Hello readers! It is that time again to catch up with another author. So please grab your favorite cup of coffee, relax, and listen in as we chat with debut author, Sharon Ashwood.
Thank you Sharon for taking the time to stop and answer my questions about your debut novel, Ravenous: The Dark Forgotten. Why don’t you start off by telling us a little about the novel?
Holly Carver is a small-time witch who busts ghosts for tuition money. Her Undead business partner is Alessandro Caravelli. They start the story intending to neutralize a haunted house, but soon find out they’re up against a demon. Unfortunately, Holly’s mostly-broken magic controls the doorway to the demon realms. Suddenly, a number of powerful players are very interested in her.
Alessandro wants her for more than magic. A lover with six centuries of experience, the vampire is walking seduction, but he’s also a predator. Every moment he spends guarding Holly, every second he spends falling under her witch’s spell, he becomes more and more of a threat himself. Unless Holly can find a power that outmatches his, the only place temptation leads is straight to her grave.
Which all sounds extremely dark, but it’s actually a funny book.
When we first meet Holly, she is getting ready to exorcize a haunted house. How did you come up with Holly?
Holly came out of a discussion I had with a friend. We’re both fans of a certain paranormal genre—she’s the one I call to go see Underworld or Hellboy. We were talking about insurance and for some reason ended up speculating about how insurance adjusters would handle things like poltergeists. I figured they’d have to call in a subject matter expert—someone who could interpret ghostly slime and decide if it was a regular haunting or a demon or the residue left by psychic spammers trying to sneak into your computer.
That’s how Holly was created – I needed someone who was a magical being but needed regular, bread-and-butter work to get along in the everyday world. She’s a working witch who needs tuition money, groceries, gas for the car, and worries about what to wear on a date. Like most of us, she only has a foggy idea about her own potential. Most of her energy is spent just getting through daily life.
Alessandro is so male, I don’t know how else to describe him. Even though he is not a werewolf, I would describe him as an alpha male. Did you write his character from any real person in your life? If not, how did you come up with him? If so, who and why?
Alessandro just sauntered into my head. I wish he was someone I knew! Or maybe not. There’re the teeth to consider, and vamps are pretty high maintenance …. Anyway, he actually began as a minor character but quietly shoved everyone else out of the way until he had center stage. At the end of the day, before I’d really clued into what was going on, he was in charge.
Yes, he is very alpha, and it’s lucky for Holly that he has that warrior instinct. On the other hand, he does know when to back off and give her space—at least most of the time. He makes mistakes and has to struggle to break old patterns of behavior, but that’s what makes him an interesting character. He’s imperfect and faced with hard choices. He also needs to update his wardrobe a little.
In this novel, Ravenous is the first novel in a series. Can you tell me how many books will be in this series?
There is a second book in the works that is scheduled to come out at the end of 2009. It’s tentatively called SCORCHED. At this time, I don’t know if there will be books after that. A lot depends on how people like RAVENOUS!
You wrote about many different paranormal beings. Which being is your favorite and why?
Well, if I say vamps then the wolves get all grumpy and chew the furniture, or the hellhounds dig up the yard, or the ghouls eat the neighbors. I’d better just say they’re all pretty interesting and I’m enjoying getting to know more about each one as I go along. They hellhounds play a bigger role in the second book. They have an entirely different culture from anyone else, but they’ve been isolated in the Castle.
I’m looking forward to a chance to really explore the werewolves. Perry is one of my favorite characters and I hardly get to spend any time with him.
One of the unique characteristics of your novel is the paranormal people and beings themselves. They have come out of the woodwork and showed themselves to the humans. Why did you do this instead of keeping everyone a secret from the human society?
I had the big “coming out” because it was far more interesting to me. If human institutions suddenly have to accommodate the non-humans, then we’re forced to examine ourselves. What makes us human—or not? How accepting would we really be of other species? Would other species integrate, or would we just have two parallel societies? What sort of fast food chains would develop?
I can see some people being very excited and welcoming and others turning against the “monsters.” That’s why the vampire queen, Omara, is so careful that the vamps behave in public. She wants equal rights for her people and knows it would be all too easy for the media to turn the tide of public opinion against them.
Having the non-humans out in the open also gives plenty of opportunity for humor. When the stuff of nightmares crashes into modern bureaucracy and the mall culture, you have to laugh.
Omara, queen of the vampires comes across as very egotistical to the point of being careless. I found her to be a nuisance, overly dramatic and yet at times she was understated and almost likeable. Did you see her with a contradictory personality from the beginning when you first thought her up?
Interestingly enough, Omara is the one character who is based in real life. Like her inspiration, she would fit right in with the Tudors. She’s a good ruler, but a big, messy disaster on a personal level. I see her as power run amok—manipulative, jealous, sometimes cruel, but she also has the potential to do enormous good. She will sacrifice an individual to the greater cause, but that’s part of her job as queen. She has to make the hard decisions even if she enjoys them a bit too much. Her tragedy is that she doesn’t really know how to give or receive affection and uses her unpredictable moods as a means of control. Emotionally, being her lover is about as much fun as falling into an industrial shredder.
People aren’t consistent. If Omara was completely evil, Alessandro would have left her service long ago. Instead, she has enough redeeming qualities to keep his loyalty for many years. My guess is that while she really does value Alessandro, she mistakes his sense of duty for weakness. She’s underestimated him.
The Castle is so well described. Did you base this prison on any particular place?
Physically, the Castle was inspired by a few I visited in England. I imagined those crossed with Escher drawings to get a kind of stone labyrinth idea. There’re probably some Vincent Price movies thrown into the mix, too—I love those old horror flicks.
A lot of the action in SCORCHED takes place in the Castle, so the place and the people in it move to the forefront of the story. Many of the characters from RAVENOUS return.
On your website, it states that you are an enthusiast of the weird and spooky. Besides your writing, what else would you relate to that statement?
I’ve had a few odd experiences myself—nothing really scary but things that definitely got my attention. Because of that, I’m always trying to find out more about the paranormal, whether through books, talking with people, or visiting places that have a reputation for ghosts. So far I don’t have any brilliant answers, but the questions are fascinating.
Speaking of websites, do you have any other sites you would like to share with your readers? MySpace, Facebook, twitter, a blog? Etc.
Yep, if it’s there, I’m on it:
I Twitter and I’m on Facebook. My site connects to my personal blog and to a sign-up for my newsletter. I also have a MySpace.
I also belong to a group blog, which is a group of five paranormal authors (Jessa Slade, Kim Lenox, Allison Chase, Annette McCleave and me). We pick a weekly topic and talk about that—it’s fairly new and we’ve just started inviting guests and holding contests. It’s a lot of fun because we’re very different voices but really compatible.
Now let’s get to a few just for fun questions. Like I mentioned earlier, this story has many different paranormal beings in the pages. If you could be any paranormal being, what would it be and why?
I think a Shapeshifter – either a were cat or a werewolf. I’ve always been an animal lover and the whole blood-drinking thing—and I’m not being judgmental here—well, it just isn’t for me. Besides, I’m not sure about the living-forever thing. I have enough trouble remembering what happened last week, to say nothing of last century.
Yes, I think with a precautionary dose of flea medication, bounding through the forest might be okay—as long as there was a warm cushion at the end of the escapade. I’ve never been crazy about camping. Or raw meat. I’m actually a vegetarian. Maybe a wererabbit?
Do you want to write any other genre besides paranormal romance? Anything you would not want to write?
I never say never. The moment I’d decide not to write an XYZ book, my perverse muse would send me a crackerjack idea for just such a story. She loves to mess with my head.
Things I’d like to do? I have written horror for my own amusement. I’d consider mystery or YA, but I’ll hold off jumping into another genre until I have a really good idea to develop. There’s no point in going there until I have something fresh to add. Besides, at the moment, I’m besotted with my paranormal friends. Give up my gorgeous vampires and demons? No way!
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Jim Butcher, Kim Harrison, Rachel Caine, Kelley Armstrong, Laurell K. Hamilton, and many other urban fantasy writers. I also enjoy Georgette Heyer, Dean Koontz, and Minette Walters. I’m all over the map.
If Ravenous were to become a movie, who would you want to play Alessandro and Holly?
Ideally, there would be undiscovered new actors that would make these roles their own. The synergy of their brilliance and mine would skyrocket all our careers to untold heights, giving rise to Alessandro Dolls, ghoul-and-werewolf decorated bed sheets, and Vampire Happy Meals (complete with graveyard toy that breaks by the time you reach the car).
This is a tricky question because one person’s mental image of the characters could be quite different from mine, and that’s okay. Tastes vary. My mental picture of Holly is very close to the actress Linda Cardellini, who plays the nurse, Sam, on ER. Alessandro doesn’t have an exact replica, but I think he came from sort of a young Roger Daltry/Robert Plant blend. More of an interesting than conventionally handsome type.
And one last question I like to ask all of my interviewees. In keeping with the Coffee Time Romance theme, if you were described as a flavor of coffee, what would it be and why?
I’m a coffeeholic and drink my brew black, so roast is important to me. I have a Cuisinart machine that grinds the beans each time it makes a pot and it really does make a difference. I buy fair trade, organic coffee from a small local company.
With all my cooking, I like simple, good quality ingredients. If the basics aren’t there, it’s tough to make a good meal. I believe the same is true of writing—if you don’t have a good, strong emotional story, it doesn’t matter how many vampires you trot onstage--the story will feel flat.
What coffee am I? Call me a medium dark roast, fresh, hot, and strong but not bitter—and don’t forget the biscotti on the side. A good Italian bakery is essential to happiness.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. I hope you had as great of a time answering my questions as I had asking them.