Monday, February 15, 2010

INTERVIEW: Karen Chance

Sorry about today's interview going up late - school had the nerve to impose upon my time. This week I got an interview with...cue the drum roll...Karen Chance. Yes, that's right, NYT best-selling author Karen Chance was nice enough to let me pester her with questions and now it's my pleasure to say....Oh! Look! Karen Chance has answered questions! Go. Read. Gush. Enjoy.

(1) So, I guess I may as well start with the basics: how exactly did Karen Chance break into the publishing world?

Basically, I was lucky. I couldn’t interest an agent in my work; everyone just told me it wasn’t marketable. But being the stubborn sort, I decided not to take their word for it and sent out a few copies of Touch the Dark to the few publishers I could find who would read unsolicited manuscripts (AKA, those without an agent.) And in two weeks I had a contract. I also had several offers after I’d already signed with Penguin, so apparently somebody disagreed with the agents. It’s why I tell unpublished authors not to always assume that the agents who are rejecting them know what they’re talking about. Some don’t know the market as well as you might think. If you believe in your story, make it as good as you possibly can and submit it on your own. You never know.

(2) Your original series dealt with Cassie Palmer, a ghost whisperer slash clairvoyant, who ends up dab smack in the middle of a magical war and suddenly in possession of power than she knows what to do with. Obviously my first question here is how you came up with this stuff?

People always ask me that and I always feel guilty because I don’t have an answer. At least, not a good one. I have spent years studying history and mythology, sometimes for my classes at university and other times for fun, and it just evolved. Part of what made it come together for me was my sister loaning me some urban fantasy books to read. I’d always read a lot of fantasy, but urban fantasy was a new genre for me. I loved it, but I also saw some areas/topics that weren’t being addressed and voila—a series was born.

(3) The character of Cassie is great: she’s got all of this power she doesn’t know how to use, all of these factions wanting either kill her or control her and yet still manages to have the heroic sense of right and wrong and the will to stick to it. Exactly how do you envision her evolution?
I try never to spoil my own books, so I can’t be too definite here. I can say, however, that the Tarot card motif in Cassie’s books is there for a reason. Cassie started out as the Fool—not stupid, but very na├»ve/ignorant about the way her world works. She is slowly progressing through the major arcana as the books progress, and is gaining more experience/confidence along the way.

I wanted to do something different with Cassie, to show a regular person thrown into extraordinary circumstances. Some people don’t like her because they find her “weak” in comparison with other kick-butt supernatural heroines. I can accept that, although that is changing somewhat as the story goes on. But I think her struggles are more realistic and, to me anyway, more interesting than someone who is super powerful to begin with and doesn’t have to put forth much effort to beat up the bad guys.

The Fool's Journey takes someone from the early stages of life to their ultimate best destiny, with lessons and dangers along the way. It's about growing up, gaining experience, exploring your abilities and learning to trust your own judgment. It's the quentissential coming of age story as told through the tarot.

(4) This series you’ve mentioned is meant to be nine books long, with four published and one more on contract. Have you any idea when you’ll learn the fate of the remaining four would-be books?
I assume sometime this year or next. I’m hopeful, and cautiously optimistic, about the life of the series. The first four books have done reasonably well, so here’s hoping I’ll be allowed to finish the story.

(5) Right, so, it has to be brought up: Here’s Cassie running about trying to do the right thing, stay alive, and not incite anyone else to add her to their hit-list. And then there’s Pritkin and Mircea. How would you define these guys and their relationship to Cassie?
In the major arcana motif, Pritkin is the Magician that Cassie encounters on her journey. In the books, he’s a mage who acts as a cross between her bodyguard and her teacher, trying to get her self-defense abilities up enough that she isn’t a sitting duck. He’s also one of her main links to the human part of the magical community. Mircea is the Emperor in the major arcana, a strong, powerful individual who can also be quite manipulative. In the books, he’s a master vampire who constitutes Cassie’s main link to the senate—the governing body of the vampires. He’s also her sort-of-kind-of-maybe love interest, although Cassie hasn’t had a lot of time to decide how she feels about that. The relationships of all the characters are evolving as the series does.


(6) There is a heavy historical element to your books, what with all the time jumping and “Oh, this character is actually so-and-so” – this being the case, exactly how much research goes into these books?
A good amount. I once spent the better part of two days trying to find out what color carpet a particular London theatre had in 1889. I tend to be a little obsessive about the details, because I think it makes the books read as more realistic if I get them correct.

(7) In the first Cassie book there is this one scene set in the parking lot out back of Dante’s – and then it seems everything keeps going back there in the following books. Was this intentional? How far ahead/detailed do you outline?
Yes, it was intentional. I knew that there were parts of Touch the Dark that wouldn’t make sense until later, and just had to hope that people would trust me to tie it all up. As for plotting, I have the whole series outlined, meaning that I know the basic things that need to be in each book. But I don’t have such a rigid, play-by-play concept that it isn’t malleable. If I come up with a really good idea, there’s enough give that I can usually slot it in. And if not, I can always do a short story about it!

(8) Now, spinning off from the Cassie series is the Dory series, starring the half-human, half-vamp daughter of Mircea. How long after creating Cassie did the idea for Dory emerge? Pretty soon. I do a lot of back story on my characters, and she was always part of Mircea’s. And her first book was actually written quite early on. It forms a diptych with Claimed by Shadow, the second Cassie book, finishing up a major plot point from that book. I intended it to come out after CBS, which is when I wrote it, but the powers that be at Penguin had other ideas.

(9) Dory is almost the complete opposite of Cassie – is it difficult to shift from one perspective to the other with the writing?
No, not really. Maybe because they are very different, they each exist as a complete, separate entity in my head. I think if they were more alike, it would be harder not to have things bleed over.

(10) And then you have Lia who has starred in three short stories by now – how exactly does she fit into the larger picture, or does she?
Everything fits together into the overall storyline, although Lia is not a main character in the events Cassie has to deal with. Basically, she was a way for me to do some very fun things with the Weres and war mages without overly complicating the Cassie books (any more than they already are!)

(11) All of your books and short stories to date have been set in the same world, however none of the characters have met or seem to even be aware of each other. Do you ever plan on having them crossover?
Actually, there’s plenty of characters who have met—Dory knows Mircea, Radu and Marlowe, for example, all of whom know each other and are known to Cassie. But I assume you are talking about the main protagonists (Dory and Cassie haven’t met yet, for example). But it’s pretty much a given that that’s only a matter of time. Cassie is dating Dory’s father, after all!

(12) Have you any plans to write anything outside of the Cassie/Dory/Lia world? What about future plans once these stories have concluded?
I have tons of other things I’d like to do, but first I’d like to finish what I’ve started! There’s five Cassie’s and at least three Dory books left to go, and as anyone who reads me will tell you, I don’t write as fast as some. So I have plenty to keep me busy for the time being.

(13) With over a year until your next publication, you’ve made mention of taking the opportunity to write free short stories to be posted on your site featuring Mircea, Pritkin and others to tell back-story that wouldn’t have a place in the main tales. Have you any details to share on these?
I’ve promised a Pritkin POV, a Mircea POV and a Francoise POV, and there’s also a good chance I’ll manage to squash in one more. They should be fun. The books are first-person from the heroine’s perspective, so it will be nice to change that up a bit.

(14) Finally, some random questions about you: a. What are your hobbies aside from writing?
Cooking (badly), travel, music (listening, I don’t play any instrument known to man) and small, useless dogs.
b. Could you please describe your dream day?
Right now? A day with nothing to do!
c. If you found a genie, what would be your three wishes?
Three more of me. I could definitely use the extra hands—and brains!
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And there you have it, boils and ghouls. Don't forget that the FREE online short featuring Pritkin front and centre is going to be released in just a few weeks - March 31! And be sure to check out Karen's site for news on upcoming books.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Giveaway Winner & INTERVIEW: Jennifer Rardin

First things first: the winner of the Nalini Singh giveaway is...Eshani! Congrats! Please e-mail me with your real name and mailing address so I can pass it along to Nalini who'll be mailing your prize out to you.

Today's interview is with Jennifer Rardin, author of the kickass awesome Jaz Parks series which tells the adventures of, big shock, Jaz Parks, a vampire hunter turned CIA assassin turned assassin-assistant. The series is currently six books long and book seven is still, gasp, almost a year away. I'm pretty sure that at moment the series should be closing, or at least pausing, at book eight. Anywhos, enough of my babbling - that's not why you're here, so let's get on with the show, shall we?

(1) So, I guess I may as well start with the basics: how exactly did Jennifer Rardin break into the publishing world?

It wasn’t easy. Those ninja outfits cost a lot, and they still don’t get you past the building guard unless you move r-e-a-l-l-y slow. Then you have to bribe the mailboy to let him ride in the bottom of his cart, and he only likes Mars Bars, which aren’t that easy to track down in the middle of Manhattan. So.

I decided to take the more traditional route. Which means that I wrote a book (in the space of about two years) that I originally called Club Undead. Then I wrote a kickass letter to several agents letting them know how smart (and profitable) it would be for them to represent me. A year later one of them agreed. At which point she pitched it to several editors, a couple of whom showed interest within about three months. I yelled, “Let the bidding begin, baby!” Fourteen months later Once Bitten, Twice Shy hit the shelves . . . and here we are!


(2) Your series deals with Jaz Parks – vampire hunter turned CIA assassin turned
CIA assassin assistant – who is not exactly human. What inspirations led you to develop your mythology?

I adore urban fantasy. Before I filled my time with writing, I spent many long hours reading story after story after . . . well, you get the drift. And I discovered a lot of gaps in the genre that I felt should be filled. Immediately. By me.

That’s not to say that I’m the Diva of Organization. I had a lot of terrific ideas going in. But in no way did I have Jaz and Vayl’s world completely mapped out. And I did that on purpose. I don’t think authors do themselves, or their readers, a service when they insist on pigeon-holing every detail of this new world they’ve created from the get-go. They fall so deeply in love with their universe that they can’t help but describe it, in excruciating detail (which we call information dumps) which make me snore like a fat old Santa. I’m not saying I haven’t dumped a few times. But, damn, I try to avoid those suckers like fly-covered trash cans. Not attractive, you know? Plus they slow the story down soooooo much! And I want mine to be page-turners.

(3) Jaz has very strong ties to her family – having even done missions with her brother and father – which is a rather rare characteristic among heroes, many of whom tend to either be working from Lone Ranger status or else practicing a friends as family philosophy. What made you decide to go this route?
This is one of those missing elements I mentioned above. I noticed very few heroes in the UF that I was reading spent time with their families, if they even had any surviving relatives to begin with. And that bugged me. Regular people like me (and, I figured, my future readers) have to juggle work with family all the time. So why not the heroine of my book? I thought it would be fascinating, and occasionally hilarious, to see how Jaz worked some of those conflicts out.


(4) Now, Vayl. How would you describe your hero?
Vayl will always be a little bit of a mystery to me. Part of this is, frankly, because he’s a guy. And that’s okay. Guys are fabulously charming and wonderful, but in some ways I just don’t get them. However, I love mysteries, so I love Vayl.

I see him as a deeply passionate, conflicted creature who controls his cravings masterfully. Except when it comes to Jaz.

(5) The relationship between Jaz and Vayl has had its rocky moments but somehow comes out seeming a lot more real because of it. Has it been hard setting the development of their relationship?
It was only hard with the first book, which makes sense, I guess, since that’s when you’re first feeling out a relationship. Once I figured out where they were going, it became so much fun there were days I couldn’t believe people were paying me to do it.

(6) For someone who isn’t the boss, Jaz seems to really excel at dealing with the conflicting personalities of her team, keeping them all working while still helping them out with personal issues. It’s rather inspiring. How exactly did you come up with your characters?’ Are any of them based on real people?
It’s hard to say exactly where my characters are born. Each contains facets of people I know. But they are their own creatures. Some grew in my mind over years. Some appeared out of necessity and only became individuals because they, and the story, demanded it. I like them because they’re all so quirky you just wanna hug them. Until they pull some bonehead move that makes you want to shake the crap out of them. You know. Like real people.

(7) Your next publication, Bitten in Two, won’t be coming out until late 2010 which is a scary long break especially in a series that has previously been having two releases a year. What’s up with that?
My understanding is that Bitten in Two will release in January 2011 because Orbit is planning a rather special buildup to the release starting in October 2010. That’s all I can say about that at the moment.

(8) On that note, there’s been some mention of short stories being posted on your site during the interlude to alleviate some of the angst. What can you tell us about these shorts? What are these Minion Chronicles seen on your site?

Yeah, I know you guys have never had to wait so long between Jaz adventures before, and I feel your pain. So I’m doing my best to make this year of waiting one that’s as full of fun and entertainment for you via my website and my facebook fan page as I’m able.

So I’ve begun the year by writing a brand new interactive short story called The Minion Chronicles: Paul and Brady Get Hoodoo with the Voodoo. Every Monday I post a mini-chapter, after which I offer readers three choices for the following week’s plot twist. The majority vote gets the twist.

Later in the year (given time) I’d like to write at least one more Granny May story and one more Jaz & Vayl mini-adventure for my fans to enjoy as well.

(9) The Jaz books take place all over the world and in some instances feature various native traditions coming to life – what sort of research is done per book? Any particular texts you rely on? Could you break down your research process?

Generally speaking, as soon as I know where Jaz and Vayl’s mission will take place, I try to get as familiar with that city and country as possible. So, for instance, with Bite Marks (which took place near Canberra, Australia) I did a great deal of Internet research on the area. This included reading personal travelogues, looking at thousands of pictures, studying the history and folklore
of the country, learning about the plant and animal life, etc. Details I always need to know (that you might not expect I’d have to research) include what time the sun rises and sets, the time difference between my chosen country and the US, the day and night-time temperatures, the currency, what side of the road people drive on, and what kinds of vehicles people typically drive.

For Bite Marks I also lassoed two Australian women into helping me make sure details of the book were correct. (You’ll see their names in the acknowledgements.) I sent them dozens of questions during the writing of the book and they answered them faithfully, thank goodness! I also requested some information about kangaroo habits from some rangers who worked in the area about which I was writing, and they were kind enough to reply very quickly with helpful information as well.

This kind of research starts out pretty heavy at the beginning of the writing, continues throughout the first draft, picks up again a great deal during the first rewrite, and then slacks off quite a bit until, by the time I’m working on the copyedit, I hardly do anymore research at all.

(10) You’ve mentioned that the eighth book in the series is written as a possible ending for the series with the potential to continue further left open. So, what’s coming next once the door has closed on Jaz? And how about yourself – where do you see yourself five years from now?

I’ve just finished a YA urban fantasy called Shadowstruck which my agent is currently marketing. I’m hoping it will be picked up soon, because it’s actually the first in a two- or
three-book series, which would mean I’d have at least one more book to write to finish that story arc. Which is way cool and something I’m eager to continue.

I’m also prepared to write an amazing new urban fantasy series which, while quite unlike the Jaz Parks books, is still designed to make you laugh, gasp, and stay up until four a.m. just so you can see what happens next! Hopefully I’ll be able to begin writing that early this summer.

My habit is to write my main (paying) project during the day, and then to work on my sideline
project at night. Now that Shadowstruck is finished, I’ve begun writing a musical comedy for the stage. Broadway, here I come!

Five years from now? Hmmm. I’ll be staring down the big 50. At least one of my kids will be out of college. I definitely plan to be writing, hopefully better stuff than ever. On a laptop that walks—and talks—and makes pizza. That would be awesome.

(11) Finally, some random questions about you:
a. What are your hobbies aside from writing? Probably my second passion after writing is gardening. I also enjoy travel so much that if you said, “Hey, Jen, do you wanna go to the store with me?” I’d be out the door immediately. Yeah, I don’t have to go far. I just like to go. Hiking is a major pleasure, as is saying things that make my hubby’s eyebrows shoot right up into his
hairline. Which isn’t easy, because he has one of those military cuts. But I keep trying!
b. Could you please describe your dream day? First of all, this day must last for
forty-eight hours. Don’t know how you’re going to swing it, but there it is. So I get to sleep until noon, and yet still have tons of time to . . . write 3,500 words. . .run two miles . . . shower for forty-five minutes . . . have a delicious lunch with my girlfriends . . . spend the afternoon planting flowers . . . spend the evening playing cards with my kids . . . hop in the car and travel somewhere new and exciting with hubby.
c. If you found a genie, what would be your three wishes? Health, happiness, and long life for my children and their children. (That sounds like one, but I think it probably counts as three, or possibly four, but I’m assuming this is a generous genie.)

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And there you have it. Be sure to keep an eye tuned to Jennifer's site to look out for what's new and for the 411 on Bitten in Two, Jaz Parks book 7, due out next year! And thanks, Jennifer, for hopping by!

Monday, February 1, 2010

INTERVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Nalini Singh

This week we're lucky enough to have an interview with author Nalini Singh to share. Ms. Singh is the author of a whole slew of books including a bunch of Silhouette Desire romances and not one but two hit series. The first, the Psy-Changeling series, deals with a futuristic world where mundane humans living along side shapeshifters are lorded over by those with psychic abilities and essentially chronicles the events surrounding the fall of its world order. The second series, the Guild Hunter series, is rather new, the first book having come out just last year, and tells of the Hunters who track down renegade vampires trying to escape their angel master's service (I know, I know - that doesn't make much sense, but trust me - you have to read the to understand fully.) Oh, and did I mention book two in this series is due for release TOMORROW? And Archangel's Kiss looks to be one hell of a ride, so don't miss out! And now enough of my jabber! That's not why you're here, is it? No? Didn't think so.

(1) So, I guess I may as well start with the basics: how exactly did Nalini Singh break into the publishing world?

There's both a long version and a short version of this story. I'll go with the short version today. The summer I turned 18, I decided I wanted to write a romance novel, and since I'd been voraciously reading Mills & Book novels at the time, I decided it would be a M&B. I completed the manuscript over that summer. I'm so proud of that - though it was smartly rejected (and in hindsight, I can definitely understand why), the fact that I had written an entire book gave me such huge confidence.

After that, I knew this was what I wanted to do. I kept on writing and submitting and writing and submitting...until I caught the interest of an editorial assistant at Silhouette Desire. A couple more submissions and a revision letter later, she bought my first book!

In case you think this all happened very quickly - nope. Took years of persistence, but it was so worth it.

(2) You currently have two series on the go: Psy-Changeling and Guild Hunters. The Psy-Changeling series deals with a futuristic world where shapeshifters oppose the emotionless humans with psychic abilities who essentially rule the world. At this point, there are seven books released with an eighth due out in July. Do you have a definite idea of where this series is going? Tied to this, “it depends on my publisher” aside, have you an idea how long the series will be?

The Psy/Changeling series has a very definite story arc and has had from the start. I tend not to think in terms of number of books, but more in terms of the storyline. I think we're coming very close to the end of the first arc and this will start to become apparent in BONDS OF JUSTICE.

Once that arc is complete, the second will start. And the second one is much more open-ended. I would like to do some "tangent" books in that arc - i.e. books that might not necessarily have fit the first arc, that perhaps explore different parts of the world.

(3) The first book of this series, Slave to Sensation, introduce Sascha, a Cardinal (naturally powerful) psy with apparently defunct abilities, and Lucas, the alpha of the local leopard-shifter clan. Since then these characters have continued to appear with more frequency than any other coupling. Why?

I think this is because they are the "anchor" couple for the pack, being the alpha pair. Not only that, Sascha is intimately connected to the Council through her mother, so she and Lucas just naturally end up being in more scenes.

I love seeing previous couples appear, but I'm very conscious that they must be integral to the plot of the current book and with each book, this balance is different.

(4) Where did you get the idea for the Psy-Changeling series, in particular the Psy?

I've always been fascinated by psychic abilities and one day, I had the thought, "What if it wasn't a gift to have such abilities? What if it caused the most vicious insanity, the kind that led to murder? What then?" And that's how the Psy race first took shape.

(5) And how about the inspiration for your second series, Guild Hunter? It is completely different and deals with the relationship between angels, the vampires they create and the humans that hunt down runaway vampires; what sort of influences affected this series? In particular, where did you get the idea for the interdependent relationship going on? For the Cadre of Ten and its members?

I get asked this question a lot and it's a difficult one to answer. I just saw an image in my mind one day of an archangel in a Tower. Who was he? Why was he there? And that's how it began. After that, I sat down and started writing and the story just poured out of me.

(6) The second book in this series, Archangel’s Kiss, is due out tomorrow. What can you tell us about this book? About how Elena and Raphael, the primary coupling, develop?

This book explores the next step in their relationship. Yes, they're together, but there is a huge power imbalance between them. AK explores what that means, and we get to see how an archangel and a hunter might just be able to navigate eternity...together.

(7) One of the great things about this series is that it begins having several of its characters already in committed relationships, or at least with the base-work already in place: Sarah and Deacon, Ashwini and Janvier, Ransom and his librarian. What made you decide to do it this way?

It just worked out that way, and I think it's very natural. Most single women Elena's age have some friends who are as single, while others are in short-term relationships, and still others who are in stable long-term relationships.

(8) The series so far has dealt with the relationship between Elena, the Hunter, and Raphael, the angel, but the series isn’t called the Elena and Raphael series, so what are your plans for the series in terms of narrative/POV?

When I started, I intended to write one book. Just one. The end. Yes, what was I thinking?! LOL. So this series is a work in progress. Right now, I'm working on book 3, and it looks like Elena and Raphael will be in the starring roles again.

However, I have a feeling that book 4 may shift the narrative focus to another one of the characters - it depends on how the story develops, but that's what's shaping up at present.

This series is flexible in that sense - there is room for another character (or characters) to become the focus, while remaining in the same world.

(9) Last year you released a short story in e-book format – any chance of that ever being made available in print?

That's up to the publisher, and I'd certainly hope it will one day come out in print. This will likely depend on the overall level of interest in the series.

(10) And speaking of short stories, you have contributions coming up in Burning Up, a mass-market anthology with Angela Knight, Meljean Brook, and Virginia Kantra in August and a yet unnamed anthology to be released in 2011 with Ilona Andrews, Meljean Brook and Sharon Shinn – anything you can say about these works?


The novella in BURNING UP is "Whisper of Sin," a Psy/Changeling story featuring Ria, Lucas's administrative assistant, and her wicked, wicked leopard hero. It's set slightly back into the past, so you get to see some of the characters when they were younger.

The 2011 anthology will have an angel theme, so I'll be writing a Guild Hunter novella for that.

(11) Is it more difficult to write short stories compared to novels?

I think it depends on the writer. For me personally, I love writing novellas. I enjoy the shorter, tighter focus. It gives me a chance to exercise different writing muscles from my full-length works. I think it probably helps that I got my start writing category romances - it really taught me to write tight and make every word count.

(12) Finally, some random questions about you:
a. What are your hobbies aside from writing? I love to read, and I travel a lot. I want to see every inch of the world!
b. Could you please describe your dream day? Me on a tropical island with a really good book, delicious food, and a gorgeous man-servant? *grin*
c. If you found a genie, what would be your three wishes? Now this one, I'll have to spend time pondering. Because you know, with a genie, you have to make exactly the right wish, or else...*

Ok, now hold on to your hats, boils and ghouls because this week's interview comes with an extra special treat: guest Nalini Singh has graciously offered a prize to one lucky commenter to be chosen at random next Monday! And what is this prize you might ask? A copy of the anthology Must Love Hellhounds which also features stories from authors Ilona Andrews, Meljean Brook, and Charlaine Harris. I know, totally squeel-of-joy worthy, yes? So, head to the comments, make with the gushing and check back next Monday to see if you've won!

Oh, and you can check out Ms. Singh online at her site here.