Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Beneath a Blood Moon & Interview with author RJ Blain

Q ~ Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I have cats. When you add up their numbers, I’ve been told they’re equivalent to having one human child. I believe this. I enjoy painting, I really like the color pink, and raptors are my favorite type of dinosaur.

Q ~ What’s your favourite pass-time?
However cliché it sounds, my favorite pass-time is writing. I consider myself very fortunate that I love what I do so much. I also enjoy reading, painting, and playing some video games, although I’ve mostly gone through gamer rehab and no longer play hardly any video games although I do play board games and roleplaying games.

Q ~ If you could go anywhere, real or imagined, where would it be and why?

Any habitable planet other than Earth. I’d love to see new worlds and learn just what is out there.

Q ~ If you could be any animal, which would you be and why?
Unicorn. We all need a little magic in our lives, and if I were a unicorn, I’d be able to spread that around at least a little.

Q ~ How do you think people perceive authors?
This is an odd question for me, because generally, most people don’t think about authors too much unless they meet one directly. There are a lot of misconceptions about authors—and some very accurate ones, too. It really depends.

Do the people in question love books or not? That’s really where the dividing line is, I think. If they love books, there’s often some awe involved. If they don’t, there is scorn. Then you have the writers, who may or may not get hero worship depending on who they’re meeting.

Q ~ How do you feel about self-publishing?
Competition brings out the quality we really need in the industry. I love self-publishing’s existence, but I do feel every type of publisher, be it company or individual, needs to up their game.

At the end of the day, though, does it really matter how the book came into publication? I don’t think so.

Q ~ What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why?
“Do you know, I always thought unicorns were fabulous monsters, too? I never saw one alive before!"

Well, now that we have seen each other," said the unicorn, "if you'll believe in me, I'll believe in you.”

Lewis Carroll, from Through the Looking Glass.

This captures the reality of magic, wonder, and belief for me… for every time we believe ourselves so large, there’s someone who shares our sense of wonder when we encounter something simply too surreal to be weird.

Q ~ Ebooks, paperbacks, or hardcovers?
Gotta catch them all. Seriously, gotta catch them all. It makes no difference to me. The words these formats contain are the important thing for me.

I recently attended World Fantasy Con, and I ended up with 42 books in a mix of hardback and paperback. When I purchase books, I often get the paperbacks because of price, but if I see a sale on hardbacks, I snap them up. I like books.

I like all books.

Q ~ How did you begin writing? Was there a single catalyst or a series of events?
I’d have to say it was a series of events. I’ve always been creative, living in a fantasy world in my own headspace… but I didn’t comprehend books really until a bit later in my education. Once I did, however, it was a natural progression from voracious reader to voracious writer. I couldn’t find the stories I wanted to read, so I started to write them.

I like opening new worlds for myself and others. For my age, I’ve published a lot of books. The urge to see how far I can go and discover what new places I can discover in my writing just keeps getting stronger, too.

Q ~ What’s the best thing that’s happened since you began writing? The worst?
When I was in middle school and high school, I discovered all of my favorite authors belonged to the SFWA—the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

Earlier this year, I became a member of the organization, which was a dream come true for me.

The worst would be a house disaster that wiped out all of my novel-writing funds. Fortunately, I was able to do a crowd fundraiser to replace what I had saved away and had to spend salvaging my home, but… that sucked a lot.

Q ~ Do you have any writing rituals that you follow? What is your go-to snack while writing?
I don’t have any writing rituals. I sit down and I write. It’s the only way for me to get anything done. If I did any rituals, I’d end up so focused on the rituals I’d never get to the writing because I’d be too buy working on the rituals and not busy enough writing and editing words.

Q ~ Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Both. That said, I’m only a good pantser because I learned how to really, really plot. Pantsers and plotters really aren’t very different. One writes down the process on paper. One does the process in their head.

Doesn’t matter if you’re a pantser or plotter if you don’t understand the process of creating a plot line, character development, and interactions of the players in the book you’re writing. Plotters and pantsers are using the same exact skills—one just puts it on paper first, in advance. The pantser is doing it in their head whether or not they care to admit it.

Q ~ What inspired you to develop the paranormal world for your Witch & Wolf series?
I was so, so sick and tired of urban fantasy werewolves available… I was tired of how flat the werewolves felt. I was so tired of the societies these werewolves lived in. I wanted to play with what-if questions of my own, so I did. I wanted action and adventure, and I wanted some romantic undertones, but I didn’t want the whole point to be the romance, which is a trait of so many werewolf stories. Romance has since taken a stronger stance in some of the titles, but it’s about the relationships, not the actual sex.

Beneath a Blood Moon has far more of a romance undertone than my other titles.

I also enjoy Happily Ever Afters, but I want the characters to earn them—and I do think it’s okay for some bitter to be tossed in with the sweet.

Q ~ Can you tell us a bit about Beneath a Blood Moon and what it means to you?
Sara is a runaway who became a stripper (and rarely prostitute) to make ends meet in Las Vegas. When her past comes back to haunt her, she’s forced to face everything she had fled from. She’s always lived in a world without magic. Unfortunately for her, magic is real, and her choice to remain ignorant in the supernatural is taken from her.

Now she has to live with being a werewolf.

I don’t know what I’d say the meaning of this book is, but I wrote it with strong threads of the differences between blood families… and the families we choose for ourselves, and what happens when these two collide.

The difficult thing about this book for me was the fact that Sara was forced to compromise her morals over the years. She doesn’t believe in sleeping around with men, but in order to survive, she’s done so. This has left her scarred and damaged in so many ways, but she hasn’t lost her morals—and she wants to return to what she feels is the right way—and she wants a man who will stand with her and be as loyal to her as she is to him.

It’s romance, but it’s also an action/adventure and a thriller. It’s also a story about the nature of relationships, family, and loss.

Q ~ Can you tell us a bit about the process that went behind the cover artwork for this novel?
The cover on this book was a weird one for me. I found the image on a stock photo site, and it just fit. It matches so well with one of the scenes in the book. The font was selected because it reminded me of knife wounds—of words that cut deep and leave marks behind. It fit the nature of the story so well.

It’s not the best cover, but it really fits my feelings for the title.

Q ~ What is your process for choosing character names?
“Top “Culture group” names” is typically how I begin; I look for a name that appeals to me and roll with it. I use cultural groups to help me narrow down names so they better fit my characters. If I’m doing symbolic writing, I look for names with certain meanings and pick the best one for what I’m looking for.

Q ~ What characters did you find yourself especially drawn to and why?
This may sound strange, but my secondary characters often draw me in equal proportion to my primary characters. Sanders is one of my favorite side characters to write; he’s dynamic, he has an edge, but he has a very strict belief in right and wrong. Of all of my characters, Desmond is probably my absolute favorite.

I don’t think I could ever write him as a main character, but he has a sharp edge that makes him so much fun to write—and he can be dangerous, unpredictable, and kind in equal measures, but his kindness is hidden behind a shroud. He does what is necessary, but he tempers the necessary with a sense of justice.

Q ~ You’ve written and published multiple works. Which is your favourite and what inspired you to write it?
In December, I’ll have released ten novels. It’s so hard to choose just one, so I’m going to list three of them and a short reason why. (What can I say? I’m a rule breaker.)

1: Beneath a Blood Moon is my longest novel to date, and it required me to face a lot of my personal inner demons to write. It forced me to separate myself out of my writing even more than usual, so while I could delve into some of these hard-hitting subjects, it’s not my story—it remained my characters. It was a challenge, but it let me look at things in a new way—and I’m very proud I kept the story about the characters rather than about me.

I don’t like including much of my personality in my books. I do use things I relate to to help give characters vibrancy, but they aren’t me, they will never be me, and I don’t want them to be me. I don’t want these things in my life—and I don’t want their lives. That’s important to me.

2: Storm Surge was a novel where a lot of the skills I had been struggling to develop as an author really crystalized. It’s one of my best books, but I can see how I was improving while I wrote the book. It’s far closer to what I wanted the series to be in the first place, which really makes me happy as an author.

3: The Eye of God is my debut book, and it is so flawed I laugh (and cry) about it sometimes. But, it’s the book where I really decided novel writing was what I wanted to do with my life. I’m planning on going back and releasing a special edition version of the book—one that fixes everything I originally wanted to accomplish with the book and lacked the skill to do. It’ll be a big job, but I’m looking forward to it in the years to come. It started everything for me.

Q ~ Do you have anything in the works at the moment? Care to give us a hint about it?
Yes and no. It’s going to be several years before the next Witch & Wolf, Requiem, and Erelith books come out—maybe as long as 4 or 5. I’m planning on working on them as I can… and when I release the next few titles, I’ll be releasing a bunch of books at one time. There is a lot going on in my life right now, including an international move!

That said, I have a standalone Witch & Wolf novel in the works. It’s about a prosecuting district attorney who learns about the Inquisition in the worst way possible. His wife was one of the Fenerec created by an antagonist in Inquisitor, and because of her, Sean’s world is turned upside down.

It’s as much of a thriller as it is a romance, very similar to Beneath a Blood Moon in that regard.

Silver Bullet (W&W 4), The Tides of War (Requiem 3), and Royal Slaves (Erelith 2) will all be coming out within a month or two of each other when I am able to dedicate full attention to these books in the next few years.

That said, I’m not vanishing completely. I have a pseudonym out there, and she writes urban fantasy of a different flavour from the Witch & Wolf books. It’s a scavenger hunt—see if you can find her! If you do, feel free to drop me a line and say hello!

Q ~ If you could give aspiring authors one piece of advice, what would it be?
This is so hard of a question. Every author is in a completely different stage of their writing. What advice do aspiring authors need? There’s so many options… so because of that, I’m going to be a rebel and give a list—a list meant for authors in various stages of their writing careers.

For the New Author:

Writing is so, so hard. Don’t give up. Learning hurts, but good things happen to those who get back in the saddle and keep trying to improve. Keep writing. Always, always keep writing. Find your voice. Find how to enhance your word. Find that special thing that makes your books unique to you. It’s really okay to experiment, to play, and to have fun, but remember: you really do need to know the rules before you can effectively break them.

For the Debut Author:

Your first book is probably going to flop. Embrace it. When you tell someone that you have published a book, and they ask, “So what’s next?” have an answer! Know what is next.

One book doesn’t make a career. You need to keep writing. Never stop writing, never stop producing, and never give up improving your stories. Know what’s coming next. Don’t think in the confines of a tiny box. You need to make your box bigger, and you do that by writing more books.

The chance of writing one book and seeing any form of success is infinitely small. Get used to the idea now. Sure, you could get lucky, but there are hundreds of thousands of writers who don’t get lucky. The rest of us make our luck by writing (and releasing) more books.

For Everyone Else:

Never stop writing, never stop improving, and keep dreaming. Most importantly, have fun.

About the author:

RJ Blain suffers from a Moleskine journal obsession, a pen fixation, and a terrible tendency to pun without warning.

When she isn't playing pretend, she likes to think she's a cartographer and a sumi-e painter. In reality, she herds cats and a husband, and obeys the commands of Tsu Dhi, the great warrior fish.

In her spare time, she daydreams about being a spy. Should that fail, her contingency plan involves tying her best of enemies to spinning wheels and quoting James Bond villains until she is satisfied.

Favorite Books & Series, in no particular order:

Anne McCaffrey's Pern
Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar & Gryphon Series
Jim Butcher's Codex Alera
Brandon Sanderson's Elantris
Patricia Briggs' Alpha and Omega & Dragon Bones
Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time
Title:  Beneath a Blood Moon
Series:  Witch & Wolf
Author:  RJ Blain
Publication Date:  November 10/15
Length:  561pgs
Genre:  paranormal
Shelf:  review
Rating: ★★★★★

Back Cover Blurb:

Sara’s life turns upside down when someone leaves her funerary urns, black roses, and death threats on her doorstep. Fearing her work as a stripper and showgirl has put her in the sights of a demented stalker, she turns to her best friend and fellow dancer for help.

Instead of a safe haven, all Sara finds is betrayal. Hunted by creatures she once believed were stories meant to frighten children, she is given a choice: become one of them, or die.

Forced to share her skin with a voracious carnivore and driven by instincts and desires too strong to resist, Sara must adapt to the changes in her life or be destroyed by them. Finding a mate is her wolf’s top priority.

If she doesn’t want to become another prostitute in a city full of them, Sara must learn to control the beast within. With a hungry wolf to feed and an empty bank account, selling herself to the highest bidder may be the only way she has to prevent becoming a monster driven to eat anything—or anyone—unfortunate enough to cross her path.

My Review:

Blain returns to her world of Witch and Wolf with the same flash and flair that we’ve come to know and love. She combines the known supernatural world with that of her own creation to create a positively sinful experience for her readers. Her larger than life descriptions add to the nitty gritty world that she has created and has expanded on it with this intricate tale.

Throughout the plot twists in this tale Blain develops her characters into remarkably well rounded individuals. They may be wildly imaginative, but they’re also easy to identify with. I found myself drawn to them in different ways. I enjoyed how complex the major players in this story were. Their lives become so intertwined with one another. I got to know them so well that I felt as if I were part of their stories as well.

This might just be my favourite of Blain’s stories yet. The plot was intricate and seamless while also wildly entertaining. She has once again created a vivid story that stands out among the sea of supernatural stories.

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