Some of you may recognize her from her visit the YA Room last week, but for those of you who don't know her, she is one of the leading authors of the creepy and scary. If you don't believe me, check out her free YA novella, My Soul to Lose. In fact, I'd have to call her the Queen of Creep! Okay, maybe Queen of Scream too! Lol! [That last one's a play on words as her YA series is about Soul Screamers! HAHAHAHAHA!]
Sure, I know I gave high praises to YA Author Alexandra Sokoloff, but Rachel Vincent is in a different class. While Sokoloff focuses on the ghosts and unseen worlds that many of us believe exists within our own realm, Vincent delves into macabre myths and legends and brings them to life in truly scary, creepy and downright tingly tales of urban fantasy fiction.
What is urban fantasy?
Well, for those of you who do not know, urban fantasy is when the fantasy realm collides with the real, everyday realm. Examples you might recognize: Charmed, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Supernatural, Lori Handeland's Phoenix Chronicles, Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series, Stephen King's Salem's Lot. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.
So, why is Rachel Vincent being featured here? Well, because she also has her Shifters series targeted for adults. It started with Stray, then went on with Rogue, Pride, and Prey, and continues with her latest one Shift, which is released today, but some places were nice and put it out early! This series isn't ending yet! There's also a new one on the horizon, Alpha, due out in October of this year! Oooh, in time for Halloween! Very Cool!
Before we get to the excerpt for Shift, let's get to why you're here, her interview!
ME: March has a few popular dates to celebrate. Which one are you more apt to celebrate, St. Patrick’s Day, or the First Day of Spring, or both and why?
RACHEL: Actually, I don’t know that I actually celebrate either one. Though I’m always happy for the few mild days of spring. I live in southern Texas. It’s hot most of the time.
ME: Because of it’s Irish heritage, St. Patrick’s Day is a big party day in Wisconsin (and many other areas) in which everyone gets in on the action from free pub crawl busses to breweries making green beer/spirits and some stores selling green colored/decorated food and sweets. Does anything similar occur in your area? Even if you do not participate, please tell us what activities are going on around you. Anything you feel is unique or especially interesting?
RACHEL: I’m not sure, actually. I’ve only lived here since October, so this will be my first St. Patrick’s day in the area.
ME: Do you like to decorate for spring/St. Pat’s Day or is this the time of the year where your house has a break from special décor?
RACHEL: No, we don’t really decorate for spring.
ME: Ireland is steeped in myth, legends and lore. Do you have any favorites? Please briefly share them with us (include links to other information for interested readers).
RACHEL: Obviously, I enjoy the bean sidhe lore (I write a YA series about a teenage bean sidhe) and some of the other Gaelic folklore I’ve read about the sidhe. (Faeries)
ME: Spring is considered a time of renewal, a time of rebirth. Do you do anything “special” to commemorate this idea such as planting flowers or cleaning out your house? Please share with us your way of celebrating this time of rebirth.
RACHEL: I do plant flowers in the spring, because that’s when you plant most flowers, but I’ve never really thought of it as commemorating spring. Although I guess you could call it that. I do like to grow things. ;-)
ME: Magic is often tied into Celtic myths and legends, or at least we like to think it is. Why do you think that is? Why, in your opinion, does Ireland carry so much mystery and magic for the rest of us?
RACHEL: I think it feels mysterious and magical because there’s so much about Celtic legends and culture that we don’t know. There’s plenty of room for our imaginations to fill in the blanks.
ME: If you could be any mythical or legendary Celtic creature or character, what/who would it be and why?
RACHEL: Oh, I don’t know! There aren’t a lot of happy endings in Celtic lore, which pleases me as a writer, but I don’t know that I’d want to live through them! People get drowned by kelpies and die when they hear bean sidhes wail. They get seduced, then abandoned in the immortal lover legends, they have their children replaced by changelings. I think I’d much rather read about or write about Celtic lore than live it. ;-)
ME: Please tell us some of the favorite/best books you’ve read with Celtic myths/legends or ties in them. (They can be fact or fiction, just be sure to indicate what type of books they are in case our readers might want to check them out.)
RACHEL: Holly Black’s Tithe, and Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely and sequels.
Me: Now, let’s switch the focus to your writing. What genre is your writing considered to be? Why this genre? What was the draw for you?
RACHEL: I write urban fantasy, because I love to read it. Nothing’s impossible in urban fantasy. You can base your stories on established myths and legends, or you can make it up entirely. I love the creative freedom.
ME: If you could describe your writing with a word or phrase, what would it be? Please be creative and delve into the core of your writing to tell us what word or phrase you want readers to take with them when they've finished reading your story.
RACHEL: Action, angst, and drama. I like to put my characters in tough positions and watch them dig themselves out—mostly. But honestly, the digging out part usually leads to more tough situations.
ME: Do you prefer magical or human ingenuity for problem solutions? Does that show through in your writing? If so, how?
RACHEL: Human ingenuity. My characters use their brains to figure things out, then back up their smarts with super-human strength/abilities. But the thing is, there are no easy outs. My characters lives are made harder thanks to their supernatural abilities, not easier. That’s what keeps things interesting.
ME: Who decides what you write about, you or your muse? What kind of influence do you have over your story, or is the muse always the one strumming the harp?
RACHEL: I’m not a big believer in muses. In reality, at least. (I do have a YA short story out about a leanan sidhe—a sort of vampiric muse.) I spend hours and hours and days and days researching and brainstorming for new plot and character ideas. Rarely (if ever) do these things just drop into my lap, via some unseen brain-behind-the-writer. Writing is very, very hard work, and I do it whether I feel like it or not, because it’s my job. I don’t have time to wait around for some intangible creative partner to decide to show up. If I had a muse, she got left behind years ago. ;-)
ME: What was the character or creature that you had the most fun creating and why?
RACHEL: There are two: Andi the siren and Mallory the leanan sidhe (a muse who feeds from those she inspires) from “Binge,” my short story in the Immortal anthology (YA). These girls fascinated me, quite simply. They’re both very, very dangerous, but still young and kind of stumbling their way through life. They have urges and appetites they can’t quite control, and this really brutal, twisted-sister kind of co-dependant relationship. I would love to write more about them.
ME: If you had the opportunity to meet just one of your character/creature creations in real life, who would it be and why?
RACHEL: Probably Faythe. I’m in awe of her. She’s grown so much since the beginning of the Shifter series, and she’s so strong.
ME: Which of your character/creature creations would you never want to meet under any circumstance and why?
RACHEL: Colin Dean, from the Shifters series. That man is a monster. In many ways, he’s worse than the series big-bad he works for, because he actually does the dirty work. And enjoys it. He’s brutal, vengeful, and probably psychotic.
And Avari, one of the hellions from my (YA) Soul Screamers series. Avari is a hellion of avarice, and he pulls no punches. The only thing keeping him (and his kind) from completely destroying civilization is the fact that hellions can’t cross into the human world. But he still causes a good bit of murder, mayhem, and some serious angst even from the Netherworld.
ME: Of all the stories you wrote, which was the storyline that you had the most fun fleshing out? Why?
RACHEL: Probably My Soul To Keep (the third Soul Screamers book). That one let me explore addiction, insanity, betrayal, agony, and action. It was really hard to write, but the creepy moments that came out of that book were totally worth it.
ME: As writers, inspiration comes from everywhere. What, specifically, inspired your latest story, the one we’re promoting here today?
RACHEL: So far in the Shifters world (books 1-4) we’ve seen the werecats fight one another. Humans are no match for them, and for the most part, my shifters leave humans alone. They exist in completely different spheres. But for Shift, I decided to see what would happen if I threw in another element—another species of shifters—that the cats weren’t prepared for. That species is my thunderbirds.
The thunderbirds are vicious fighters, and they have a significant advantage: the ability to take off into the air, to avoid confrontations they think they can’t win. The werecats don’t know how to fight them, and they find themselves completely outmatched and on the defensive for the first time. Which means Faythe has to use her brain instead of relying on her brawn. But that’s not as easy as it sounds
The thunderbirds have a completely different social system than anything the werecats have ever seen, and while they’re fanatically honorable, their idea of honor doesn’t overlap much with the werecat (or the human) understanding of the word.
So, I guess my inspiration for this one was the idea of throwing something completely new at my characters. Or… maybe one too many Sylvester vs. Tweety cartoons. ;-)
Now let's take a look at her newest release, Shift:
Being the first female werecat enforcer isn’t easy.
Scars accumulate, but I’m stronger in so many ways.
As for my personal life? It’s complicated. Choices worth
making always are. Ever since my brother’s death and my
father’s impeachment, it’s all I can do to prevent more blood
from spilling. Now our Pride is under attack by a flight of
vicious thunderbirds. And making peace with our new
enemies may be the only way to get the best of our old foe.
With the body count rising and treachery everywhere,
my instincts tell me to look before I leap. But sometimes
a leap of faith is the only real option.…
EXCERPT: Excerpt from ch. 1 (edited for one major spoiler from Prey)
I turned to glance at Kaci—halfway to the apple tree, and loping at her own pace—and idly noticed a pair of hawks circling overhead.
“How is your arm?” Manx asked, recapturing my attention.
I held up my cast, frowning good-naturedly at the small doodles Kaci had drawn between the enforcers’ perfunctory signatures. A flower with purple petals and X-shaped eyes in the center. A pink skull and crossbones. I’d sat still for several of her masterpieces. Anything to make her smile. Though, I threatened to paint over them with black nail polish if she plastered any more pink on my arm.
Still, I had to admit that thinking of Kaci when I looked at my cast was much better than thinking about how I’d broken it. About the bastards who’d stolen Marc and beaten him to get information out of me—when beating me hadn’t worked.
“It’s fine. Dr. Carver says I can try Shifting in a couple of weeks.” I was already itching for the transformation—and from the cast, which somehow made my arm sweat, even in the middle of February.
“She really misses him.” Owen nodded at something over my shoulder, and I twisted in my seat to see Kaci on the ground beside [character deleted]’s headstone, one knee brushing the freshly overturned earth.
“What the hell?” Owen demanded, and I leaned to the side to peer over the porch railing. “Have you ever seen hawks that big? They must have their eyes on something, from the way they’re circling.…”
I followed his gaze and was on my feet in an instant, a sick feeling of dread churning in my stomach. “Those aren’t hawks.…” They were too big, for one thing. And their wings were all wrong. Especially the tips. Even from a distance, the ends looked…weird. The birds must have been really high up before, because now that they’d flown lower, swooping in from over the woods behind the eastern field, they looked huge.
My heartbeat suddenly felt sluggish, as if it couldn’t keep up with my body’s natural rhythm. The birds were too huge. And too low. And too fast…
Oh, shit… “Kaci!” I screamed as the first bird dove toward her. She looked up and screeched, and I was already halfway across the yard.
Kaci leaped to her feet, then ducked as the first bird swooped, huge talons grasping perilously close to her head. She screamed again, and when the bird rose effortlessly into the air, beating giant wings so hard I could hear the air whoosh from two hundred feet away, she stood and took off toward me.
Kaci raced across the dead grass, screaming at the top of her lungs.
I kept moving toward her, unwilling to waste energy on screams of my own. But in human form, neither of us was fast enough. I was a heartbreaking fifteen feet away when the second bird swooped, his powerful wings displacing so much air I was actually blown back a step. His talons opened wide, then closed instantly around her upper arms.
For a moment, as he regained his balance with his new burden, I had a breathtaking view of the magnificent creature. Smooth, brown wings. Terrible, curved beak. Powerful, horrifying talons. And long, sharp wing claws, protruding from beneath the feathers on the tips of his wings.
An instant later, the bird was aloft again, and I came to a stop with my fingertips grasping air three feet beneath Kaci’s dangling sneaker.
My heart raced along with my feet as I followed them, knowing my chase was futile. I couldn’t fly, and I couldn’t run fast enough to keep up. Because Kaci hadn’t been picked up by hawks. Our new tabby—my own beloved charge—had just been kidnapped by the first thunderbirds seen by werecats in nearly a quarter of a century.
Intrigued yet? I know I am! Don't forget to look for these previous releases in the series: