta (This one isn’t out just yet, but we’re critique partners, so I get to read it early. : P)
  2. Blood Roses by Jason T. Graves
  3. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (my book club’s monthly pick)
  4. Carniepunk an anthology collection featuring Rachel Cain, Kevin Hearne, Jennifer Estep, and lots more
  5. Danger Girl: May Day #4 (So this is technically a comic book, but it’s from my favorite series and it’s available on Kindle now. Score!)

What do you recommend people see/read/hear?

There is really so much awesome out there…. 

Kory Shrum, another critique partner of mine, has a new and amazing series that’s the most original zombie story you will ever read. (Sorry Isaac Marion! I still love R, but for real, Kory wins this round.) There are two books out so far, and the first one, Dying for a Living, is on sale right now for only 99 cents. It’s sexy. It’s gritty. It’s smart. I am tickled that I get to read the next one before everyone else!

When it comes to music, Shawnee Kilgore is my latest favorite. Joss Whedon actually helped fund her and they worked on a song together. She has a really mellow voice that I find soothing when I write.

Speaking of Joss the Boss… Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the only show I’m absolutely making time to watch right now. I suspect it will be that way until Elementary and Game of Thrones come back on.

The last movie I saw in theaters was Guardians of the Galaxy. I don’t really need to go into details about how amazing that movie is right? Hasn’t everyone seen it by now? Epic.

I think I’ll stop there…. Four seems like a nice even number. Plus, I could go on for days.

Angela is hosting an awesome giveaway. One lucky winner will get a $25 Amazon gift card and a set of Reapers Inc paperbacks. Enter here