Hello my dear readers!
It´s the day after my birthday and I´m still slighty hung over (and sensitive to light), but let me tell you, my Death By Chocolate cake was awesome! :)
Today, I´d like to welcome Dianne Sylvan, author of the brand new Urban Fantasy series Shadow World. The first book, Queen of Shadows was released just on August 31st and promises a surprising new take on vampires mixed with my second love, music. Pleas welcome Dianne!
Can you describe “Queen of Shadows” in your own words?
Queen of Shadows is a romantic urban fantasy that begins the story of Miranda Grey, a psychic musician who, when we meet her, is slowly going insane because of her ability to read people's emotions. After a horrific attack she is drawn into the world of Austin's vampires, a society known as the Shadow World, led by techno-genius David Solomon. As David helps Miranda learn to control her gifts, she takes her first steps on a journey that will change her life, David's life, and the fate of the entire Shadow World.
In “Queen of Shadows”, the main character is able to manipulate emotions with her music. How did you come up with that idea? Does music play a special role in your life?
Music is very important to my writing. There are certain songs and albums that paint pictures in my mind, and a lot of my ideas for fiction come from the music I'm listening to. Queen of Shadows was in part inspired by an electronica group called Delerium. I think that Miranda's ability was born out of my fascination with the power music has to transform our emotions.
Your book tells also a story about vampires, seemingly the most favorite creature in the supernatural world. How are your vampires different from others?
My vampires tend to be a little more like classical vampires than the more recent variety aimed at younger people; they feed on human blood, they die in sunlight, can be killed by wooden stakes, don't show up in mirrors. They're faster and stronger than humans and have heightened senses. They don't sleep in coffins or turn into bats. They are also different in that they live within a complex society that is governed by mystical forces even they don't understand. The Signet system was created thousands of years ago, so long ago that nobody remembers where it came from; the mystery of its origins is going to become paramount to the story as time goes on.
Have you ever been afraid that the idea of vampires was overused while writing your book?
Oh, they're definitely overused, but that doesn't mean they can't still be done well. I think it's gotten to the point where people want to write a fantasy that appeals to women and teenagers so they think "vampire" and then tailor the myth to suit whatever story they want to tell. Suddenly vampires can do pretty much anything as long as it's sexy and not too monstrous. I think that's a shame. The darkness inherent in vampires is what draws us to them, that blend of sex and death that speaks to something primal in everyone. My vampires aren't Nosferatu-like animals, but to me what makes them interesting is that the truly evil among them hide their cruelty under a veneer of civility, much like humans do. Underneath the parliamentary procedure and polite manners are a lot of bloodthirsty villains.
You also write book about Pagan spirituality. Now, you're writing Urban Fantasy. How does that fit?
The two don't have much to do with each other, except for the fact that I have a lifelong interest in spirituality and mystical traditions, and there is a mystical undertone to the novels that I intend to develop.
Can you share a little about your other books?
Both were written when I considered myself a Wiccan, which I don't anymore. My spiritual path has broadened to include many other influences. But both books were very well regarded and I'm quite proud of both. The first, The Circle Within, was a guide to creating a personal spiritual practice; the second, The Body Sacred, explored concepts of self-worth and body image for Pagan women.
Did your previous books have any influence on “Queen of Shadows?”
As I said, my fascination with spirituality and magic will always influence my writing; religion has been such a huge factor in the development of civilization that it stands to reason it would have influenced vampire society as well, and I plan to explore that in future books. I do reference mythology in the first book - the story of Queen of Shadows was based partly on the Greek myth of Persephone, and the titles of the two main parts of the book, "Pomegranate Seeds" and "The River Styx" reflect that.
Do you have more books planned in the Shadow World series?
Yes. The second in the series, ShadowFlame, will be out July 26, 2011. I hope to write many more.
Can you name the key ingredients of your books in short words?
Power, darkness, music, healing, love, and blood.
Would you say that your mood has an influence on your writing?
Definitely. I don't know of any other way to write.
How far ahead are you plotting your books?
I have elements of the story planned out for several books, but overall I'm still in the developmental stages for everything past ShadowFlame.
Where do you get your inspiration from? Music, books, TV shows, or real life?
Everywhere. Writers rarely "get" inspiration from one place; what usually happens is that we observe things everywhere, and at some point a dozen tiny threads of an idea will come together at once. From there, we follow the line of ideas into the story's web.
A question that I am always curious about (but could be kind of personal) is: are your characters based on people you really know or maybe even a little bit about yourself or are they all purely fictional?
Writers always write about themselves. It's said that every person you meet in a dream is some aspect of yourself, and I think the same is true of writing. It's impossible to create a believable character that you don't understand and can't relate to while you're writing him, so you layer aspects of your own personality and those of people you know well into these fictional characters, giving them depth and texture. That said, none of my characters are wholly based on any individual person; a certain look may come from somewhere, a turn of phrase from somewhere else, but it's the combination of traits that makes them who they are.
How did you chose the names of the characters in your book? Do they have a special meaning?
There's no hidden meaning in their names; in my mind they are very much real people, so the names they have are those that arose from their creation. I sometimes have to search for a good name for a peripheral character, but the major characters basically named themselves.
What do you like most about being an author? And what annoys you?
So far I love the ability to do what I love and share that with the world. I suppose one thing that annoys me is the preconception people have that authors are all insanely wealthy. Trust me, we're not.
Did you ever have a writer´s block? If so, what did you do to deal with it?
Being blocked is part of being a writer. Usually when it happens I take it as a sign that I need to step back and do something else for a while; to me, being blocked means my brain is trying to work something out, and if I push too hard, I'll only make it worse. I try to be patient with myself and keep a healthy perspective - creativity isn't something that can be forced. I have tricks, like talking to myself and telling myself stories, but sometimes the best thing is just to put down the keyboard and go to a movie.
Tell us something about your favourites:
Favourite authors? Gael Baudino, Sharon Shinn, Barbara Kingsolver, Joanne Harris
Favourite paranormal creature? Elves
Favourite all time hero/heroine? Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Favourite all time villain? Damon Salvatore from the TV version of The Vampire Diaries - he's not 100% villain and has a heart, but he's still a dangerous sociopathic killer, and I consider him an example of an awesome vampire character who is both monster and man.
Which one do you prefer, book or e-reader? Book, definitely. Without the feeling of paper in my hands the reading experience just isn't complete.
Favourite distraction? TV shows like The Vampire Diaries, Criminal Minds, Supernatural, Castle, Bones, and Good Eats.
Is there a book you love above all? One that had a great influence on you or your life?
Strands of Starlight by Gael Baudino, which has been out of print for many years, changed how I looked at the world and at divinity.
Was being an author something you´ve always wanted or did it just happen?
I've been writing stories since I was about four, so yes, it's something I've always wanted. I can't remember ever genuinely wanting to be anything else.
Is there any question you´ve always wanted to be asked? And if so, what would be the answer?
Ms. Sylvan, would you like this giant bag of $100 bills? Why yes, yes I would. :)
What are you reading at the moment/planning to read/waiting for to be released?
The next book I'm planning to read is the new Temperance Brennan mystery by Kathy Reichs, Spider Bones. I've heard good things about the Hunger Games trilogy but so far I'm not really interested in it; I might still check it out, just because so many of my friends thought it was so amazing (and my friends have good taste!).
And finally: Is there anything you want to say to your/my readers?
Thank you for the opportunity to spread the word about my work!
Thank you for taking the time to answer all my questions! It´s been such a great pleasure and honor for me (even though I messed up the first time!).
Please come back anytime you want!