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…
- 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)
- Blood Roses by Jason T. Graves
- The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (my book club’s monthly pick)
- Carniepunk an anthology collection featuring Rachel Cain, Kevin Hearne, Jennifer Estep, and lots more
- 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!