Thursday, February 19, 2009

By Suzanne Welsh

As many of you know I'm the resident vampire of the Lair. Not so much because I drink blood, but because I work at night, which means I also prowl the Lair at all hours in the dark. So it seems rather appropriate that I invite my friend Jaye Wells to the Lair after hours to discuss her Urban Fantasy series.

Suz (offering Jaye a glass of Merlot):Welcome to the Lair, Jaye. Have a seat here near the fireplace. Please excuse the sleeping cabana boys and poor Sven the masseuse over there. They've had a hard day taking care of our Banditas and Bandit buddies. RED-HEADED STEPCHILD is your first book. We love "call stories" in the Bandit Lair. Care to tell us yours?

Jaye:(takes a long swig of wine and settles in) Thanks, Suz. Okay, I love telling this story. My husband left for Japan the week my book went on submission. At the time, we laughed about what would happen if I sold while he was gone. So funny, we thought. Little did we know.

Fast forward eight days. I'm sitting in a play area with my son. We were cutting snowflakes out of construction paper when my cell rang. Now, I'd convinced myself that if The Call was coming it would happen before noon. I don't recall why I thought this. So when my phone rang at like five on a Wednesday evening and I saw it was my agent, I was convinced he was calling with bad news. I figured he was letting me know we'd gotten the first rejection.

So I pick up and he says, "Are you sitting down?" I sighed, still thinking it was bad news, and went to sit on a stool that was literally a foot off the ground (kid's area, remember?). So I'm squatting there, waiting for the bad news, when my agent informs me that he's gotten an offer for a three book deal.

I leapt off the stool and screamed "OH MY GOD!" Then I promptly burst into tears. Remember: I'm in the middle of a play area surrounded by tired mothers and toddlers. I'm sure they thought I was insane.

After I'd calmed down a little and assured my son that I was crying because I was happy, my agent drops the next bomb. Since this was the first response we'd received, he needed to call the other editors. Then he said words I never thought I'd hear, "We'll probably go to auction."

Well, sure enough two days later, my poor tired husband gets off a plane from Japan. I literally walked in the door from picking him up and got on the phone. The next several hours flew by with me pacing around the house as I fielded phone calls from my agent. Toward the late afternoon, he called to tell me Orbit had preempted. So at 5:30, ten days after my book went on submission, I had myself a three-book deal. And my husband made it home just in time to drink champagne with me.

Suz: What a great story! I've read Paranormal Romances for years, what is the difference between and Urban Fantasy and a Paranormal Romance? Also, how is an Urban Fantasy different from Sci-fi or Epic Fantasies (ala Lord of The Rings)?

Jaye: To me, the main difference between paranormal romance and urban fantasy to be one of focus. In paranormal romance the plot centers around a budding relationship and usually ends in a happily ever after. In urban fantasy, the central plot revolves around one character's goals--be that defeating the bad guy, saving the world or what have you. You often find romantic elements in urban fantasy but you're much less likely to get a happily ever. But all this flies out the window when books get into bookstores. A lot of books I'd consider UF are being shelved in romance right now.

As far as UF versus science fiction or epic fantasy, the biggest difference for me is world building. Science fiction and fantasy don't occur in "our" world. Generally the author creates a unique world--another country or planet or galaxy. But in UF, the world is more like an alternate reality where vampires, werewolves or what have you actually exist in our modern world.

It's difficult though because there are exceptions to both these answers. Urban fantasy is really such a blending of genres that there aren't a lot of hard and fast rules or formulas--just generalities.

Suz: What sparked your interest in Urban Fantasies?

Jaye: There's a swagger to Urban Fantasy, a bit of rebelliousness that appeals to me. I love the blending of genres and the challenge of world building and the sense that I'm going on a journey with the characters.

Suz (reaching for the wine bottle and topping off both glasses): I had the pleasure of reading a copy of RED-HEADED STEPCHILD. In it, your heroine, Sabina Kane, is an assassin for the Vampire race. That's not a typical career choice for heroines. How did you make her sympathetic to the readers and did you find that hard to do?

Jaye: That's a good question. Honestly, some readers won't find Sabina sympathetic. She's foul-mouthed, has anger issues and is really good at self-deception. She's also got no qualms about violence. With a character like that, the goal isn't sympathy--it's empathy. You aren't supposed to feel sorry for Sabina, but you do need to understand why she does what she does. And that is achieved by showing her motivations and how her situation affects the choices available to her.

Suz: You did some "other world" building in RED-HEADED STEPCHILD. Can you tell us about the world you created? Was it difficult coming up with unique characters for all the worlds?

Jaye: When I sat down to create Sabina's world, it was important for me to understand where the dark races came from. So I started at the very beginning--literally. The dark races--vampires, mages, etc.--all started with one important event. According to some Jewish traditions, Eve wasn't Adam's first wife. Instead, a female named Lilith was created from dust just like Adam. When she demanded Adam let her be on top during sex, she left him and went to go consort with demons at the Red Sea.

I basically took this folklore and reworked it so the affairs Lilith had after she left Adam resulted in the creation of the dark races. Everything else just kind of came together from that, including the changes I made to the vampire mythos. For example, there's a direct connection between the fact Lilith left the Garden of Eden before the fateful forbidden fruit incident, and the fact apples can rob vampires of their mortality.

Coming up with main characters was pretty easy. Some of it comes from instinct based on the needs of the story, and other times they just pop up while I'm working. Vinca, who is Sabina's nymph roommate in the book, is an example of a character who just appeared. She ended up being one of my favorite characters.

Suz: Without giving anything away, you have a romantic interest in the book for Sabina. Do you want to tell us about him and will he continue to play an important role in the other books?

Jaye: Adam is a mage who initially causes a lot of trouble for Sabina. But he ends up being an ally and mentor of sorts, who helps Sabina get in touch with her magical side. Yes, there's also some sexual tension, but their relationship is far from a romance at this point. He will continue to play an important role in the overall story, but whether he and Sabina will end up together? Well, I'll just say there's a lot of story left to tell and you never know what might happen.

Suz: Are you planning more stories for Sabina?

Jaye: Absolutely. Right now I'm contracted for three book in the series. The second book, MAGE IN BLACK, is scheduled for release in January 2010. Plus, short story prequel of sorts will appear in the Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance, vol. 2 this winter.

Question for the readers: If you were a character in an Urban Fantasy novel, would you rather be a mage or a vampire?

Jaye is giving away an autographed copy of
RED-HEADED STEPCHILD to one lucky commentor.

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