I’m excited to have author A.J. Larrieu at SWR today! After having read her novella, ANCHORED, and loving it, I looked forward to her first novel set in the same world. TWISTED MIRACLES released on April 7th and, needless to say, I enjoyed it just as much as the novella. Stay tuned for my upcoming review.
In the meantime, welcome A.J. to the blog as she discusses heroines (and perfectly articulates why some heroines work and don’t work for me), her Shadowmind world, and diversity in urban fantasy!
(And don’t forget to enter the cool giveaway at the bottom of the post)
SWR: Hello, A.J.! Thanks for stopping by She-Wolf Reads. The first question is the most obvious and, probably, your most hated: What was the inspiration for TWISTED MIRACLES? The world you created is so original that I really would like to know how you came up with it.
Thank you for having me today! I’m so happy to be hanging out on She-Wolf Reads.
I don’t hate this question at all. I just think the answer will always be more boring than people want it to be. Cass showed up in my head almost fully formed, powers and all. I wanted to understand her universe completely, so I did a lot of “thought experiments” to figure out what her world was like. I think I owe a lot to my childhood (and current) addiction to science fiction for putting the idea of telekinesis in my head in the first place, but other than that, the shadowminds just showed up.
SWR: Every film has a logline, a one-sentence pitch that sells your story. What is your logline for TWISTED MIRACLES?
Okay, THIS is my most hated question. lol. But I’ll give it a shot:
A reluctant telekinetic reawakens her dangerous powers to save a friend, only to discover everyone she loves is in danger, and the only way to save them is to embrace the abilities that ruined her life.
SWR: How would you describe your ideal urban fantasy heroine and how did that influence your own heroine, Cass Weatherfield?
This is a dangerous question, because it encourages me to share my two-part pet theory on heroines. (I’m sorry in advance for nerding out!)
First, I think a heroine needs a character that is complicated enough to give her room to grow. You could call her flawed if you want—I prefer to say she has headroom. She has to be competent and compassionate, but if she’s good at absolutely everything and never so much as bruises anyone’s feelings, she won’t feel very real.
That’s nothing we haven’t heard before, but I don’t think the headroom of imperfections is enough on its own. Here’s part two: a heroine also needs enough of a gap in her own self awareness that the reader can anticipate the arc of her growth before it happens. That gap creates a kind of sympathetic dramatic irony—a place for the reader to put her hope for the character. Too much of a gap, and the character is maddening, but too little, and there’s no space for us to participate in her journey.
This sort of character can feel like a close friend—the kind I know well enough to know all her imperfections, the kind I have hours-long conversations with until three am. I want what’s best for her—a better job, a better relationship, a reconciliation with her family. I can see the path forward clearly from the outside, but I have to wait for her to get there on her own. And she’s doing the exact same thing on the other side, loving me but banging her head against the wall when I get in my own way again. There’s a certain familiar pleasure in understanding a person so well that we can see the ways in which she will inevitably become better, then rejoicing when it happens.
This kind of character structure isn’t specific to urban fantasy (or to heroines), but since UF is so often told in a first person POV, and the heroine typically develops over multiple books, it’s particularly important for the reader to have active, engaged compassion for the main character. I think Marta Acosta does this brilliantly well with Milagro De Los Santos in the Casa Dracula series. Nicole Peeler’s Jane True and Jeaniene Frost’s Cat Crawfield are also great examples. Stacia Kane’s Chess Putnam might be the best example of all. These are all extremely different sorts of heroines, but I think they follow the same basic personality architecture I laid out above. There are UF series I have on my keeper shelf for other reasons (worldbuilding, sensuality, use of language) but those four, I love for the heroines.
I could go on about this for hours. I think I’d better stop now!
SWR: One thing I appreciated reading TWISTED MIRACLES is the diversity of the cast of characters – racism and homophobia were acknowledged experiences. You don’t see this a lot in UF. How important was it to you to include these issues in the story?
Given the world we live in, I didn’t think this particular story should overlook those problems. At the same time, I didn’t want to imply that racism and homophobia are somehow the only issues my characters face, as though their race and sexual orientation are the only things that define them, or define them only in negative ways. What was most important to me was to depict all of my characters and my settings with as much honesty and genuine complexity as I could.
I really enjoy PNR and UF with diverse characters, and one of my current favorite series is Holley Trent’s Shrew & Co. It’s a fun, sexy set of books, and she has this masterful ability to layer all sorts of subtle cultural complexity into her characters and their conflicts. They’re great, quirky paranormal romances.
SWR: What are your plans for the series? Do you already have an arc sketched out and a set number of books to complete it?
I have a defined, planned arc for Cass and Shane. I know what will happen and how many books it will take to get them there. In fact, I just finished the second book in their series (Dangerous Calling), and it will be out in August. I also have several spin-off stories planned, the first of which (Broken Shadows) will be out in early 2015. (I don’t want to create any spoilers by talking too much about that book, but if anyone wants to know a bit more, I’ll whisper in the comments.)
SWR: I have to admit to being very geeked when Susannah, from your novella ANCHORED, made an appearance. I’m hoping with those three favors owed her that we’ll see more of her and Jason. Am I hoping in vain?
Yay! Susannah and Jason will be recurring characters throughout Cass and Shane’s series, never fear. 🙂 I’ll admit it: Susannah is way too much fun to write for me to ever give her up.
SWR: HBO calls and they want to make TWISTED MIRACLES into a cable TV series. Who would you cast in the main roles?
Ooo, this is fun! For Shane, I think a good choice might be Michael Xavier. He has this quiet, confident strength I think Shane shares. It doesn’t hurt that he is also totally gorgeous. 😉
For Cass, I think Claire Danes might work. Cass is a pretty serious character, and Ms. Danes does serious very well. She can be angsty without going overboard with it.
Can I be there for the screen tests? Please?
SWR: What was the last book you read that you would recommend to a friend?
Do I have to only choose one? For urban fantasy readers, I’ve finally picked up Marjorie Liu’s The Iron Hunt, and I am in love with her beautifully spare voice and her fascinating world. I don’t know why it took me this long to start this series—I’m kicking myself. For contemporary romance readers, I’ve just finished Off the Edge by Carolyn Crane, and it is fabulous. I love her quirky characters and the brilliant way she uses language. This is a great book for people who love words. It’s like catnip. Sexy catnip.
SWR: Do you have any writing quirks? Do share.
It’s different for every book. In one, people kept grinning. Then they were shrugging. Then they were crossing their arms over their chests. As opposed to crossing their arms over their heads? I don’t know. I once gave a half-dozen characters in the same book all names starting with M. No idea why. This is why editors are saints. (By the way, I am answering this question while hiding under my desk in shame.)
SWR: Finally, I’m a big fan of Game of Thrones and the Song of Ice and Fire series in which every family has a motto – the Starks have “Winter is coming” and the Lannisters have “Hear me roar!” or, more popularly, “A Lannister always pays his debts.” What is the A.J. Larrieu motto?
I adore this question. The thing I love most about those mottos are their double meanings. “Winter is coming.” It’s a warning, but it’s also a unique sort of threat. “Winter is coming, and we know how to survive—do you?” “A Lannister always pays his debts—whether they’re debts of gold or blood.” I don’t think I can match that level of sheer genius. So, I’m going to go with “Never surrender.” I say this to my writer buddies often enough. And I suppose it does have a bit of a double edge, because I often don’t give up long past the point when I should. It’s a mixed blessing.
Thank you so much for hosting me on She-Wolf Reads today. It’s such a pleasure to be here!
SWR: Thanks for stopping by, A.J.!
The first thing that came to mind when reading TWISTED MIRACLES was “original.” Everything from the world to the heroine has such a unique twist to it that Larrieu’s small community of Shadowminds couldn’t help but feel original and definitely not your typical urban fantasy. Add to that a tender but sexy romance and compelling themes that deal with family, power, and responsibility, and TWISTED MIRACLES is a great read and worth the time for readers looking for something a little different in their urban fantasy diet.
Cass Weatherfield’s powers come with a deadly price.
Cass knows it was her telekinetic gift that killed a college classmate five years back, even if no one else believes her. She’s lived in hiding from her fellow shadowminds ever since, plagued by guilt and suppressing her abilities with sedatives. Until the night her past walks back into her life in the form of sexy Shane Tanner, the ex-boyfriend who trained her…and the one she left without saying goodbye.
When Shane tells her that his twin sister, Mina—Cass’s childhood friend—is missing, Cass vows to help, which means returning to New Orleans to use her dangerous skills in the search. But finding Mina only leads to darker questions. As Cass and Shane race to learn who is targeting shadowminds, they find themselves drawn to each other, body and soul. Just as their powerful intimacy reignites, events take a terrifying turn, and Cass realizes that to save the people she loves, she must embrace the powers that ruined her life.
A.J. is generously offering the following prize pack to one lucky reader! (open to U.S. addresses only)
One winner gets the following:
–A handmade bookmark made from reclaimed Louisiana cypress
–A mug “advertising” the B&B where much of Twisted Miracles is set.
–A hand-tied lavender sachet
–One e-copy of Twisted Miracles OR, if winner has already purchased it, one copy of any available title by of one my wicked talented author buddies Jenn Bennett or Kristin Miller (any format, print or e-book).
For more information on all of the giveaway items, please see this blog post: http://ajlarrieu.blogspot.com/2014/03/win-little-piece-of-louisianas-and-my.html
I love those bookmarks and the story behind them. Enter the rafflecopter widget below and good luck!