Elizabeth Hunter, author of the Elemental Mystery series, has just released a new book and I, for one, cannot wait to read it. Her new series, Cambio Springs, centers on a small town in the California desert populated by…shapeshifters. After reading the prequel novella, Long Ride Home, I was immediately intrigued by the world and its heroine, Jena Crowe.
Please welcome Elizabeth to the blog as she discusses her new book, SHIFTING DREAMS!
SWR: Can you tell us a bit about your new release, SHIFTING DREAMS, and the Cambio Springs series as a whole?
Shifting Dreams is the first book in my new Cambio Springs series, which takes place in a small town in the California desert. Only this town, like a lot of small towns, has a secret! A very unusual natural spring has given the town natives the ability to shapeshift into different desert animals. But changes are coming in the first book, when a new chief of police, Caleb Gilbert, starts to realize that not everything in Cambio Springs is what it seems on the surface. Combine that mystery, a shocking murder, and his relationship with the owner of the local diner, Jena Crowe, and you have the start of what I hope becomes a really fun new world.
SWR: How many books are planned for the series or are you keeping it open?
I have five books tentatively planned right now, but I try to keep myself open. Each book is self-contained, though. So while you’ll see the same characters pop back up again, each book will feature new main characters that all live in the same town. It’s a different series format than my Elemental Mysteries series, but one that I hope new readers will enjoy.
SWR: What came first – the world or the characters?
Usually, for me, characters always come first, but in this case, I feel like the setting almost became another character in the book. World-building and character all came together very organically. I love the desert and I wanted to explore shapeshifter myths, so setting my new series in the Southwest seemed like a perfect fit. There are all sorts of quirky characters in real life desert towns, so I wanted to twist that a little (or a lot!) in this new world.
SWR: I don’t think it’s a secret that SHIFTING DREAMS features a town chock full of different kinds of shifters. What attracted you to the mythos of the shape-shifter?
Isn’t there something so enticing about exploring our animal natures in fiction? There’s something very relatable about it, even though it’s supernatural. Plus, there are shapeshifter myths all over the world, but they feature prominently in Native American mythology. My Elemental Mysteries/World series is really international and taps into my love of travel and history, but I wanted to write something a little closer to home. And when I think of American myths, shapeshifters jumped to the front of my mind.
SWR: Jena Crowe is a widowed mother of two, returning to her hometown of Cambio Springs to raise her sons after the death of her husband. I love the fact that Jena is a single mom. This is not something you often see in UF/PNR. What was your inspiration for this unique heroine?
Well, I’m a single mom, so that’s definitely relatable to me! And I think it will be for a lot of readers, whether you have kids or not. I wanted to give Jena some history. She has a life and a love before she meets Caleb. (You can read her short story, Long Ride Home, if you want a peek at her previous life.) She’s lived and loved and lost, but she still has hope for the future. She has humor and grit. I think all those are things that resonate with me as a writer, and I hope they’ll resonate as much with readers.
Added to that, I wanted her family to be a big part of who she was. It’s a series about shapeshifters, but it’s also about family and community. It’s about friends who will stick with you through the really hard times in life and the places that you can come back to when things get bad.
SWR: Who would be in your dream cast for the Cambio Springs TV series?
Okay, I normally don’t answer this question, because I like readers to picture whoever they like when they read my books. BUT, I will say that I’m a big fan of Timothy Olyphant in Justified. So… I think a little of Raylan Givens crept into Caleb’s character. Plus, there’s that hat. You gotta love the hat.
(See? The hat is awesome.)
Other than that, I have to give credit to my cover artist, Gene Mollica, for really capturing Jena on the cover of the book. I described the character to him and he immediately sent me shots of the model he thought was right. Personally, I think he nailed it. (I just wish I had that figure after having my son…)
SWR: How long did it take to write SHIFTING DREAMS, from conception to publication, and what does it feel like to finally let your new baby out into the world?
I tend to let things stew in my brain for a good long while before I start doing any pre-writing. I let this idea roll around for a few months before I started writing at the end of last summer. I wrote it in the fall, sent it around to my pre-readers before the holidays, then over to my editor in January. So, all in all, it’s been about ten months or so.
And I’m very excited about the release! Of course, a little nervous too. Shifting Dreams is my seventh novel, but it’s still thrilling to put a new book into readers’ hands. I hope my established fans from the Elemental Mysteries series enjoy it, and I hope I reach new readers too. I think there are a lot of shapeshifter fans out there. (At least I hope so!)
SWR: In addition to being a successful writer, you’re also a photographer. How does your photography influence your writing?
What a good question! (I’ve never gotten that one before.) I’m really more of a hobby photographer, but I used to be married to a professional, so I feel like photography is a big part of my life and has been for a long time. I’m a very visual person, so when I’m writing, I “see” my books very clearly in my mind.
And portraits are my favorite type of photography, because I love capturing those tiny actions or expressions that reveal a person’s character in candid moments. I think I take that into my writing, as well. I’d rather write a bit of dialogue or scene that “shows” a character revealing something than just tell the reader.
SWR: What’s the last book you read that you would recommend to a friend?
I actually had to go look at my kindle to answer this, because I’ve been writing so much lately! I’ve only been reading bits and pieces of things. I just re-read Oracle’s Moon, Khalil and Grace’s book from Thea Harrison’s Elder Races series, which I love. (Hands off Khalil, ladies. He’s mine.) And then for new reads, I was reading the Gentlemen of Scotland Yard series by Jillian Stone. I don’t read much historical romance, but these are really fun. The first one is called An Affair with Mr. Kennedy.
SWR: I’m a big fan of Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones series in which every family has a motto – the Starks have “Winter is coming” and the Lannisters have “Hear me roar!” What is the Elizabeth Hunter motto?
I love this! But to answer it, I have to steal a tiny bit from fantasy writer, Neil Gaiman. He gave a commencement address to the college of arts in Philadelphia last year that really inspired me. So my motto would be a quote from that speech, which is:
“Make good art.”
Whether that’s a story, a photograph, or a dinosaur project with my son, I want to make good art in my life.
SWR: Thanks so much for the interview, Elizabeth!
You’re very welcome! Thanks for some really wonderful questions, Lee.
AMAZON | SMASHWORDS
Somedays, Jena Crowe just can’t get a break. Work at her diner never ends, her two boys are bundles of energy, and she’s pretty sure her oldest is about to shift into something furry or feathery. Added to that, changes seem to be coming to the tiny town of Cambio Springs—big changes that not everyone in the isolated town of shapeshifters is thrilled about.
Caleb Gilbert was looking for change, and the quiet desert town seemed just the ticket for a more peaceful life. He never counted on violence finding him, nor could he have predicted just how crazy his new life would become.
When murder rocks their small community, Caleb and Jena will have to work together. And when the new Chief of Police isn’t put off by any of her usual defenses, Jena may be faced with the most frightening change of all: lowering the defenses around her carefully guarded heart.
Shifting Dreams is the first novel in Cambio Springs, the new paranormal romance series from Elizabeth Hunter, author of the best-selling Elemental Mysteries series.
SHIFTING DREAMS just released on March 3rd!