Liv Rancourt and Irene Preston stopped by my blog today to answer some questions about their upcoming short story, Bonfire, and the Hours of the Night series they are co-authoring. They are also hosting a giveaway, so check out the interview and make sure to scroll to the bottom for information on how to enter.
Liv and Irene, thank you so much for stopping by Magnolia Reviews. I read (and reviewed) Vespers and quickly became really intrigued with your Hours of the Night series. How did you come up with such an interesting idea of a religious vampire in the bayou fighting demons?
LR: Thanks so much for having us and for the fun interview questions! So, how did we come up with the whole vampire/monk in the bayou? Well, at first Thaddeus lived somewhere down near Mount Rainier. I had a list of vampire story ideas, and when Irene and I decided to work together, I let her pick one. She chose reclusive gay vampire monk living in isolated location (old growth forest) accidentally hires young male assistant – think Beauty and the Beast. And when she emailed me the first scene, she said something like, “Oh, by the way, I moved them to Louisiana.” (lol!) The rest just sort of evolved from there.
IP: Hey! I'm almost positive you said I could pick the setting… no? Oh well. It turned out okay, right? I will admit to sadistically dumping us all in the middle of the swamp just because I wanted to see what you would do when you read the first chapter.
LR: Which is actually kind of funny, because I’ve never been in the swamp, so I was forever having the characters climb nonexistent hills or stumble over nonexistent stones.
The next book in the series is Bonfire. (Which I reviewed.) No spoilers, but what can readers expect from this holiday short?
LR: Our goal for Bonfire was to focus more on the relationship between Thaddeus and Sarasija. Nohea gets a mention or two, but until she and Thad work out what happened to Angelique, she’s making herself scarce.
As far as our guys go, it’s hard to show the warm fuzzies when there are demons popping out of the woodwork, you know? While there is a mystery in Bonfire, along with plenty of mysterious-lights-in-the-swamp spookiness, there’s not nearly as much mayhem as there was in Vespers. There’s time to learn some of the less-dramatic but equally important stuff, like the one dish Thaddeus can cook or their favorite television show.
How were you able to learn so much about Christianity and Hinduism? Was it difficult to convey the religious aspects of the story to properly support your characters?
LR: Irene did the heavy lifting for that one. See, I’m a cradle Catholic and grew up singing in Church choirs. I’ve studied Gregorian chant, and worked for about ten years as a cantor, planning the music for the Saturday evening Mass. Because of that, the Catholic stuff came easy.
To get Sara right, Irene did an awesome job of studying Hindu tradition. She also worked with a beta reader who practices Hindu, who helped immensely in sorting out which gods would be appropriate for Sara’s altar at the end of Vespers.
IP: Uh (cringes). To be honest, I’m super lazy and figured I could phone in the Hindu thing by making Sara agnostic. I did a little light reading (actually, it was very interesting and I quite enjoyed it), then happily made Sara a typically American college kid. That method bit me in the ass at the end of Vespers when…Sara suddenly started practicing. Have I mentioned I have no control of my characters?
I really was intimidated by writing this character at first. I don’t have any close experience with Hinduism that I could draw on and worried I would get obvious things wrong. I was even more intimidated when Sara decided to set up an altar. I was lucky one of my regular critique partners was able to hook me up with a Hindu reader to run things past. He was invaluable in giving me some perspective and, as Liv mentioned, hooking me up with some gods.
For most of the book though, they say write what you know, don’t they? Well, I’m not Hindu, but I was raised Southern Baptist in North Louisiana (anyone living south of Alexandria would call me a Yankee). Catholicism was as foreign and mysterious to me as Hinduism. (I admit it, I was fascinated by it and when away at camp always chose to attend the Catholic service). Anyway, that’s where a lot of Sara’s “outsider” views of Christianity come from. Similarly, Sara’s agnosticism reflects my own evolving religious beliefs. The difference is, Sara is confronted with proof of a supernatural world. He wasn’t given a lot of downtime in Vespers to process the new knowledge in terms of his own faith. I do wonder if he might start to question how all the pieces fit down the road…
You’ve posted a picture of an alligator in a Santa hat as part of your promotion for Bonfire. Does that happen in the book? (Please say yes!)
LR: Hee! Well…sort of? There’s definitely a tradition of alligator holiday decorations in the bayou – think Santa’s sleigh pulled by eight tiny alligators, among other things. While I wish I could say yes, absolutely, that image is in Bonfire, about the closest we come is a light-up alligator on the porch at Pinky’s.
IP: I love that Santa-gator, too. If you search Google images for Cajun Christmas, you’re bound to find eight tiny gators pulling Père Noël in his pirogue.
I searched Google and found this set of lights. It definitely fits with the theme of the story!
What's next for the Hours of the Night series after Bonfire?
LR: About the time Bonfire published, we’ll be diving into the Hours of the Night Book 2. We figure Thad and Sara defeated the Big Bad in Vespers, but Weyer’s Praestigiis Daemonum is still out there somewhere. If it falls into the wrong hands, all hell really might break loose…
Tell us about any additional projects you’re working on, either individually or together.
LR: I’ve always got a couple things going. Most recently, I’ve been fiddling with another paranormal that started life with the working title of Sad Vampire. It’s going to be a series of novellas, similar to Jordan Castillo Price’s Channeling Morpheus or Jordan L. Hawk’s Spectr series. I wanted something that I could take in smaller chunks, to work on between Hours of the Night projects. Oh, and it’s not called Sad Vampire anymore. J
IP: Ummm. I always say I’m working on some things, and in truth I have several characters in my head who would love a story. But for now I’m focusing on Hours of the Night. Everything else I have going is contemporary, and I’m really loving playing in an alternate world for a while.
What is one question you always wanted to be asked in an interview?
IP: Oh, gosh. Most of the interview questions are more interesting than anything I would come up with. I probably have a better idea of what I hope no one asks. I have the bones of a fantasy novel under the bed that I poke at every now and then when I’m bored. I have no idea how to pronounce the name of one of the main characters. There are probably things like that in every book I’ve written. I live in terror that I’ll be found out in all my ignorance.
Did I side-step this gracefully enough?
What are some of the challenges and rewards from working as a team to write a book?
LR: I think there’s a huge benefit to seeing the characters through someone else’s eyes. Irene will work in things that I haven’t thought of – and vice versa – which makes the story richer. It’s also really cool to have a built-in beta reader, to help clean things up before anyone else sees the manuscript. The writing is a lot of fun.
The biggest challenges we’ve had to work through have come during the editing phase. There are times when we won’t agree on a character’s motivation, or we’ll realize we agree on the end result, but have completely different ideas about how we got there. Writing can be intensely personal, and it takes a certain amount of trust – and good communication skills – to work through some of the awkward phases.
In the end, though, the story benefits. Vespers and Bonfire easily rank as the best writing I’ve done, and it’s pretty much Irene’s fault. J
IP: Liv’s awesome to work with. Let’s be honest, I can’t plot my way out of a paper bag. Any interesting twists in the story come straight from Liv. I also find having a character I don’t have complete control over fascinating. I write Thaddeus from Sara’s point of view, and Liv writes Sara from Thad’s point of view. Both of them tend to take off on not-pre-plotted tangents sometimes. Both of us have sent pages back with disclaimers of I might have done.. A Thing. Between the two of us, the characters evolve in ways they might not have on their own. I love it!
Where can readers find you on the Internet?
Where to find Irene
Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Mailing List | Goodreads
Where to find Liv
Facebook | Twitter | Mailing List | Goodreads
Liv and Irene, thank you so much for stopping by today! Bonfire came out on November 15, 2016. It is available for purchase at all major retailers including:
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Thank you for having us!!
Bonfire came out on November 15, 2016. Here's a summary and some useful links to go buy it.
Silent night, holy hell.
Thaddeus and Sarasija are spending the holidays on the bayou, and while the vampire's idea of Christmas cheer doesn't quite match his assistant's, they're working on a compromise. Before they can get the tree trimmed, they're interrupted by the appearance of the feu follet. The ghostly lights appear in the swamp at random and lead even the locals astray.
When the townsfolk link the phenomenon to the return of their most reclusive neighbor, suspicion falls on Thaddeus. These lights aren't bringing glad tidings, and if Thad and Sara can't find their source, the feu follet might herald a holiday tragedy for the whole town.
This holiday novella can be enjoyed alone or as book 1.5 of the Hours of the Night Series. Bonfire takes place the December after the events in Vespers.
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If the summary didn't convince you of how awesome this book was, here's an excerpt:
Pinky’s was surprisingly busy for a winter night. A lot of their business came from people who had vacation camps along the Amite. According to Bren, the winter months were slow. It was Friday night, though. The bar, at least, looked hopping with local customers. Sara noticed several faces he had seen in the store before, and Chase sat at the end of the bar nursing a drink. When Bren finally broke away and came to the table, Sara gave her his order and waved her off. “Take care of your other customers. Come talk to me when you get a minute.”
“Might not get a chance. We’ve got a band tonight. I can probably get a few words in if you want to come up to the bar. Otherwise, text me after we close.”
After she left, Sara turned back to his companion. They had never dined out together, he realized. He had always assumed dining in public would be awkward when only one person could eat. Sitting across from him, Thad looked totally relaxed. Not awkward at all.
“Christmas tree shopping and dinner.” Sara grinned across the table. “Thank you, Thaddeus. It’s a proper date.”
A tinge of pink flitted across Thad’s cheekbones, a sign he was both embarrassed and pleased.
Sara decided he had been wrong. Getting Thad out in public was totally worth delaying their tree plans for a few hours. Maybe they could even stay for some of the music. He looked into Thad’s beautiful, stormy-gray eyes and felt his heart expand. He was just an ordinary guy. How had he wound up sitting across from the cutest vampire in the world? Thad’s blush deepened a little, and Sara wished he dared touch his hand on the table. Back in Seattle with any of his past boyfriends, he wouldn’t have hesitated. Thaddeus would be uncomfortable with the gesture, though, just as he had been uncomfortable when Sara had pressed too close to him at the Christmas tree lot.
He searched around for some conversation instead. He didn’t want to think about the lights right now. He wanted to appreciate this moment with Thaddeus.
“Did you really never have a Christmas tree?” It seemed odd. Christmas was a Christian holiday after all. “I didn’t think Christmas trees were a modern invention. Were your parents really strict or…” He trailed off as the most obvious explanation occurred to him. “Oh, jeez. I’m sorry. Were you too poor?”
Thad didn’t look disturbed, though. “We were not rich,” he said. “I suppose we might have had a tree. My grandparents in New Orleans had one every year. But many of our neighbors here in the country could not have afforded one. My mother would not allow us the indulgence when the other children would be without.”
“Oh. That’s…” Was it nice? He didn’t know. Except for a few weeks between graduation and when he had started work for Thaddeus, he had never been poor. The comparison was hardly valid. Would the other children have envied them the tree? Or would they have enjoyed seeing it?
“Did you ever want one?”
“I cannot remember. The tradition was not as strong as it is now. I don’t think I gave it much thought. I was more concerned if I would find a hard candy with the orange in my stocking on Christmas morning.”
A candy? Sara started to make a mental note to add Godiva to his Christmas list, then realized Thaddeus couldn’t eat it and was twice as horrified.
“Stop whatever you are thinking. I was not deprived as a child.” Thaddeus sounded amused.
“But you’re Catholic.”
“It’s a Christian holiday, I thought you would do all kinds of celebrations.”
“We went to Mass,” Thad said. “We celebrated the birth of Our Lord. And on Christmas morning, we each received a present in honor of his birth.”
Sara thought of the mounds of presents under the Mishra tree every year. His family had definitely not done Mass, but if it was important to Thad…
“I miss the majesty of ‘Adeste Fidelis’— ‘Oh Come All Ye Faithful,’ cher, at the opening of the Mass. That is my Christmas tradition, or it was.”
“When is that?” Sara asked. “Is it something you do out here? Or do we go to the monastery? Do I need special clothes? Do I need to memorize a chant or something?” He broke off as Thad’s last words penetrated. “What do you mean was? We can still do it, right?”
Thad stared at him across the table, face impassive but eyes bleeding emotion. “We can go if you wish. The monks will not turn us away, or even the parish priest, but we will not be offered communion. Now they invite me, but they do not invite me in.”
“Even on Christmas?” The monks used Thad as their weapon and commanded his obedience at every turn, and they couldn’t offer him this small comfort?
Before he could work up an argument, Thad changed the subject.
“And is your family not Hindu?” he asked. “How is it that you celebrate a Christian holiday?”
“Oh. That was Dad’s idea,” Sara said. “He was atheist.”
Thad’s brow furrowed.
“Well, but he and my mom were immigrants, you know? Dad wanted us kids to fit in, and Christmas is such a big holiday. So he said we didn’t have to be Christian to do Santa, we just had to be American. He loved decorating every year, and we threw this big Christmas party for everyone we knew…” He trailed off. “Last Christmas was the first time Dad wasn’t around to put up the lights. Dev and I did it, but…” Suddenly, he felt like tears, right there in Pinky’s.
“I am glad we got the tree,” Thad said. “And you must put up whatever decorations you wish.”
“Thank you, Thaddeus.” He tried to smile.
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As promised, here's the giveaway!
Maggie reviews paranormal and fantasy novels and novellas. She also interviews authors and hosts giveaways.