Author Q&A: Craig Schaefer (of the Daniel Faust series)

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We are super-honored to have an author Q&A with Craig Schaefer, who writes the Daniel Faust, Revanche Cycle, and Harmony Black series (links below in author bio section). Mr. Schaefer is one of our FAVORITE authors at the MacHalo group and blog, so we couldn’t be more delighted that he said YES to our request. We HIGHLY recommend all of his books.

The Daniel Faust series is gritty urban fantasy about the seedy paranormal underworld.

The Revanche Cycle is epic fantasy with tons of betrayal and intrigue, witches and corrupt politicians.

Harmony Black is secret government groups fighting paranormal crime with a heavy dash of conspiracy and magic thrown in.

So let’s get down to it.

Q: Which of your series would you recommend new readers start with?

A: I’d love for everyone to start with the Revanche Cycle, because that’s my personal favorite, but I’ve learned (the hard way) that a lot of urban fantasy readers have no interest in epic fantasy — which is the main reason the Faust/Harmony books are my bread and butter while the Revanche books…aren’t.

For UF readers, I’d suggest starting with the Faust series, specifically with The White Gold Score. While it’s technically book 1.5, beyond a couple of references it pretty much stands alone, and it was written much more recently. Every writer evolves (or should evolve) and I’d like to think I’m a much better writer today than I was when The Long Way Down came out, so it makes for a better introduction to my work.

Also, it’s a novella, so if you hate it, at least you didn’t waste much time on it.

Q: What is your favorite series and/or character you have written?

Favorite series? The Revanche Cycle, hands down. Favorite character? Ooh, that’s a lot tougher. That definitely changes with my mood. If I had to narrow it down to a core few, though? Renata Nicchi, the “ordinary barmaid” who shows the world what “ordinary” people are capable of, has to top the list. Jessie Temple, constantly at war with the forces of darkness both outside and within herself, and mostly winning. Nessa Fieri – gleefully and unrepentantly wicked, capable of immense cruelty and ferocious love – rounds out the top three.

Also, honorable mention for cannibal fashion designer Fredrika Vinter. Freddie’s scenes (along with her long-suffering BFF Halima) are always so much fun to write. (“Naturally, dahling.”)

Q: ✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans) wants to declare her undying love for Daniel Faust and is a huge fan. She wants to know if there will be a Jessie spinoff and if Harmony Black and Daniel Faust will ever have a crossover with both characters being featured in a book?

No current plans for a Jessie spinoff. Jessie is a really tricky character in some regards; I’ve never shared this before, but one of the earliest very-partial drafts for the first Harmony Black novel (it ran out of steam around five chapters in) had her as the POV character instead of Harmony. The problem can be summed up by the scene in HB where she and Harmony endure a psychic parasite’s nightmare vision and she says, “That’s what it’s like in my head all the time.”

She’s funny and fierce, but that’s partially a shield to keep her friends from seeing the stuff she has to fight to keep a lid on, every waking moment of the day. This is a woman who was raised by a serial killer and forced to participate in her father’s crimes, without any kind of a moral compass until she was rescued in her early teens. Throw in the occult contagion from the King of Wolves and, well, it’s a lot easier to write about her from a slightly removed perspective; going first-person could take things from “just dark enough” to “way too dark” in a hurry.

Yes, there will absolutely be a Harmony/Faust crossover at some point. There’s already sort of one coming up in next year’s Wisdom’s Grave trilogy, where both characters make important appearances, but in a supporting-cast role. I really want to do a crossover that’s all about the two of them, I just haven’t figured out the best way to write it yet. Considering some people only read one of the two series, and I try to keep them as stand-alone as possible for that reason, I have to really think about what I can do with it plot-wise and which story elements I can resolve in a crossover that some readers might not be interested in picking up.)

(I will say, whether Harmony and Daniel make peace at last or not, you know we’re gonna see their respective teams square off and go a few rounds. I’m not a big fan of superhero tropes in general, but sometimes you just have to see who would win in a fight…)

Q: Several of us have noticed you write amazing female characters. They are strong, independent, no “damsels in distress.” Is this a conscious effort on your part or do you just naturally have an affinity for bad-ass females? 😊

Thank you so much! Yes, it’s a very conscious effort. As a writer and a feminist, positive representation is really important to me. Note that “positive” doesn’t mean “only positive character traits.” I don’t set out to create flawless, all-powerful Mary Sues, because that’s just as bad as wilting damsels in distress; both reduce female characters down to playing pieces and plot coupons. God save us from “kick-ass heroines” whose entire personality is 1) spunky/snarky and 2) they know kung fu, which is often exactly what Hollywood foists off on us.

My aim (I don’t always get it right, but I try) is to write female characters with authentic voices, inner lives, strengths and flaws. Which is really the standard we should all expect of any character of any gender, in all of our media, so the simple fact that it’s notable proves why it’s so important. It shouldn’t be extraordinary, it should be the baseline.

Ultimately, I write about the women in my life. No, I don’t hang out with murderous witches or mob bosses (as far as I’m willing to admit in public), but the heroines and villainesses of my fantasy novels draw their roots from the real women around me – from their struggles, their triumphs, their hopes, fears and joys. They’re my inspiration.

Q: Do you have any plans for a new series or book you can share with us?

This coming January will bring the first book of the Wisdom’s Grave trilogy, a special event crossover between all of my existing series. Fresh from the pages of the Revanche Cycle, Nessa and Mari – reborn as college professor Vanessa Roth and police detective Marie Reinholt – find each other once again in modern-day New York. Just like hundreds of times before, they’re cursed to meet, fall in love, and die, reenacting an ancient and forgotten fairy tale. But things are a little different now: someone’s spoiled the plot.

Forewarned of their fate, Nessa and Marie have one chance to break free, find the source of their curse, and demand justice. This time, they’re writing their own ending.

My initial outline notes described the trilogy as “a rock and roll road trip to the edge of the multiverse, with black magic and bullets.” The first book is with my editor as we speak; it’s arguably the darkest thing I’ve ever written, and absolutely isn’t going to be to everyone’s taste, but the trilogy is a passion project of mine so it had to get written.

Q: How long do you see your current two series running?

The Faust series will probably run twenty books or so, but the series outline has a lot of wriggle room so it can grow or contract based on what the fans want and how its momentum feels. (Yes, I know how it all ends. The final scene of the final book is already written – I wanted to have a goal-post of sorts to keep me focused – though it’s doubtlessly going to get a full rewrite by the time we actually get there.)

The Harmony series is more open-ended. I’ve got three possible ways to wrap the series up, and I haven’t decided which one I like best yet. I’d say we’ll see at least five more books, and we’re nowhere near properly setting up any of the three endings. My readers know I’m a big fan of playing the long game…

Q: Are we going to get more from the Revanche world – and anytime soon? Any little spoilers you can share?

I don’t know if we’ll ever go back for a book set exclusively in the Revanche setting, but I can tell you (and you heard it here first) that book two or three of the Wisdom’s Grave trilogy will definitely see our antiheroines taking a jaunt back “home.”

Maybe I can share two tiny spoilers. One: Hedy will be back. The Mouse is her mother’s daughter, and when the Owl needs her most, she’ll be there. Two: two particular characters from the final chapter of Queen of the Night will not be in it. They earned their ending, and they really did live happily ever after, or at least as happy as a contented life with the person you love can be. They are the only two characters I consider officially out of my keyboard’s reach. They won.

Q: What are a couple of your favorite books and authors?

If I had to pick an all-time favorite author, I’d have to go with Elmore Leonard. An absolute master of his craft, in the vein of two of my other favorites, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Amazing dialogue, lean and stripped-down prose, all three wrote purring and sleek engines of fiction. I’m nowhere near that good, but if I keep working hard, someday I might get close.

I also have to give a shout-out to an author I’ve only recently discovered and I’m eagerly plowing my way through her back-catalog. Mo Hayder is a top-notch crime/suspense writer, and her book “The Devil of Nanking” is amazing. It gave me the same goosebumps I got from reading “Silence of the Lambs” for the first time. Dark, sinister, depraved…you know, all the stuff I like.

Cold Spectrum, book four in the Harmony Black series, is released on October 31, 2017.

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Craig Schaefer’s books have taken readers to the seamy edge of a criminal underworld drenched in shadow (the Daniel Faust series), to a world torn by war, poison and witchcraft (the Revanche Cycle), and across a modern America mired in occult mysteries and a conspiracy of lies (the Harmony Black series).

Despite this, people say he’s strangely normal. Suspiciously normal, in fact.

Schaefer lives in Illinois with a small retinue of cats, all of whom try to interrupt his writing schedule and/or kill him on a regular basis. He practices sleight of hand in his spare time, though he’s not very good at it. His home on the Web is www.craigschaeferbooks.com.

Craig Schaefer on Amazon.

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Guest Blogger: Author Q&A with Stacey Marie Brown!

We have our very first guest blogger, Jessica, who scored an author Q&A with Stacey Marie Brown. Jessica is a member at the MacHalo group at Goodreads and she is awesome. So, without further ado, here we go!

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Stacey Marie Brown is an independent writer of urban fantasy/paranormal romance, but to me she is The Abolisher of Mundane Chores (cause that’s a thing!). She’s the reason I’ve ignored dishes, laundry, and sometimes sleep. Tying three series (Lightness Series, The Collector Series, and Darkness Series) together into an even larger story, she has introduced readers to strong female leads, lovable friends and sidekicks, hot men, magic, and lots of fast paced adventure. Her latest book (that will keep me awake – again) is Fall of the King, She carved out some time to answer a few questions and let me geek out and pick her brain. The fabulously badass ladies of Dust Off Your MacHalo gave me a place to share what I’ve learned. Here’s what Stacey had to say.

Jessica: I’m just going to dive in here and say the release of Fall of the King is right around the corner (like, days away! I’m a little excited for this! Questions. Right.). What are you able to share about this installment? How will it fit into the rest of the series? Will we see some old friends?

Stacey: Oooh, I don’t want to spoil the story, but Lars has finally met his match. And it will be a dual POV. You will see a different side to him…a more vulnerable side. I think some who may have not liked him before are going to see the man underneath. The true Lars.

We will definitely be seeing old friends! With every book in the Lightness Saga, I am tying in the Darkness and Collector series for one final bang! Lars is book 3, the next book is the FINAL one in all three series!!

Jessica: The world you’ve created and woven into 3 different series is vast and layered, with intersecting characters, all affecting each other. Did you know ahead of time which characters would be connected and that they would all be part of a bigger story?

Stacey: No! I was dead set against combining the series at first (why you can read Collector Series or the Darkness Series first), but as the story progressed, they decided for me. And it made sense that their paths would all eventually cross.

Jessica: Once you’ve come up with one of your badass story ideas, what’s your writing process like?

Stacey: I really wish I could say I have one. I get my butt in a chair and write. I do a very basic outline and mostly write as I go, so it takes me longer than some other authors. I have an acting/directing background and they play in my head like a movie. I’m just there to tell their story.

Jessica: There is mythology and lore themes in your books. Do you have to do a lot research? What inspires your mythology?

Stacey: I do enough research for me to understand and know the story, but then put my own twist on it…. or, I make it up completely. That’s what’s so awesome about fantasy. You can play with myths and legends.

The Fall of the King (Lightness Saga #3) is released on October 12, 2017.

It’s a steal of a deal for only $0.99 to pre-order now at Amazon.

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From Goodreads:

Stacey Marie Brown is a lover of hot fictional bad boys and sarcastic heroines who kick butt. She also enjoys books, travel, TV shows, hiking, writing, design, and archery. Stacey swears she is part gypsy, being lucky enough to live and travel all over the world.

That’s all for now, folks. Stay tuned for more from Jessica.

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Ilona Andrews and Jeaniene Frost Book Signing!

I went to the Ilona Andrews and Jeaniene Frost book signing on July 27th. The three of them are awesome people! It was a great experience. Gordon and Ilona are hilarious. They had the crowd laughing the entire time. Between being awestruck and my natural introvert tendencies I had no clue what to say to them when I was getting my books signed. They were cool as hell so it didn’t matter.

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They were kind enough to sign more than one copy of a book. I got Jeaniene Frost to sign Halfway to the Grave. I was damn lucky I had that. Most of the Jeaniene Frost books I own are ebooks. I didn’t want to go to a signing and not get a book signed by her. She gave me a cool bookmark advertising the Night Huntress series!

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Gordon and Ilona signed the hardcover copy of Wildfire I bought to get access to the event. They also signed two other paperbacks I brought with me.

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I did record some of the discussion but didn’t have enough space on my phone to record the whole thing. I listened to the recording before writing this, but some things are just based on my memory. I have tried to paraphrase things as accurately as possible. There are a few quotes below which were taken directly from what I recorded.

Jeaniene Frost

What are her favorite characters or her favorite ones to write?

Her favorite character tends to be the one she is writing at the moment. Right now she is researching for an Ian book. Writing him will be difficult because he is “beyond [her] comfort zone.” She writes with a vague plot in mind but most of the story develops during the writing process. Where Ian ends up is a mystery right now, even to her.

Vlad:

She has done a considerable amount of research on vampires. Originally she didn’t want to include Dracula aka Vlad Tepesh in her books. Researching the real Vlad Dracul inspired her. The name Ilona was mentioned in her books as a wife of Vlad’s. Many people thought this was a shout out to Ilona Andrews. It was not. The name Ilona was used because it was historically accurate.

Inspiration for the Night Huntress series:

She had a dream about a couple fighting and they intrigued her. She began to lay backstory to those people. She delved into why they were arguing and why they felt the way they did about each other and what brought them to that point. Eventually a novel was developed. She had no idea at the time that it would become a series.

Possible works in the future:

She is thinking about writing a book or books on Kate from the final Night Huntress book. Chances are Cat and Bones would have small roles in those.

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Next up:

They are currently working on the last Kate Daniels book where according to Gordon “cool stuff happens.”

They will be doing other books in the Kate Daniels world. Kate and Curran will make appearances but won’t ever be the main characters again.

Next up is Hugh d’Ambray!!!!

After that is the next Innkeeper Chronicles book.

TV Shows:

They would like to have one of their series be turned into a TV show, but there haven’t been any offers. They surmise that it may have to do with the amount of magic used in their books. To make it look good on the screen it would involve a fair amount of CGI which could get costly. They’re definitely open to the idea of a TV show.

How do they write together?

They plot out their books first. Ilona usually writes the first draft. It’s a highly collaborative process for the two of them. They go through everything together and discuss dialogue and fight scenes. Sometimes they recruit their kids to act out certain scenes.

What are their favorite characters or their favorite ones to write?

Ilona: Her favorite character constantly changes. She enjoys writing Desandra because “the woman has no filter.” She likes writing all of the protagonists and used to like writing Aunt Bea. “It’s hard to pick a favorite because they are all amusing in their own way.”

Gordan: Curran is the easiest to write. It’s hard to write Jim because they don’t really know what he’s thinking. Basically it sounds like they don’t dig deep to figure out what makes him tick. He also likes writing Cornelius from Hidden Legacy.

Where did the name Baylor come from?

They chose it because it is a common name in Texas, and that is where the Baylors live.

***Spoilers below for those who are not up to date with Kate Daniels and Hidden Legacy.***

Roland (from Kate Daniels):

No character has one side to them. They thought it would be more interesting to have Roland be more than just a bad guy. There is a part of him that genuinely loves Kate. There’s also the part of him that is obsessed with power. Unfortunately for Kate that is the side of him that tends to matter the most to him. They may love each other but they’ll never have a normal relationship.

Hidden Legacy Series:

They tried to wrap everything up in Wildfire. The publisher wanted a word count that did not go over a specific amount, and they couldn’t cover everything and stay within that word count. The publisher may extend the contract for them to write a fourth Hidden Legacy book if the sales for Wildfire are good. Regardless they will write a fourth book in the series even if they have to self publish. They confirmed there definitely will be at least one more book.

Catalina’s magic (from Hidden Legacy):

Her magic was revealed at the end of White Hot. Nevada had explained that it didn’t work on the people who already love her. Rogan seemed unaffected by it. They explained that he loves Nevada and already views her family as his family, which is why he didn’t get sucked into her story like everyone else. When she used her magic for the trials at the end of Wildfire, only one person was affected by her magic. Ilona explained that Catalina can target specific people with her magic. So it can be one person or a group. It entirely depends on how she wants to use it.

***HUGE SPOILERS for future books. Read at your own risk! You have been warned.***

Hugh d’Ambray:

They want to self publish Hugh’s book before the final Kate Daniels book because for his appearance in the final Kate book to make sense the readers need to know what has been going on with him.

In Hugh’s book, he’s at a low point in the beginning of the book. Somehow he ends up in an arranged marriage, and they develop feelings for each other. Apparently she gives him a hard time. He gives her a hard time back. They continue in this cycle, and this ignites their curiosity for each other.

Hugh and his wife show up in the last Kate book. Kate and Curran are confused because they still view him as the bad guy. Somehow everyone else knows what has transpired with Hugh and that he is okay now. He is there to fight with them against some common enemy. Whether that is Roland or not, I don’t know.

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Freaky Friday: Fannie Tucker’s World of Weird Erotica

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It’s that time of the week again. Already. Did this week fly by or was it just me? Warning: adult content ahead.

Our subject for this edition is Fannie Tucker, author of such gems as:

Ms. Tucker has tackled the Jersey Devil, jungle vines, plushies, ogres, clowns, puppets, magic pebbles, werebunnies, cavemen… basically anything you can think of.

We MacHalos love her! We even created a list at Goodreads inspired by her and Chuck Tingle: The MacHalo Group’s Best Niche Erotica.

She slays it. Some of her naughty tales lean towards horror erotica and some are just hilarious.

If you’re feeling adventurous, try one of her stories out. They are very short and some are even free with Kindle Unlimited.

Fannie Tucker’s Amazon page.

Until next time, stay freaky!

7ya8izz

Curing My Gamophobia: Authors and Series that Deserve a Second Look

GAMOPHOBIA- the fear of commitment.

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I’m sure I’ve said this before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again: I’m REALLY  bad at series. Any series. Book, television, movie, it doesn’t matter. I have this really deep seated anxiety for some reason. I don’t know if it’s because I’m afraid they’ll disappoint me in the end or if I’m just worried that while reading/watching the next installment I’m missing out on something even better. I do know that it seems totally irrational, but I’m such a commitment-phobe when it comes to reading.

This is totally not a new phenomenon for me. No, unfortunately I’ve been like this since I was a kid. I stayed away from TV shows with a continuing story arc, and I didn’t read books that required you to read others in order to understand the storyline (with very few exceptions.) It drove my mom crazy. She always wanted me to read Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern , but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Even as a teenager I knew that I would probably love it.  I mean, what’s not to love about dragons and their people who help save the world from an otherworldly menace (that is the basic premise, right?)? ‘Til this very day, I have a secret desire to pick up the first book, but at that time the very idea made my soul clench. It broke my mom’s heart it did. She just couldn’t understand why I was adamantly against starting the series. This commitment phobia is especially hard for me since almost any book produced in the literary world of fantasy and science fiction is almost guaranteed to be part of a series. And science fiction and fantasy books are my jam, people.

I’d like to say that as I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten better, but that wouldn’t be the whole truth. I still tend to read only the first, and sometimes if it was really good, the second book in a series before moving on. Something that is true, however, is that I’ve come to realize there are many authors out there who write amazing books (series), books that drag you into the world they’ve created and make you wish that you never had to leave and by my not reading those books out of some misguided (though totally involuntary) apprehension I actually will be missing out on something spectacular. To that end, I’ve made a list of a few authors who’ve made me reconsider my unwillingness to enter into a long term, committed (literary) relationship.

1. ROBIN HOBB

Now, I know that she’s been around for some time, but remember me saying I didn’t want to get involved with a serialist? Practically EVERYTHING she’s written had been in this one particular world, though it is broken up into trilogies for the most part. After much back and forth, I  finally caved and read The Assassin’s Apprentice  and friggin LOVED it (my son has now read the entirety of the first series and he also loved it!) After that first successful book, I then read Ship of Magic and surprise, surprise….another amazing book was added to my read list. She creates such a wonderful world and characters, especially the villains. Man, her villains make you want to carve their hearts out with a spoon. If you like character driven stories, you should definitely give her stuff a try. It’s SO good! I need to read them all.

2. JULIETTE MARILLIER

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I read Daughter of the Forest and was not prepared, not at all. It gave me all of the feels and is now one of my all time favorite books. I immediately read the the second in the series, Son of the Shadows and was not disappointed. Juliette Marillier’s work is like reading a fairy tale, only the type of fairy tale where not every princess is rescued by a prince and sometimes wicked stepmothers are well and truly evil. Her stories are a bit like magic, and I kind of love her for that. I need to read all of her works, or at least attempt to read them all.

3. R. Lee Smith

Once upon a time, I was just a young woman who never thought, in a million years, that she would grow to love alien romance (aka erotica.) Actually, let me clarify this, I should say human/non-human erotica. That is until I read this little (haha) book entitled The Last Hour of Gann and it changed my life. After reading this book, human/human interactions seemed so basic. There needed to be more. When you read about two people (just to keep it simple) who come together under such fantastical conditions, who, despite language and physiology, manage to find a way to look beyond and fall in love, well it’s hard to top that in the romance category y’all. All of her books feature this type of character diversity and crazy obstacles to overcome. Yes, there’s usually some violence and abhorrent behavior, and yes, some of her books could be edited down a couple hundred pages, but anyone who can suck a reader in so fully, who can make a reader fall in love with a lizard man, must be doing something right. I NEED to read everything of her’s one day. NEED to, folks.

4. MARTHA WELLS

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Last year our MacHalo GoodReads group had a TBR clean-out challenge. It had to be a book that we had added to our “Want to Read” before the start of the summer (or was it calendar year??) Anyway, that’s not important. What is important is that I happened to read Martha Well’s The Cloud Road and was totally blown away by how good it was. I loved the world she created, with the dragon people and their ways of life (though they aren’t actually called dragons). Again, this is another case of intimidation because there are quite a few books/novellas that take place in this world and she has several other series that may be worth taking a look it. Gah!!! There goes my anxiety meter! However, I think it would be totally worth it to read them if they are anything like the first book of her’s that I read. She’s made my bucket list.

5. NEAL SHUSTERMAN

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Last year I read Unwind and right then and there I vowed to continue that series. It hasn’t happened yet, of course, but that first book still stays in my mind. It had one of the most disturbing and heartbreaking scenes I’d ever read. Ever. The…and then he…then the doctor…and then it all fades to black. Thinking about it now still gives me the chills. If you haven’t read it yet and enjoy dystopian novels ( I know I still do!) you should absolutely check it out. And I should absolutely revisit my vow to read the entire series and maybe check out Scythe while I’m at it.

6. HUGH HOWEY

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I loved Wool SO much once it was finally released as an omnibus (I was aware of the serials… but again, my serial commitment hangup kept me from reading them). I tried to convince everyone I knew (in real life-this was before my book social media days) to read it. I’m not sure how many actually did end up reading it, but those who didn’t then and still haven’t now are missing out. I can honestly say it’s still one of my favorites. However, since then he has gone on the release a ton of other additions to the story. I was little confused at first and have never been totally sure in what order they should be read, but I do know that judging by my love for his first published novel that his other works deserves my attention as well. It’s going on the list.

Honorable Mentions (with specific series):

7. MICHAEL MCCLUNG with his Amra Thetys Series (the first book was really good!)

8. PIPPA DACOSTA with her The 1000 Revolution Series 

9. LINDSAY BUROKER with her Emperor’s Edge Series because Sicarius is bae. 

10. M. C. A. Hogarth and her extensive works in the Pelted Universe

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Alright, now I think I’ve said enough…for now. What authors or series will make it on your bucket lists?

Q & A with Ashleigh Zavarelli

When I saw A. Zavarelli had a new book coming out and that it was going to be a dark adult fairytale retelling of Beauty & the Beast, I was literally salivating at the idea. If you haven’t read anything by her yet, you are truly missing out. The characters she creates are utterly captivating.  When the offer to get an ARC copy of Beast came through my e-mail, I jumped on the opportunity like it was the actual cover model in the flesh being presented for my grabby hands. 

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Because I also follow Ashleigh on her Femme Fatales facebook page, I requested an author interview for our blog. But because I am a boozy bitch, I thought I would throw in some margaritas to set the tone. Shots of Jameson were on the menu in honor of her Boston Underworld series, but let’s be honest, a few shots in and this interview would devolve into virtual hugging and professing my undying love for both her and her characters.
*cough* Ronan *cough*
So, margaritas it is.
Pour yourself one, or whatever you have handy, and join us for a round as I ask all my burning questions.


C: Your prior romantic leads have been a billionaire bad boy and members of an organized crime syndicate. What should your readers expect from the leading man in Beast?

A: The leading man in Beast is more of an anti hero than anything I’ve ever written before. He is harsher than most of my male leads, and doesn’t have as many redeeming qualities. But I think that when readers learn about his past, it will explain many of his actions. I can’t say too much about him without giving away spoilers except for that he is a highly intelligent recluse with a sinister side.

C: You have described Beast as a contemporary twist on traditional fairytales. What inspired you to make the leap into creating stories about a twisted ever after?

A: I just really like the idea of dark fairytales. The twisted relationships and the light and dark sides that many of these traditional characters seem to have. A big inspiration for me was the show Once Upon a Time. I liked that they took traditional stories and turned them on their heads, shaking up everything we thought we knew about the characters.

C: You create playlists for your books and sometimes even list them in the books so it is clear that music provides a way to direct your creative thoughts, but if you could only choose one song from your Spotify Playlist  Beast (Twisted Ever After #1) to capture the overall feeling of Beast, which would it be?

A: Oh this is a such a hard decision. There are so many songs from my Beast playlist that I adore, but if I had to choose one it would be I Know You by Skylar Grey. This song perfectly sums up Isabella and Javier’s relationship and the emotions between them.

C: Your books have dark themes and the characters are frequently put through hell. How do you prepare yourself to write the thoughts and feelings of the characters? And when you are done, what techniques do you use to prepare yourself to come back to the real world?

A: It’s honestly one of the hardest things for me. I get into that mindset and once I’m there I don’t want to come back out because I’m afraid of losing momentum. I tend to live on a rollercoaster of emotions myself while writing these books. There’s always a huge high when it’s over but then I have to sit back and process everything afterwards and it takes me some time to recover before I can start on the next book. I do get emotionally involved with the characters, so it’s always a little bit sad to let them go.
When I finish a book, I find that just taking time to do things I didn’t have time to helps me the most. Watching my favorite shows. Reading books I want to read. Visiting with friends. I don’t have a lot of time for these things when I’m writing so I basically just go back to being a part of the real world for a while and that really seems to help.

C: What has been your favorite book to date?

A: This is a hard one as well, but I think I’d have to say Reaper. I loved his character and had so much fun getting into his mindset. There are always some characters I connect with more than others and for me, he was the one I could really relate to.

C: Now, as I mentioned, the MacHalos did a buddyread of the entire Boston Underworld series so if I don’t take this opportunity to ask you some things about those books, the extremely bloodthirsty ladies over there are likely to set my head on a spike. They’ll enjoy it, too. They’re a bunch of freaks like that. You would adore them. Anyway, could you tell us a little bit about what inspired some of your and our favorite scenes from the series?

A: LOL well we can’t have your head on a spike! This is starting to feel like a Game of Thrones episode…
As for the inspiration for some of the Boston Underworld scenes, I’ll talk about a couple that I hear often about from readers and explain how they came about.
The one I always tend to hear about is the scene in Reaper with Ronan and Sasha next to the dead body. This one was really quite easy for me. I just sat back and thought about the most taboo things that could occur in this situation between them, and this was the first to pop into my head.
(SPOILER ALERT)
What could be more twisted than Ronan losing his virginity to Sasha after he murdered her boyfriend and is still covered in his blood.
To me, this really spoke of the level of emotions that had been brewing between them for some time. And there were zero fu#%s given at that point. It was going to happen then and there.

Another scene I hear about is the tattoo scene in Ghost. I love this one because this is the ultimate expression of Alexei’s Alpha side coming out to play. He wants the world to know that she belongs to him and he will protect her. The inspiration for this was pretty simple as well and came about through my research of the Russian mafia.

C: In Crow, there is a crucial moment when Lachlan and Mack are really enjoying a few drinks of tequila. It was one of the hottest scenes that didn’t actually include sex that I’ve ever read. In the least creeper way I can possibly put this, please tell me more about that scene!

A: Ha! Well I will take that as a compliment, with a shot of tequila please!
Honestly, this scene was inspired by a teaser that I came across while browsing stock photo sites. It was just a hot graphic and I kept thinking how can I put this into a book? And the rest was all Mack and Crow. It felt different and I just went with it. That scene was one of my favorites to date that I’ve written.
It didn’t hurt that I love tequila and limes either.

*Disclaimer – Ronan is in my top five book boyfriends of ALL time. I cannot be rational in my thoughts about him. I had to defer to someone else’s favorite scene in this book because I couldn’t even begin to narrow it down to just one.
C: In Reaper, Ronan is training as a child and he is expected to cross a pit on a narrow plank to get to his father. Was this something you created entirely in your beautifully terrifying brain space, or did the inspiration for it come from one of the mildly creeptastic documentaries you like to watch?

A: LOL, well my brain is a pretty terrifying place. But… this one was actually something I stumbled across in my research. And not even a creepy documentary either, just something I found on the dark inter webs. So this is a technique that has really been used before, and the psychology of it really resonated with me. For Ronan to feel that trust towards someone who should have nurtured him and then to be betrayed so badly was something that I felt really helped to explain part of his fractured personality.

C: Ghost was a particularly difficult story for some because of the hell that Talia lived through prior to Alexei rescuing her, but that revenge torture scene with Boris and Dmitri was epic.
(I tried to warn you, we really are a bloodthirsty group)

At what point in the story did you decide Dmitri’s fate would be settled by a date with Karma?

A: This is actually funny and I’m glad I get to talk about this scene because it makes me laugh every time I think about it. But originally, this was not part of the story. It was only after I sent the story to my critique partner Rose that she started giving me some much needed whip cracking.
In all honestly, the very first beta draft I sent out of Ghost was much milder. I had been holding back a lot because I was afraid of venturing into such dark territory. But Rose told me very bluntly to quit being such a baby and write the story as it was meant to be written.
So I did.
I fixed things. And at her suggestion (and reminder that readers in general can be quite a bloodthirsty group) she told me I better damn well bring back Boris.
So I did.
And therein lies the incomprehensible value of my beta readers, who have given me a swift kick in the pants on more than one occasion.

C: In Saint there is this awesome scene when you realize just how well Rory gets Scarlett. In the hotel room preparing for the masquerade, Rory presents Scarlett with her choice of weapons, which includes a set of bladed stilettos. Guns, throwing knives… I get it… but how did you come up with the bladed stilettos? That is just amazingly badass.

A: This was hands down one of my favorite scenes to write. Who doesn’t want to be as badass as Scarlett? I know I do. And all the weapons he offered up were so much fun to research. The bladed stilettos were something else I stumbled across on the dark web and just knew it was love at first sight. How could I not put them in there?

C: Speaking of Saint, there seemed to be some people that felt you may have gone too far with Scarlett’s character, and I can assure you, not one of the crazies in our reading group thought that for even a second, in fact Scarlett was our favorite leading lady of the series. Has there ever been a time when writing that you felt like maybe you did take a character too far?

A: I am always terrified that I am taking every character too far in some way or another. I think that fear is natural, but I have had to learn how to push past it. My characters are not all molds of each other and I think it would be rather boring if they were. I love flawed characters. I love to write them. And people are never one hundred percent of anything. They are messy and broken and we all carry around their own baggage. Those are the characters that I like to write, and my only saving grace is that there will always be some readers out there who might resonate with them.

C: As I might have mentioned, I have an undying and possibly unhealthy love for Ronan, but who is your favorite leading man? Which female do you most connect with?

A: My favorite leading man is definitely Ronan. He is so childlike and broken that I can’t help but feel protective of him. He will always have my heart.
And the female character that I connected most with was Scarlett.
Hmmm… now that I think about it, they are probably my two craziest characters.
What does that say about me? 😛

C: You have said that you plan to revisit the Boston Series at some point, and I’m sure you have some more twisted fairytales up your sleeve, but what is up next in your writing lineup?

A: I do plan on writing Nikolai’s book next to wrap up the Boston Underworld series. And I also have Storm and Booker’s story to write as a spinoff. But before I write either of those I actually have a contemporary romance that I’ve been working on. It’s something lighter than what I usually write, but every once in a while I like to do something a little different.

C: Finally, what is the one thing you would like your readers to know about A. Zavarelli?

A: I would like my readers to know that they are my rockstars!
Honestly, I couldn’t do what I do without them. To have people who love my stories is beyond anything I ever could have imagined and it still blows my mind every day.
So thank you for your support. It really does mean the world to me.
XOXO
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To learn more about Ashleigh’s general awesomeness please see her author page. Click HERE for my review of Ashleigh’s new release, Beast.

Thanks for joining me for a drink!

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