Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Interview with Deborah Cooke

SCR: G’day to Deborah Cooke. She is the author of the Dragonfire Novels, the latest, Whisper Kiss, will be released in August. I’d like to thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for me.

DC: Hi Jo-Anne. Thanks for inviting me to visit.

SCR: For readers who are new to the series, can you give us a rundown?

DC: Dragonfire is a contemporary paranormal series featuring shapeshifting heroes who become dragons. They call themselves the Pyr and are an ancient species - once they lived more openly among humans, but in the Middle Ages, we started to hunt them. Their numbers were vastly diminished and retreated from human society. So, they're among us, but hidden. They exist as guardians of the four elements, and their "treasure" is the earth itself, which they defend. Once they were all of one kind but - thanks to that hunting - some of them turned against humans. Now, there are the "true Pyr" who consider humans to be among the treasures of the earth, and the Slayers who believe that humans have to be eradicated to save the earth. And they are in the midst of a final reckoning, to decide who keeps the prize. 

As you might imagine, dragon shapeshifters tend to be solitary sorts. They prefer to work alone than to work together; some of them are volatile and they are all passionate. They are not immortal but live a long time - they age slowly until they meet their destined human mate, or the woman who can bear their son. This meeting is called a firestorm, and you can't miss it - sparks literally fly between the pair until they conceive that son. The heat of the firestorm can be felt by all of their kind, and attracts those Slayers who would like to get rid of the true Pyr as well as the humans. So, each book in the series features one of the Pyr having his firestorm, having to defend his mate and seduce her at the same time as the whole company faces another challenge in their battle against the Slayers. 

I have a lot of fun with these guys!

SCR: Dragon shifters aren’t that common, but they are a great addition to the shifter world. How did the idea for them come about? Was there a lot of research involved?

DC: My academic background is in medieval studies, and I've always been an avid reader of fantasy novels. I've loved dragons for as long as I can remember, and have always wanted to write about shape shifting dragon heroes. I wrote medieval romances for years as Claire Delacroix, but none of my editors were interested in shapeshifting dragon heroes then. They thought it was weird. I thought it would be cool, but I could never persuade anyone. (I did write two shapeshifter heroes then - one hero changed to a panther and the other to a wolf.) It's pretty exciting to find that an idea has come of age in terms of marketing, and to get to write these books. I do a lot of research about dragons in various cultures, stories and vernacular literature. One of the things I most enjoy about writing fiction is finding an interesting story and giving it a twist - like the treasure guarded by my dragon dudes being the earth itself. That's just fun.

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?

DC: Well, the paranormal and fantasy genre is really popular right now. That's great for authors like me who have always loved writing these kinds of books. As mentioned above, it's not so much that I chose this genre, as the idea chose me and the public taste in fiction evolved to the point that the idea was marketable.

SCR: You have fantastic male/female leads, in your opinion what makes for great lead males and females? What, for you, determines their personality?

.DC: This is going to sound weird, but my characters are like real people to me. I have a first impression of their character, much as you would when you meet someone briefly. Writing the book for each hero is a chance to get to know him better and to get to know the heroine too. It's not so much that I invent them as I get to know them. It's a strange process and hard to describe, but it works and that's good enough for me.

I have an analogy that I use when explaining this to people. Imagine that you're a landlady. Maybe you're a nosy landlady. And the apartment you rent out is over top of your own. So, when people move in to the apartment, you can hear them talking, arguing, joking around. You maybe check out their stuff when they're out (because you have a key) and you might have a poke through their mail before they see it. That's what it's like when I start a book. I clean out my imagination, and these people move in. I eavesdrop on them, peek at their stuff, and generally find out what makes them tick. I have an idea what kind of people I want to rent my apartment to, but they usually surprise me a bit. I know the book is working when the characters tell each other something I didn't know, or when they take the plot in a different direction than I expected. In essence, that means they've come to life - and that usually means that they're "real" and they're memorable.

SCR: Have you been to many of the places you have written about? Is there somewhere you’d really love to go one day?

DC: I do love to travel and have been lucky to do a lot of it. I'll let you in on a little secret here - shhhhhhh! -  there's a new Pyr in town, and he's from Australia. His son's in trouble and I've sold his book to my publisher. So, I'd love to visit Hawaii (where the son lives) and Australia before writing that book. I think it would be an awesome trip. There's a lot that's special about his story, but I'll save it until closer to publication. 

SCR: Who or what inspires your writing and why? Is there a certain type of music you listen to when writing?

DC: I listen to Queen! I always have. I love Freddie Mercury's voice and I love their music. I crank it up loud when I'm working. I don't really listen to the songs, but I don't write as well when the music is off.

Now you know my secret!

SCR: What was one of the most surprising things you learned when writing your books?

DC: One of the surprising things - and one of the really great things - about making a living with creative work is that there are always new challenges. When I started out, I thought that I had a lot to learn but that I'd reach some kind of plateau where I knew pretty much all I needed to. The truth is that there's another plateau over that one, one that you can't see while you're scaling the first one. And then there's another. And another....and I'm pretty sure at this point that there is no peak. The view keeps getting better, though, and that's exciting. There are always new ideas to explore and new skills to polish and new stories to tell. Writing never gets boring. I like that a lot. 

SCR: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

DC: I've already told you one secret! Actually, what seems weird to some people is that I don't read fiction when I'm writing. I like to immerse myself in the world of my story, and not be aware of other people's stories. Because I write a lot, my TBR pile is incredible. 

SCR: What do you like to do when your not writing?

DC: Between books of my own, I like to tackle that TBR pile and do some reading! I also knit, a lot, and I cook. My DH and I like to travel, too.

SCR: What would your ideal career be, if you couldn't be an author?

DC: I don't know. I think I have the best job in the world. 

Hmm. Maybe I'd be a sculptor. Or a pastry chef. Something messier than writing books!

SCR: If you were to do your career as an author again, would you do anything differently, and why?

DC: Hindsight is always 20/20. I think it's easy to second guess yourself in anything, but there's not a whole lot of point. You make the best decision you can with the information you have available, and you move forward. I prefer to look to the future, rather than rehash the past. I love writing stories and I feel very lucky to have been well published for almost twenty years. Let's do it for forty more!

SCR: Do you read reviews of your books? If so, do you pay any attention to them, or let them influence your writing?

DC: I do read reviews, and they are good publicity. I'm actually more interested in what readers say, and that's the cool thing about the internet. I hear from readers every day and their questions give me ideas or tell me where I've missed something. The interviews with the Pyr that I posted on my site, for example, were a result of readers contacting me who hadn't read the first book in the series first. So I created those interviews to give people an overview, and my editor and I also were more careful to ensure that there's a review of the basics in each book. It's challenging to do that in a way that doesn't bore readers of the whole series, but clearly, there are people just grabbing the current one and starting there. I hadn't really anticipated that as I'm pretty compulsive about reading books in order myself.

Thanks again Deborah! I have a huge thing for Dragons, so these books are right up my alley. I really enjoyed them all. I was also lucky enough to get an ARC of Whisper Kiss too. I'll add a review later as well.
I'm so happy to know there is going to be an Australian Pyr too! Can't wait to meet him!


  1. I just review this book yesterday. It's wonderful. Rox is great.

    Stephanie G
    Paranormal Haven

  2. Excellent review!!

    Aloha Deborah!!

    I recently purchased Book One. I've learned of this series after asking high and low for Dragon shifter recommends and this series came highly so! I cant wait to read it!!

    Mahalio for the interview Deborah and Strange Candy!!