Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Interview- Stalked by Flames by Susan Illene

What inspired you to write this book?

The idea for it actually hit me spring of last year.  For a long time I’d wanted to do something with dragons, but couldn’t decide what angle to take.  It needed to be something different than what was already out there and when it occurred to me I could add in an apocalypse in modern times to bring about the dragons’ arrival it just seemed perfect.  Unfortunately, my other series took precedent so I didn’t have much time to explore my idea further until this year.  It’s been a lot of fun to write.

Please tell us about your latest release.

There are two sides to the story.  On the one hand, you have a young woman (Bailey) who has lived a normal life until dragons invade Earth at the beginning of the book.  She soon finds out she comes from a line of slayers capable of killing dragons.  She has to go through the journey of rediscovering herself and whether she wants to take on that role seriously while trying to survive an apocalypse at the same time.

On the other hand, you have a shape-shifter dragon (Aidan) who is the youngest son of his clan’s ruling family.  He arrives during the initial invasion.  His older brothers have been vying for the position to take over after their father (the pendragon) dies, but neither would be truly good leaders.  Aidan is in a dangerous position because he could be chosen instead of his siblings and has to constantly watch his back as his brothers grow suspicious of his motives.  In the first book, he’s more focused on survival, but he also has to decide if he should step up as a leader.

For both Bailey and Aidan, they also face the threat of pure dragons who are roaming the area in large numbers destroying and killing everything they see.  Despite the two being apparent enemies, they’ll have to work together if they want to survive.

Was one of your characters more challenging to write than another?

At first, Conrad was the most difficult character to write.  I wanted Bailey to have a close guy friend who would watch her back but not one readers would mistake for a possible love interest.  It took some time to find the right personality for him where their chemistry would be seen more as a solid friendship.  Once I had Conrad figured out, he became a lot of fun to write.  He is also great for providing some comic relief in an otherwise dark story.

Is there a character that you enjoyed writing more than any of the others?

I really enjoyed writing Earl’s character.  He’s an older man who Bailey knows through her stepfather.  I suppose you could say he’s cantankerous and a bit crazy, but there’s something really endearing about him.

Do you have a formula for developing characters? Like do you create a character sketch or list of attributes before you start writing or do you just let the character develop as you write?

For main characters, I usually outline the basic personality traits I want for them before starting the story.  Most of the time, I stay pretty close to what I planned, but sometimes I end up changing them entirely if my original ideas don’t work.  There are also some characters I planned to give only minor roles that end up becoming more important than expected.  I try to not be too rigid since the characters who surprise me often end up being reader favorites.

Did you find anything really interesting while researching this or another book?

Due to the apocalyptic nature of Stalked by Flames, I had to do a lot of research to find out how the world would work under the circumstances I’d created.  It isn’t just dragons invading.  The weather turns crazy and there are a lot of earthquakes.  At one point I had to call the water treatment plan for the city where the story takes place and ask them how long water would keep running if the power grid went down due to a dragon invasion.  The guy I talked to was nice enough to answer and I was surprised by the back-up plans in place.  It can keep running longer than you’d think.

What is the most interesting thing you have physically done for book related research purposes?

When I’m testing out moves for fight scenes I sometimes borrow my husband to be sure they’ll work.  He doesn’t much care for this, but I insist it’s all for research purposes and very important.  I’ll admit he’s still not quite into being my test dummy.

Can you tell readers a little bit about the world building in the book/series? How does this world differ from our normal world?

At the start of the novel it’s mostly the same as the world we know now other than some unusual weather events that have been happening recently.  It doesn’t become truly different until the dragons invade.  At that point it become apocalyptic and humans have to struggle to survive under dangerous circumstances.  It’s not just the thousands of dragons suddenly flying about the region, but there are also terrain changes that occur.

What are your guilty pleasures in life?
I love finding an interesting TV series I’ve never seen before that has at least a few seasons out and then binge watching all the episodes. 
Some people find me strange when it comes to my snack food.  Most people would go for chocolate or ice cream if they get hungry between meals.  I like to eat potatoes.  I’ll either bake one and add butter, cheese, and sour cream or make homemade french fries.

What can readers expect next from you?

I’m currently working on the final book in my UF series titled Darkness Wanes.  After that I’ll be continuing on with the Dragon’s Breath series.

Where can readers find you on the web?

They can visit my website at www.susanillene.com or my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SusanIllene1 to keep up with my latest book news.

Stalked by Flames
Dragon’s Breath Series
Book One
Susan Illene

Genre:  Urban Fantasy/New Adult

Date of Publication: ebook- July 27th, 2015 
Date of Publication: audio- September 24th, 2015

ISBN:  978-0-9863361-0-2

Number of pages:  484
Word Count: 101,000

Cover Artist:  Jeff Brown Graphics
and Claudia at Phatpuppy Art

Book Description: 

Bailey Monzac has just graduated college and is leaving town for her parents’ ranch in Texas when a massive earthquake unleashes the unthinkable on the world: fire-breathing dragons.

Chaos erupts as people flee for their lives, and Bailey survives only because she is somehow immune to the dragons’ flames. In the midst of the mayhem, Bailey is helped by a shape-shifting dragon named Aidan, who recognizes Bailey is a dragon slayer and will be an essential ally in the power struggle between—and within—the dragon clans.

Natural disasters intensify and dragons lay waste to the world as civilization all but collapses amid the loss of electricity and running water. Roving gangs prowl the debris-filled streets, and Bailey and her friends manage to find refuge in the university library. As her relationship with Aidan deepens during private training sessions, Bailey must learn to harness her newfound skills or see everything she knows and loves destroyed.

Stalked by Flames is a gritty urban fantasy about a woman’s journey into a dark new reality she never could have imagined.

Available at Amazon

The dragon stomped toward me on all four legs, steam puffing from his nostrils. His nose was as big as both my fists put together. I grabbed a brick off the ground and clutched it in my hand. Maybe I should have tried to run—a normal person would have—but being attacked by dragons had spiked my adrenaline.
Whenever that happened, it was as if another side of me took over. I became someone who fought and stood her ground. More than once my stepfather had marveled at my ability to compartmentalize fear and think clearly when in danger. My mother hated it. She feared it would get me hurt or killed someday.
I grew up on a ranch outside of Dallas where we had a lot of land. When I was ten years old, I’d decided to go out fishing by myself. Along the path to a nearby pond, I stumbled across a rattlesnake. Most people would have run screaming, especially a girl my age. I chucked a heavy tackle box at the thing. That didn’t kill it, of course, but it immobilized the snake’s body long enough for me to beat it to death with my fishing pole.
That’s how my stepfather had found me. Hovering over a mangled snake and pondering whether to get my tackle box back. It had blood and guts all over it. Killing a poisonous snake was one thing, touching icky stuff was another.
Now I had an honest-to-God dragon coming at me and once again I refused to panic. I needed to weigh my options. With my back against a wall, there was nowhere to go before he’d reach me, but there had to be a way out of this mess. Did the dragon have a weakness I could exploit? Something to buy me time until I could get to a safe place?
I glanced at my brick—it was all I had. A heat-seeking missile would have been preferable, but no one had told me we were about to get invaded by mythical beasts, so I didn’t have one on hand. I looked up at the sky and wished a bolt of lightning would strike my opponent. The storm wasn’t close enough to make that a possibility yet. Not that I’d get that lucky.
The red-scaled dragon lumbered closer, less than ten feet away. His gaze still didn’t show any signs of wildness or rage in it. The tilting of his head made me think he was curious more than anything. It’s what stayed my hand as he lowered his head to sniff at my legs. The heat emanating from his breath warmed the skin on my calves.
I stared down and noted once again that my jeans had been burned off to my upper thighs. The sandals I’d been wearing earlier were missing, too. How had I lost half my clothes? There weren’t any signs of burns, only scratches and bruises.
The dragon inspected all of this as his head inched upward. His hot nose tickled the skin of my thighs and he let out a puff of steam near my crotch. Okay, that was just a little too uncomfortable. I smacked his nose.
“Back off!”
He shook his head and let out a snort, then reared onto his hind legs. Flames licked up his body, consuming him. Standing only three feet away, there was no escape from the heat. I scrambled along the wall sideways, putting as much distance between us as I could. What had just happened? Did smacking dragons in the nose trigger some weird reaction?
The flames narrowed and became brighter. Then a dark shape emerged within them that had me tripping over my own feet to get away. It looked demonic—like something straight out of Hell. There was standing my ground and then there was being stupid.
I spun on my heels and took off down the sidewalk that lay between the library and the building next to it. A growl echoed down the corridor—a really angry one. I passed by bushes and benches that provided no cover from a menacing dragon and kept going. There were plenty of paths to take up ahead if I could just get past the library. The damned building seemed to extend forever.
Through the racing of my heart, I caught heavy footsteps behind me. They didn’t clomp the same way as the dragon’s and sounded more like boots on pavement. Glancing back, I saw a man with feral yellow eyes wearing strange clothing. The red dragon was nowhere to be seen. Shivers raced down my spine as I realized this guy’s attention was focused solely on me and he was racing toward me fast. Where had he come from? 

About the Author:

Susan Illene served in the US Army for eleven years and worked as a human resources specialist and an Arabic linguist. She served two deployments to Iraq, and after leaving the army, she studied history at the University of Oklahoma. She and her husband currently live in Oklahoma with two high-maintenance cats doing their best to help her write her books. 

Visit her at 

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