December 30, 2010

Janet Elizabeth Jones Author Interview

Meical Grabian, hero of Incubus
Janet Elizabeth Jones is a dear friend, former critique partner, my go-to gal for all things website related, and one of the very first people I email when I want to know how a picture or cover looks. (I’m one of her first.) Janet is also an artist, graphic designer, website creator, and the creator of a fascinating universe of vampires. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing more of those delectable creatures soon. FYI - Meical is a Germanic spelling of Michael, and is pronounced the same way. I love this spelling -- it makes the character seem all that more exotic.

Tell us about your latest book.
Incubus is the story of Meical Grabian, a vampire who has undergone a deadly experiment that is supposed to turn him into an incubus. None of the other "specimens" have survived the transformation, and Meical doesn't expect to be an exception. All he wants to do is see the sunrise for the first time in 200 years. It's enough for him to know that his willing cooperation means his adopted vampire family will have the protection of the Alchemist, the powerful vampire who has masterminded the incubus transformation in his determination to make vampires immune to sunlight and make human passion, rather than human blood, their sustenance.
His intended prey, empath Caroline Bengal, completely turns his mind and heart around. Unlike Meical, who doesn't care if he survives or not, Caroline is determined to do whatever it takes to stay alive. She teaches him that it takes more courage to live for something than die for something. She ought to know. Only months before, her life was happy, her work as a child psychologist fulfilling, and her empathic "gift" safely secret. All of that changed the night she was called in on an emergency to help her mentor with a catatonic little boy. The child turns out to be the only witness to a murder.
I'll stop there, though, because I don't want to give away any spoilers. :)

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I guess there are two things I've especially enjoyed. First, although few readers are familiar with this book's prequel, Revenant, there is the fact that Meical is one of those heroes you ache over. You want to see him win, after what he has put himself through for the sake of his friends. He's very much the tough-exterior type of hero who is very sensitive inside. He has a strong sense of honor and the broken heart to prove it.
The other thing I loved about writing this story is the fact that the heroine, Caroline, is an empath, which gives this story more of a personal meaning for me than others I've written.
Secondly, one of the attacks on her life has left her handicapped, and I wrote her this way specifically because there is a scene in the book where she has a showdown with the assassin who's hunting her, and she has to survive it using her courage and ingenuity and her empathic abilities. I wanted to make it clear in that scene that she is, by no means, an underdog, in spite of the fact that she's up against a professional killer who has never failed a job. The one with the real handicap is the villain himself. That scene was both challenging and satisfying to write, because I had to put myself in Caroline's situation and figure out how she would survive by using her environment and abilities to disadvantage her opponent and give her an edge. Human ingenuity and adrenaline are a powerful mixture when the only thing between you and a professional killer is whatever you can lay your hands on in an old house.

Do you live in the mountains, desert, forest, lakeshore, city, or _____?

Unlike Caroline, who lives in a remote cabin in the Poconos in the dead of winter, I live in a North Texas suburb. But the final scene of Incubus takes place in the desert and mountains of El Paso, where my family and I lived a few years ago. I miss living in a place where the biggest thing on the horizon predates humanity, and the things made by people are small by comparison. One gains a unique perspective on life where nature is both accessible and powerful, whereas I find that when I'm surrounded by human-made achievements, it feels artificial, and I have to try a little harder not to take myself too seriously.

What genres and authors would we find you reading when taking a break from your own writing?
Lately, I've been enjoying Manga. I love Vampire Knight by Matsuri Hino, but my favorite Manga novelist of all-time is Natsuki Takaya, the author of a series entitled Fruits Basket and one called Those With Wings.

Fruits Basket is brilliant. The plot, the story-crafting, the characters, the way it touches the universal human experience of being on the verge of adulthood, and everything you bring away with you, is just amazing. Even the sugary-sweet title has meaning, because it pertains to an experience the heroine of the series had, and one that we've all experienced growing up. Besides being just a delightful story, it has a powerful message that appeals to readers of all ages.
When I'm not reading Manga, I'm doing research, although I have to admit, I get a lot of story ideas when I'm playing computer games, which I do a lot. I love the epic fantasy good-vs.-evil kind of thing, or city-building games. LOL I'm addicted to Guild Wars and Dawn of Discovery, or the oldie-goldies like Zues. I get really good ideas when I'm playing those games. The storylines are excellent and you can't beat the music.

When writing your description of your hero/ine what feature do you start with? Eyes, age, hair color, personality, name, etc?  

Well, if I'm making notes about a new character, I think the first thing that comes to me is what's important to them, what they want, what they believe, what they're struggling with, and why they won't let themselves lay that struggle down.
When it comes to physical features, I think about where they hail from and what they've been through, because everything that makes us who we are comes from the inside, and it kind of shows on our exteriors, as we grow. When thinking of specific facial features, the next things I think of are their eyes and hair and the expression they wear when they don't know someone's looking at them.
When describing the physical features of a character, in the actual story, I just try to get it in there as unobtrusively as possible, preferably via other characters' observations in a way that creates meaning for the story (i.e., tells the reader something about both the observer and the observed) I mostly try to keep out of the reader's way and let the characters do and be.

If I was a first time reader of your books, which one would you recommend I start with and why?

Can we pretend all my books are published and currently available throughout the known world? :D
I think if I could share any of my books with someone, the first one I'd ask them to read is a gothic vampire fantasy entitled Ghondatha. The heroine, Saphrona Melioska, is a sculptor whose home and society have been obliterated by war, and she has to make a new home in a place that's practically the opposite of her own, among people who have little in common with the things that feed her soul.
The story takes place on a remote, foggy, forested island called Ghondatha, whose one claim to fame is their mushrooms. The new liege-lord, Gideon Bloodstone, and his household of nobles, are all very strange and ethereal people with an ambiguous past and a dark secret. But Gideon is utterly enthralled by Saphrona's ability to take a cold slab of stone and coax the life within it to the surface. This is a parallel of what she has to do for him, in order to help his people survive.
The main idea of this story is that beauty and goodness can be found in the most unlikely places and people one encounters, and it's important for us to try to find it. It's also about accepting and embracing the things that set us all apart and make us different.

What do you hope readers take with them after reading one of your stories?
Whatever resonates with our common humanity. It's hard to describe things without making it sound like there's a laundry list of absolutes, but here goes: hope, self-acceptance, honor, tolerance, the desire to make our fellow human beings feel welcome on the planet, regardless of their differences, and the will to survive without sacrificing any of these things. To the extent that a reader feels these are important, in whatever way he or she defines them, I hope they find these feelings in my books.

A biography has been written about you. What do you think the title would be (in six words or less)?
I'd hope it's something indicative of how I feel about life. Something like: Grateful

What song would best describe your life?
Wow, there are so many directions one can go with this question. One's life is a grab-bag of experiences, choices, family, friends, and personal credos (which always seem subject to change, but I guess that's okay, because we couldn't grow if it were any other way). So, I guess, for me, if I had to put it all in a single title, it would be "Simple Gifts" by Joseph Brackett, Jr.

If you were a tool, what would people use you to do?
LOL A computer that fixes computers, one that has a sensible OS and a good warranty. It would be the new and improved me; one that doesn't need sleep, food or potty breaks. My web design clients would love that. :D

You can erase one experience from your past. What will it be?
Not a single one. I want to keep them all. There's no way to be sure, of course, but I think I might not be the same person I am, if I erase any of my experiences, even the ones that I thought I'd never get over. You know, the kind of experience that beats you up and leaves you for dead. But just about the time I think I'll never get over something that happened to me, I meet someone else who is going through the same thing, and it blows me away to see how much it means to both of us to be able to understand one another's feelings. So, if only to be able to empathize with others, I want to keep even bad experiences. Because when you've gone through something hard, it doesn't matter how you got there. What matters is how you let that experience change you and whether or not you can reach out to others in the same situation.

If you came with a warning label, what would it say?
I brake for hugs.

Picture yourself as a store. Considering your personality and lifestyle, what type of products would be sold there?

I mentioned earlier that I love to play games, especially computer games. So, I'd be a game store, where people can buy, sell, and trade their games. Playing is a cathartic experience that's self-confirming and self-validating. And make-believe works the same magic for adults that it does for children. No matter how old we get, we still relish an escape from reality.
Humanity's approach to play is generally based on good things like imaginative thinking, non-destructive competition, cooperative problem-solving, and a sense of justice--i.e., "fair play" and "good vs. evil". And even though we don't always play by the rules and we don't always win, it's still considered a desirable trait if we can be a "good team player" and "a good loser." To many, these are thought of as life skills, and they carry over into our work life and relationships.
If you play a game with someone, you'll discover things about them that they would never, ever feel comfortable telling you, because as adults, we just don't spill our guts like that. But playing with someone tells you how they feel about themselves, what kind of experiences they've had, how they've been treated by others, and what's important to them.
Since I feel like play is so important, I wanted to make that part of Caroline's character, when I wrote Incubus, so when I decided to make her a child psychologist, I picked play therapy for her preferred method of working with traumatized children. Granted, when she tries her technique with Meical, it's pretty humorous, but the point is that it works. She's able to touch a part of him that he hasn't shared with a single soul before, and the reader finds out something about him that makes him a more sympathetic character and adds meaning to his character.
Play therapy has done so much to heal shattered children. Including it in Caroline's approach with her patients gave me a chance to pay homage to that.

What is the one question you wish an interviewer would ask you?
Maybe, instead, a question for readers: Are you able to find the kind of romance novels you love to read?

Booklist with links to buy:

At eHarlequin:

Once Meical gains 200 friends on Facebook, I'll hold a drawing for five copies of the book.

How to Contact Janet
Romance for the Night Raven:
The Night Raven Enclave:

1 comment:

  1. Janet, it was so cool to have you as a guest today. I bought Incubus and love it! It's in my purse today as I run around town so I can drag it out and show everyone. I'm as excited as if one of my sisters wrote a book!

    Congratulations on being published, and on having the delectable Meical finally loose on the world. =^_^=


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