Q: Welcome Jacqueline, please start by telling the readers a little about yourself and your books. How long have you been a writer? What was your first published work?
A: I’ve been a writer since the seventh grade—I’m not kidding. My friends and I would write stories (starring ourselves of course) and exchange them to read. I never really gave it up. I tried several times to write a novel, but never finished anything. No one knew about my writing, by the way; it was my “dirty little secret” until I finally came out of the closet at age 30! Then, there was no stopping. I wrote my first full length novel—a historical romance. I sold that book and 10 more historical romance novels under a different name, as well as 2 novellas. Although I loved that career, I became restless. I wanted a new challenge. I was ready for something different. I sort of knocked around, trying different sorts of books, seeing what I wanted to do, and to tell the truth, I really was at a loss. I couldn’t get anything published, and I wrote a lot of things! I thought maybe my writing career was over. That was when I remembered that I wrote books because I was passionate about writing. I’d been missing that. So, I decided that I should write a book for me. That became my mantra—it’s all about me. J I wrote the kind of book I grew up reading, the kind of book I still loved and missed terribly. I really piled on all the hokey, corny, really good stuff—rainy days, storms, spooky shadows, fortune telling, gypsies, mysterious house guests, etc. I had a ball writing it—but I never thought it would sell. I thought it was too “different” and not the romantic vampire novel that is so popular. I was so overjoyed when it found a home (and such a wonderful home) with Avon A.
Q: So tell us a bit about the Emma Andrews series, your original idea was to have her as a detective in a historical setting, how did the idea progress from that to vampires?
A: I credit my husband with that. We are both fans of several detective series and while I was planning my Emma Andrews series, he kept insisting that my lead character had to have some outstanding quality that made her interesting. I agreed, but the trouble was, none of the qualities we came up with were really great or unique. I tried to move ahead, but he kept bugging me about some kind of “superpower” the lead detective must have. Finally, I shared the one idea I had that excited me. I had toyed with the idea of having Emma possess some extrasensory perception or see ghosts that help her solve the crime, or maybe she got messages from beyond, like a medium with a guide… Well, it was all confused, until a friend of mine made an offhand comment that just set everything into place. The comment was to not just dabble with a supernatural element but go full force. Her exact words were for me to “Take it over the top.” (Thanks Donna!) I took that advice to heart and it was like all the blocks keeping me from seeing how the series would work were suddenly gone. The plot unfolded neatly in my head, the characters were there, and the more research I did (and I did A LOT of research—all the vampire lore in the book is well grounded in cultural lore on vampires, literary references, and actual documentation) just seemed to fit in and flesh out my ideas so beautifully, I knew this was what I was meant to write.
Q: How many books do you have planned for the Emma Andrews series?
A: Actually, I’m hoping this will be an ongoing series. When you read the first book, the story is completely resolved, but elements are left unsolved (I would tell you what they are but I don’t want to give away any spoilers but I will tell you the Dracula connection remains a mystery). These are developed in the second book, THE CYPRIAN QUEEN, and expanded upon. And I’ve begun the third book, entitled, THE DARK WALTZ. I expect there will be at least one more after, and that’s all I know for now.
Q: Do you have a working title or a release date yet for book 2?
A: THE CYPRIAN QUEEN is due to be released in April 2011. It’s finished and in production now.
Q: If you could offer one tidbit of information for new writers, what would it be?
A: Oh, that one is easy—write what you love. And expect to work really, really hard on your craft. Here are two of my favorite quotes on writing. From Red Smith: Writing is easy. You just stare at the page until droplets of blood form on your forehead. But consider these inspirational—and true—words of Katherine Mansfield on the joy writing can bring: Elijah was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire but once. But on a day when the weather is fine and you’re free to work, such a journey is positively nothing.
Q: Do you have a “day job” or do you write full time?
A: I do have a day job, as a licensed psychologist in private practice. I love my job, and long ago I realized that both my careers reflect my fascination with people and relationships.
Q: Name one thing readers would be surprised to learn about you.
A: I have four cats and three dogs, which is a lot of animals. It’s also a lot of hair to vacuum up every day. So I don’t.
Q: Do you have a favorite book or a favorite author?
A: Oh, many! I love books. It would take so long to discuss all the great books I’ve loved through the years. I will say that one of the biggest influences on DESCENT INTO DUST was Elizabeth Kostova’s THE HISTORIAN. That was such a beautiful book, and it showed me how classy, intelligent, culturally rich and complex vampires can be.
In addition, my favorite authors growing up were Victoria Holt, Daphne du Maurier, and Mary Stewart. I hope I did the tradition of the gothic novel proud, but brought a little something extra to it—a little bit more romance and a lot more supernatural.
Q: What are some of your hobbies besides writing?
A: I love to knit! Sounds boring, huh? But I find it relaxing, and unbelievably challenging. I just finished a cable knit hooded sweater I’m so proud of. And I also keep busy following the orders of my dogs. They demand a lot of attention, which I shower on them unapologetically. BTW—we named our new little Yorkshire Terrier puppy Emma after you-know-who. It made sense as she is a proper Englishwoman and can quite possibly be a vampire hunter—she wants to be, anyway.
Q: What is the strangest source of inspiration you’ve had? Maybe something weird that ended up in one of your books or short stories.
A: I get inspiration from art, movies, books, etc. Any good story gets me really excited and I often find some aspect of it, even if the content of the movie or book is unrelated to my own work, to inspire me. What is strange is that sometimes it’s a bad movie or book that gets me really thinking. It sparks a lot of ideas of how a particular part or character could have been different and worked better.
As for something weird that ended up in a book, no, not really. All the weird stuff comes from me, I’m sorry to say
Just for fun lightning round-
Light or dark?
Red or pink?
Red, of course.
Coke or pepsi?
Coke. (Diet, please)
Coffee or tea?
Coffee—Starbucks only. I’m addicted.
Abs or buns?
Vampires or angels?
Vampires. They’re so naughty.
Angel or Spike?
Twilight or True Blood?
Don’t make me choose! Okay, okay—True Blood
Blood or wine?
Wine. But I do prefer red wine…
Q: Ok onto what we’ve all been waiting for- Tell us a bit more DESCENT INTO DUST, your latest release. Feel free to share an excerpt.
A: Here’s a bit of a synopsis:
Emma Andrews is a young widow, always somewhat of an outcast in her family, who comes to her cousin’s country manor in Avebury, England. She immediately begins to experience strange sensations and subtle threats that only she can see. She fears she is going mad—not an unrealistic expectation since her mother died a madwoman when Emma was just a child. But the truth will turn out to be far worse…
A mysterious houseguest named Valerian Fox seems to know more than he is willing to tell, but as events escalate, she is forced to rely on him for help, for she comes to realize an evil force is gathering around her cousin’s young daughter. What is more, in an amazing revelation, she comes to know that she is to play a key role in the battle of good and evil that is poised to take place among the ancient Druid ruins known as The Sanctuary. The local priest, who is more warrior than cleric named Father Luke, can only help her so much. For Emma, this battle will mean embracing her very peculiar and tragic destiny. She will have to uncover painful family secrets and place her trust in three mysterious strangers with shadowy motives of their own. And she must face the chilling knowledge that the world is populated with the undead—and that one of the most terrible and powerful of these—a great vampire lord who is a direct descendent of the Dracula himself—has horrifying plans for the people Emma loves most. She has very little time to discover the vampire’s plot and find a way to stop him.
I hope this sounds interesting to you. If it does, come visit the website for more spooky thrills at www.jaquelinelepore.com or follow me on Twitter@jacquelinelepor
I’ve included an excerpt to give you just a little introduction to Emma and a taste of the extraordinary adventure she faces in DESCENT INTO DUST. Thanks so much for inviting me, and I really enjoyed sharing this new project with you.
I was twenty-three years of age in March of 1862 when I traveled to my cousin’s home in the countryside of Wiltshire. The fifth day of that wretched month found me huddled in my carriage, the drizzly gray gloom outside soaking a bone-deep chill into every aching part of my body, which had been roughly abused by the long confinement and ill-kept roads over which I’d traveled coming up from Dartmoor.
I did not know then that these would be the closing days of ordinary life. The only suggestion of the monumental changes that were about to occur was the headache that had come upon me upon crossing the Dart River. The pain, as fine as tiny needles being pushed into my temples, increased as I crossed the chalk downs and approached Dulwich Manor.
At the time, I assumed this was due to anxiety, for my younger sister and her new husband were among the guests invited for an extended stay at my cousin’s sprawling country house. As I was long accustomed to contending with Alyssa without anything like this haunting megrim, I suppose I should not have made this rather obvious misattribution. But how could I have thought differently, back then?
The house was a large, ugly thing, squatting low on the land like a spider on a softly rounded hilltop. Stones blacked with lichen and soot formed a plain rectangle of unadorned walls dotted liberally with cross-hatched windows. It lay dormant under leaden skies. There was no signs of life about it or any of the outbuildings. Everyone had taken shelter from the rain.
I emerged into a light drizzle and drew the cowl of my cloak over my head. At the top of the impressive set of carved steps a very correct looking servant waited. “Emma Andrews, Mrs. Dulwich’s cousin,” I told him.
He did not quite meet my gaze, as all good servants manage not to do, as he opened the door wider and ushered me inside to a vaulted hall. I was instantly struck by the feeling of being very, very small in a very, very large place. The gasjets on the wall leaked only a small puddle of light in which I stood, beyond which I saw only shadowy hints of the rest of the room.
“I shall tell madam you have arrived,” the manservant intoned soberly.
Once alone, I quickly checked my appearance in a pier glass hung on the wall. I was decidedly damp. My hair was nearly a ruin. The expensive gown I had donned that morning, thinking it would lend me courage, had been a bad choice. There was nothing to be done about the crushed silk. A smart travel dress would have been better, had I owned one. But such things required seamstress consultations and fittings, all amounting to too much time, time I never seemed to make room for in my ordinary routines. I did take comfort in the fine brushed wool of my cloak which Simon, my husband, had given me for Christmas last year, a month before he died. It was of excellent quality.
A voice brought me up sharp. “I am most put out that the weather is foul,” my cousin, Mary, said as she swept into the hall. “I wanted to show the house to its full advantage.”
She posed regally in the hall of the Jacobean house, her pride radiating from her. She knew her surroundings elevated her, as wealth is apt to do. She had married well and that is always a woman’s conceit.
And yet, it had not been mine. My late husband, Simon, had left me his wealth, something I found made my rather ordinary life a bit more convenient than it had previously been, but little else had changed because of it. I certainly took no pride in showing it off.
“The house is magnificent, Mary. I am anxious to see what you have done with its restoration. It seems very grand indeed.”
That pleased her, thawed her a bit. She cocked her chin at me and turned slightly so that I might press a kiss upon her cheek in a rather pretentious gesture for a woman only three years my senior. But I complied. I have no trouble indulging others’ vanities, if they are harmless.
“Come then, Emma,” she said, “the parlor is through here. Give Penwys your cloak. Alyssa and Alan have already arrived. I know she is anxious to see you. Penwys will see your things are delivered to your room and the servants will put everything to rights. You can go upstairs when you’ve met everyone and freshen up then.”
She was showing off a bit, taking on the same airs Alyssa was so fond of. As just as with my sister, they had the tendency to prick my sore spot and made me wicked.
“Oh, very well,” I conceded, “but please direct your man to be very careful with my portmanteau. It is old, and I take extra care of it since it had been my mother’s.”
The mention of Laura—my beautiful, tragic mother—changed her expression to one rife with thoughts best left unsaid. “Your belongings will be treated with the respect they deserve.”
We proceeded together down a short corridor. Above, a series of large arches stretched across the high ceiling like ribs, giving me the unsettling feeling of traversing the interior of a vast corporeal chest. My eye was caught by some words carved at the apex of the last of these stone vaults, just above the heavy double doors beyond which I could hear the muffled sounds of conversation. An odd place for decoration, I mused. It would be easily overlooked as it was placed high overhead. But I could read the three words.
Corruptio optimi pessima.
I stopped. Something strange and unpleasant fluttered through me. The air went crisp, as if ionizing in preparation for an electrical strike.
Mary saw me staring. “Interesting, isn’t it? Those carvings are all over the house. The man who built the original manor was a bishop, back before Henry, when the papists still had the run of the place.” She laughed. “It’s a curiously religious dwelling as a result, and I’ve kept it that way through the restoration. These ominous sayings carved here and there are terribly quaint, don’t you agree?”
My voice was dry as dust. “Do you know what it means?”
She must have forgotten my unfortunate habit of overburdening my brain with reading, for she thought I didn’t know. “I believe it means ‘the best of men are incorruptible.’”
It did not. The fact that she didn’t know made my uneasiness grow. It felt to me—very strongly so—that it should be important the owner of this house understand what was written into its very bones. The correct translation was “Corruption of the best is worst.”
The fingers of pain in my forehead dug deeper and my hand pressed at my temple as Mary flung open the doors to the drawing room. “Emma has finally arrived,” she announced as she swept me inside.
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