RITA Nominee Kendra Leigh Castle & Dark Awakening

>> Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Sometimes you meet people and automatically click.  It was was like that for me with Kendra.  She is so personable and warm I felt like I'd known her for far longer than a few emails.  I think you'll feel that way about her after reading through the interview below, and I hope you all enjoy her as much as I have!

We have several giveaways today -- 2 books and 5 handmade bookmarks.  Comment to enter!
 

Kendra's Harlequin Nocturne RENEGADE ANGEL finalled in the 2011 RWA RITA, Contemporary Series Romance: Suspense/Adventure Category.  And her newest release, DARK AWAKENING, just released last Tuesday.
I am a professed vampire novice, though you can't be a living, breathing author of any genre without catching news of the hottest paranormal creature alive...or not.  So when I read my ARC of DARK AWAKENING I was immediately taken with the many and varied twists Kendra put into the storyline.

Here's a desription of DARK AWAKENING:
Tynan MacGillivray has spent the better part of his three hundred years serving at the pleasure of the queen of the Ptolemy dynasty, her prized hunter in a world where blood is destiny. But the lowblood cat-shifter gets far more than he bargained for when his new target, a human woman whose rare abilities make her the only hope for saving the greatest of the vampire dynasties, turns out to be far more than she seems. 

Lily Quinn is an innocent whose beauty hides secrets that could change the world of night forever…and Ty will have to choose between the loyalty that has kept him alive, or a love that promises more than he ever imagined…if it doesn’t destroy them both.
So many aspects of this novel fascinated me: the way Kendra infused the Celtic Highlander history into a modern vampire hierarchy; the complication of social classes within this society and the internal and external conflict it brings to the characters; the constant spark between the hero and heroine from their first intense meeting; her superb worldbuilding.  Far too many elements of fine storybuilding to outline here.  I hope you'll purchase this novel and enjoy all its intricacies personally.

Kendra, congratulations on finalling RITA! You attended the RWA National convention in NYC last month. Can you tell us what was different about attending the conference as a RITA finalist?
Thanks so much for having me over today, Joan! It was such a huge honor. And attending the conference as a finalist was amazing. This past year has seen a lot of wonderful forward movement in my career…a lot of things seemed to happen at once, and getting the RITA final for that particular book was really the icing on the cake. It’s so incredibly validating to be singled out by your peers as someone who is capable of writing something really special. The whole thing was magic.
Romantic Times said, “Castle’s world-building is superb and leaves readers wanting more.”

I find paranormal world building one of the hardest elements to establish in a concrete, believable, seamless way in writing. How do you do it?
I love that world-building quote from RT. It’s a huge compliment, particularly because having your characters interact in and with a world quite different from the everyday isn’t the easiest thing, at least not if you want to do it well. No one wants to get pulled out of the story and see the woman behind the curtain pulling the levers. Preventing that is always at the back of my mind!

I don’t pull everything together all at once. I’m a pantser at heart, despite the fact that I now have to write outlines for my editors (*sniffle*). So I normally start with a more nebulous framework for the world that gets added onto over time. In the case of the Dark Dynasties, I knew I wanted a caste system, a dark world ruled by disaffected nobles and populated by a vast underclass either serving or trying to avoid them. The idea of the bloodline marks came early, and in fact the first character I really “knew” was Queen Arsinöe. 

I, um, had thought she might be a bit nicer when I started. That happens sometimes. Anyway, that loose idea of the world I was operating in, and the relationship between the Ptolemy dynasty and their “pets”, the Cait Sith, got the ball rolling. And as Lily and Ty made their way through the story, the details got filled in. Someone once called my process “organic”, which is a really nice way of saying “fumbling around in the dark”, but it works for me. And frankly, I have a lot of fun discovering things at the same time as my characters!
I love the way you’ve given these paranormal characters such human quirks—Lily, the heroine, and her hopeless sense of direction, and Ty, the hero, his love for late night television and movies. These elements add depth and dimension to your characters.

Can you tell us more about your thought process behind those quirks? Are they characteristics of yours or someone close to you? What other quirky elements have you added to other characters in the past that have added dimension? How do you choose quirks for your characters?
Thanks! I don’t really pick and choose quirks for my characters. It’s more like they turn up with them and I just have to put them in the right situation to discover them. With Lily, some of her terrible sense of direction was born of necessity (she wouldn’t have met Ty if she’d gone the right way!), and some is just…her. Well, and me. I couldn’t find my way out of a wet paper bag, even with a map and a flashlight. Sharing that particular quirk with her was an early way of relating to the character, since she’s quite different from me in other ways.

Ty’s love of late night television and his knowledge of pop culture was one of those things that just clicked into place. The guy is up all night, every night. Often, he isn’t doing much. What’s a bored vampire to do in the wee hours? Jaden, his friend, likes to cook. That was one that just sort of happened, and I got mushy over it. “Aww, a vampire who likes to make comfort food!” Weird, maybe, but revealing of his personality. I love things that humanize the dark and dangerous heroes.
In addition to having a heated sexual chemistry, your hero and heroine seem to spark in every interaction. What is your philosophy on creating characters whose interactions light up the page and keep the reader invested?
It’s a delicate dance, and I always know if it’s not working. Imaginary characters can be surprisingly stubborn to work with! I think for me, I try to hit a balance between the hero and heroine having enough in common to relate, but enough differences to intrigue and infuriate one another. I know dialogue is key for me…I love to have them talk, and dialogue is one of my favorite things to write. Between the verbal sparring (which all of my hero/heroine combinations do) and dealing with a magnetic sexual pull between them strong enough that even getting close sets off fireworks, I always hope readers will pick up on and enjoy all of that sexual tension. I’m glad you think I’m managing it!
You are married to a Navy fighter pilot—an undeniably heroic career. What has prompted you to write about vampires, werewolves and magic instead of something more Suzanne Brockmann-like where you’d have your own expert in-house? 

(As an aside, I ask this question because I’m married to a career firefighter and for a very long time wrote about cops and FBI agents. My critique partner kept asking me, why don’t you write about firefighters? My first sales were of heroes as ex-firefighters. So I thought I’d pass the question along.)
It was amazing to watch Brian when he was flying (he developed some serious back problems around the ten-year mark, and after a couple of surgeries has moved into defense acquisitions). There were things I got a kick out of (flight suits!) and we had a wonderful, tightly-knit community I enjoyed.

But you know, it’s really funny…living with the Navy day in and day out has made it far less appealing to write about. Not that it’s bad, but I write to create a fun escape, and being a Navy spouse is my everyday reality. Apart from that, I’ve always been drawn to stories with a magical and/or supernatural element. I’ve never been much interested in writing tales without it! And by the way, thanks to you and your husband for pursuing (and supporting) such a challenging and heroic career.
As the wife of a military man, you’ve moved around a lot. How do you think that has affected your writing?
I don’t know if or when I would have started writing seriously without the Navy! I was very good at finding excuses not to buckle down. And with having babies early on in our marriage, the excuses were pretty valid. But then we got stationed in the Nevada desert, which was like being sent to the moon for this New Englander, and I knew it was put up or shut up time. If I couldn’t write a book in a place with…we’ll be nice and say “few distractions”…it wasn’t going to happen. As far as the further moving affecting my writing, I think it’s helped me set things in different locations. I’ve seen a lot of places!
You have three children and your husband must be gone quite a bit with his career. How do you manage your writing and promotion schedule?
“When do you find time to do this?” is the number one question I get from pretty much everyone I know! Actually, my husband is around most of the time now that he drives a desk instead of a jet, and that has helped immensely. Still, he’s at work all day, and I play chauffeur to the kids (11, 9, and 5, respectively). We have three dogs and a cat. Life is wonderfully (sometimes insanely) full. So I write when the house is quiet, which means staying up late. Sometimes, as a deadline approaches, very late! But I expect that when the youngest heads off to kindergarten in the fall, I’ll find myself with something that could be a regular work day…and not that I’m anxious to see my baby go, but being able to get all that writing time in when I’m at my most awake sounds awfully nice.
Thank you so much for having me, Joan! Those bookmarks are gorgeous, and I also have a signed copy of DARK AWAKENING to give away to one lucky commenter! I’ll be here all day to chat, so if you’ve got questions about the writing process, my books, or paranormal romance in general, fire away!
Kendra Leigh Castle writes dark paranormal romance and lives in Southern Maryland with her husband, three children, and menagerie of pets. You can find her online at www.kendraleighcastle.com, on Twitter as @KendraLCastle, and on facebook.


Thank You, Kendra! 

Comment on Kendra's interview or ask a question of your own and you'll be entered to win one of the following 7 prizes: (U.S. & Canada Shipping Only)
* MUST leave a contact email * 
  • A print copy of DARK AWAKENING
  • A print copy of RENEGADE ANGEL
  • 1 of 5 custom bookmarks

34 comments:

Karen H 6:05 AM  

Thanks for the chance to meet a new author. I liked your answer about verbal sparring, it really does make relationships more interesting. Challenging each other helps the characters evolve and keeps me reading.

claddagh64 at yahoo dot com

Kendra Leigh Castle 6:35 AM  

Hi Karen! Well, my own marriage involves a lot of verbal sparring, and it does indeed keep things interesting:) So writing it comes naturally! Thanks for coming by!

Anonymous,  8:40 AM  

Great interview, and I like your realistic answer about finding the time to write - staying up late when the house is quiet is a must for me too.

Thanks for sharing and congrats on the nom.

Melinda

mpierce.sa at gmail.com

Helyce 8:43 AM  

Fantastic interview Kendra! No need to enter me, I just stopped by to say "hi!"

Joan, your bookmarks are absolutely gorgeous!

rebeccazanetti.com 8:45 AM  

Wonderful interview! Congrats on the Rita nomination--and the awesome RT quote! I'm also juggling career and kids...and husband and dogs...it's nice to see how we all manage. :)

raz at icehouse dot net

Kendra Leigh Castle 9:05 AM  

Hi Melinda! Yeah, late nights here are all mine (because no one else in the house wants them), slouched at the laptop and sometimes falling askeep in the middle of typing a sentence. So glamorous, right? You know how it is!:)

Hey Lisa! I KNOW, they're beautiful! Like the things you make...I'm surrounded by talented people. Sadly, I can write, and I can draw stick figures, and that's it.

Hi Rebecca! Thanks a bunch, it has been a VERY cool year:) I'm pretty sure that all of us who willingly juggle all of this are slightly insane, but it's a good kind of crazy. Um, this is my working theory, anyway, and I'm sticking with it!

Victoria 9:10 AM  

Thank you so much for the interview Kendra. I haven't read you yet but can tell I will love your work. The character development looks great. Their quirks will make the reading fun.
Thanks for the giveaway.
vsloboda(at)gmail(dot)com

Joan Swan 9:15 AM  

Glad you all like the bookmarks! We appreciate you coming by and taking the time to comment!

temptnfate13 9:22 AM  

Kendra, you have created a wonderful world in Dark Awakening. Do you plan to explore all the dynasties such as the Dracul or will you stick with the newly created ones? I highly enjoyed Dark Awakening and I can see the series going in so many directions with all the clans.

Misty
temptnfate13@yahoo.com

Kendra Leigh Castle 9:43 AM  

Hi Victoria! Thanks:) I really do love creating the characters.

Hi Misty:) Thank you SO much! I definitely plan to explore all the dynasties...and I can tell you that the third book will focus quite a bit on the Grigori, while the fourth will be about the Dracul. There are so many stories to tell in this world! I seriously love playing in it. I'm so glad you enjoyed the book!

Kristina 10:34 AM  

I really want a bookmark, I love it so much! I'm can't wait for the rest of the books to come out, I love Dark Awakening, well all of your books actually.
What is your favorite male character you have created?
I think my favorite is Gideon, but I also do really love Ty's purring (this is one of my favorite things ever!)

Loved the interview

myworldofbooks18 at hotmail dot com

Kendra Leigh Castle 10:48 AM  

Hey Kristina! Joan really did a beautiful job with the bookmarks:) And thank you for the awesome compliment! I realize this is a cop-out answer, but honestly, I love ALL of the male characters I've created. They're all so different, it's impossible for me to choose! I'm always very enamored of whoever I've just written about, of course...hard not to be. And I'm all wrapped up in Damien right now, since the current book is his story. I love a sexy man with a smart mouth.

diva donna 11:42 AM  

Joan I loved the interview. And I really love Kendra's books. I count myself honored to be one of a funny bunch of fans who received a special dedication in her Renegade Angel book. And This book sounds so good. And one word I missed seeing in this interview was Snarky. I love Kendra's snarky attitude that sneaks out in the most surprising ways in her books. Put my name in this drawing. dmf747@comcast.net

Gwyn 11:57 AM  

My sweetie was a fighter jock back in the day, but we're retired now. He always critiques the pilot when he must fly commercial---hates being a passenger. He says he can always tell a Navy pilot by the landing. *G*

Circumstances have tried to turn this night owl into an early bird, but I still do my best writing in the wee hours. Some things just are.

Excellent interview, Joan. Nice to meet you, Kendra, especially since that's the name I chose for the heroine in my third book. It means prophetess. *G*

Kendra Leigh Castle 12:06 PM  

Donna! You and the girls deserved every bit of that dedication:) I'm glad you love my snark! This book is darker, but it's still there.

Hi Gwyn! Oh, TOO funny, my husband is just the same! Hates to fly commercial because he's not in the pilot's seat, and yes, always critiquing. He also drives a car like a jet. *shudder* Nice to meet you too! And of course, I think you have excellent taste in heroine names:)

Joan Swan 1:19 PM  

Hi Donna,

I was going to use "snarky" in relation to the interaction between the hero and heroine...but...I didn't know how it would go over :) and didn't wanto to offend anyone.

Thanks Donna!

Nocola 2:43 PM  

Kendra,
I am 45% percent done with the book. I vow to be finished reading the book before the sun creeps into my window to mark a new day. I love Ty and Lilly. I can't wait to see what is up with Jaden. Good luck. You know I am and will always be a fan.
Nocola
(mrsdrwilliams11@gmail.com

Kendra Leigh Castle 2:56 PM  

LOL, Joan, I'm comfortable in my snarkiness, don't worry! I think it's one of my trademarks at this point:)

Hey Nocola!! Awesome that you're enjoying the book! We need to get together so I can sign it, thus giving it a spot of your Shelf of Honor:) I love Jaden. I've got a picture of him (okay, okay, it's Jared Leto in full brooding Goth mode) gazing moodily from my bulletin board. His book is all done, but...I really do love that picture.

JoAnna 6:27 PM  

Hi Kendra,
The books sounds great. And I love series so I'm glad to see ther will be more books.

Jo
beckerjo at verizon dot net

Kendra Leigh Castle 7:31 PM  

Hi Jo! Thanks! I'm glad there'll be more too!

Christa C 8:57 PM  

Kendra, can't wait to read the book and discover the characters! Congrats!

Joan, beautiful bookmarks as always!

Thank you both for a wonderful interview and the insight :)

Cheers!

carlsoncl70(at)yahoo(dot)com

Sheree 10:01 PM  

I've been staring at that cover for too long; I've forgotten any comments or questions I may have had before...

Love the bookmarks! They are so awesome!

ironss [at] gmail [dot] com

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT 10:03 PM  

can i just say that you have the best last name ever! i love the show castle!! i think it's fate that i enter the drawing! :)

jeannie
the character therapist

m.ceschini 10:06 PM  

Wonderful interview. I love discovering authors I haven't read yet! Can't wait to read your books.

m.ceschini@msn.com

Kendra Leigh Castle 10:09 PM  

Christa, thanks...I hope you enjoy the story! Glad you stopped by:)

Sheree, LOL, it seems to have that effect on people! Hypnosis by man chest...it can happen! Thanks for stopping in:)

Jeannie, I get such a kick out of the fact that there's a show featuring a writer with my name...especially because it really IS my name! Glad you entered the drawing:)

Kendra Leigh Castle 10:11 PM  

Thanks so much, m.ceschini! I hope you like the book!

Kristin85 11:59 PM  

I just started the first one and I love it! I can't wait to read more! Keepp up the awesome writing!

Kendra Leigh Castle 4:29 AM  

Thanks, Kristin85!

Lori Chapman,  5:02 AM  

Hey Kendra,

Dark Awakening is currently at the top of my TBR pile if I can ever catch up on my reviews. I may have to sneak it in sooner though. You know I adore you. Especially when you are singing and wearing an asshat. Kisses!

Lori
mommy2divas@verizon.net

Ana 12:25 PM  

Major support to you Kendra and great interview. It's always so much fun to read a new book that gets this much hype :)

Sharon 2:08 PM  

How cool to find this interview! I just received an ARC for Dark Awakening and can't wait to start it. Don't enter me for a copy of Dark Awakening, cause...duh but I sure would love a copy of Renegade Angel
Thanks :)

Stephanie Christine,  8:58 PM  

Don't know if it's too late to enter or not, but I do want to say that I have Dark Awakening and I can't wait to read it! and did I read right? a heroine with a bad sense of direction? Love!

Stephanie Christine
sprite4627 AT yahoo DOT com

Joan Swan 9:04 PM  

WINNERS:

Sorry about the delay in posting...work always gets in the way of life!

DARK AWAKENING: #4 rebeccazanetti.com
RENEGADE ANGEL: #6 temptnfate13
BOOKMARKS:
#17 LoriChapman
#13 Sheree
#9 Gwyn
#12 Christa C.
#11 Joanna

I will email you tonight!

Thanks for playing and hope everyone will continue to visit for fab authors and prizes!!

Sheree 10:16 PM  

Ooh! Thank you! I definitely can use the bookmark for hypnosis ("keep your eyes on the man chest....").

Congrats to the winners!

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