Friday, August 16, 2013

Interview with Margarita Gakis Author of Trial by Fire

What is it about the paranormal, in particular vampires, that fascinates you so much?

I think it’s the comparison and contrast with humanity. Working with paranormal creatures and other worlds gives us the chance to really put a spotlight on our own world in a way that isn’t so jarring or obvious. You can really flesh out ideas about humanity when you’re comparing and contrasting against something else. That’s not always easy to do in other genres without coming across as preachy or too high brow. There’s also something very alluring about power and control and I think that a lot of supernatural creatures showcase that. We want our supernaturals to be powerful but they tend to always rein that power in. They also tend to be conflicted over their nature and that makes for great reading.

Please tell us about your latest release.

It’s about a woman, Jade, who finds out that she’s a witch. She’s the first one born outside of a coven, so she’s somewhat of an anomaly. She needs to figure out if joining a coven is something she wants. Jade figures she’ll give coven life a try, only to find out once she gets there that there’s more involved. There’s someone or something that doesn’t want her around, and would like to take her power. The book is about how she deals with that thread as well as how she deals with trying to belong in the coven. She’s never been much for belonging and it’s a stretch for her emotionally and personally.

Do you have a special formula for creating characters' names? Do you try to match a name with a certain meaning to attributes of the character or do you search for names popular in certain time periods or regions?

Names are so hard! For many of the first working drafts of Trial by Fire, I had it in my head that the witches didn’t have last names. So, to ensure that everyone knew who people were talking about, I thought I would ensure everyone had a unique first name. Through subsequent drafts, I changed my world building a lot and the ‘no last name’ rule no longer applies, but everyone had their name at that point, so they stuck! I do to try pick a name that I feel ‘matches’ the character in some way. I spend a lot of time going through baby name websites or a textbook I have from university on Classical Mythology. I find it helps get my creativity flowing. For last names, I tend to look up around my room, at the books I have there and pick something that’s listed on the spine.

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?

I have an idea or sense in my head of how they move, act and speak and I find that they [being the characters] generally start to tell me who they are as I write. I do know things about my characters that probably won’t ever make it into any books - quirks, snippets from their past, their horrendous first date or some oddity about them. I find that knowing those details really helps me figure out who they are and how they’ll respond to things. We’re all a sum of our experiences and characters are no different.

What is your favorite scene from the book? Could you share a little bit of it, without spoilers of course?

There’s a scene in the book where my protagonist, Jade, realizes she’s in some trouble and she really tries to break that down into what it means and what she can do. It was really important to me that she be proactive, and maybe even a little vengeful. It’s probably not the flashiest scene in the book [no magic or demons in it!] but to me, it was a really important scene to write and I’m really proud of her as my heroine!

Do any of your characters have similar characteristics of yourself in them and what are they?

Any character that has a coffee addiction is my work is because I have a coffee addiction. I worked at a Starbucks for many years while I was in school and coffee was my life! I drank it, I made it, I constantly wore clothes that smelled of it. It was a great job and I had it for a long time. And cursing. Cursing usually comes from me. I have to really watch it while I’m at my day job.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? How do you deal with it?

Oh, definitely. You know, list a random excuse and I’ve used it to avoid writing. I love the product, but I don’t always love the process. I try to have a few projects on the go - maybe a couple small ones and one big one - and by juggling them, I find I can usually work on at least one of them if something else is stuck. I’ll also set a smaller word goal for myself if I’m really stuck. Maybe tell myself I just have to write 250 words that day. If I do that for a few days, I’ve usually picked away at the part that’s stalling me and have come out the other side. I do try to figure out why I’m blocked - am I tired? Stressed out? Is this scene not working because it really shouldn't be in the story? If it’s just me being lazy, then I do have to just knuckle down and do it. I always tell myself that writers write. I won’t get better or get stuff done by thinking about writing.

Other than writing, what are some of your interests, hobbies or passions in life?

I started taking cello lessons a little over 2 years ago and I love it. I don’t practice as much as I should, nor am I as good as I want to be, but I just… I’m in love with the sound of the cello. I listen to a lot of string music and the cello is magnificent. Playing it has taught me a lot of lessons about patience and working with my body and brain together, but also about music and expression. I have the best cello teacher, hands down. She’s fantastic. Our cello sessions mean so much to me!

Where is your favorite place to read? Do you have a cozy corner or special reading spot?

I prefer to read in bed or in a chair in my house in the living room but I end up reading most on the train during my commute. Sometimes it’s hard to really get into a book while I’m packed in with other commuters and it’s early in the morning or later during the day, but it’s one of the few times I’m completely unoccupied with anything else. 

What can readers expect next from you?

Book 2! I’m working on the next book in the Covencraft Series right now. It picks up very close to where Trial by Fire left off and I’m expanding on the world building and continuing to delve into Jade’s growth as a witch, as well as her past.

Where can readers find you on the web?

I have a blog at, I’m on twitter as margaritagakis and on Facebook as CovencraftSeries. I try to post at least once a day on Facebook, and maybe once or twice a week on my blog.

Would you like to leave readers with a little teaser or excerpt from the book?

Here’s a little snippet from about half way through the book. Thanks for having me!
Jade wasn’t sure how long she’d been asleep. Probably not long. She was a light sleeper, generally waking up to turn over. As she flipped and settled down again she felt it. A sense of wrongness. Of otherness.
She wasn’t alone in her room.
Jade forced her body to relax, ears straining to hear a sound, any sound. She could hear the sudden pounding of her heart in her ears, hear her quiet breathing - a little faster than usual. She could hear the faint ‘tick-tick-tick’ from the antique clock on the dresser.
Nothing else.
But the air... It was almost as though the air were thicker, harder to breathe. Denser. Cloying. Tension started curling into a tight ball in her stomach.
“Don’t play possum. I can tell you’re awake.”
The voice came from beside her, right beside her - deep, thick and wrong. Without thinking she swung out with her open palm, hoping to clap it, him, it on the ear.
Her wrist was caught painfully, the bones squeezed so tight she felt them grind. She kicked her legs out, trying to writhe away and make contact at the same time. An arm went down across her throat like a stone wall - hard and painful and she made a strangled choking sound. She kicked, she clawed with her other hand, she bucked her hips up but in seconds she was flat on her back with it on top of her.
Correction - definitely a him.
From the ambient light in the room she could decipher black eyes, dark hair, smooth skin and prominent features. The first word that leaped into her head was a breathless ‘beautiful’ and she felt frozen.
“Hello, possum.”
His voice was impossibly stunning too, syrupy and deep and she had to force herself to look away from his face. She reached out with her free hand and managed to grab her alarm clock and with a mighty swing, she cracked it against his head.
It smashed, breaking into pieces and he barely flinched. The shock of it reverberated up her arm, making her joints ache.
“Tsk tsk, possum. I’m here to help you.”
She immediately thought of her magic, pushing all her panic into calling up fire, like she’d done in her apartment, at her medical exam and just the day prior in her kitchen. A huge flaming sphere spat itself into existence in front of her face and she sent it screaming towards her attacker.
He flinched this time, but only for a moment before seeming to inhale the fire, taking a deep breath in and sucking it down.
“Very nice,” he said. “But not enough control.” He shook his head like he was disappointed. “You’ve definitely got the power, but not quite the focus yet.”
Vibrating with fear, she conjured another fireball but it wasn’t as big as the last one. She couldn’t think clearly enough to make it as lethal. He jerked his head a little and the flames zipped off to the side before she could even try to burn him. He laughed at her and she let out a cry of distress, anger and just fear.
“You must have better than that,” he said as though he were amused. “I had such high hopes for you.” He leaned over her, putting his lips and nose in the column of her neck and he inhaled deeply, almost a sigh. “You smell wonderfully of power.”
Jade turned her head, got his ear in her mouth and bit down as hard as she could, feeling the flesh split under the power of her jaw. Her mouth flooded with blood - salty, hot and awful with the faint taste of something else, something cloyingly sweet and thick mixed in.
He laughed, tearing himself away from her teeth and she gagged as she spat out part of his lobe. “You are fun,” he said, his teeth long, sharp and inhuman, flashing in the half-light. “Unfortunately I’m not here for fun.”

Trial by Fire
Covencraft Book One
Margarita Gakis

Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal
Publisher: Fable Press

Date of Publication:  6/25/2013
ISBN: 978-1-939897-03-9

Number of pages: 325
Word Count:  84,000

Cover Artist: Steven Novak

Book Description:

Jade leads a structured life:

Routine job.

Caffeine addiction.

No serious relationships.

And now, she can spontaneously set things on fire with her mind.

Well... perhaps “normal” was never in the cards for her. As she questions her own sanity and spirals out of control, a man appears on her doorstep and tells her that, like him, she’s a witch.

Pulled in all directions, her unbridled magic draws dangerous attention and Jade wonders if she’s made the worst mistake of her life by joining a coven, or if she’ll even live long enough to regret it.

About the Author:

Margarita loves the art, creativity and romanticism of storytelling. Sometimes, however, the act of putting pen to paper proves challenging, elusive. She develops genuine, relatable characters which grow in the hearts of her readers. From that foundation, the stories flourish into a warm friend.

She enjoys pursuits which blur the lines between the analytical and creative sides of her brain. This includes her day job in electronic data management, where she uses her creativity to solve logical problems, and also her lessons learning to play the cello, where she finds beauty in the structure of music and the instrument. She believes there is a place for both logic and imagination to work together. When they do, the results are magical.

Margarita has a special spot in her heart for dogs and lives with three of them. It can be a little overwhelming but the quality snuggle time makes up for it.

Margarita lives in Calgary, Alberta with her family.

Twitter:  @margaritagakis

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