This week I have the funny, and wonderful Shéa MacLeod! She recently published her first novel and it’s doing an amazing job running up the ranks!
Join me in pinning her down for another round of 20 Questions!
1.) Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I’m an author of urban fantasy post-apocalyptic scifi paranormal romances with a twist of steampunk. I’m originally from Portland, Oregon, but now live in London (The one in England, NOT the one in Texas.). I’m addicted to chocolate, peanut butter, and marshmallow fluff. My life does not exist without coffee. And lots of it.
2.) How long have you been writing?
Since I could hold a crayon. I’ve been writing novels for the last 17 years and seriously writing with a view to publishing for probably the last 3 years.
3.) Do you have a preferred genre that you read? Is it the same as what you write?
My favorite genre to read is definitely what I write, but I enjoy reading loads of different genres. I cut my reading eyeteeth on Agatha Christie, so I’m a big mystery fan. Love thrillers. Some comedy and romance, and, of course, books on the craft. That’s the writing craft, not witchcraft (though I’ve read that for research purposes).
4.) What is the title of your book and where can it be found?
Kissed by Darkness is the first book in my urban fantasy series the Sunwalker Saga. It can be found on Amazon (US, UK and DE) or on Smashwords. The second book in the series, Kissed by Fire, will be out next month.
5.) Describe your novel in 15 words or less.
You’re getting blood on my carpet. Again.
6.) Where did the inspiration for your story come from?
I used to watch Buffy religiously. Of course, I was a little older (20s) and I thought, wouldn’t it be great to have something like this, but more adult? And maybe mix it up with a private investigation firm which investigated paranormal crimes? That sort of bubbled around in my brain for years before morphing into something that resembled a real story.
7.) How long did it take you to complete this novel from concept to published?
Oh, boy, that’s a tough one because I honestly can’t recall when I first started seeing the glimmer of the idea. But from the time I first put pen to paper … one year. One year to write the first draft and do a majority of the rewrites. But then I wasn’t working on it every day. More here and there as I had time or the spirit moved. Once I decided to self publish it took about two months. That was for final rewrites and edits and having it professionally polished, etc.
8.) When you sit down to write, how does that process go? Do you outline or just let it evolve?
By the time I sit down to write, the story is pretty clear in my head. Or at least the intro and the end. So, that’s what I write. No planning, just freestyle. Once I’ve done that, I can usually see ahead a couple more chapters. So I write those. Once I have the first three or four chapters written, I do need to plot, so I write and outline. By then I’ve got at least some notion where the story is headed (or rather, how to get it from the beginning to the end) and it starts flowing pretty well. The process of writing the outline is very free flowing since the outline is generally just a few sentences. It’s more of a guideline rather than an Absolute Plan.
9.) Are there any aspects of writing you struggle with?
Making the story long enough. I know it sounds weird since a lot of writers struggle not to write really long books, but my novels usually end up less than 50k words in the first draft. I write very spare, sometimes too much. And I sometimes forget to tie up a thread. But that’s where my awesome critique partners, beta readers, and editor come in. They point those things out, ask the questions, and then I go back and tie up the loose ends, answer the questions. By the time that gets done I’ve got a really tight novel and another 10k – 20k words. I’m okay with that as I’m not interested in writing long novels.
10.) Are there any aspects that you simply glide through?
It sounds so arrogant to say, but I find it comes quite naturally to me to create characters that are realistic. Probably because most of them are based on real people. Lol! I don’t like to be overly descriptive, but I also enjoy throwing in little details of ordinary, everyday life. I think it keeps things real.
11.) What sets your book apart from others in the same genre?
My voice and the voice of my characters. Also, I’ve given a slightly unique twist to the Atlantis myth.
12.) What is the location of your story setting and why did you choose that place/time?
The setting is Portland, Oregon (modern day). I needed a city, since it’s an urban fantasy, and Portland’s my hometown. That made it comfortable and easy for me to write about without having to focus too hard on getting the details right. Plus it just felt … natural.
13.) Your main characters, tell me about them. What is their back story? How did they find themselves where they are now?
My main character, Morgan Bailey, was an ordinary, average American woman living and working in London. Until a vampire killed her. Except Morgan didn’t stay dead. Nor did she turn into a vampire. She did end up being a little stronger and faster than normal so she was recruited as a Vampire Hunter by Kabita Jones.
Kabita Jones is Morgan’s boss and best friend. She was born in Malaysia (her mother’s family is from India, her father is English), but lived in London most of her life. She is from a long line of hunters. Her specialty is demons. She’s also a natural born Witch. She opened up shop in Portland when the US government offered her a lot of money to hunt vampires and demons Stateside.
Inigo Jones is Kabita’s cousin on her father’s side. He’s clairvoyant and a tasty treat, as far as Morgan is concerned. Unfortunately, he’s way too young for her (She’s got hang-ups, what can I say?).
Jackson Keel is a 900 year old Templar Knight. That’s right. 900 years old. But he’s NOT a vampire. The deliciously mysterious Jack is yet another tasty treat (Can’t have too many.), but also a major pain in Morgan’s backside.
14.) I’d like to know more about your book. Tell me all about it.
Danger is always on the menu for Morgan Bailey, a sexy and street-smart Vampire Hunter, who prowls the dark underworld of Portland, Oregon tracking creatures of the night. Morgan’s never met a vampire she couldn’t dust or a demon she couldn’t kill until she’s hired to destroy a new kind of mystical threat: the Sunwalker.
A powerful immortal once believed myth, the Sunwalker carries with him an ancient secret which, if left unchecked, will destroy Morgan’s world. Pursued by a passionate Templar Knight and the target of the local vampire clans, an ancient power is awakened within her, unlike anything she’s ever known. Morgan must uncover the truth behind her mission and about herself, before the Darkness lurking inside swallows her whole.
15.) What do you want readers to take from your writings?
I just want them to have fun. There’s nothing deeper to it than that.
16.) Are more books to follow or is this a stand alone?
There will be six total books in the Sunwalker Saga. Kissed by Darkness is available now. Kissed by Fire and Kissed by Smoke will be published in August 2011 and December 2011 respectively. I hope to have the remaining three books available in 2012.
17.) Where can readers find you?
Readers can find me on my blog: sheamacleod.wordpress.com I always keep the blog updated with news of my releases and where they can be purchased as well as other fun and random bloggy goodness. Information on the books specifically is here: sheamacleod.wordpress.com/books
18.) What are 3 random things about yourself that readers might like to know.
I am a huge sci-fi geek. Star Trek, Star Wars, BSG, Firefly, Farscape, The Twilight Zone… need I go on?
I’m nuts about really old Roman stuff. Well, really old stuff, period. Anywhere I travel in Europe, you can be sure I’ll be hauling butt to the nearest Roman ruins.
I’m actually an excellent shot with a rifle. I say this not with pride at killing anything (I haven’t.) or to proclaim my status as a member of the NRA (I’m not.), but to point out I’m an excellent person to have around in a zombie apocalypse. (Just remember that when the food runs low.)
19.) What do you do in your down time? For fun.
I read. A lot. I watch a lot of telly. And I dance. Mostly Brazilian dances like forro’ or samba.
20.) How about letting me have a sneak peak at chapter one?
“You’re dripping blood on my carpet. Again.” The voice was as expressionless as the face. Only a slight glint behind deep brown eyes betrayed the fact that Kabita Jones, my boss and best friend, was extremely peeved.
I could sort of see her point. Last time she’d had to replace the carpet. This time the blood only went up to my elbows and it was mostly dry already. There were just a couple of drips. It wasn’t like she couldn’t get the place steam cleaned.
“That’s what you get for calling me in right after a hunt.” I dropped into one of the two chairs in front of her massive mahogany desk. She scowled at me. She didn’t like me getting blood all over her fake leather chairs, either. Bad for business, having a client sit down in a pool of vampire blood.
“Here.” She tossed me a box of wet wipes, only semi-effective for cleaning blood off things, but certainly better than nothing. I grabbed a wipe and scrubbed at my arm. That’s when I noticed a few drops of blood in my cleavage. Gross.
Kabita leaned back in her chair. “How do you like weird?”
As though killing vampires and demon spawn and other creepy crawlies for a living was normal. I tried to raise an eyebrow at her, but I was no Mr. Spock; both went up. “Define weird.”
“Weird. As in: ‘up your alley’ weird.”
Ah, she meant blood suckers. Nightwalkers. Minions of Darkness. Otherwise known as vampires. Right.
Except for Kabita and me, vampires weren’t weird. They’re normal, everyday stuff. Or maybe I should say every-night stuff. It was like saying that baking bread was a weird job for a baker.
Kabita ran a private investigation firm which specialized in hunting down things the government liked to pretend didn’t exist. Creatures that would give most normal people nightmares. The government paid us decent money to track and kill the monsters while maintaining a cover as private investigators that did nothing more exciting than investigate cheating spouses. We got excitement and fortune, if not fame. The government got plausible deniability. We all went home happy.
“And how is this weirder than any other ‘up my alley’ case?” I asked as I cleaned off the last of the blood.
She pushed a file gingerly across the desk. Despite being one of the best demon spawn hunters in the business, Kabita found vampires extremely distasteful, not to mention creepy. Go figure. “It’s not an ordinary vamp,” she said. “It’s a Sunwalker.”
I checked to make sure my jaw wasn’t lying on her desk. Nope, still attached to my face. “A Sunwalker? You’re kidding, right?”
“Our new client wants us to hunt this Sunwalker and kill him, but more importantly, he wants us to retrieve something the Sunwalker stole from his family. He’ll fill you in on the details. You’re to meet him at this address.” She shoved a piece of paper across at me while carefully tucking a strand of long, ink black hair behind her ear.
Despite edging on forty, she didn’t have a single strand of gray. I hadn’t quite hit thirty yet, twenty-nine to be exact, but I hoped I looked half as good as she did at forty. I had my doubts. My job wasn’t exactly the kind that kept one young.
I shook my head. “This is insane. A Sunwalker? As in vampires who can walk in sunlight? You do know they’re not real, right? Sunwalkers are just a myth.”
She gave me a look. She was good at “the look.” “Excuse me, oh Great Slayer of Vampires, but you don’t have a choice. Not if you want to keep your job.”
Which I did, and she knew it. There’s something so immensely satisfying about going to work and hacking someone or something’s head off. They didn’t usually let you do that at, say, the pharmaceutical company or the post office, even if that someone really deserved it. They kind of frowned on it, actually. I also got to wear jeans and really cool kick-ass boots every day.
Truth was, though, Kabita knew I loved a good challenge. She wasn’t just my boss, she was also my friend and would never give me anything I couldn’t handle, no matter how much I bitched and moaned about an assignment. I was damn good at killing vamps. A Sunwalker would just be a little more … tricky. Not only were they not supposed to exist, but how were you supposed to find a vampire that could walk around in daylight? Heck, he probably even had a nice tan.
“Jesus, Kabita. What have you gotten me into this time?” It was rhetorical and accompanied by an eye roll. I snatched the paper off the desk. “Fine. I’ll meet him after I take a shower.”
I just glared at her. Sarcastic witch.
Her return smile was annoyingly beatific.
I crossed my legs and leaned back in my chair, trying desperately not to look like I wanted to crawl out of my skin. Kabita must not have met our new client in person. He was giving me the heebie-jeebies big time. Granted, when it came to humans, my Spidey senses weren’t so accurate, but seriously, there was something a little off with this guy.
The room we were meeting in was all dark wood paneling and big leather chairs, plush wine-red carpet and even plusher drapes. All very manly. All very overbearing. And the client? Well, he was just as bad.
Sure he was good looking and suave. Definitely suave, but in a creepy Julian Sands kind of way. Like you wouldn’t be surprised to see this guy hanging out with royals or schmoozing with the rest of the rich and powerful, but you sure wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alley. He made my skin itch.
Then again, maybe I was wrong. After all, Kabita had vetted the guy and Kabita was never wrong. If she met him in person. Dear gods, I hoped she met him in person.
So, Mr. ah …” Not Sands. Bloody hell, what was it? I snuck a glance at the file. “Mr. Darroch. How can I help you exactly?”
He gave me what I could only interpret as a smarmy smile. I hated smarmy. Made me feel like I needed a shower. “Please, Ms. Bailey, call me Brent.” I tried not to wince. Ever since my brief flirtation with college, I’d hated the name Brent. Long story, but let’s just say … ew.
“Right.” I forced a smile. “Brent. How can I help you? I hear you have a slight problem with a Sunwalker?” I couldn’t quite keep the disbelief out of my voice.
He quirked a smile at that. Not so smarmy this time. In fact, he seemed genuinely amused. “I know. Sounds insane, doesn’t it? Rich businessman chasing after a mythical Sunwalker.” He leaned forward earnestly. I was surprised. He did earnest pretty well. “Then again, until a few years ago, you believed vampires and lycanthropes and demons were pure fiction.”
He had a point. Once upon a time, we’d all thought the monsters that dwelt among us were just a myth, but that had changed, at least for those of us who’d been sworn to protect the rest of our kind. No one knew that better than me.
“Sunwalkers are real, Ms. Bailey. Or at least one of them is real.” He leaned back and steepled his fingers together in an excellent Dr. Evil impression.
“Excuse me? Did you say one? As in there is one Sunwalker?” Images of the Highlander flooded my mind. There can be only one. I really had to stop watching so much TV. My mother was right; it was rotting my brain.
Darroch nodded. “Yes. According to legend, there were more, once upon a time. Dozens of Sunwalkers lived among us, if not hundreds. Now there is just one left.”
How did he know that? “And what does this Sunwalker have to do with this object you want us to retrieve?”
“The object is a family heirloom. A necklace. Not particularly valuable except, perhaps, to collectors of the arcane.”
My ears perked up. “The arcane?” Oh, juicy. I did love a good magical twist. Kept things interesting.
He nodded. “According to family legend, the necklace was created by an ancestor of mine who dabbled in the magic arts. He created the necklace, a simple amulet on a chain, as a sort of ward with magical symbols and so on. I don’t know if it ever held any real magic, but it certainly doesn’t now. However, it might be of interest to a collector or a museum as a curiosity more than anything.”
I always found it interesting when a client was willing to kill to get back an object he claimed had[LD3] no value. Frankly, that’s just not normal. In my experience, the object usually had a great deal of value to someone, somewhere, otherwise killing someone for it wasn’t worth the risk. Granted, in this case, it was a Sunwalker he wanted me to kill, so there wasn’t exactly any risk involved. At least not to Brent Darroch.
“About 20 years ago,” Darroch continued, “this particular Sunwalker stole the necklace. I believe he thought it would give him some sort of power.” He laughed, but the laugh sounded forced. “I’ll bet he was surprised to find it a useless hunk of metal. In any case, it has sentimental value and I want it back.”
His eyes bored into me like twin icicles. I forced back a shiver. “I also want you to destroy this Sunwalker. He is extremely dangerous. One is bad enough, but should he begin to perpetuate his kind again, the world as we know it will be destroyed as it almost was once before.”
I’d no doubt he was right about that. I could just imagine the havoc an army of Sunwalkers could wreak on humanity. Humanity wreaked enough havoc on itself; it didn’t need any help from the undead. Besides which, part of our purview was to hunt and kill any and all supernatural creatures who posed a threat to humanity. Vampires were certainly in that category and, I imagined, so were Sunwalkers, being of the same ilk and all that.
“All right, Mr. … Brent. I’ll see what I can do. Have you any idea where the Sunwalker is now? How I can find him?”
He wrote something on a sticky note and handed it to me. It was a name: Cordelia Nightwing. “You can find this woman in a night club called Fringe. Maybe she can help you. Go carefully, Ms. Bailey.” He leaned back gracefully, his leather chair creaking slightly, and steepled his fingers together again. Boy, he had the Doctor Evil thing down pat.
“I always do.” I glanced down at the name on the note. Please don’t let her be another nutter.
Since nightclubs in Portland didn’t open until late, I decided to call it a day and head home for some much deserved sleep. First, I wanted to drop in on Kabita’s cousin, Inigo Jones.
Inigo’s a clairvoyant, or something of that nature, and into all kinds of weird stuff. Well, I was sure it wasn’t because of his clairvoyance that he was into weird stuff, but more because he was just, well, weird. Not to mention hot. But I tried not to think about that. After all, he was Kabita’s cousin and I was pretty sure there was something in the Best Friend Rules that stated that best friends couldn’t date each other’s cousins. Even if there wasn’t, the guy was like twenty or something. Practically a kid. A really hot kid, but a kid none the less.
Granted, twenty was only a few years younger than my own twenty-nine, but I felt a lot older than my years most of the time. The job sort of did that to you.
“Get your hormones under control, girl,” I muttered under my breath before pressing the button for the doorbell. It had obviously been way too long since I’d had a boyfriend.
Three rings later, Inigo stood in the open doorway wearing a pair of red silk pajama bottoms and nothing else. His shoulder length gold and taffy hair was artfully tousled (damn him) and his usually brilliant blue eyes were heavy lidded with sleep.
He bared his teeth at me, and not in a nice way. “Whaddya want?” came out more a growl than a question. The growl did things to my libido that I’d rather not think about. I barely refrained from clenching my thighs together.
“Sorry to wake you, Sleeping Beauty.” I stepped past him into the dim living room which was just a touch too warm for my taste. “But I need your help with a little project.”
“At,” he hesitated and squinted at the wall clock hanging above the television, its arms glowing faintly in the darkness, “ten in the morning?”
“Sorry, but Kabita’s got me working for this new client. He wants me to kill a Sunwalker.”
Inigo blinked. “Uh-huh.”
“You see anything?” I didn’t mean in the physical sense.
He shook his head. “Nah. Not before coffee. And I’m not drinking any ‘cause I’m going back to bed the minute you leave. Which will be … ?”
“Soon,” I assured him. I crossed my arms under my chest and gave my already impressive cleavage a subtle boost. Oh, I was such a bad girl. “I just need your help tonight. There’s this woman, Cordelia Nightwing. She works at some club called Fringe. You know it?”
He grinned, his eyes on my chest. He knew exactly what I was doing. “Yeah, I know it.”
“I take it that this is one of those weirdo clubs with mermaids swimming in fish tanks or something like that.”
He tilted his head as he laughed and the sun streaming through the open door picked out the gold in his hair. “Yeah, something like that.”
Down, libido, down. “Well, this Cordelia is supposed to know something. Something that will help me track the Sunwalker I’m hunting. So, can you help me out? Go to the club with me, find this Cordelia chick and find out what she knows?”
“Yeah, sure, if you promise to leave me in peace and let me sleep. Unless you want to join me?” His grin was pure naughtiness.
I rolled my eyes at him. “As if. OK, I’ll pick you up at ten tonight. I’ve got another hunt. I’ll try and get it done before then.” I headed for the door.
“Make it midnight,” he called. “The weirdos never come out before then.”
I tossed him a look over my shoulder. “Obviously.”