Hi, Jo-Anne! Thanks for having me. I can talk endlessly about books and story—it’s one of my favorite topics, surprise, surprise—so I’m always happy to have a venue where the audience isn’t slowly trying to sneak away. Or at least where I can’t SEE them sneaking away :)
SCR: Seduced by Shadows is the first book in the Marked Souls series. For readers new to the series, can you give us a quick overview of Seduced by Shadows?
In the eternal war between good and evil, there is a third team: the Marked Souls. These immortal alpha warriors possessed by repentant demons are reviled by angelic forces and the malevolent djinn alike. The Marked Souls battle the various sinister and slimy forces of evil to earn back a measure of grace for themselves and their demons. For all of living memory, these warriors have been male.
Naturally, that changes in Book 1, SEDUCED BY SHADOWS, when the first female is possessed. At first, the bad ol’ boys’ club is quite bummed to share the slaughter with a chick, but they get over it quickly ;)
SCR: The concept of repentant demons possessing humans is very different from most urban fantasy/paranormal romance novels out there. How did it come about? Was there a lot of research involved?
I think the concept for the Marked Souls gelled from a comment I heard somewhere that angels were the new vampires. I had just finished a witch story and was playing around with some new ideas. Angels didn’t much interest me, but fallen angels... And fallen angels trying to get up... As anybody who has had the misfortune of listening to me rant about religion knows, I’m conflicted about my spirituality. I have a relationship with the Great Creative Force—I think—but I also think the spirit of a plastic Breyer horse once haunted a slumber party, so what do I know about spirituality? I liked the idea of characters who struggle more than I do and who might actually come up with answers to those very basic questions of spirituality, like good and evil and big-E Evil.
The talyan—my immortal alpha bad boys possessed by repentant demons—emerged from that mist of vague concept. I love wounded warriors who keep fighting even after all hope has faded. (Not so unlike the path of the wanna-be author...) And one of my favorite phrases is “The devil made me do it.” Merging those two seemed perfect. Don’t most of us wonder if there’s a devil inside us sometimes? (I’m not speaking just for myself, am I?) Now we know the answer.
As for research, I write woo-woo stuff so I can avoid research: My world, my rules! I lack the self-discipline to track a question to its answer in a straight line. Once I start trying to learn something, I end up getting distracted into all the fascinating sidebars and footnotes and non sequitors, and before I know it, I’m lost. The first historical romance I wrote (never to be free from its locked box under the bed) was a horrible Regency/medieval/steampunk because I hadn’t done any research on—you know—history. I even have trouble using a paper dictionary because as I’m flipping through looking for a word, I’ll see another word that looks interesting, and then another, and that’s the end of my productive writing session.
Of course, that could be an ADHD problem and not a research problem, but still.
SCR: Lately it seems urban fantasy/paranormal romance books have taken over. Why do think that is and why did you choose urban fantasy/paranormal romance, as the genre for you books?
I’m thrilled there are so many choices in PNR/UF today. I grew up reading in the genres with a hearty dose of fantasy thrown in—Charles deLint, Nancy Springer, Louise Cooper, Anne McCaffrey, Ann Maxwell—but I always wished they had more of a love story. The closed door love scene in DRAGONFLIGHT? Argh! So to have the mix of complex otherworlds AND fully fleshed out (and by fully fleshed out, I mean fully in some cases!) romances is my dream come true.
As for why other readers love the genre... Romance has always been a hugely popular genre, never mind the snide literati pooh-poohing. With PNR/UF, many of the most appealing aspects of romance are taken to the nth degree. Think about it:
Love is forever. It really IS forever with vampires.
Love tames the beast. Adopt a werewolf today.
Communication is key. “My lover can read my mind. No, seriously, he can read my mind.”
We all have a soul mate. Like in my Marked Souls books, where literally damaged souls find their missing pieces in another.
And honestly, who DOESN’T love magic and mayhem and man-chest?
SCR: I really enjoyed Ferris and Sera’s characters. In your opinion what makes for great lead males and females? What, for you, determines a character’s personality?
I’m so glad you liked them! I think personality is a mix of backstory issues and on-stage problems that combine with ramifications echoing into the character’s life at the moment. I think that’s true of us regular people too! One of the concepts in my story world is a “penance trigger.” I imagine most people have childhood trauma of some sort or another—maybe more than one—that still plagues them in the present. For my characters, that old wound made them vulnerable to demonic possession, and it’s something they finally have to deal with in order to be “saved.” I like the idea of possession being the key to salvation :)
My favorite heroes and heroines are people who are hurt, scared, angry, and uncertain... and who are still determined to forge ahead. I think the real world doesn’t always give us credit for trying, but in my story world, striving DOES make a difference.
SCR: Who or what inspires your writing and why? Is there a certain type of music you listen to when writing?
My XY is a musician—shout out to Rainstick Cowbell who wrote the theme song to SEDUCED BY SHADOWS (MP3 download at http://tinyurl.com/
- Albums from Azam Ali and Trio Mediaeval
- Movie soundtracks Gladiator and The Last Temptation of Christ (Peter Gabriel rocks)
- Meditation tracks I, Omar, by J. Donald Walters and Hypnotic OM by Dick Sutphen
SCR: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
Lol, that anybody likes them! It’s a surprise and a delight that I think will never, ever get old to hear that someone enjoyed the story, that someone “saw” a scene that played out on the page. It’s an act of faith and trust to send a story into the world to find its readers. I tend to be an suspicious skeptic, so I love love love when the universe proves me wrong and connects me to someone through the story I wrote.
SCR: What was your response when you learned that your novel had been accepted?
“It’s about freakin’ time!” After more than ten years, almost a hundred rejection letters, and nearly a million final draft words, getting The Call seemed like just the next step in a very long journey. A journey that’s not over yet. I still have a long way to go. Book 2 is just coming out. Then there’s the New York Times bestseller list to conquer... Then a movie deal... Possibly a statue somewhere with Archer’s chest and Liam’s butt modeled in life-size bronze... Hey, a girl can dream!
SCR: Forged by Shadows is scheduled for release in June. How many novels are planned for the Marked Souls series?
In my head—and in the Excel spreadsheet where I planned the series in a marathon weekend of cookie dough binging and pacing—there are nine books in three sequential trilogies, with each book featuring a different hero/heroine pair. Each book has its own arc, each trilogy has an arc, and the series as a whole has an arc. I wanted new readers to be able to come in at any point and catch the drift.
As a reader myself, I like knowing a series has a plan. I couldn’t watch the TV show Lost because I saw half of the first season and didn’t believe the writers had an end in mind. I cursed Fox Television bitterly for canceling Joss Whedon’s Firefly without giving me closure... until Serenity, of course. (I continue to curse Fox though.) And they just cancelled FlashForward without an end. Grr.
So far, four Marked Souls books are scheduled. Book 1 is out. Book 2 hits the stands June 1. Book 3 VOWED IN SHADOWS is scheduled for April 2011, and Book 4 sometime after that. Will there be Books 5 through 9? Only if I tell really good tales and readers like them!
SCR: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Interesting? There’s nothing interesting about my writing process. My writing process is like the ugly, quiet, scary-for-unclear-reasons kid that even the schoolyard bullies leave alone. Yet for some weird reason, I feel compelled to poke it with sharp sticks and then act surprised when it attacks me. Which is less interesting than disturbing.
My most annoying writing quirk is that I always lock up in Chapter 7. Why Chapter 7? Probably because by Chapter 7, I’ve finished all the fun set up stuff and I suddenly realize how much farther I have to go. It feels like I spent a week hiking 9000 feet to Everest Base Camp and finally get to see the peak. Only to realize it’s still really, really far away. Shudder.
SCR: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
When I’m not writing, I feel like I should be writing. Some more experienced authors say that you need to have a life outside writing, but I’m not there yet. At this point, I’m indulging my obsession.
However, a sunny day in Portland Oregon CAN tempt me away from the computer long enough to hike or garden. Among writers, you see a lot of gardening, I think because gardening is similar to writing. You take a small seed of an idea. You prepare a good base for it, with lots of rich compost. You nurture it for most of a year, watering, weeding and waiting. And then at the end—and here is, I think, the crucial reason writers garden—at the end of a gardening season, you usually have something that looks a lot like the picture on the front of the seek packet. Unlike writing, where a lot of the time you get Audrey the plant from Little Shop of Horrors.
SCR: Growing up did you always know you were going to be a writer and did you have favorite genre you liked to read/write about?
A friend of my mother recently reminded me of a writing contest I won in elementary school. I won a gift certificate from a local book store. If only I’d know that was the beginning, I would’ve... Honestly, I would’ve done nothing different. I was always doomed to be a writer. No, wait, according to my vocational aptitude test—also in elementary school—I should’ve been a farmer. Which as I noted above is kind of like writing, I guess, in that you work really hard for uncertain reward and pray to fickle gods.
Even back in the day when I was pecking out stories on a typewriter with no correction tape (shortly before that, we were carving on slate) I was writing romance. Originally, my mom did make me change my teen protagonists from “lovers” to “soul mates”—censorship!—but she eventually got past that. I did have to promise her that I’d always have happy endings but that was a very easy promise to make.
SCR: Ok, I am hanging out for Forged of Shadows. Can you give us a sneak peek?
Remember the inevitable scenes in the Rambo movies where he girds his loins for battle? This scene is kind of like that. It’s a romance, so of course there are loins ;) Our hero, Liam Niall, is introducing his newest warrior, Jilly, to the weapons room:
Axes, double-edged swords, daggers, razor-tipped gauntlets, and more lined the sterile white walls. Even under the buzzing fluorescent fixture, the blades shone with brutal, honed beauty.
Jilly cleared her throat. “At least I know where to arm myself if World War Three breaks out.”
“It already has.” Liam strode into the room, then turned to survey her. He tried to keep his gaze critical as he swept her once from blue-streaked locks to heavy black shit-kicker boots. “Good weight on the bottom, at least.”
She stiffened at his perusal. “You saying my ass is big?”
It took all his unholy strength to move his gaze onward. “I’m saying, no sense throwing off your balance with an oversized weapon.”
“I’ve handled bigger weapons than yours.”
Her bold words rebounded between them. The first hint of uncertainty he’d seen in her—even when she faced the ferales in the alley with nothing more than a dull razor blade—flushed her cheeks with color, and she bit her lip.
The hunger that stirred in him at the slight vulnerability had nothing to do with the demon. He swallowed hard against it, and leveled his tone coolly. “No doubt your bravado has served you well. Did the demon come to you with the promise that now you’d finally be able to carry through with all that bluster?”
She stiffened at the question; her cinnamon-honey eyes narrowed.
“The demon always makes an offer we haven’t the strength to refuse,” he explained. “It knows us better than we know ourselves. I suppose that is the nature of temptation.” How fortunate for him that he’d been around long enough to amass scars of resistance.
“I’m tempted,” she said, “to grab that spiked mace and take a swing.”
He forced himself to focus on work. Pairing an unproven talya with the right weapon was vital. “If you want to try it out—”
“Just on you.”
Ah. He balanced on the balls of his feet as the demon shifted eagerly within him. “Always happy to help my tyros, my new fighters.”
“Yours?” When she wrinkled her nose, the piercing there glimmered.
Oh, so the ancient military term didn’t bother her, just the implicit hierarchy. He crossed his arms over his chest. “I am the boss.”
Her hands clenched as if longing to wrap around that mace handle. Or maybe just his neck. “If you’re the boss, you should know human resources regulations don’t allow you to ask how people were lured to the dark side.”
“You’re not a human resource anymore, and technically, we’re the repenting side, which is at least a half-dozen steps from the dark side.” Thinking of her hands on his skin wasn’t helping his focus at all. But how had the demon cozened her if not through her boldness?
He took a long step back—physically and mentally—and swept out one hand. “Choose.”
In his many years commanding the league, he’d learned a new talya’s choice of weapon indicated something about the man and the teshuva inside him. He was getting ahead of himself, putting Jilly through his tests so soon, but the urgency that had ridden him since the appearance of her unbound demon strengthened when she was near.
And with her hell-bent attitude, he suspected she might need all the weapons she could get.
He held himself silent and still though every muscle twitched to follow as she stalked past him to circle the room. She paused near the mace, slanted a molten glance at him, and kept moving.
She passed the white-men-can’t-jump wall of massive, double-handed swords representing a wide, bloody swath of European history. The aesthetically organized Asian collection of katanas and throwing stars earned not even a second look. Instead she came around again to the blunt-force-trauma corner. “No guns? No rocket launchers?”
“Rocket launchers tend to get noticed. We try not to be. More importantly, our teshuva need to get up close and personal with the tenebrae to destroy them.”
“I tracked down my sister’s pimp about a year ago, trying to find out where she’d gone. He stabbed me.” She put her hand against her left side, just under her breast. “Punctured a lung. Nicked my heart. But you already knew that, didn’t you, from the dossier your people put together? Did it tell you, even coughing up blood, I managed to knock out a few of his teeth?”
Liam pursed his lips. “So you’re saying you don’t need a mace.”
The protective cup of her hand slid around to settle on her hip again. “I’m saying I don’t need a mace.”
He wanted to argue in favor of the mace, full Kevlar—never mind that body armor interfered with the draining of demonic emanations, which was the sole reason for their immortal existence—hell, throw in a popemobile too. After all, the ferales had sniffed her out for some nefarious reason. And she was the one who’d asked for a weapon.
Ah, of course. He’d dealt with some angry, violent men in his time with the league, but nary a one as prickly as Jilly. She needed a weapon—she might even want one—but she wouldn’t want to need his. Or him.
Thank you, Jo-Anne! If anybody has any questions about the Marked Souls, writing or reading in general, or anything else, feel free to ask in comments. Otherwise, I have a question: How do you find new-to-you authors? Recommendations, reviews or something else entirely?
I have a signed copy of Book 1 or Book 2 to give away to a random commenter.
As Jessa has said, she is going to giveaway either a signed copy of Seduced by Shadows or Forged of Shadows for one lucky commenter.
To be entered you must:
1.Answer Jessa's question in the comments section.
2.Follow this blog.
3.Please leave your email address in the comments section, too.
Giveaway is open internationally.
Thanks and good luck!
3.Please leave your email address in the comments section, too.
Giveaway is open internationally.
Thanks and good luck!
The winner will be picked by random.org
Giveaway ends June 14th.
Giveaway ends June 14th.