Fangtastic Friday – Interview with Jessa Slade

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Please welcome Jessa Slade, author of Seduced by Shadows.  Jessa’s debut urban fantasy romance, SEDUCED BY SHADOWS, came out in October.  Publishers Weekly called it “[a] rich crossover urban fantasy,” and bestselling author Gena Showalter said, “SEDUCED BY SHADOWS is wonderfully addictive!”  Book 2 of the Marked Souls, FORGED OF SHADOWS, will be out in June 2010.   

ETS – Please tell us a little about yourself. 

There is very little to tell 🙂  I sit at a computer all day as a mild-mannered, self-employed, poverty-stricken graphic designer and then I sit at a computer deep into the night—still self-employed and poverty-stricken as a novelist, but at least a little less mild mannered.  Jessa Slade, urban fantasy romance novelist, wears higher heels and darker lipstick and swears a lot more than the “real” me.  She still drinks girly drinks though, so she’s not as cool as she’d like to think. 

I live in the Pacific Northwest where the potential for 120 rainy days in a row makes sitting at a computer much easier, but means that upwards of three different colors of mold can grow in the bathroom within a shocking short amount of time if I don’t stay on top of the scrubbing duties.  Conveniently, I’m a tortured artistic soul, so I scrub toilets while I’m angsting.  I call it multi-tasking. 

ETS – Girly drinks ARE cool.  We’ll start a trend.  Seduced by Shadows, your debut novel, was released one month ago today.  Can you tell us a little about it? 

When people who don’t know paranormal romance ask me what the book is about, I say “hot guys and chicks with knives.”  They usually sort of blink at me, so maybe I should stop using that intro, but the awkward rhyme makes me giggle.  I’m weird that way. 

The quick overview I give to people who haven’t run away after that first line is: Immortal alpha male warriors possessed by repentant demons struggle to protect Chicago from evil’s minions—until the first female fighter descends and their world really goes to hell. 

If they still haven’t escaped, I flash them the back cover: 

The war between good and evil has raged for millennia, but now evil is winning, and The Marked Souls are caught in the middle… 

After an accident left her near death, Sera Littlejohn is struggling to piece together her life.  But when a violet-eyed stranger reveals a supernatural battle veiled in the shadows, Sera is tempted to the edge of madness by a dangerous desire. 

Ferris Archer takes Sera under his wing now that she is talyan, possessed by a repentant demon with hellish powers.  Archer and his league of warriors have long risked their demon-shattered souls to stop darker spirits from wreaking havoc.  But they’ve never fought beside a female talya before, and never in all his centuries has Archer found a woman who captivates him like Sera. 

With the balance shifting between good and evil, passion and possession, Sera and Archer must defy the darkness‹and dare to embrace a love that will mark them forever… 

Then I usually say “dum-da-DUUUUM” very dramatically. 

ETS – There are so many paranormal and urban fantasy books out there.  How did you come up with a fresh, new concept? 

When I was a kid I read all the Andrew Lang Coloured Fairy Books (12 books of fairy tales collected from many cultures and published 1889-1910) and although many of the themes repeated, I never grew tired of them.  The foolish young son, the princess, the quest, the talking animals, the magical elements.  Why, helloooo there, Star Wars!  Yes, there are a lot of paranormals out there, just a drop in the bucket of all the stories available from books, TV, movies, and elsewhere.  What matters to me as the story-receiver isn’t so much “new” as “captivating.”  An “old” theme told with heart and soul (I’m thinking of the Pixar movie Wall-E here) will linger longer in my imagination than a slick post-modern mash-up with a non-linear narrative and multi-stage explosions that can’t find its life blood with a rib spreader and blow torch. 

Which isn’t to say that I don’t adore multi-stage explosions.  I do!  But I just shake my head when people wonder how much longer vampires can last because vampires have been around forever.  They first showed up in Assyrian stories, appeared in German literature in the 1730’s, were printed in English in the early 1800’s.  Why would they disappear now?  I’m always excited to see “another vampire story” because I love the trope of the dark, damned lover, the imagery of night vs. light, the symbolism of blood.  A twist on the tale is always appreciated, but what made me love vampires isn’t their freshness dating but their eternal appeal. 

When I was playing around with the puzzle pieces that became the world of the Marked Souls, I knew I wanted a tale of good and evil.  Actually, I wanted Good and Eeeevuhl.  Because I’m a cynical pessimist, I couldn’t convince myself that the two were all that separate.  Which is how the talyan appeared—men who’d made the sorts of bad choices anyone could make and now get to pay eternally, their souls invaded by repentant teshuva demons which had also made some piss-poor choices, what with going against God the Supreme Being and all.  And once those arrogant, wounded men showed up, of course the heroines to challenge them were close behind. 

Probably good and evil have been overdone too.  Some people blame Twilight for doing vampires to death; I blame Enron for making evil passé.  But I still adore good and evil as much as I do multi-stage explosions. 

ETS – McDonald’s or Burger King? 

Burgerville.  For those of you who don’t live in Oregon or SW Washington (and why would you, after finding about the three colors of mold?) Burgerville is a small fast food chain that prides itself on local, natural foods and sustainable business practices that include hormone-free beef and trans fat-free oil, 100% wind power and food composting.  Fast food may never be healthy but when done right it can be wonderfully self-righteous.  More importantly, their local-grown strawberry milkshakes are insanely yummy. 

ETS – You have a great plotting tool on your website.  (BTW – Thank you SO much!  It’s awesome.)  How long does it take you to plot a novel?   

I plot way too long… and yet not long enough.  I spend inordinate amounts of time contemplating my navel—or actually the story’s navel—the innies and outies of every turn.  Those plotting charts and checklists I’ve accumulated on my site led me to believe that once you know the answers you can sail through the writing.  Bwa ha!  I find that all that plotting just gives me more ammunition to blow myself out of the water somewhere around Chapter 17. 

But as far as timing goes, my critique partners and I can rough plot our books in a long weekend.  Ironing out the rough spots can take me another couple weeks.  About that time, I get bored of plotting and jump into writing.  My goal is 1500 words per day, five days a week.  Somewhere in there, the universe gets bored of my plotting and jumps all over me.  I typically freeze up around Chapter 7 and that nasty Chapter 17.  Not sure what it is with me and the number 7.  I actually like the number 7.  Slogging and bitter self-recriminations get me started again.  I revise extensively after the first rough draft, adding various mildly important elements like plot, characters, the romance, etc.  Then I revise again.  And again.  And usually again.  

So much for plotting, right?  But I like that a tidy stack of charts and checklists gives me the illusion of control.  

ETS – What is your first-sale story?  What happened when you got The Call? 

I have the world’s most boring story about receiving The Call.  I followed the dullest, plodding path to publication ever recorded.  I started writing as a child.  Nobody stopped me, so I kept writing.  I entered writing contests and submitted to editors and agents who probably tried to stop me, but I was too dense to pick up on the subtleties of “Good heavens!  What more atrocities could you commit against the storytelling tradition?  This is the worst dreck ever to cross our desks.  Cease and desist at once.”  All I saw was “Good… more… you… storytelling… cross our desks…at once.”  So I kept writing. 

Eventually, I wore the outright “no”s (rejection) into “no, but…”s (good rejection) then into “maybe, if…”s (revise and resubmit) and finally—finally!—a yes (acceptance).  It took more than ten years, close to a hundred rejections, and nearly a million final draft words—rounding to the nearest heartache—to turn no into yes.  

I’d actually won a writing contest and the final round judge had asked to see the complete manuscript.  After several rounds of revisions with that editor, I approached an agent who was excited about the story.  The editor and agent talked behind my back (in a good way!) and we had a deal.  When I finally got The Call, it seemed in some ways an inevitable next step after all that had come before.  In the same way that if you blunder blindly around a room, smashing into the four walls over and over, eventually you will step out the door.  Or fall out a window, but let’s not think about that. 

ETS – Book 2 of the Marked Souls series, Forged of Shadows, releases June 2010.  Does the story pick up right where Seduced by Shadows leaves off? 

Because as a reader I really like a HEA (Happily Ever After) in every book, in the Marked Souls series we follow a different hero/heroine couple through their battles with evil.  Book 2 picks up a few months after the end of Book 1, when our heroes have sort of regrouped.  They took some hits in Book 1 and needed a breather.  Tragically, things have gotten worse in the interim.  What?  Did they think evil stops to lick its wounds?  Silly heroes.  Evil doesn’t mind a few suppurating sores or sucking chest wounds. 

Also, after the unrelenting chill and biting winds of a Chicago November, when the first book is set, I wanted some relief for the characters.  So FORGED OF SHADOWS is set in the unrelenting chill, biting winds and sudden rainstorms of a Chicago spring.  I have no idea why the Midwest is considered a “temperate zone.”  Intemperate is more accurate, which works well enough, I suppose, for my passionate characters.  Those heroes need significant body heat if they’re running around Chicago in winter wearing leather jackets and no shirts. 

ETS – Brad Pitt or George Clooney? 

Gonna have to go for what’s behind door number three.  I admire Clooney’s activism and some of his riskier movie projects, but I think he uses the smirk too often to endear me.  And though Pitt’s 28-year-old abs from Thelma & Louise will forever be the gold standard against which all other romance hero abs are measured, he comes with too much baggage to properly capture my imagination.  

I guess I prefer a blank slate hero, the unknown, the mystery man.  I think the problem is, once I know too much about the person, they can’t be my hero anymore.  And I live under a rock, so by the time I learn something about popular culture, you can be sure it’s seriously overexposed.  I prefer the discovery that feels like the first time.  Which is probably why I write, to indulge that process of exploration and wonder and excitement. 

That said, I’m reeeeally enjoying Joseph Fiennes in the debut season of Flash Forward.  I don’t know anything about him so he can still be whatever I need him to be.  And he has those soulful eyes… 

ETS – You have a blurb for book 2 on your site.  (I’m explaining this to you why?) I LOVE the line, Liam, meet your newest recruit.  Just from that five word sentence, I can sense you had fun writing this couple.  Can you give us a sense of Liam and his heroine? 

Poor Liam.  In SEDUCED BY SHADOWS, I could see how hard he was trying.  Leading the talyan is like herding cats… if the cats are lions and jaguars and saber-toothed tigers.  He was so determined to hold together his raggedy band of wayward warriors, out of a sense of duty and real affection.  But I could tell he was struggling, not just with the business-as-usual difficulties of fighting the endless battle between good and evil, but personally as well.  He was tired, worn out, losing hope. 

So I thought it’d be fun to make his situation worse. 

And what could be worse for a man barely in control, hanging on by his stress-gnawed fingernails, than giving him a girlfriend?  Throwing Jilly Chan into the mix was like tossing a yappy shih-tzu—you know, a dog with the hair on its head tied up into two little pigtails?—into the aforementioned den of big cats.  She’s fearless and opinionated, and after working with street kids takes no backtalk from sullen boys which rather perturbs our tortured alpha males.  Oh yeah, fur’s gonna fly.  

Did I mention poor Liam? 

ETS – What piece of advice would you give to aspiring authors? 

Run!  Save yourself while you can!  My mother told me recently, “You know, you were smart enough to have gone into the sciences.”  Thanks, Mom!  I’m kidding (sort of) since my mom is one of my most ardent supporters, but I think she would still tell other aspiring authors—in that very kind, earnest mom style—to get a real job. 

Being a writer is a crazy amount of work for little concrete reward.  You bleed onto paper and then stand mute while the world tells you your blood isn’t bright enough.  If you’re lucky (!) and make the transition from writer to author, it could be years—maybe never—before you can hope to make your pain and suffering a full time endeavor.  There’ll never be job security, and likely you’ll never be satisfied with what you wring from yourself. 

Honestly, I don’t know why anyone would do this if they didn’t have to.  

And the key part of that phrase is “if they didn’t have to.”  I’m guessing, if you’re a writer, you read the above paragraphs and scoffed.  You thought, Screw you, I’m gonna make it.  And more than anything else, I think that’s the feeling an aspiring author needs to hold onto.  Sure, talent, craft and luck play a big role in becoming an author, but those pieces only matter if you have the persistence (i.e. sheer stubbornness bordering on sociopathic stupidity) to stick through the many, many obstacles.  

I’ve read “An author is a writer who didn’t quit.”  And I HATE that saying because it’s so trite and simplistic.  However, I think it’s true.  So, if you can’t run away, then keep writing.  And keep writing.  And keep writing. 

ETS – Thanks so much for chatting with us today!

Thank you for having me!  I really appreciate this chance to share a little more about my storyworld with everyone. 

ETS – You can visit Jessa’s website to learn more about the world of the Marked Souls and read excerpts.  Or read the free short story prequel HERE.  

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Jessa is giving away a signed copy of SEDUCED BY SHADOWS, along with a pair of Possession in Pearl earrings inspired by the storyworld, and a custom @1 tattoo (inside joke from the book) to one random commenter.  So feel free to ask questions or just say hi.  Winner will be announced tomorrow!  🙂

   

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13 Responses to “Fangtastic Friday – Interview with Jessa Slade”
  1. “The innies and outies of every turn” I love it:) I also loved your advice to aspiring authors. It’s dead on. Today I had someone ask me “how much money is in writing?”. I replied, “more than there is in telling myself bedtime stories every night.”

    The stories are there whether or not I spend the time and energy into making them books or not. In fact, I’m pretty sure if I didn’t get them onto pages somewhere I might end up rocking back and forth and mumbling to my invisible friends. (Um, which I kind of do, but I call it “work”.)

    Thanks for being at EtS today, Jessa!

  2. susan leech says:

    I enjoyed being here today and reading all the answers to such great questions. I am always excited to see how many good questions can be asked..I seem to get tongue tied when I am asked to review some one..guess I am not the best material for reporter position. I love the books and sure hope to get to read some of them soon. Covers always attract me and your sure have some eye catching covers for sure. I almost need my AC on and it’s a old day here around my house. ha ha Thanks for your time and letting me get to know more about you. A new fan. susan L in PA

    • Jessa Slade says:

      Susan, I was a reporter in a past life (great practice for the discipline of writing) and asking good questions is important but being a good listener might be more important still. The nerves go away with time.

  3. Nicole says:

    Hi Jessa

    What a wonderful interview… I loved this world you created and the men and their demons.. ahh.. the choices they made and how they must be regrettin some of them.. lol..

    always good to get that eeeevil out there and working.

    Definitely awesome writing advice for writers.. gotta have a real job to pay the bills and keep the caffeine and chocolate handy for the looong nights sitting in front of the computer or open one of those dreaded envelopes to find a nasty R.

    Thanks for chattin up at EtS!

    • Jessa Slade says:

      I’m thinking there should be a separate line on a writer’s Schedule C that just says “chocolate.” We should be able to write off a certain percentage on our taxes, just like mileage.

  4. Donna S says:

    Hi Jessa,

    Thanks for sharing. This sounds like a great book and I look forward to reading it and starting the series.

    • Jessa Slade says:

      It’s weird, because I’m writing Book 3 of the series now, but talking about Book 1. I feel like I live in a time warp. Well, I mean, I feel that way a lot anyway, but it’s exacerbated by the publishing process 🙂

  5. Terri W. says:

    Hi Jessa!

    Thanks for the great interview!

    This sounds like a book I would enjoy reading and thanks for the information on book 2!

  6. Barbara Elness says:

    Great interview, I loved learning more about the series. I definitely need to pick up Seduced by Shadows, that is if I don’t win it first :o)

  7. Beverly G says:

    hi Jessa welcome and wow awesome interview now iw anna go to that chain and try a milk shake lol SEDUCED BY SHADOWS was an awesome book loved it this one sounds awesome ! and Jessa I like girly drinks lol

  8. stacey smith says:

    man thats one hot cover girl.great interview .nice learning more about you.Seduced by Shadows looks like a great book.
    sasluvbooks(at)yahoo(dot)com

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