Coffee Time Readers today we get to visit with Caitlyn Hunter, author of the Eternal Shadows series. Our focus for the discussion today is the second book in the series, Storm Shadows.
Good Afternoon Caitlyn:
Welcome to Coffee Time Romance and More. How are you this afternoon?
Hi, Delane. I’m doing fine. I hope you and the Coffee Time readers are the same.
Thank you for taking the time to answer some question about your release, Storm Shadows. Why don’t you start off by telling us a little about the novel as well as the Eternal Shadows Series?
Here’s the blurb for the series:
Long ago, atop a snow-covered mountain in North Carolina, four blood-brothers, Mathias, Marcus, Lucien, and Jonathan, were cursed by their tribe’s Shamans and banished to Eternity Mountain. They were left with the ability to shape-shift into different animals; Matt into a black bear, Marc into a cougar, Luke into a wolf, and Jonathan into the animal of his choice. In addition, they were given various psychic gifts and eternal life—or so they think when they’re first cursed.
With the second book, Storm Shadows, the hero, Marcus, has begun to question their immortality. He has cognitive powers and his visions along with the research he’s been doing into Cherokee myths and legends, leads him to suspect the Shamans didn’t really mean for them to live forever.
When Betty Sue Corn comes to Eternity Mountain to stay in Jonathan’s cabin, Marc recognizes her from his visions. The only constants in those visions are her presence and the fact that one of them dies. Thinking to protect them both, he tries to stay away from her but one of Betty Sue’s goals while she’s on Eternity is to stop being what her grandfather calls a “pert-near” woman. Marc, to her mind, is a perfect first step to meeting that goal. Surprising even herself, she refuses to let him put her off and they eventually end up as lovers. And when Marc tells her he loves her, her thoughts immediately turn to marriage and staying with him on Eternity.
But when Marc’s vision comes true and Betty Sue almost loses her life, he withdraws from her again, determined to stay as far away as possible in order to ensure her safety. The only problem with that is Betty Sue’s just as determined not to let him get away, she checks herself out of the hospital and goes back up the mountain to confront him.
I understand that you are part Cherokee and often use the legends of the Cherokee in your stories. Could you please tell us what legend or legends you used as a spring board to write Storm Shadows?
My fascination with the Cherokee legends all began when my dad sent me the book, Trail of Tears, The Rise and Fall of the Cherokee Nation by John Ehle. I had told my dad about a YA story I was thinking of writing about a young girl who runs away after the death of her great aunt. The heroine is a bit of a misfit and decides to run away after the funeral to see if she can find the Cherokee Little People her aunt had told her about. I actually used the idea for that book in Storm Shadows. When Betty Sue goes to Eternity Mountain, another of her goals is to finish a children’s book she’s been working on about the Little People.
Anyway, while I was reading Ehle’s Trail of Tears, a little snippet in the second chapter about the Cherokee legend of the black bear caught my attention and wouldn’t let go. I started researching and found other versions as well as several other myths that sparked ideas for books in my mind. The idea of writing a paranormal romance book based on the “bear legend” grabbed hold and as I was writing the actual curse the idea of writing a series crystallized in my mind.
With each book, I include at least one other Cherokee legend. In Storm Shadows, for instance, I bring in the Cherokee beliefs about life and death, particularly the legend about how long a person, or animal for that matter, will live. Some believe in a set amount of time and within that time a person can die many times but they can be brought back to life if the proper ritual is performed. Others believe in a set number of lifetimes, sort of like a cat and its nine lives, except the Cherokee believe it’s seven for all creatures instead of nine.
There is a lot of pressure and competition in becoming an author. What made you decide to become a romance writer?
I’ve always been an avid reader and when I was a child, I was something of a fairy-tale junkie. Sure, I read Nancy Drew, the Little House books, and all the other books that were popular at the time, but fairy tales were always my favorite. I see romance as a natural extension of my childhood love—I’m addicted to HEA endings! Added to that, when I started writing seriously, it was at a time in my life when things weren’t going so well. My husband had just had a heart attack, followed by triple bypass surgery and shortly after that, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Like I said, not a good time but one day when I was in my neurologist’s office, I saw an Anais Nin quote in a magazine, “I believe one writes because one has to create a world in which one can live.”
When I read those words, it was like the proverbial light bulb going off in my mind. I’d always loved to write and had written several children’s books and one YA but I was never serious about it. Since I had the progressive form of the disease there was a good probability that I wouldn’t be able to teach full-time anymore, so I took Ms. Nin’s words to heart and decided the time had come to get serious. With my writing I could create a world in which I could live, despite the realities of my life. Not that my characters are always deliriously happy or everything always goes the way they want it to go, but I can control what they do and give them the happy ending I longed for. And writing gave me a sense of having control over my life at a time when I felt completely out of control and didn’t know how to get it back. Writing romances where everything turns out well in the end, no matter what my characters have to go through to get there, makes me happy so it was exactly what I needed at the time.
As for my real life, things have settled down. My husband’s healthy again, as am I, and we’re looking forward to celebrating our 35th anniversary this December. It’s not all moonlight and roses, no marriage ever is, but we’re hoping to be one of the lucky couples who achieve that fairy-tale ending I love to give my characters.
After reading the BIO on your website I have to wonder if your home in the Blue Ridge Mountains was the inspiration for the setting of the Eternal Shadows series. It left me wondering how much you think a writer’s environment affects the setting of their stories.
Actually, it was a combination of my grandmother’s and great aunt’s homes that were the inspiration for Eternity Mountain which is where the series takes place. Both of them lived on a mountain between the towns of Black Mountain and Old Fort in North Carolina. My family and I used to visit every there summer. At the time there were only a few houses on the mountain and hardly anything else there except a church and a small country store. To me, it was paradise—despite not having an indoor bathroom—and I always used to say I wanted to live there when I grew up.
When I started writing the Eternal Shadows series, I thought that mountain—or the mountain I knew as a child—was the perfect setting. I guess that’s another aspect of using my writing to create a world in which I can live. I can’t live on that mountain now and don’t know if I’d really want to after the developers came in and planted houses everywhere you turn, but with my writing, I can turn back the hands of time and visit that idyllic mountain again.
Every author has some way they are most comfortable when writing; do you have a method by which your write? Surrounded by music, dim lighting, snuggled on the couch, time of day, etc.
I have an office at home and in it I’m surrounded by many of my favorite things; several oil paintings by my dad, including one of my great aunt’s house, my collection of women’s hats from the 40’s and 50’s, a bookshelf full of some of my favorite books, and pictures of my family. I write on a laptop and I have a cushy recliner which is where I do most of my writing—except for the times when I take my computer out to the porch swing on my front porch—and one of my dogs, Des, is usually napping beside my chair. I have a CD player and a small TV in there too but other than Des snoring, the room is quiet when I’m writing. I tried listening to music once, but found myself typing the words to the song that was playing so I knew that wasn’t a good idea. As for the time of day I write, I find my most creative time is in the late morning and early afternoon, after my brain is caffeinated enough to function and there are hours of uninterrupted quiet time ahead of me. That’s when I can put aside anything else that needs to be done and lose myself in the world of my characters.
I also noticed in your BIO that you are currently writing a historical novel about your aunt’s life. Is it more difficult to write about a real person or to make up a whole new world of characters and bringing them to life?
Yikes, hard question! I don’t know if I’d say more difficult, especially since my sister—who is co-authoring the book with me—and I have all the stories we were told as kids to draw from, but writing a historical novel is vastly different from writing fiction. The hardest part is the research. I never cared much for research which is why I haven’t attempted a historical before but I’ve found that history is much more interesting and fun when you’re dealing with a time and people you grew up hearing stories about. And since this is fact-based fiction, we do have some creative flexibility with the characters.
To answer your question, no, I don’t think writing about a real person is more difficult but it is different…very different.
I see that you are currently working on the third book in the Eternal Shadows series as well as a few others. Please tell us what we have to look forward to with your future releases.
Right now I’m concentrating on finishing Whistling Woman, the historical about my great aunt. Christy and I have set a deadline of September and though we’re about two-thirds of the way through with the actual writing of the story, there’s still a lot to do. Most of my writing time these days is given over to researching, revising, and working on that book. But when I need a break, I work on the third book in the Eternal Shadows series, tentatively titled Sun Shadows, about the third brother, Luke who shape-shifts into a wolf.
My next release will be Winds of Fate, a paranormal romance based on the Native American legend of the Blowing Rock in North Carolina. Winds will be released this fall and for once, I’m actually looking forward to getting into the promotions of a book. I usually don’t enjoy that part of being a writer at all but with since I live close to the actual Blowing Rock, I think I might have a good time with this one.
As for my WIPs, I have an older woman/younger man novella I’m polishing up to submit to my publisher, L&L Dreamspell, for their new e-book only line. I’m almost embarrassed to tell you the number of books I have in my WIP file that are at various stages of completion; a modern day Cinderella story, a romantic suspense series, four children’s books, and three YA paranormals, along with several short stories. In other words, I have way too many ideas and not nearly enough time to work on them all.
I recently put up a free short story on my blog and website that I’m thinking about expanding into novella or novel length. Enchant Her is a paranormal romance based on the Cherokee legend of Atagahi, the enchanted lake and the main character is a female shape-shifter.
I think that a good book should move me in some way. What do you look for in a good novel? Which genre are you personally drawn to?
Oh, definitely, a good book should move you in some way, whether it makes you satisfied, angry, happy, or just makes you think. And for me, characters can make or break a story. I don’t have to love every single character, but the main ones should be likable and the secondary ones should at least be believable and interesting.
I’m personally drawn to romance for the guaranteed happy endings but I also like horror, mysteries and some thrillers. One of my favorite books is Stephen King’s The Stand because he draws all the emotions I mentioned above out of his readers with that one. And his bad guys are all interesting and believable. I also love children’s books which probably stems from teaching elementary school for so many years.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors out there who are looking to break into the romance genre and battle with all the competition?
I know it’s been said many times before but the most important part of writing is to believe in what you’re doing, to believe in yourself and never give up. That last part is the most important, keep writing, keep revising, take classes, whether on-line or off, and equally important, always remember to stay true to your voice. Every writer has a style that’s uniquely her own and once she finds it she should take care to nurture it.
Another thing that’s a plus is finding a writing group you’re comfortable with. I used to belong to RWA but dropped my membership because there are no local chapters where I live and it was so large it was intimidating to me. I was lucky enough to find a couple of groups near where I live. They don’t focus on romance but on all genres and they’re not very large. The members are friendly and encouraging and we spend a lot of our time exchanging ideas for marketing and promoting our books. I always come away from the meetings energized and inspired.
Do you have anything to add or say to our readers?
I’m going to borrow from one of my favorite authors and poets, Shel Silverstein, from his book Where the Sidewalk Ends—told you I liked children’s books! It’s a short poem titled, appropriately enough since that’s how I intend it, Invitation:
If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
I hope everyone will accept and if they do, they enjoy reading my “tales!”
Caitlyn, thank you for spending time with me today and giving some wonderful and insightful responses. I look forward to reading more from you in the future.
Thank you, Delane. I’ve enjoyed answering your insightful questions!
Where you can find Caitlyn Hunter: