It’s amazing the things that can be discovered when you sit with someone and just start talking. For instance, did you know that Nicole Peeler studied in Scotland? She lived there for a few years. Lucky! Nicole and I had a great conversation while at RT in April and would you like to know what else I found out? Keep reading. Don’t forget, Tracking the Tempest came out yesterday – have you picked it up yet?
Tracking the Tempest begins four months–and one eyebrow sacrificed to magical training–after the close of Tempest Rising. During that time, Jane’s been busy honing her supernatural powers and enjoying her newfound sense of confidence. Rockabill may not yet be heaven, but she’s realized it’s home. Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, however, and Ryu–Jane’s bloodsucker boyfriend–can’t let a major holiday go by without getting all gratuitous. This time his shenanigans involve a last-minute ticket to Boston and a hefty dose of direct interference in her life. But Ryu’s best laid plans inevitably create more upheaval than even he can anticipate, and Jane winds up embroiled in an investigation involving a spree of gruesome killings committed by a being of tremendous power . . .
. . . who, much to Jane’s surprise, happens to be another halfling.
Make sure you stick around to the end. We’ll be giving away a copy of Tempest Rising to a lucky reader.
Literary Escapism: Why Jane? What was it about Jane that drew you to her and want to tell her story?
Nicole Peeler: Jane was the first thing for the book. I’m too self-deprecating to write a traditional heroine: the type of person who is like, “I’m going to save the world!” But, I also know a lot of really brave, awesome women who are human-woman brave. They don’t wield swords or administer black eyes, but they definitely kick ass. So I wanted to do homage to them: to women who get up everyday and face things they’re totally not ready to face because they know that somebody has to do it.
From there came Jane. I wanted her to be strong, but still vulnerable, and the selkie legends lent themselves perfectly to that idea. That said, selkies might have been kinda boring to write, so I settled on the half-human children from all the selkie lore. All in all, the whole process felt more like unveiling Jane’s character rather than creating it. She’s always been very alive and familiar to me.
Literary Escapism: So once you decided to focus on Selkies, was there any particular legend or folktale involving Selkies that you drew inspiration from or have a strong pull towards?
Nicole Peeler: Tempest Rising isn’t just a selkie book by any means. I’d always loved Jung’s idea of archetypes, which confront us with the question, “why are there all of these different myths from all over the world that are the same?” For example, every culture has a vampire myth, even cultures that could never have interacted. Many philosophers have tried to explain why this happened, and Jung reasoned that these myths represent the primal fears and desires ruling the primordial soup in our brain. I turned that idea on its head, and went with the most “obvious”–if apparently ridiculous– solution: That we all dream of these creatures because these creatures exist. They are amongst us and we’ve caught glimpses, causing each culture to riff on them in different ways and creating the multiplicity of mythologies with which we’re familiar.
Literary Escapism: Making it more regional.
Nicole Peeler: Exactly. I didn’t want to limit myself to just vampires or just selkies. I’m naturally quite greedy, and I wanted everything. I wanted to be able to pick and chose and do whatever I wanted. I’ve studied mythology all of my life, so I wanted to bring all of that knowledge and play with it and have fun with it.
Literary Escapism: Why a Barghest? I’ve never come across one before.
Nicole Peeler: That was kind of a joke too. I was riffing on the idea that to write UF, you have to have a vampire and you have to have a werewolf. So I made my vampire into a metrosexual gigolo, basically, although not everybody gets that. A lot of people are like “Ryu’s so romantic” and I’m like umm…..
Literary Escapism: He’s more about the sex.
Nicole Peeler: Exactly. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with a man who’s all about sex, and Ryu has a lot going for him. But, to return to the barghest, I was joking with the idea that a UF author should have a vampire and a werewolf, and I was thinking that I don’t want a “normal” werewolf any more than I want a “normal” vampire.
Literary Escapism: They are starting to get cliché now.
Nicole Peeler: Exactly. So I look up all these mythologies and the barghest is actually a really common myth. There are “black dog” myths all throughout the British Isles, all called different things. The big difference is that they are always giant dogs, instead of wolves, which I thought was really funny.
Literary Escapism: I do have to say, I love the wiener dog. It was a wiener dog, right?
Nicole Peeler: Right. I thought using dogs was really funny. So instead of wolves, I have this giant hound, and we also see shapeshifters living as wiener dogs, et cetera.
Literary Escapism: Speaking of Ryu, I’ve seen online that you’ve said that Ryu and Jane are not going to end up together. Have we met who Jane is going to end up with? Have we met who could possibly be her next relationship?
Nicole Peeler: You’re going to find out really quickly who she’s going to end up with because that’s not really the point of the series. I don’t want to give too much way because people get mad if we give away spoilers. But I will tell you that you’re going to know who she’s going to be with really soon. It’s just a matter of getting them there.
Literary Escapism: Is he in the first book?
Nicole Peeler: Yes.
Literary Escapism: I don’t want her with Ryu, I know who I want her with and I see the potential for it, but I don’t know if it’s actually where it’s supposed to go.
Nicole Peeler: You’ll see in the second book.
Literary Escapism: Awesome. The second book comes out…
Nicole Peeler: July 1st. But keep in mind that the series is about Jane, not Jane Finding Redemption Through a Man. She has a ton of issues to work out, but none of them deal with her confidence or her sexuality or whatever, so she knows what she wants in that area of her life. That said, life doesn’t always play fair.
Literary Escapism: A lot of her issues come from the time she spent in the hospital. Are we going to end up revisiting that? Will that be a part of future plot points? It just seems like there is more to that time than what we’ve been told or I could be reading more into that.
Nicole Peeler: Not so much. It’s something she’s really embarrassed about. She’s a fundamentally balanced person and despite all of these knocks she’s taken, for the most part she’s kept herself together and she’s really just embarrassed about the fact that she went completely gaga at that one point and couldn’t deal with reality for a while. Which is partly why she’s always bringing it up, nervously, as a joke. She’s super self-conscious about it.
Literary Escapism: Why is Jane afraid to tell everyone she can swim in the ocean.
Nicole Peeler: Just because it’s not normal. You can’t swim in that part of Maine, in that cold or in the Sow, without dying.
Literary Escapism: The Sow is not the entire beach, right? It is still a beach town. Why can’t she say she just swim on the beach?
Nicole Peeler: It’s just too cold. You would die of hypothermia very quickly.
Literary Escapism: This is in Maine, right?
Nicole Peeler: Yes. At the beginning of TR, we learn that she does have a wet suit that she wears sometimes just in case she gets caught. But If she was seen in that water, especially near the Sow, wet suit or no people would realize she wasn’t normal. So she knows she has to hide it, even though she doesn’t know why it pulls her so powerfully. She knows she has to do it, but she also knows that if someone were to see her, they’d know she was different. I think it’s the way her mother raised her: Kind of “we’re going to go swim, but don’t tell anybody.” It’s a riff on the idea of family secrets, and how we all picked up, often subconsciously, certain things we don’t talk about outside of the home.
Literary Escapism: Are we going to see her mother again?
Nicole Peeler: You’re going to see something about her mother in book three.
Literary Escapism: What that is, we’re not finding out, right?
Nicole Peeler: There’s no way to say anything without giving the entire arc away, so I have to stay tight lipped on this one.
Literary Escapism: For your vampires, why did you make them the way you did? Obviously making them different is a good thing right now and they are, but they really don’t seem to have much of a weakness.
Nicole Peeler: Well, my big thing was that I wanted to strip all of the religious stuff out of it. So you almost have to take death out of it. Because anything that transcends death is going to…
Literary Escapism: Have some form of religion
Nicole Peeler: Exactly and I wanted to strip all of that out. You’re going to see my series as it develops. I’ve actually developed a psuedo-scientific basis for these characters and you’re going to learn the secrets of their existence as it goes on–who they really are, what they really are. In the meantime, I didn’t want there to be any of these connotations of death and resurrection. As far as the metrosexual, gigolo stuff, what would you be if you were a creature who lived off of blood and human emotion? You would either be a monster or you would be a gigolo. You would be one of the two. And I think gigolo is the more honorable of the two: you’ve kept yourself more “human” by grounding yourself in pleasure, rather than using your power for more nefarious purposes.
Literary Escapism: Kind of like a Dexter vs. Call Girl?
Nicole Peeler: Violence versus lust. Ryu has chosen the right path in a sense that his other option would be to live like this character Graham that you’ll meet in the second book who is an incubus, but lives on pain. Graham is a really creepy character.
Literary Escapism: Is he your villain?
Nicole Peeler: He’s a villain; he’s working with the villain.
Literary Escapism: The main villain in Tempest Rising, Jimmu, he’s no longer the same guy, right?
Nicole Peeler: Right, Jimmu’s dead. Although TR should leave you pretty convinced Jimmu was just a puppet.
Literary Escapism: But then who he works for…
Nicole Peeler: Exactly. Everyone is like, “Jarl is fine, it was just Jimmu who was bad.” Jane knows there’s no way Jimmu was acting on his own.
Literary Escapism: Jane’s father, does he know more than he’s letting on?
Literary Escapism: So he knows something is there, he just doesn’t know what.
Nicole Peeler: He has to know something is up. You’re also going to get some resolution to that in book four.
Literary Escapism: How do you separate your imaginary world with real life? Do you often take something you see during your daily life and twist it a little to make it work elsewhere? Have you ever wondered what would happen if any part of your world were, in actually, a part of our reality?
Nicole Peeler: I do get a lot from real life, and I get a lot of inspiration from my friends – they are all lunatics. They live awesome lives and have such funny stories. There’s a scene in the second book that is directly from being with my friend Jana, who is a merchant for Old Navy. She travels all the time and she has all this amazing fashion. She had this really nice wallet and I was like “ooh that is cute”. It was a great, Louis Vuitton wallet. She flips it open and it says “Mad in China”, it was a total knockoff that she got on a street corner in China. I laughed for about four hours about that moment: Jana looking at me like I was crazy, and showing me the label. So I integrated that story into my books. Jane makes fun of Linda because she has her Prada bag and she’s like “let me reach into my Prada”, she keeps calling attention to the fact that it’s Prada. Jane looks and she says that “I don’t think the people in Prada are Mad in China”. Stuff like that I get directly from real life.
I also travel a lot, so I set my book in places that I’ve been and know. I’m going on another research trip to Maine this summer because the fourth book is going to be set in Maine.
Literary Escapism: The second and third one are not?
Nicole Peeler: No. The second one is set in Boston and the third one is all over the place. I’m from a place called Aurora, Illinois and, strangely enough, one city visited in the third book is Borealis, Illinois. So those places I know well. The fifth and sixth book will be set in the UK, so I’ve just been on a research trip to Britain, and I’m planning another one shortly. Gotta love research!
Literary Escapism: You brought up the Prada and that made this question stick out – Jane’s bosses…what’s the story behind those two?
Nicole Peeler: They are another example of me playing with tropes. In a lot of books and movies, every girl has a gay best friend, but I was wondering why they never have lesbian best friends. So I decided to give Jane not only a lesbian best friend, but lesbian life partner best friends. Gay rights are really big for me – I’m a huge supporter of gay marriage – so this is a way for me to add my political agenda without overtly confronting anyone with anything. Hopefully, readers simply like Grizzie and Tracey and can see why they are together and that they make a great pair. Again, it’s also a way to play with stereotypes. Tracey is kind of the stereotype – the rugby polo wearing lesbian – but she’s really the sweet one of the pair who is always like, “Grizzie, be nice.” Tracy’s the gentle and kind one. And then Grizzie is completely off the wall. I’ve got people in my life who are really omni-sexual, who are these sexy beings who don’t want to be categorized. In my mythological world, I’ve made those kind of characters incubi or succubi. Then I thought about how humans can be like that too. So Grizzie is my human answer to a succubus. I didn’t want to make it into a human vs supernatural world, where the supernaturals get all the sex and fun and the humans are just walking around being gray and dull. Humans can be just as outrageous, so that was really important to me. So Grizzie is my answer to all the glamor in the supernatural world and all the sexiness and all the heat…it’s not limited to just the supes. We can see that such unrepentant sexuality can exist in humans as well.
Literary Escapism: What was it about the fantasy genre that drew you to write in it? Was there a certain book that captured your imagination and lead you to think you could do it or did it come to your naturally?
Nicole Peeler: When I was a kid, I read fantasy. I always really liked it, but I can’t write about heroes with a sword except in a tongue in cheek way. Then I started reading Charles de Lint and Mercedes Lackey, who wrote the Diana Tregarde series, and those blew my mind. For, while I don’t think I could write a high fantasy, a straight romance, or a mystery, with urban fantasy I can integrate all of these genres together. I love fantasy, I love mystery, I love romance, so I can have elements, but I don’t have to be bound by those genre expectations. Don’t get me wrong, I know that each of those genres have people who are pushing against those genre barriers. But with urban fantasy, you’re expected to pick and choose. I always use Kat Richardson’s books as a good example: they are completely opposite from mine and yet I love her books and she loves mine and we’re both publishing in the same genre.
Literary Escapism: Its one of the things I like about urban fantasy is that no matter which author you try, you’re going to find something new, something different. I haven’t really heard of two books sounding the same. Whereas you get into high fantasy, you’ll get dungeons and dragons and swords and magic.
Nicole Peeler: They have things that are different and they have things that are interesting, but some genres are more binding than others in their genre (or reader) expectations. I see people now who are trying to define UF. They really get mad when a book doesn’t have sex, or if it does have sex. Or they’re upset when a book isn’t dark enough, or if it’s too dark. For example, some people don’t like Jane because they want less overt sexuality, saying she should be in love with Ryu, or they don’t like the fact that it’s funny. But other people love these things, and that’s what’s great about UF. There’s something for everyone.
Literary Escapism: When you started writing Tempest Rising, did you have a process of how you started to write? Is it the same or different with each novel you write?
Nicole Peeler: I’m pretty organized. I’m a total plotter and I outline all the time. I’ve gotten a little bit less anal about outlining as, basically, I was scared when writing the first book that I wouldn’t be able to finish it. Now I’m a little more confident. I’m outlining book four now, but I’ve got a very general plot arc and then I’m going to outline very carefully the first five chapters and then outline the next five when I’m done with those five, and so on.
Literary Escapism: So you’re a mini-outliner type of person?
Nicole Peeler: I used to write the whole outline at first. And I still do, sort of, in that I’ve written down the whole plot arc. But I’m doing my chapter outline differently, this time, knowing that things in the middle, especially, will change quite a bit as I write. Doing the first books, especially the second, I wasted a lot of time writing really detailed outlines that I didn’t use. So I’m trying to avoid that. But I also think that being organized and doing a fair amount of outlining is a good thing. So I’m trying to create for myself a process in which both organization and wiggle room are equally respected. And I think I’m finally getting there. Book three was much easier to write than either of the first two, and book four is flowing like wine. :-)
Contest Time! Nicole has graciously offered to give away a copy of Tempest Rising to a lucky reader. All you have to do is answer this question: What are you hoping to find out in Tracking the Tempest? If you haven’t read Tempest Rising yet, what is it that intrigues you about it?
As always, there’s more ways of getting your name in the hat (remember, these aren’t mandatory to enter, just extra entries):
- +1 for each place you post about today’s contest on your blog, social network, or anywhere you can. Digg it, stumble it, twit it, share it with the world. Wherever you share it, make sure you add a link to it along with your answer.
- +1 to any review you comment on, however, comments must be meaningful. Just give me the title of the review and I’ll be able to figure it out from there.
- +1 If you are a follower of Literary Escapism on Facebook and/or Twitter
- +10 Purchase Tracking the Tempest or any novel through LE’s Amazon store or the Book Depository sometime during this contest and send a copy of the receipt VIA email for your purchase to: jackie AT literaryescapism DOT com. Each purchase is worth ten entries.
There is one thing I am adding to my contests now…the winner must post a review of the novel someplace. Whether it is on their own blog, Amazon, GoodReads, LibraryThing or wherever, it doesn’t matter. Just help get the word out.
I have not been contacting winners, so you will need to check back to see if you’ve won.