Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Interview: Jocelynn Drake

I (Ailsa/gapyeargirl) was so please when Jocelynn agreed to do an interview with us! I hope you enjoy reading it.

1) Could you describe your journey, from the idea for Nightwalker to getting your agent (and maybe to getting published, if it's not too long)?

Nightwalker started a little differently than most of the other stories that I worked on. Nightwalker started as a writing experiment where I was playing with point of view. I wanted to tell a story about a vampire hunter through the eyes of his prey. Unfortunately, from the moment that Mira opened her mouth, she immediately dominated the story and it became harder to bring Danaus into the limelight.

When I started working on Nightwalker, it was nothing more than a short story and I never intended it to be more than that. However, a good friend read it and liked it so much that he demanded that I keep writing. So, I did. It took a lot of careful planning, but after getting about half of the book written I discovered that I had ideas for several other books that I was dying to tell about Mira and all the other characters in her world.

It wasn’t until I actually finished writing the first book that I considered trying to get it published. Prior to that, I was writing for myself and my friend. After finishing it, I went through several drafts of polishing it. After working on it for several months, I started sending out query letters to agents. I got a few good nibbles, but nothing definite. The most common comment was that they liked my voice, but the book just wasn’t there yet. One excellent agent complained that it was too long. I cut the book in half so that I now had what would become Nightwalker and Dayhunter already written before I even sold the series.

I remember that it had been two years of rejections and I was getting worried. It was the week before Mother’s Day and I sent out five electronic queries to agents. I swore that if I didn’t get a serious bite from this group, I was going to pack the book away and work on another project. By the following Monday, I had an agent, and she’s everything that I’ve been looking for in an agent. She’s amazing and she loves my work.

From there, we spent a week tweaking the book before she blasted it out to several publishers. Three weeks later, we had a contract offer from an amazing editor at Eos/HarperCollins. I was in heaven. It took me a while the land an agent, but getting a publisher was extremely quick.

2) Your vampires often seem quite a lot darker than in many other urban fantasy books at the moment. What led you to writing such a dark book, or was Mira's story always like that, since you first thought of her?

For me, I’ve always preferred my vampires to be dark, vicious creatures. I tend to look at the dark side of humanity when I am writing. I like to wonder what would happen if you gave a human awesome powers, strength, beauty, and immortality. Would they retain that moral fiber they had during their human years? Or would it be worn away with time? Would the power go to their heads and would they abuse it? We’ve seen that kind of abuse through the years and it’s not such a stretch to believe that vampires would react the same way.

Another thing that was key to me was that I didn’t want a bunch of sad vampires, complaining about their lot in life. “I never wanted this.” That was something my vampires would never say. Each creature had to make the conscious choice to become a nightwalker and they had to fight death for it. If the human didn’t truly want to become a vampire, he or she would just die during the process of rebirth. My vampires want to be vampires. They enjoy their powers and they enjoy the thrill of the hunt. They had strong instincts for survival, and the vampirism really taps into their more animalistic emotions and urges.

3) How has life changed for you since Nightwalker and Dayhunter were published?

I guess the biggest thing for me that has changed is writing on a deadline. Before, I wrote stories whenever I felt like it. Most never were finished. I would write until I got bored with it and then I would start something else. Now, I have a strict deadline of when I have to turn in my next book, so that means that I have to keep a regular writing schedule and I have to stick to it, even when I don’t feel like working.

The other thing is that writing used to be time for me to play and daydream. In many ways, it still is, but I am now more aware of the fact that it is also work. When I start working on a story, now I have to seriously consider whether this is something that I want to have published. If it’s not, I typically have to push it aside. My time is very limited and I have to stay focused on pieces that I think are publishable. I hope to one day get back to playing a little bit when I write.

OK, this is where the spoilery-for-book-2 questions start - you have been warned!

4) From the end of book two, it seems like we're going to be seeing a lot more of the coven now. You have some great info on your website about the formation of the coven, but I was wondering if there's anything else you could tell us about the members of the coven, maybe things that Mira knows that just won't be in the story, or a little of their history, or any stray tidbits?

Hmmm…. That’s a great question. I have to say that pretty much everything that Mira knows about the Coven has been presented in the books. The Coven takes a backseat to the story in Dawnbreaker and Pray for Dawn, but they have a larger presence in Wait for Dusk, which is the fifth book in the series.

The Coven is a dark place in my world. It is where the true violent nature of nightwalker society originates. The one thing that I’m hoping to take a deeper look at is the various alliances that exist on the Coven. By the end of Dayhunter, there is a definite shift in power that will only help to prolong Mira’s life, but the other vampires are not about to sit idly by and allow it to happen without some kind of challenge.

One character from the Coven that I haven’t had the chance to introduce is Our Liege. The true ruler of the nightwalker race has sat back and been content to watch everything that has been happening. I will admit that I’ve known this character since Nightwalker. I know his name, his appearance, his mannerisms. Unfortunately, there are too many powerful characters already in the story. I need to strike a balance and not throw too much at Mira all at once. So, I’ve put off introducing him. However. I do have plans for his appearance late in the series. Don’t worry. He’s coming and he is his own ball of trouble.

5) So, Mira is Tristan's 'owner' now. Can you tell us anything about why she was reluctant to do that to anyone before, or what it means for them now? What does it actually involve for her?

Mira has always been reluctant to be the “owner” or parental figure in a nightwalker family. Her own experiences with Sadira were extremely bleak. She lived with Sadira for several years as a human and then another hundred years with her as a nightwalker. Sadira was very controlling, monitoring all of Mira’s movements and actions. Mira is very independent creature with a mind of her own. She chafes under too much restriction, so she never wanted to be in a position where she would have to restrict the movements of another creature.

Mira and Tristan’s relationship is very relaxed. It is partially a mother-son relationship and partially a brother-sister relationship. He is both younger and weaker than Mira, so she feels the need to protect him at all time. And yet, because Sadira is their maker, she is his sister in a way. Because Mira is his “owner” she is responsible for his safety. Should he get into trouble, Mira could step in and protect him if she wanted. Of course, she could also leave it to him to take care of his mess himself.

Tristan is one of my favorite characters. His weakness is not a detriment as it might seem in their violent world. It means that he is more in tune with his emotions, with the frailty of humans, and the general frailty of the world. He had a softening effect on Mira, which she needs. When things get bleak, Mira tends to become very hard and distant. Tristan’s presence will help her retain her hold on her humanity a little while longer. On the other hand, Mira can teach Tristan to survive.

6) I don't see how anyone can read these books and not love Danaus - is there anything at all that you can tell us about him? Any teeny-tiny little bits of information?

I love Danaus too. He’s one of my favorite characters ever. I’ve had a lot of trouble getting into his mind because he doesn’t always like to talk. He’s strong, brave, honest, and reliable. He is also sarcastic, with a sharp, dry wit. I adore him.

Secret Danaus tidbits? Let’s see. Danaus was born just outside of Rome nearly two centuries ago. His mother was a witch and his father was a senator. To keep his family beyond the reach of Roman politics, he kept his wife and son outside of the city in a rambling estate. His wife didn’t like the arrangement, so she called on a demon to give her more power so she could seek her revenge on her husband. In exchange for the power, the demon claimed part of the soul of her unborn son.

Danaus didn’t discover the arrangement until he was in his early twenties. He had been mortally wounded in a battle not far from Rome. The medics looked at him and shook their heads, confident that he would die. But, by morning, he was up and walking around, almost completely healed. Everyone proclaimed that it was a miracle visited on him by the gods. Danaus was skeptical. That night, he rode to see his mother at the estate that he grew up at. She confessed that she had made a deal and that he had been blessed with amazing strength and healing powers. Danaus was enraged that his soul no longer belonged to him. In the blindness of his rage, he killed his mother by boiling her blood. Afterward, Danaus left the city of Rome and has never set foot in the city again.

7) Last one! Can you tell us a bit about Dawnbreaker, in your own words? What do we have to look forward to when that comes out at the end of the month?

Dawnbreaker takes place a couple months after the conclusion of Dayhunter in Savannah where Mira is being hunted by the naturi. They are desperate to capture and destroy the vampire, as she and Danaus are the only ones that could potentially stop the naturi from freeing Aurora, Queen of the naturi, and the rest of the naturi people. While fighting the naturi, Mira is lucky enough to take a hostage that could help her turn the tables on the naturi when she and Danaus finally go to the final showdown at Machu Picchu, Peru. The dawn lies just over the horizon and Rowe is desperate to finally free his wife-queen. The time has come to face the past.

Thanks so much for some great answers, Jocelynn!


Emily Cross on September 15, 2009 at 11:50 AM said...

Thank you so much for that excellent interview Jocelynn, i love how your vampires are darker and how you contemplated their moral corruption!

Dae - bravo, an absolutely brilliant interview!!!

I'm going out to buy these books!!!

Diana Paz on September 16, 2009 at 5:29 PM said...

What an inspiring interview, thanks!

pattepoilue on September 25, 2009 at 7:37 PM said...

Great interview =)
I'm even more (is that even possible???) excited about reading Dawnbreaker. I'm checking everyday if the Book Depository has shipped my book yet. This is making me insane =P

I love Tristan too,but i fear for his life, might be too weak to survive much longer.
One of the character i developped an obsession about is Ryan, i love wicked powerful Ryan. Ahhh i'm pretty sure he's gonna show more of himself in the future books *grins*

I'm sooooo glad the next 2 books are coming out next summer yay

wow i'm writing a novel here,alright let's stop babbling lol

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