It is our pleasure to welcome back Shira Anthony to the Smoocher’s Voice blog today. Shira’s new book, Blood and Rain, is available on Dreamspinner Press, is the first book in a new Blood series.
Shira Anthony is a complete sucker for a happily-ever-after, and rarely reads or writes a story without one. Never a fan of instalove, Shira likes to write stories about real men with real issues making real relationships work.
In her last incarnation, Shira was a professional opera singer, performing roles in such operas as “Tosca,” “Pagliacci,” and “La Traviata,” among others. Her Blue Notes Series is loosely based upon her own experiences as a professional musician.
Shira is married with two children and two insane dogs and when she’s not writing, she is usually in a courtroom trying to make the world safer for children. When she’s not working, she can be found aboard a 36’ catamaran at the Carolina coast with her favorite sexy captain at the wheel. She’s given up TV for evenings spent with her laptop, and she never goes anywhere without a pile of unread M/M romance on her Kindle.
You can learn more about Shira and her writing on her website.
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Jodi: Hi Shira. Thank you for agreeing to answer some questions about your newest series. As you know, I am a big fan of your writing. This new book, although very different in subject matter from the Blue Notes and Mermen of Ea series, still contains the patented Shira Anthony character depth and intense plot development. Tell us a little about your inspiration for this vampire-focused series.
Shira: Thanks so much, Jodi! I grew up reading the Anne Rice Vampire Chronicles series, and I loved the dark, sexiness of those books. I also grew up reading high fantasy and sci fi. So when I considered writing a story about vampires, I think I naturally gravitated to those genres, with the dark, angsty overtones I loved in Anne Rice’s books. As a reader, I loved to escape into fantasy universes. As a writer, I write what I loved to read: fantasy with characters I can fall in love with, who learn and grow throughout the story as the plot grows and develops.
Jodi: In this book we meet five intense male characters: Nicolas, Charles, Adrien, Francois and Jean. They are all troubled in their own ways. Adrien is the only non-vampire. Like the men in your other books, all of these men have flaws and intensity that draws readers into the story. Tell us a little about your process for developing these characters. Why did you choose to have all of the men introduced in the first book of the series?
Shira: Wow, that’s a great question! I’ll try to answer as briefly as I can, or we may be here all day! When I create characters, I often have big picture tension in mind. So in creating couples, I consider what makes for an interesting combination of personalities and issues that drive the characters. I introduced all of the big players in the first book because the book seemed to call for that. There are several interwoven plotlines in the story, and the characters are integral to each.
While I do have a general outline of the story before I start to write, I tend to let the story take me where I need to go. In this case, the entire story begins because Adrien’s older brother, François, also a vampire hunter, falls for a vampire, Charles Duvalier. That attraction and its consequences set up the framework for Adrien’s journey and the intrigue. So right off the bat, we meet François and Charles. François is bold and powerful, but he’s also young and impulsive. In contrast (and that’s where you get the wonderful tension to build on!), Charles is angsty, and lives with a bit of a dark cloud over his head. He never wanted to be a vampire, and he can’t understand why François might want to become one.
With Adrien Gilbert, the vampire hunter, and Nicolas Lambert, the ancient vampire (born a vampire, not created from a human), their relationship is the focal point of the series, and I’m not spoiling it to say their HEA doesn’t happen until all of the action around them is resolved in the last book. Again, I tried to create a pairing that has tension built into it. Adrien is young, naïve, and he despises vampires. Who wouldn’t, in his shoes? They killed his mother and, he believes, his brother. Nicolas is gentle and kind, but he’s incredibly powerful as well. Nicolas wins over Adrien’s heart, but it takes Adrien some time to come to terms with his feelings for Nicolas, given his history.
Jean Lambert, Nicolas’s older brother, is probably my favorite character of the series. He sacrificed much of himself, and he let the man (vampire) he loves go in order to protect his family. He’s noble, and on the surface he seems cold and distant, but beneath the cool exterior, he is a deeply caring man. He, more than anyone, keeps Adrien focused when things go awry.
Jodi: It is difficult to read this first book and not being immediately drawn to Nicolas. Tell us a little about his character.
Shira: Nicolas is a man of quiet strength. He’s incredibly powerful, although when we first get to know him, he seems to allow himself to be dominated by his older brother. As the story progresses, we learn that isn’t quite the case. I tried to introduce Nicolas to the reader through Adrien’s eyes. And Adrien, naïve and young, assumes many things about Nicolas that simply aren’t true. Nicolas is the rock, and Adrien is that quick-moving river that encounters the rock and must change its course.
Jodi: Adrien and Nicolas have an immediate chemistry, which both men recognize but neither wants to act on, while Francois and Charles also have chemistry, Charles keeps fighting his feelings for Francois. Can you tell us a little about why Charles is so reluctant to let go with Francois?
Shira: We’ll learn more about Charles in the last book, but there are bits of him we come to see in the first two books, as well. He’s very old, but he isn’t an ancient vampire—he was created by an ancient. He didn’t want to become a vampire. He has the soul of a poet or artist, and the knowledge of what he’s done over the centuries eats away at him. He doesn’t believe himself worthy of love or even life itself. He certainly doesn’t believe he deserves someone like François, who is a breath of fresh air in Charles’s dark world.
Jodi: Adrien and Francois are brothers. Their mother was killed by a vampire, but Adrien and Francois do not feel the same way about these beings. Why do these brothers have different views, even though they share a similar negative experience?
Shira: Adrien witnesses his mother’s death. In fact, he kills the vampire who killed her. Witnessing that act of violence makes all the difference for Adrien. Also, François travels outside the small village where their family has its vineyard, so he gets to see a bit of the world, whereas Adrien is not tapped by the Council of Hunters to work as a hunter until he’s a bit more set in his ways. Adrien’s world is smaller, at least to begin with. So is his perspective.
Jodi: Adrien is stubborn, hard-headed, and he seems to be a bit arrogant. He doesn’t really listen to what his father and Roland are trying to teach him. Is his arrogance the result of youth or is it something deeper?
Shira: Adrien’s arrogance is a mask that hides his deep insecurity and grief. He comes from a long line of hunters who were celebrated throughout Europe, but he feels unworthy of his hunter sword, and he is convinced he will never life up to his family’s name. He blames himself for his mother’s death, and he sees François as the stronger hunter. It’s easier for him not to feel the pain of loss, and it’s easier for him to avoid the understanding of the greater world around him and come to terms with the truth about hunters and vampires. Adrien is thrust into a much larger universe, but he’d rather have stayed at the vineyard. He, more than any other character in the story, grows and changes in ways he couldn’t have imagined.
Jodi: The power struggle within the Council plays a major role in this book. Tell us about the Council and its role in society.
Shira: The Council of Hunters is the governing body of hunters worldwide, and it’s headquartered in Paris. The Council was created as a result of a treaty between the ancient vampires and the hunters, and is sort of a police force with the power to execute vampires who harm humans. The Council is supported by payments from human towns and cities (like a tax, really), although the only humans who know about the Council’s existence are those who are in the government.
Jodi: Although the characters in this book are in the fantasy vein (no pun intended), they are similar in some ways to the male characters in the Blue Notes series, specifically, in relationship to their brooding natures and strong willed natures. What is it that draws you to this type of character?
Shira: I really do love men who fight their emotions and try to be something they aren’t. I know a lot of men like that, I guess--the strong, silent type who seems impenetrable, but is really very loving or caring beneath the mask. I’m a romantic, of course, and I believe that love can give people the safe place they need to be able to open up and express emotions. In my experience, the people who appear the least accessible are those who have built the strongest walls around their heart.
Jodi: Was it a challenge creating men who are advanced in maturity and age and yet look so young?
Shira: Not really. The funny thing is that I really didn’t think about them as young as I was writing, except at the beginning when Adrien really is about 20 years old. It wasn’t until I got the draft of the cover that it really struck me how young 20 really is!
Jodi: There will be three books in this series. Is that correct? Have you already written the second and third book?
Shira: The second book, Blood and Ghosts, is already written and in edits. Tentative release is March/April 2015. The third book, Blood and Eternity, is partly written. Not sure of a tentative release date yet, though, but probably by the end of 2015.
Jodi: What is your process for writing a series? Do you outline the entire series from the start, or does the plot develop into a series as you begin writing?
Shira: I outline the basics of the plot for a series. The bones. I have the beginning, middle, and end clearly in my brain when I start to write. But as I go along, I’m always tweaking the plot. Sometimes when you think of something, it turns out very differently on paper, and you realize there’s another, better way of handling a plot point or scene. So I try to stay flexible. So I know how the 3 HEAs in this story will turn out, but how I get there may not exactly be what I had in mind to begin with.
In this series, especially, I’ve done some serious rewriting. The second book introduces a new power Adrien comes to possess, but that he can’t quite control: time travel. Writing time travel is really tricky, and my ideas didn’t always make sense on paper in the big picture sense, so I worked and reworked the story until I was satisfied with it (and my head didn’t spin as badly!). I also often re-order parts of a book, or even rework a scene in another character’s point of view as I go along.
Jodi: What is your next project?
Shira: My next release will be Blood and Ghosts (Blood #2). I’m just about finished writing Running with the Wind (Mermen of Ea #3). After that, I have a joint project with my good friend, Cody Kennedy, a contemporary novel about a cop and a DA. After that, I’ll be finishing Blood and Eternity (Blood #3). I’m busy! But that’s a good thing.
Excerpt:Adrien licked the skin of Cole’s neck, feeling the blood pulse there, hearing it call to him. Cole tilted his head in anticipation, opening himself to Adrien.
Adrien buried his teeth in Cole’s skin. Blood flooded his mouth and danced on his tongue, sweet and salty. Too long. His body was far more vampire-like in its craving for blood than when he’d first been given the gift of an ancient vampire’s soul. He wondered if it was the same for other immortals.
Adrien tried to ignore the images that flashed through his mind—the sound of silvery laughter, a mother’s loving caress. Cole’s memories. Adrien despised this forced intimacy, but he’d come to see it as the price of blood. Something to be tolerated.
It hadn’t always been that way. When he’d shared Nicolas’s blood, Adrien had experienced great joy. He’d seen himself through Nicolas’s eyes and felt the depth of Nicolas’s love. Each drop of that precious liquid had opened new doors. Each taste offered insight into Nicolas’s heart and soul. A beloved memory. A mystery—the mystery of Nicolas—unfolding with every swallow.
Adrien drank his fill, then claimed Cole’s mouth. This kind of contact he could stomach. He didn’t need sex to survive, but he enjoyed the release. Cole unbuttoned Adrien’s black silk shirt and his cock swelled against Adrien’s thigh. Adrien moaned as Cole skated his fingertips over his chest.
“I have never known a hunter to crave blood,” Cole whispered in his ear. “I thought only we experienced the bloodlust.”
“You were wrong,” Adrien said as he pulled Cole’s shirt over his head and mouthed a pretty pink nipple. Sex was always better after he fed, and Adrien’s cock was already hard at the thought of fucking such a lovely ass. He drew Cole’s body against his, walked backward into the living room, and pulled Cole with him onto the rug. Soon they were naked and he was no longer a hunter or an immortal, he was simply a man, seeking release, seeking pleasure.
For at least an hour after, Adrien lay on the floor and allowed the night air to caress his bare skin. He closed his eyes and dozed.
The voice awakened him. Nicolas’s voice again. Why sleep if it only served to reawaken the pain he sought to suppress?
He stood and pulled on his jeans. He walked onto the balcony in his bare feet, then climbed to the roof of the penthouse.
Having reached the edge, he spread his arms. He leaned forward and fell unimpeded, riding the wind like a sigh. The glass of the building sailed by him, the breeze buffeting his face. He hit the water and sank into the cold blackness. He wished he could die.
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