When I originally published LOVING RED in 2015, I had a lot of promos and interviews for its launch. In that time, some of them have disappeared from the internets, but I did one interview in particular that went beyond the norm of why I write and what my book is about.
Since the host is gone, I’m reposting the thoughtful questions Cindy from BookAbout asked me below. And just before the prequel launches seemed like the time.
I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!
I’m fascinated by the names and labels you’ve used in your story. Was there a particular theme/process/inspiration to your choices? (Celampresians /Assetato / Kaia / Severins Bouvier / Ari)
I had various reasons for the odd names I chose. First, the Celampresians are named after the queen of the vampires, the first one in existence: Phea Celampresian. She’s vain, so she named her army after herself. I chose it after some research about Atlantis and what type of surnames may have come from their culture. “Celam-” means the noble, and Phea was part of Atlantean nobility as her stepfather held a high-ranking government position. This also plays into her heritage: she was born of an Atlantean human woman impregnated by the primordial god, Chronos; therefore, making Phea the granddaughter of the Earth Goddess, Gaia. I infuse this mythology in her story, “Maiden of the Underworld.” In any case, I’m going off on a tangent, as I do. The second part of the name, “presian,” came from my tweaking two other names: Ampheresian, which means unsophisticated, hardy, and enduring, and Diaprepesian, which means ambitious, untrustworthy, and sly, all of which describe Phea’s personality not long after she becomes a vampire.
Second, the Assetato have a bit simpler of a back-story. I knew that Rosalie, the head of the Assetato, was Italian royalty before she was stolen and changed by one of the Celampresians. Once she freed herself from their reign, she banded with important allies and founded the organization in order to undermine Phea’s hold on the paranormal world so that vampires, shifters, and humans can live together. Simply put, I named them the Italian translation for “The Thirsty,” as they work not to kill humans in order to survive.
Next, Kaia and Severins are a bit different. These are characters that began as role-play characters on facebook. Kaia was not my own character, but I met her through a Sherrilyn Kenyon character: Dev. I loved playing him because he was a pervert, and well, so am I. They fell in love off screen, and so I made her a version of him that they could play on screen, hence the similar nickname of Sev. His name is made up of two French surnames, and other than the potential nickname, the meaning didn’t play into my choice for him. His surname, Bouvier, means herder, which seemed fitting for a wolf in the French countryside.
As for Kaia, like I said, she wasn’t originally my character, which created a whole different set of problems for me, but my friend tells me she chose it because she always liked the name, and I found that it means pure, which works well for her overall temperament. (I’ve written an explanation of their creation story on my blog.)
Lastly, Ari, who’s my main character’s best friend from the Blood Phoenix novels and finally has her own starring role in UNTAMED, is a shortened version of Ariana. I chose this name simply by asking my best friend what she would like her character to be named, since Ari is based off my oldest childhood friend, Becky. We’ve known each other for twenty-eight years now (and I’m thirty). I also liked it because it has the same three letters as my lead vampire, Ria. It connects them all the more.
Who/what are the Celampresians and the Assetato?
I explained a little about this above, but to simplify the explanation: the Celampresians are the bad guys, an evil coalition that aims to kill off most of the shifter races because Phea wants all paranormal creatures under her control. This stems from her birth as the first paranormal creature, the mother of all vampires and the grandmother of all shifters.
The Assetato are supposed to be the good guys, but their means of fighting don’t always seem so pure. They combat Phea’s control over them and want to live more peacefully, although they do battle their natural impulses to consume human blood and flesh. Although they are mostly good-doers in the U.S., they are more aggressive in Europe, as I will explore in an upcoming spin-off novel THE SISTER WITH THE STOLEN POCKET WATCH about a mermaid-unicorn, but that’s a whole new tangent.
Are the shifter’s names linked to their alter ego?
Unfortunately, they’re not. I typically pick names that I like and run with that. I have a list of a few hundred names I pull them from. Not a very fun or interesting answer, I know. But I also don’t believe that my shifters change personalities when they change forms. They merely need to learn to balance their animal instincts and impulses with their humanity.
Your use of other were-animals is appreciated. Most shifter storylines tend to focus on wolves, but there are some authors who will utilise other animals (Laurell K. Hamilton is the one that comes to my mind). Was there a reason for the direction you chose in this regard? What do you think the various shifters offer to the novel?
Thank you. I enjoy novels that show variety as well. I’ve read several of Hamilton’s novels and Kenyon’s, who does the same with her shifters. I’m fascinated with how diverse creatures are in mythology. I’m such a geek about it that I own two encyclopedias on the history, lore, and use of both vampires and shifters in culture, media, and literature. (I’m looking at some faerie ones as well).
Essentially, I get bored with the same thing over and over again, so I wanted to incorporate a bit of variety in my novels. My husband tells me that I add too much weird variances and that I’m pushing mythology a bit too far, and that’s what I’m aiming to do—push it, tweak it, twist it. Besides, I can do a whole lot more fun and strange stuff with more creatures.
I do talk a little about what’s present in their world in LOVING RED with my tree nymph, Eilon. But there’s a whole back-story for where they come from that will show itself slowly. It revolves around Phea and her son, Romulus, or as she calls him: Mumu.
What is significant or different about your shifters?
It’s a bit hard to say what makes mine different as shifters have been written about so much as of late. I’ve taken aspects from other stories and combined them into my creatures, like their abilities and aversion to silver. I do have an interesting phenomenon beginning when my series takes place, nine thousand years after paranormal creatures appear. They’re beginning to mutate, and hybrids, although rare, are a new possibility.
What I can say is different about Sev is his personality—how his wolf makes him both stronger and weaker. He’s certainly not indestructible, and he’s suffered a lot, but his motto throughout the novel empowers him: it can always be worse.
In this sense, my shifters are like regular people who have lived through extraordinary times, like the plague, the witch trials, and war.
What other animals have you incorporated into Loving Red?
I have wolves, bears, a hawk, various felines (leopard, lion, and a tiger), and one could make the argument for shifter fae. Eilon’s form changes, although he’s humanoid in shape in both forms. And I have other animals that will show up in later novels.
You use the term “shifter” instead of “were”… is there a reason for that? Elaborate?
I use the term shifter because were seems to have the connotation of a curse or having once been human. Although humans can be changed into shifters, or bosex as I call them in the books, it is far less common than the natural born shifters. I like this term because, like Sev, most of them are born in litters to families and stay in their animal form until they hit puberty. This can be dangerous for the larger creatures I have, like the centaur, unicorn, or dragon, but this can also create a safe environment for the young shifters until they’ve learned to navigate the world and care for themselves. When they’re old enough, they shift to their human form for the first time, therefore, shifting theirs and others’ perceptions.
Also, they’re not regulated by the moon or summoned to their animal forms because of it, which seems to fit more with the idea of a were-creature rather than a shifter.
And as a final tangent, I call them bosex in the novels for two reasons: first, bosex was an interesting typo in a conversation I had with the “real” Kaia, and I felt compelled to use it; second, we’ve invented the words were, shifter, and etc., and I like the idea that they had their own word for themselves long before humans had one.
You said… “like Sev, most of them are born in litters to families and stay in their animal form until they hit puberty.” This is fascinating! Would you mind elaborating on the social and emotional impacts this has on the shifters as they join the human race? Do they join the human race?
Thank you. I would love to elaborate. As with most of my answers, I have to say again that it varies. Sev had a hard time joining the human race. Since his pack was hit with disease in his youth, he was small as a new human and lacked the knowledge to immerse himself safely into the Middle Ages and the Catholic Inquisitions. His sometimes-horrific experiences with humanity personify his motto of “It could always be worse” or “I’ve been through worse.” However, because of this and other struggles, his family and pack remains close and stable as a unit, full of that special love that withstands the adaptation needed to survive for centuries. This also means that families like Sev’s will do anything to protect each other because family becomes their only constant as human culture changes around them.
For other creatures, the challenges are different. My centaur, for example, fell into reading and academia when he joined humanity, allowing him a quiet place to observe and learn how to fit in without truly being noticed. He did this to survive as so many of his kind were killed off before biology allowed him to change. This is true for many of my larger creatures, most of which are close to extinction and are seen as “mythical” even to other paranormal creatures.
And finally, my mermaids, who are isolated from humanity, have more to fear when they emerge from the water as humans. One of the families I focus on in THE SISTER WITH THE STOLEN POCKET WATCH demonizes humanity as the father was wiled away from his wife and produced one of the two hybrids I currently have in my mythology. The hybrid disrupts the family and clan dynamic in this pocket of the water, and she suffers for what she is. This means escorted visits on land for their first change and banning visits other than for mating purposes, which they do in their human forms.
All shifters possess an inherent fear of the human race, especially since their animal-counterparts are hunted, much like with the wolves in the U.S. or sharks in the Pacific. Most out grow their fear and learn to blend in, some feel more at home with humanity than they do with their own kind, and a select few hide themselves away to become as archaic as their mythologies depict them.
There it is. I still love all of those questions!
The prequel, LITTLE RED AND THE SURLY BEAR, comes out June 15th, and we’re having a release party where you can win the books, other paranormal books, and a grand prize with an Amazon gift card and character-themed candies! I hope you’ll join me there.