It’s day #2 of the Blogger Book Fair, and I’m truly excited to be joining the lively and entertaining Jami Gray:
THE LITERARY DARK EMPEROR:
“Thanks for joining us today, Jami. For starters, can you tell us about your writing routine? What needs to be in place/done before you can let the words fly?”
“Somewhere in an alternate reality I have a beautiful book lined office where a thin 32 inch screen perches on a stunning cherry wood desk. A white board filled with an intriguing complex story line graces a pristine white board nestled next to an impeccably kept filing cabinet where character sketches, world building details and future plots are all in their spots waiting to be used. The only sounds in this writerly oasis is whatever music my Muse and I have agreed on that day. No telephones, no cell phones, no other distraction would dare to intrude into this writer’s paradise.
And if you believe that fantastic piece of creative writing, I think there is a bridge somewhere with your name on it.
“Want a realistic snapshot of my writing life? Okay then, here you go, now remember, you asked for this:
“A loud, deep woof will signal the beginning of my day as my walking fur rug’s stomach demands food. Once we've appeased the hungry canine gods, I trudged back upstairs to drag two pre-teen boys (aka The Prankster Duo), who could double as possums, out of bed and into clothes. After which ensues a battle of "Did you (insert necessary personal hygiene request here)?" versus "Do I have to, mom?". Bloodied and bruised I will always win (because I'm the mom) they will then be relegated to the outside pick up point for their daily educational awareness training. This enables me to dash back upstairs for my job-that-currently-pays-the-bills and the endless rounds of meetings that, I swear, comprises the fourth level of hell. Before I know it, the Duo is back home with questions that could not be asked of the teachers. Oh no, they must be directed to the parental units. Then they want food, the hubby (aka The Knight in Slightly Muddy Armor) wants attention and maybe by 9 pm, I may be able to take a breath.
“I learned years ago that if I want to write, I have to make the time. So I do.
Summer is tough, but during the school year, it’s a bit easier. The Knight is out slaying dragons, the Duo is out raising havoc under someone else’s watch and the hellhound mimics a fur rug. I can get all my adult responsibilities of my job-that-pays-the-bills done and if I have some spots of time, I use it. Writing a paragraph here or there, sketching out the next chapter, or tweaking the last scene. But even so, I will be the first to admit I’m a horrible mom. I abandon my offspring and my significant other for at least an hour and a half every night to fend for themselves. This time use to be sacred, set aside so I could enjoy other writers' stories, now it's dedicated to creating my own.
I set a daily word count, which means that my Muse, who hates following anyone's rules, much less an outline, complains horribly. For the first few attempts, it's rough going as I combat those complaints with selected tunes and damn good headphones. She'll try and distract me. "Jami, the dishes aren't done, they're just sitting there, waiting to be washed." or "Jami, did you see that weed in the backyard? It's going to multiple like rabbits." Eventually though, she gives in and we start to work together. Then I go forth and chip away at my word count. Word by word I carve that sucker down until, exhausted, I have won the day. Unfortunately I try not to remember I have to do it all over again the next day. And the next.
“It took me years to get over the guilt of bailing on the males of my domain for a whole day, but now I find it’s essential. Not just to my writing but to my sanity. I realize that where others may use that time to read a book, workout, shop, or hang out with friends, I use for my alternate personality—the writer.”
Nathan blinks in astonishment, “Well... at least you're not kept too busy, huh?” Chuckles lamely and wipes his brow. “So how would you say this hectic process translates to your writing? Do you have any direct means of releasing that energy onto the pages?”
“Hmm…let me think on that one…” Jami crosses her legs and taps her fingers rhythmically on her knee, “Non-stop action. Fair to say, if I don’t get a break, there damn sure no way I'm letting my characters take it easy. I mean,” she grimaces, “whoever heard of picking up a book to read where the characters keep stopping for their favorite TV show, dinner, sleep or the fluorescent peacock crossing the road? Granted, I might stop for that last one, but still… I've found because I enjoy reading fast paced, nerve wracking, heart pounding books, my writing reflects the same. Generally when life starts smacking you around, it rarely stops for a breather. I imagine it more like that kid from the Twilight Zone who controlled our world ‘stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself..’ Plus true mettle tends to reveal itself when the pressure is the greatest, therefore my characters hate me…but I keep telling them it will all be worth it in the end.”
Chuckling, Nathan scratches his chin and leans forward, “Ain't that the truth, though you had me at the fluorescent peacock; that's not exactly something you see every day, huh? So with all of this venting through your characters, would you say there's one character in particular who mirrors a lot of that pent-up energy?”
Jami smirks, batting her eyelashes “Are you asking if there are parts of moi in my characters? Nathan, Nathan, Nathan…we're writers, there's always bits and pieces of us, or how we see ourselves, in our characters. For me, yep, definitely hints of me in all my main characters. Yet, they tend to generate their own distinctive personalities. If I had to pick one, I'd have to say Xander, from my upcoming SHADOW'S MOON, is probably the closest to me—or at least how I see myself,” an evil grin consumes Jami’s face, “However, if you ask surrounding spectators (such as fellow critique members from the 7 Evil Dwarves), they may disagree and say it's Raine, but we'll allow that.”
“‘Xander’, huh?” Nathan raises an eyebrow and smirks for a prolonged moment before leaning forward, “So, as long as we’re on the subject of putting yourself into your characters, can you tell us more about a few of your bigger characters and what traits of yours you’ve infused into them?”
“No, no, no…” Jami wags her index finger at Nathan, “No more sneaking deets on Xander, you'll just have to wait until SHADOW'S MOON hits the shelves.” She pauses for a moment and offers a slight shrug, “Oh, okay! Maybe one more—I thought when I sat down to write the third book, that bringing Xander and Warrick to life would be easy,” she wipes her brow for effect, “No such luck. Seriously, who knew writing somewhat well-adjusted characters would be so damn difficult? I mean, if you're a fairly happy, balanced person shouldn't that be easy to translate? Yeah, no.
“However when it came to Raine, I had to tap into some hard earned lessons.”
Her eyebrow rises, “Just a little warning, I'm not so sure Raine would appreciate being labeled a "bigger" character. Dangerous? Frightening? Oh yeah, she'd go along with those, but bigger…not so much.
“Raine started out pretty straightforward—lots of baggage, little trust, generally stayed on the anti-social end of the spectrum—y'know, the things that make a great hunter feared. Yet even she didn't realize how much more there was to who she is and what she'll become, until she finally begins to let others in. It's a painful lesson for her, not only does it exact a price, but the eventual payoff is huge. To get into the mindset of a character who's been damaged on a deep internal level and to tempt them to drop their emotional barriers and step out into the chaotic world around them, it takes another strong personality. For Raine, that's Gavin.”
There’s a prolonged silence as Jami shifts uncomfortably in her seat “Every writer tends to pull on personal experience when developing characters and their worlds. For me, there was a time in my life when I felt out of step and perching on observer status, so yeah, there are parts of Raine I can relate to. The strength she draws on to pull her out of difficult situations. That I totally get. I'm part Irish, we don't give up, no matter how many hits you throw our way, we just thrust out our jaw and hit back, hopefully harder. However, if I were to meet her in the flesh? She'd scare the every living crap out of me, and I'm pretty damn sure I'd just confuse her.
“As for Gavin?” she offers a small, private smile, “All I'll say is, yes, there are parts of him that are drawn from someone very close to me. He's a good counter balance for Raine, logic when she needs it, calm when she can't find it, and cold, ruthless practicality that make him a very strong partner.”
Nathan smirks at that, “So this will come as something of a moot point after your last answer, but you're not above illustrating a central character as being... er, ‘damaged’. I know there are some artists (both literary and otherwise) who outright refuse to have their mains' origins be anything but wholesome, and I've always thought that was starting off on a weak leg. What are your thoughts in that regard?”
Leaning back in her seat, Jami taps a finger on her armrest, “Let's not beat around the mist shrouded Foxglove, shall we. Life is messy. Even in fiction, it's messy. For me as a reader, I enjoy delving into characters with flaws because it gives me a break from my own,” she narrows her eyes as her lips twist into a sneer, “Do you really want to read about Susie Homemaker, who lives in her spotless, Architectural Digest home, with her 2.1 kids who are mini-geniuses, and the adoring, high paid hubby who dutifully shuffles off to his desk promptly at 9 every morning and returns without a wrinkle or stress line at 6? Maybe it makes me damaged, but I can't connect to characters who seem so”—waves hand around to search for the right word—“flat. Now, if the next door neighbor's yapping little dust-mop of a dog suddenly flips Susie's internal switch and we discover she's actually a sleeper agent who's very, very good with knives and poisons? Now you've got me.”
Laughs at Jami’s choice of words and nods, “I’m in total agreement with you there, though I would be interested to read more about that 1/10th of a child that Miss Susie Homemaker is raising!” Offers a twisted smirk and laughs, “Do you think it’s just a head in a jar or something? Anyway, so we agree that a character with their own degree of… well, let’s call it ‘baggage’, is more entertaining, my readers and I would be curious to know: who in your work is carrying the MOST baggage? Do you ever have a moment of ‘Oh,
, that’s so you!’?”
“Wouldn't you like to know what that minuscule 1/10th is really used for?” Jami says with a smirk before pausing to consider Nathan’s question, “The most baggage?” she pauses again; biting her lower lip in contemplation, “That could be a hard one to call. Obviously the main characters tend to reveal their past luggage a bit more often than secondary ones, mainly because the story spotlight is all over them. In the first two books, Raine is the heavy lifter, with Gavin coming in a close second. Xander and Warrick, from SHADOW'S MOON, also have their own not so matching traveling set, so I guess your answer should be—whoever my main characters are. However, yes, I have had many an ‘ah-ha’ moments when I recognize various traits that just scream a specific character. It's how I know if a secondary character will have their own story. Xander and Warrick were getting impatient and wouldn't leave me the hell alone, so they ended up as the third book.”
Seeing The Literary Dark Emperor about to ask a follow-up question, Jami interjects, waggling a finger at him, “No, close your mouth, Nathan, I know what you're going to ask next—so who's up next? I'm not telling, but if you want baggage, Book 4 will have trunks full of it…”
“Aww!” Nathan pouts, “Not even an eencie-weencie sample? Just a tasty li'l morsel to tempt and tease our readers?” He bats his eyelashes and smirks, “You know you can't resist The Literary Dark Emperor's wily charms.”
Jami groans and sighs, rolling her eyes, “If you insist, Nathan, but don't say I didn't warn you, some things are better left in the dark, y'know. I'll give one hint, just one…Book 4 will center around the one individual Raine would have no problems offing if given a chance.” Jami takes a fugitive glance to the deep shadows behind The Literary Dark Emperor, “Problem is, this isn't just a lowly little someone in the Kyn.” Suddenly looking nervous, Jami lowers her voice, “Plus, you don't want to draw their attention, it could be hellishly bad luck…”
“Aww! C’mon! You know you want to!”
As the nervous look intensifies, Jami slowly rises to her feet, her eyes still focused on something behind Nathan, “I do believe it's time for me to bid you adieu.”
Nathan frowns, “Huh? Why?” concerned, he begins to stand, “Was it something I—” there’s a chill in the air and a flutter just over his shoulder a split-second before a kiss of silver meets his throat; a wicked blade now pressed against his jugular.
Jami slowly raises her hands up placating, “It's just an interview, Raine! You remember, we discussed this. No one believes you're real and I can't continue writing if you starting leaving a trail of bodies behind,” she shakes head sadly, “It's not good for my reputation and orange is so not my color.”
Nathan stammers, trying to speak without pressing his throat further against the razor-sharp blade at his throat, “R-Raine? I… I didn’t mean any harm. I was just—y’know—interviewing Jami. I wasn’t… Raine? Raine?”
“Would you reconsider this once?” Nathan watches as Jami tries to repress a shiver as the frigid sensation of Raine’s unseen glare intensifies, “Yeah, I thought so.” taking a deep breath, Jami regards Nathan with sincere remorse in her voice. “Look, I did warn you, Nathan. I really enjoyed our conversation and I only wish it could end differently, but I am at the mercy of my Muse—blades, blood and all…”
*Nathan’s decapitated head and eviscerated body were found several days later. Police have no leads*
Growing up on the Arizona-Mexico border, Jami Gray was adopted at the age of 14 and suddenly became the fifth eldest of 37 children. She graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor’s in Journalism and three minors-History, English, and Theater. Shortly after marrying her techie-geek hubby (who moonlighted as her best friend in high school) she completed a Masters in Organizational Management from University of Phoenix Oregon.
Now, years later, she’s back in the Southwest where she’s outnumbered in her own home by two Star Wars obsessed boys, one Star Wars obsessed husband, and an overly-friendly, 105-pound male lab. Writing is what saves her sanity.
SHADOW’S EDGE: Book 1 of the Kyn Kronicles
Blurb for Shadow’s Edge:
Everyone fears what hunts in the shadows—especially the monsters…
It takes a monster to hunt one, and for Raine McCord, forged in the maelstrom of magic and science, she’s the one for the job. In a world where the supernatural live in a shadowy existence with the mundane, a series of disappearances and deaths threatens the secrecy of her kind and indicates someone knows the monsters are alive and kicking. Partnering up with the sexy and tantalizing Gavin Durand proves to be a challenge as dangerous as the prey she hunts.
When the trail points back to the foundation which warped Raine’s magic as a child, her torturous past raises its ugly head. Gavin and Raine sift through a maze of lies, murder and betrayal to discover not only each other, but the emerging threat to them and the entire magical community.
SHADOW’S SOUL: Book 2 of the Kyn Kronicles
Blurb for Shadow’s Soul:
Some nightmares are born of love…
Raine McCord has no problem taking down the monsters of the world, it’s one of the reasons she’s so good at her job. So playing bodyguard to Cheveyo, head Magi of the Northwest, as he consults with the Southwest Kyn should be an easy assignment. Unfortunately, simple task turns into a nightmare when Cheveyo is kidnapped and Raine is left for dead by one of the Kyn’s most feared beings, a Soul Stealer.
The Stealer’s attack leaves lasting wounds, undermining Raine’s confidence as a warrior and damaging her unruly magic. Her ability to heal her mind and spirit hinges on the one man who can touch her soul, Gavin Durand. Compelled to face the emotions raging between them, they must embrace not only their stormy relationship but their evolving magic to escape the twisted threads of murder and betrayal to find Cheveyo.
As Raine and Gavin come together and begin to unravel the complex web of secrets and hidden vendettas haunting the Southwest Kyn, they discover unsettling new truths that threaten their very existence.