Behind the Scenes

Behind the Scenes: Sara Litchfield and How Genetically-Engineered Triplets Became Night Butterflies

Welcome to 2015! I’m excited to be able to start the new year with a guest post from dystopian author Sara Litchfield. Sara and I share the belief in the power and importance of hope, one of the main themes in her debut novel, and when I read her book, I was impressed by how different the voices of her first person narrators sound from each other. I’m glad she agreed to come share some of the inspiration for her book.

So before I hand this blog over to Sara, let me tell you a little bit about her.

This is Sara :)

This is Sara 🙂

Born in the English midlands, Sara earned a Masters in Theology at the University of Cambridge before becoming a reluctant big-four accountant in London. She is now recovering in the southern hemisphere where she devotes herself to all things words and wonderful from her base in Middle Earth (sometimes known as New Zealand). She blogs on happiness and hope at www.rightinkonthewall.com, which is also home to her editing business and publishing division, RIW Press – all aim to make the right mark on the wall of the world.

Take it away, Sara!

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Since the release of my debut novel, The Night Butterflies, I’ve been asked several times how this work of dystopian fiction came by its title.

I tell the story of how the moths came to the window while I was writing, tapping to come in and touch the light but reaching into my story instead. I mention how the phrase stayed with me, brooding and beautiful, after I heard it voiced as the succinct explanation of a ‘moth’ given to a French-Canadian asking for a definition. How it loitered in my subconscious until the themes of change and evolution emerged in my novel and it presented itself as the title.

In my novel, the moths referred to as the night butterflies are the shadow of their colorful cousins but, remarkably, they’re the only creatures to have survived the nuclear war that has ended the world without becoming poisonous themselves. The scientists left in the ruins of an English university town have worked for years to understand how this is possible, in the hope they can come to survive without the Anti-Poison they’ve created to keep their people alive. Part of Project Eden, dedicated to the survival of the community, involves breeding the next generation and attempting to make them hardier to life’s dark, lethal conditions. The nightmare result is a batch of triplets, violent and cruel, who keep their mothers living between constant fear and drug-induced escape.

It seems to be a matter for debate, but I read that the reason some insects are attracted to light is that they have an internal navigation system and use the moon to guide themselves by keeping it at a constant angle. It’s a behavior called transverse orientation, but artificial light sources affect it adversely – keeping a bulb at a constant angle can send them into an obsessive spiral, sometimes to their death.

The desperation of the night butterflies to reach the light embodies both the struggle of the children to change and that of the remaining people to find hope, however futile the quest might be, given the world they are left with. But they fight to emerge from the chrysalis imposed upon them by the regime in control; they fight for a chance at a life of love and light and hope, despite their circumstances.

Wells called hope ‘the essential solvent without which there’s no digesting life’. The inspiration behind The Night Butterflies is the absolute necessity to seek out color amidst shadow, light amidst darkness, and hope amidst horror. It’s a message that seems more important than ever as the news reports atrocity after atrocity, and the fearful idea of society sliding into oblivion, despite the lessons of history and literature, becomes ever more a future possible.

You can connect with Sara on her website, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Goodreads, and on Pinterest!

The Night ButterfliesAbout The Night Butterflies

It is always dark. Warmer than it should be. The sun is a dull glower of reproach, only sometimes visible through the fallout. A once-majestic university town is crumbled, ashen and divided. The Men have made their home the Facility, where they develop the medication to combat the radiation that would otherwise kill those left alive. Another day at school for Teacher. Another morning of bullying and torment from a batch of doll-like triplets more violent and unbalanced by the day. They are the nightmare product of Project Eden, the operation devised by Leader for the survival of the community, seeded in the Mothers without their consent. Teacher has hope. She has a secret. When it is uncovered by Jimmy-1, a triplet who might be different, what will it mean for his future and hers? Not just another dystopian novel. New author Sara Litchfield explores what it means to be a child, a mother and a monster in a chilling world devoid of comfort.

Get a copy of The Night Butterflies on Amazon!

What cataclysmic event do you think would be most likely to happen to the world, and what would be humanity’s biggest challenge in terms of survival once it did?

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Behind the Scenes: Judith Starkton and Hand of Fire

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Judith StarktonIn this week’s episode of Behind the Scenes, I’d like to introduce you to Judith Starkton. Judith writes historical fiction and mysteries set in Troy and the Hittite Empire. She’s a classicist (B.A. University of California, Santa Cruz, M.A. Cornell University) who taught high school English, Latin and humanities. She and her husband have two grown children and live in Arizona with their Golden Retriever Socrates.

I recently interviewed Judith about her new release Hand of Fire. Before we dive in to the interview, I thought you might like to know a little more about Hand of Fire

In the Iliad, Homer gives only a few lines to Briseis, the captive woman who sparked the bitter conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon. Hand of Fire brings Briseis to life against this mythic backdrop. Thrust into leadership as a young woman, she must protect her family and city. Sickness and war threaten. She gains much-needed strength from visions of a handsome warrior god, but will that be enough when the mighty, half-immortal Achilles attacks? 

And now to pull aside the wizard’s curtain…

Hand of Fire CoverM: One of the things that fascinated me about your story was how you looked at what it would have been like if the Greco-Roman/Anatolian gods were real. What inspired you to blend history and fantasy in this way?

J: My novel tells Briseis’s story, the captive woman who triggers the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon in Homer’s Iliad. Homer’s poem depicts a world in which a goddess rises from the sea to comfort her mortal son and the fate of the war is determined in an assembly of the Olympian gods. I enjoyed keeping some of those fantasy elements in my novel.

By treating the gods as real, I was able to enter into the historical mindset of the period I portray—walk in my characters’ sandals, so to speak. The Greeks and Trojans thought of their gods as real and that included their gods’ direct interference in mortal lives. While I’m sure a Greek soldier of the Late Bronze Age would have been terrified to meet a god in the course of his daily life, he wouldn’t have been surprised by the god’s presence.

We often think of myth as trivial or frivolous and not genuinely religious, but to these Bronze Age people (and this wouldn’t be true of the much later Romans) these myths had immense power. We have rites recorded on clay tablets unearthed from this period from other cities similar to Troy. Those rites include the recitation of myths at public festivals as powerful analogic magic. So, for example, in my novel, Briseis as a healing priestess, makes a prayer for the fertility of her city’s fields, herds and women by reciting the story of how the god who oversees such well-being was wooed back from abandoning his people. By telling this story of the divine restoration of fertility, Briseis and her people believed that a similar restoration would truly happen in their midst. They paired the recitation with sacrifices and offerings to entice the necessary god to be present and then magically won him over with the telling of his myth. It’s an exciting world to depict because the blend between fantasy and reality isn’t nearly as sharp as the modern world would have it. Being historically accurate didn’t for a minute exclude exploring the mystical, otherworldly elements I enjoy so much.

M: You mentioned that your main character, Briseis, was based on a historical figure. How much is known about the real Briseis, and how did you choose when to stick to history and when to invent something for the sake of a good story?

J: As far as the plotline of Briseis’s life goes, we only know a little from Homer, who may or may not reflect historical memory rather than myth. We have no truly historical records that mention Briseis. Homer tells us that she was a princess of Lyrnessos captured by Achilles, and Achilles slaughtered her three brothers and husband. But sadly, we don’t know if she really lived or not. She might be a figment of the bard’s imagination.

We do, however, know a wealth of detail about life around Troy in the Bronze Age thanks to recent archaeological finds, including extensive Hittite clay tablet libraries found in the city of Hattusa. Everything I made up in order to construct a flesh-and-blood life story for Briseis is grounded in historical fact, but I did have to imagine quite a bit. For example, I made her a healing priestess, a position in Hittite/Trojan life that comes straight from the cuneiform tablets, the most concrete (clay?) evidence we have about this culture, but I was the one who imagined that this real job was Briseis’s. Giving her these duties allowed me to build connections between Achilles and her. As a priestess she is tuned into her protective god from an early age—and that turns out to be an interesting link to her experiences with Achilles. Also Achilles was a famous healer as well as the most deadly of the Greek warriors, so they find common ground in this area as well. I was able to tie the mythic with the historical smoothly by using the solid historical details I found in the tablets because it was a culture that saw the world of the gods as directly interfacing with the world of man.

M: For writers who are working on a historical fantasy or a straight historical novel, what’s the best piece of advice you could give them?

J: Connect with the rest of your writing community because your friendships there will be the bulwark you’ll need as you try to get published and as you keep to the job of putting the words down every day.

Also, make sure you get the history right but don’t forget that the story comes first. Can any of us imagine loving Tolkien if he hadn’t used all that amazing medieval history, but would we have been glued to Lord of the Rings if it had been overburdened with that history? That goes whether it’s fantasy or straight historical.

M: What one theme or message do you hope readers will walk away with when they finish your book?

J: Hand of Fire explores why some people, women especially, can survive great tragedy and violence against them, even managing to take delight in what life still has to offer. Despite being a book about war with a lot of death and violence, the fundamental theme of Hand of Fire is one of hope. I think people will come away with a renewed sense of the resiliency of humanity and of women in particular.

M: I don’t want to give any spoilers so I won’t mention details about your ending. I would consider your ending hopeful, but not necessarily happy. What prompted your decision to leave it open-ended? Will we be seeing more books in a series or is this a standalone novel?

J: Although my next book published will be the first in a historical mystery series I’m writing about the Hittite Queen Puduhepa (now also a sleuth!), there will be a sequel to Hand of Fire. I didn’t anticipate a sequel when I started writing Hand of Fire, and the open-endedness you mention was a direct product of the themes that I was integrating, rather than an attempt to set up for another book. But the ending does invite the story to continue, and I’ve already started the research for that book. This spring I spent five weeks in Turkey and on the island of Cyprus, getting a detailed sense of new settings and talking to some fascinating archaeologists about what women of this period could do in the form of launching new lives, so to speak. It turns out, women had a lot of room to maneuver in and Briseis has a lot of opportunities to choose from. I’ll be consulting with her via imagination and see what she thinks! It’d spoil the ending of Hand of Fire if I revealed the central theme of the sequel, but it’s an idea I’ve been intrigued by for a long time and I’m glad Briseis is giving me the chance to ground it in a good story.

An excerpt from Hand of Fire, book reviews, ancient recipes, historical background as well as on-going information about the historical fiction community can be found on Starkston’s website www.judithstarkston.com. You can also connect with her on FB or Twitter.

Hand of Fire can be ordered through your local bookstore and is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and most other online outlets.

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What’s the Point of Fairy Tales?

Tales of Beedle the Bard fairy tales from Harry PotterLast weekend I sat down with a long-awaited treat—The Tales of Beedle the Bard. If you’ve read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows or watched the movie, then you’ll recognize The Tales of Beedle the Bard as the book of wizarding-world fairy tales containing “The Tale of the Three Brothers” (who owned the Deathly Hallows).

Before I tell you what I thought of the book, I think we have to answer one essential question. What’s the point of fairy tales?

Like all stories, fairy tales are meant to entertain, but that’s secondary. Unlike today’s novels, their main purpose is to give a moral in a way the audience will remember. They exist to teach a clear lesson.

In this, the stories in The Tales of Beedle the Bard only partially succeed.

I can hear the argument now. Yes, but The Tales of Beedle the Bard are supposed to be fairy tales for wizarding children, not Muggles. People can’t actually perform magic, so you can’t expect a moral for us.

Paranormal romance author Kait Nolan (who I interviewed last year on her YA fairy tale reboot Red) pointed out in her excellent “What Makes a Fairy Tale?” post that what sets fairy tales apart is that magic or some kind of enchantment is basically required as part of the story. That magic doesn’t lessen the need for a universal truth. “Variations of the same stories can be heard all over the world,” Kait wrote, “because they spark something in our imaginations and hearts, such that we’re still telling stories that originated hundreds of years ago.”

Magic, enchantments, and witches show up all the time in fairy tales. The Tales of Beedle the Bard aren’t unique in that way. And they’re not exempt from needing to teach a lesson to anyone who reads them.

Okay, you might say, but The Tales of Beedle the Bard are just supposed to be something fun and extra for people who loved the Harry Potter books.

I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. (Don’t believe me? I ate Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans.)

Part of what made the Harry Potter series popular was we could still relate to the stories even though we couldn’t perform magic and would never need to fight a dark wizard. The stories and characters transcended the details of the magical world to tell a story of a boy who longed for a family that loved him, who just wanted to fit in, who struggled to figure out the line between right and wrong, and who learned that some things are worth fighting and dying for. You don’t need to be a witch or wizard to relate.

The lessons in Harry Potter, while secondary to an entertaining story, are what made it so loved by people who wouldn’t otherwise read a fantasy. It’s also what makes them re-readable.

If you didn’t like the Harry Potter books, The Tales of Beedle the Bard aren’t worth reading.

For those of you who are curious, here are the five tales in the book.

The Wizard and the Hopping Pot

A wizard refuses to use his magic to help the local Muggles. His cooking pot starts to hop, sprout warts, cry, and otherwise show the wizard that the people he refused were suffering. Eventually he gives in, and once he helps, the pot returns to normal. The wizard moral seems to be that wizards should help Muggles. I guess we could really stretch this to the Muggle moral of “we should help those less fortunate than ourselves.”

The Fountain of Fair Fortune

Three witches and a knight overcome obstacles to try to bathe in the Fountain of Fair Fortune, which is supposed to give good fortune to one person per year. They get through the obstacles based on luck and, in the end, none of the three witches need to go in because their problems are already solved. The knight goes in and, made brave, proposes marriage to one of the witches. They all leave happy, and “none of them ever knew or suspected that the Fountain’s waters carried no enchantment at all” (35). The moral would likely be that we make our own good fortune in life, but the fact that a lot of things in the story happen due to luck rather than skill or hard work actually dilutes this moral.

The Warlock’s Hairy Heart

A wizard thinks people act foolishly when they fall in love, so he takes his heart from his chest and locks it away. Left in isolation, it grows withered, dark, and hairy like a beast. When he finally takes it out again, he ends up killing a maiden and cutting out her heart because he wants to replace his with hers. The wizard moral is that even magic can’t make you invulnerable to every physical, mental, and emotional pain. The Muggle moral could perhaps be that, if we don’t open ourselves up to love, we shrivel and become savage?

Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump

A king wants to be the only one in the kingdom to possess magic, so he gives an order to hunt down all magical folk. An old witch tricks him into rescinding this order. Honestly, while this is a cute story, I can’t figure out what the moral for magical children would be. As for the moral for us non-magic folk…“don’t lie” is the best I can come up with, but it doesn’t entirely fit the story.

The Tale of the Three Brothers

Three brothers cheat death by building a magical bridge over a dangerous river. Death gives them each a wish. The aggressive first brother wants an unbeatable wand. The arrogant second brother wants a stone that will bring the dead back to life. The wise third brother wants to remain unseen by Death. The first and second brothers end up dead because of their wishes. The third brother meets Death as an equal once he’s old. The moral for magic folk and Muggles alike is that death is inevitable. The best you can hope for is to postpone it until you are old and live a full life. This is the best of the fairy tales in the book, and the only one that I think works perfectly.

Do you think I’m wrong about the purpose of a fairy tale? If you’ve read The Tales of Beedle the Bard, am I being too harsh?

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Behind the Scenes: Angela Wallace and Elementals

Today I have the privilege of interviewing Angela Wallace, author of suspense-filled urban fantasy, to go behind the scenes on her Elemental Magic series. Dry Spell, the second book in the series, has just been released.

Dry Spell by Angela WallaceAileen Donovan is an elemental with magical control over water. When Aileen finds a mummified body at a scientist’s convention in Seattle, she suspects supernatural foul play. Her amateur sleuthing, however, isn’t the romantic getaway her human boyfriend, Colin, had in mind. Breaking into crime scenes and fending off black magic doesn’t really set the mood.

As more bodies turn up, Aileen’s insatiable desire to solve the mystery not only pits her against a serial killer, but also a cunning vampire lord, and an elemental agent with ulterior motives.

But the closer Aileen gets to the killer, the further she finds herself from Colin. Can she try to salvage their relationship and stop a murderer, or is she out of her supernatural league?

Welcome, Angela 🙂

Thank you for having me on your blog, Marcy!

I’m so glad you could stop by 🙂 I’ve been looking forward to your visit since I read the blurb for Dry Spell.

In your Elemental Magic series, Aileen Donovan is a water elemental, meaning she can manipulate water and communicate with sea creatures. How did you decide what special abilities to give each of the four types of elementals?

I saw four episodes of Avatar, the Last Airbender and thought that was cool. Wield a whip of water? Oh yeah. I also like limitations on powers, so Aileen’s ability to manipulate water does have to follow the laws of physics. The more she tries to go against that, the harder it becomes. Being able to talk to the animals of a specific element also ties in to your next question regarding how elementals came about.

I love the history you’ve developed—that hundreds of years ago God created the elementals to care for the earth. Where did you get the spark for this idea and how did it develop from there?

I’ve been in love with the elements ever since I went on a youth retreat where the theme was the four elements and how they were metaphors for God and spirituality. It just automatically flowed that my elementals would be stewards over their powers and the natural world. I’m a big thinker when it comes to stories, and like to have every detail and angle that I can think of covered. And though I don’t write “Christian” fiction, there are certain aspects of my faith that show through in my books, such as being created for a specific purpose.

If you could be one type of elemental, which would you choose and why?

Earth. Earth is pretty powerful because some form of it is almost everywhere. Plus, I would love not to kill my plants.  😉

You and I both 🙂 I’ve even tried naming my plants so they last longer. I’ll spare you the gory details of Miranda’s death…

Can you give us a sneak peak at the next book in the series?

Sure! I am very excited for Elemental Magic 3 because we’re getting a new main character and a new element! Nita is an earth elemental, and she’s got her hands full with a newly made werewolf, and a creature scary enough to take one down.

Excerpt:

It took me a moment to notice the sudden stillness of the clearing I had just stepped into. Not a single pine needle or blade of grass seemed to move. Everything was silent. I cocked the rifle and turned in a slow circle, watching for any disturbance in the woods. The few animal presences I detected were huddled in their holes, not moving. A predator was near. If it were a normal land animal, I would have sensed it, but since I didn’t, that left the werewolf as a strong possibility.

I knelt on the ground and braced the rifle barrel on my knee so I could hold it with one hand while I dug around in my sack with the other. I pulled out a fresh kill—goose, feathers intact—and tossed it several feet away. If he was in wolf form, he would smell the blood. With my eyes scanning the tree line and my rifle still braced on my knee, I took my free hand and dug my fingers into the soft earth. The soil hummed at my touch, thousands of tiny voices from centuries of rock and clay singing out to me. My fingers coiled around them like a lifeline. If that wolf attacked, this was my defense: my earth wielding.

Watch for it this fall.  😉

One thing that everyone always wants to know (okay, maybe it’s just something I always want to know) is why each writer chose their individual path. What made you go the route of self-publishing?

It’s kind of a long, complicated story, one I definitely see God’s direction in. Basically, I queried Elemental Magic and my other novel, Phoenix Feather, for a year each. Both racked up 20+ rejection letters. But hey, J.K. Rowling got that many, right? So no worries. I didn’t even know self-publishing (for free) existed until someone told me (that’s the long, God-had-a-hand-in-it part). I have loved it ever since. It’s more my style, my pace. I love maintaining creative control. There are a lot of pitfalls and things to learn along the way (I’m still learning hard lessons), but it’s been rewarding too.

We all love to talk about what we’d do in the case of a zombie apocalypse or other crazy disaster, but my thoughts always go to how I’d make sure my pets survived too. I know you have a go-bag for your cat in case of an emergency, so what essentials would you suggest pet owners keep packed and ready in case they need to evacuate?

Great question! And I recently learned there were a few items I was missing in that go-bag. Btw, the go-bag is the cat carrier. First, a leash and body harness. Suppose you’re stuck in a house with a wall missing, or a shelter. You can’t keep your pet locked in a carrier 24/7. A body harness works better than just a leash around the collar because it’s harder to wriggle out of. I also have a small fleece blanket stuffed inside. Finally, a Ziploc baggy of food. We probably don’t think about it, but our pets get used to the brand of food we give them. Relying on handouts from friends may not work if your pet refuses to touch a different brand. A bag of treats is also a good idea; you never know when you may need to bribe your animal into something.

That’s a great tip about a Ziploc baggy of food. Our youngest cat was one we took in as a half-starved stray, so she’ll eat anything (including green beans), but our Siamese would rather go hungry that eat a new food.

Thanks for taking the time to give us a behind the scenes peek!

Angela WallaceAngela Wallace has been penning adventures ever since she was sucked through a magical portal as a child. She has since come back down to earth, only to discover this mortal realm has magic of its own. Now she is quite at home in the world of urban fantasy, though she believes that love, faith, and hope are of a stronger magic than fire wielding and sorcery. She loves gun-toting good boys, and could have been a cop in another life except real blood makes her queasy. She’ll have to stick to solving supernatural mysteries. You can find out more about her at her Elemental Magic blog, or connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, or Goodreads.

Dry Spell is currently available as an ebook from Amazon or as a paperback from Amazon. More formats coming soon!

Which elemental would you like to be (earth, air, fire, or water)?

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Did I Eat All The Bertie Bott’s Beans Flavors?

Earlier this week, in my Behind the Scenes post on Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, I let you vote on whether you wanted to know how my box of Every Flavor Beans tasted and whether I ate them all—even the vomit-, booger-, and rotten egg-flavored ones. Since I received a resounding “yes” . . .

After arranging our beans in the order we each planned to eat them (we ended up being opposite), my husband and I used a round of rock-paper-scissors to decide who’d eat the first bean. I lost.

Until I chewed, I honestly believed those little Jelly Bellies were going to taste good and be awful in name only. I was wrong. Oh so wrong.

“How was it?” my husband asked.

I swallowed and turned pleading eyes to him. “It tastes just like sweet grass.”

The black pepper tasted just like black pepper, the soap like when you get shampoo in your mouth in the shower. The earwax, despite its name, tasted like the wax lips I used to have as a kid at Halloween.

Overall, none of them were that terrible, but I knew from my husband’s reaction that the worst was yet to come.

The dirt bean came next and tasted like wet bark and mud (please don’t ask how I know what that tastes like). The sausage? Well, let’s just say meat and jelly beans should never go together.

And then all I had left was the earthworm, the vomit, the booger, and the rotten egg.

Earthworm apparently tastes like raw, moldy beets.

I’d be lying if I said that by the time I finished the earthworm bean I didn’t consider simply swallowing the vomit, booger, and rotten egg beans whole like pills. Then I could honestly say I’d eaten them, but I wouldn’t have had to taste them. Except that would have been cheating. So I chewed that vomit bean.

And I’m sad to report it reminded me exactly of the taste you get in your mouth when you almost throw up.

I looked at my husband, who only had black pepper, soap, and grass left (and who was smirking at me).

“Someone had to taste test these,” I said. “Can you imagine?”

“I hope they got hazard pay.” He popped soap into his mouth. “You’re up again.”

His plan of eating the terrible ones first suddenly looked brilliant.

I stared down my booger bean, and it stared back at me in all its mocking greenness, looking innocently like what I’d come to expect a juicy pear Jelly Belly to look like.

And I chewed and I swallowed. And then, in between chugging down a Diet Pepsi to try to purge my taste buds, I asked my OCD husband (who insists on even numbers of everything), “Are you really going to eat two of these?”

He shook his head. “My OCD can go to h*ll.”

And I forgave him the mild profanity because that’s exactly where the booger bean belonged.

Only one bean now stood between me and being able to claim the distinction of having eaten every awful Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans flavor that came in our boxes—rotten egg.

For the love of all things good, if you do buy a box of Bertie Bott’s Beans, do not eat this flavor. I tried. I really did. But this is like the Death Star of jelly beans. I couldn’t manage to get it down.

Not only could I not get it down, I spent a couple minutes gagging over our kitchen sink while my husband laughed.

To think I once thought cinnamon jelly beans were as bad as it got. I can safely say that we won’t be buying Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans again. At the same time, it was the most we’d laughed in weeks, and for that alone, it was worth it. Next time, though, I think I’ll stick to chocolate frogs.

If you still want to try these or if you’re throwing a Harry Potter-themed party, you can buy them from Jelly Belly or from Amazon.com. (My apologies to my Canadian readers. As far as I know, you can’t get them in Canada.)

If you want to go even farther behind the scenes, Jelly Belly also sells Bean Boozled, where flavors like chocolate pudding and canned dog food look identical. You won’t know what you’re eating until you chew.

Is there a flavor of jelly bean that you would absolutely refuse to try?

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Behind the Scenes: Kait Nolan and Werewolves

Today I have the privilege of interviewing Kait Nolan, author of action-packed paranormal romance, to go behind the scenes of her latest novel, Red, an urban fantasy twist on the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale.

Kait Nolan werewolvesEvery fairy tale has a dark side…

Elodie Rose has a secret. Any day, she’ll become a wolf and succumb to the violence that’s cursed her family for centuries. For seventeen years she’s hidden who and what she is. But now someone knows the truth and is determined to exterminate her family line. Living on borrowed time in the midst of this dangerous game of hide and seek, the last thing Elodie needs to do is fall in love. But Sawyer is determined to protect her, and the brooding, angry boy is more than what he seems. Can they outsmart a madman? And if they survive, will they find a way to beat the curse for good?

Welcome, Kait 🙂

The market is full of werewolf stories. Where did the idea for such a new twist come from?

I’m a big fan of fairy tale reboots, and I really wanted to do something with the Red Riding Hood legend—but something that would really turn it on its head. People have done adaptations where the wolf was a werewolf, but I wanted to go a step beyond that, to see what the consequences would be if Red fell in LOVE with the wolf. And that’s how I came up with Elodie.

How do your werewolves differ from the traditional werewolf folklore and from the werewolves in other books on the market?

No silver bullets necessary. No involuntary shifts related to the phases of the moon. It’s not transmissible; it’s a genetic condition, passed on just like blue eyes or brown hair. Oh, and they turn into full wolves, not that funky bipedal hybrid of some werewolf lore.

Readers who love a particular type of story—for example, one including werewolves—sometimes resist innovation. How did you find the balance between making your werewolves unique and meeting readers expectations when they pick up a “werewolf book”?

Well I am one of those readers who loves a good werewolf book, so I was just sure to include everything I knew I wanted. Pack dynamics, fight with the animal instincts, unshakable loyalty, and mates for life.

In Red, werewolves thrive best in stable pairs (either a home with both parents for young werewolves or a mated pair for mature werewolves). Where did you get the idea to have the key to a “safe” werewolf versus a “dangerous” werewolf be a stable pair? 

*grin* I write romance. Plus it really seemed like it would be a way to muck around and complicate things for Elodie’s family line.

An aspect of your werewolf culture that I found especially interesting was that werewolves mate for life. That’s almost counter-cultural to the rest of the world. Was this something you came up with because wild wolves actually mate for life or were you trying to send a message to teens about the value in long-term, stable relationships?

Actually that is a popular misconception. Wolves don’t always mate for life. But I am a lifelong romance lover, which means I am a fan of the One True Pairing/Soulmate concept—whether you’re talking YA or adult fiction. For Red I really wanted to try to present a love at that age that was real. Too often adults are quick to say that teens don’t really know what it is to love, really love. And I think that’s because those adults weren’t there, didn’t feel it for themselves, and they can’t believe it. But it does happen, and I think teens deserve a chance to see that.

How much did the habits of real wolves and the “Little Red Riding Hood” fairy tale affect Red?

I did a lot of research on wolf behavior in an attempt to realistically portray how Elodie would be changing and behaving as the wolf became ascendant. The actual fairy tale was more backstory in terms of how Elodie’s family line got started.

What do you find really attractive about werewolves?

Their strength, their intelligence, and their unwavering loyalty to pack and mates.

If you found out you were a werewolf, what would your biggest fear be?

Absolutely it would be the same as Elodie’s—I would fear losing control to the beast and hurting someone.

Will you be writing more werewolf books in the future (not necessarily with Elodie and Sawyer) or do you think you’ll move on to something else?

Oh I’ll absolutely have more werewolves and wolf shifters. I love them! I have at least two other books planned in my adult paranormal romance series that features them as heroes. They’re kind of a favorite creature of mine. 😀

Thanks, Kait, for taking us behind the scenes on Red.

Kait Nolan author of paranormal romanceKait Nolan is stuck in an office all day, sometimes juggling all three of her jobs at once with the skill of a trained bear—sometimes with a similar temperament. After hours, she uses her powers for good, creating escapist fiction. The work of this Mississippi native is packed with action, romance, and the kinds of imaginative paranormal creatures you’d want to sweep you off your feet…or eat your boss.  When she’s not working or writing, she’s in her kitchen, heading up a revolution to Retake Homemade from her cooking blog, Pots and Plots.

You can catch up with her at her blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Her debut YA paranormal, Red, is currently available from Smashwords, Amazon, Amazon UK, Amazon DE, Barnes and Noble, the iBookstore, and All Romance EBooks.