My guest today has a fascinating background -- one perfectly suited for fiction!! We're talking about her new release from Pocket Books, SPARKS, book #2 in her Anya Kalinczyk series.
Laura Bickle has an MA in sociology-criminology (research interests: fear of crime and victimology) and a BA in criminology. She has worked in and around criminal justice since 1997. Although she does read Tarot cards, she's never used them in criminal profiling or to locate lost scientists. She recently took up astronomy, but for the most part her primary role in studying constellations and dark matter is to follow her amateur astronomer-husband around central Ohio toting the telescope tripod and various lenses.
Writing as Laura Bickle, she's the author of EMBERS and SPARKS for Pocket - Juno Books. Writing as Alayna Williams, she's the author of DARK ORACLE and ROGUE ORACLE.
More info on her urban fantasy and general nerdiness is here: http://www.salamanderstales.com/
Laura/ Alayna’s blogs
http://www.salamanderstales.blogspot.com and http://delphisdaughters.blogspot.com
She’s a proud member of Word Whores.
She’s at Facebook, and Fangs, Fur, and Fey.
Anya Kalinczyk is the rarest type of psychic medium, a Lantern, who holds down a day job as an arson investigator with the Detroit Fire Department—while working 24/7 to exterminate malicious spirits haunting a city plagued by unemployment and despair. Along with her inseparable salamander familiar, Sparky, Anya has seen, and even survived, all manner of fiery hell—but her newest case sparks suspicions of a bizarre phenomenon that no one but her eccentric team of ghost hunters might believe: spontaneous human combustion.
After fire consumes the home of elderly Jasper Bernard, Anya is stunned to discover his remains—or, more precisely, a lack of them; even the fiercest fires leave some trace of their victims—and she is sure this was no naturally occurring blaze. Soon she’s unearthed a connection to a celebrity psychic who preys on Detroit’s poor, promising miracles for money. But Hope Solomon wants more—she’s collecting spirits, and in a frantic race against time, Anya will face down an evil adversary who threatens her fragile relationship with her lover, her beloved Sparky’s freshly hatched newts, and the wandering souls of the entire city.
Laura, tell us about your upcoming release.
My current release is SPARKS, from Pocket Books. By day, Anya Kalinczyk is an arson investigator for the Detroit Fire Department. By night, she's the rarest kind of spiritual medium, a Lantern. While other mediums allow spirits to use their hands and voices to communicate, Anya incinerates them. With the help of her fire salamander familiar, Sparky, and a ragtag group of ghost hunters, Anya chases down unseen threats to her city.
In SPARKS, Anya’s investigating a rash of spontaneous human combustion cases. With the reluctant assistance of a soul collector from the Underworld, she must track down the supernatural source of the fires and keep Sparky’s newly-hatched newts safe from a malicious psychic.
What was the hardest part of this book to write and why?
The beginning is the most intimidating part of a book for me to write. The blank page is a scary place, full of doubts and 'what if's.' Procrastination is my greatest enemy at that stage.
The easiest part for me is the last quarter of the book. Then, I can see how all the factors come into play and the plot threads begin to tie up. It's sort of like running downhill - exhilarating and exciting.
Tell us something unusual about this book (i.e. in its creation, execution, production).
Research is one of the pleasures of being a writer. And I got to research spontaneous human combustion for this book. I was really amazed at the number of theories about how this works...including the theory of the 'phosphenic fart.' In this idea, digestive gases gather and catch fire in one's digestive tract.
Yeah, I know. Bizarre. But fun to see if I can get the heroine to mention that in the story. And if I can get my editor to laugh, that's an additional bonus.
What do you love most about this book/series?
Sparky, Anya's fire salamander, is a lot of fun to write. Sparky is a composite of all the pets I've had. He's snuggly, petulant, protective, and snarky. As a fire salamander, he can affect electrical fields and fire...he's been known to chew on cell phones, blow up microwaves, and set of sprinkler systems in the crime lab.
He has a favorite toy that he cuddles with at night...a Glow-Worm. I had a Glow-Worm toy as a child. I was terribly afraid of the dark, and it really helped. I still give them as gifts for baby showers.
Is there a message in this novel that you want readers to grasp?
I think that my books tend to really focus on how the heroines balance their inner lives with their outer lives. My protagonists tend to have hidden lives with supernatural powers that they must keep secret from their day jobs.
What did you do before you became a full-time writer?
My background is in library science and criminal justice. I worked in criminal justice for more than ten years, and recently made the switch to working in a public library. Being surrounded by books and chasing down the answers to research questions is a special kind of bliss.
So, I guess you could say that I'm a part-time writer. Maybe someday it will become a full-time occupation.
Which is your favorite of the books you have written?
I think my favorite is ROGUE ORACLE - which I wrote under my pseudonym, Alayna Williams. Tara Sheridan survived an attack from a serial killer that left her scarred for life. She's withdrawn from her professional life as a criminal profiler into a self-imposed exile that's both physical and emotional. In ROGUE ORACLE, she's working to unravel a series of murders that has its roots in the Chernobyl disaster and resolving her relationship issues with an enigmatic federal agent.
I like working with broken heroines because people are flawed in real life. The story also forced me to face some of my own fears about vulnerability in relationships, which was a really scary and exciting experience.
What would you say is your biggest writing quirk?
Wonder Woman helps me write. Seriously. My Wonder Woman collection is on the shelves beside my desk. I've been collecting Wonder Woman since I was a kid, and she always reminds me to try out new ideas, to think outside of the box.
Do You Have Any Undiscovered Or Hidden Talents? If So, What?
My husband and I are amateur astronomers. I also belly dance a bit...but not in public. Nobody needs to see that, trust me! ;-)
I initially became interested in belly dancing because I wanted to help overcome my shyness. Since I spend so much time in my head, it helped me think of my body a bit more, get outside of myself. I still wouldn't dance in public, but it's a lot of fun to get together with a group of women to laugh and shimmy.
Do You Like Short Or Long Hair On A Guy?
Short. I could never be with a guy who has better hair than I do (which, admittedly, is not hard).
How many pillows do you like to sleep with?
Two. One usually winds up on the floor, and I usually wake up with a cat wrapped around my head.
Are You A Heavy Or Light Sleeper?
Light sleeper. I hear all the things that go bump in the night, and then worry up stories to go along with them.
Where can we find you online?
Thanks for being with us today Laura!
SPARKS is available for pre-order from Amazon and Barnes & Noble