A couple years ago, there was this story in the anthology The Eternal Kiss that had a fabulous premise of healers and the supernatural and I had hoped to see more. Two years later, that story was turned into the full length novel, All Wounds, and today we’re celebrating the release of the second novel in the Stranger Things series, Time Heals.
Rebecca MacDonnell is strange. More than that, she’s a Stranger, a human born with the ability to use her own life’s force to heal ethereal beings. Vampires, werewolves, demons, ghosts, goblins, and other things thought only imaginary all need help sometime, and when they do, they come to her.
Some things, however, are beyond help. Something is stalking all Ethereals, great and small. Beings of every race are fleeing a terror no one will acknowledge, let alone name.
At seventeen, Mistress Healer Rebecca is still learning to manage her power. She must learn to control it before it controls her.
Unless it’s already too late.
When her burgeoning ability gets away from her, that which heals turns to harm and drives her loyal man-wolf bodyguard Billy straight into the arms of the unknown horror.Unlikely new friends are her only hope to finding out what’s happened, and she must enter new – and dangerous – territory in order to do it.
Literary Escapism: For those of my readers unfamiliar with All Wounds and Time Heals, can you give us a brief look at your Stranger Things series and what readers can look forward to? Something we haven’t seen yet?
Dina James: When I was first asked to consider writing a vampire story for young adults, I was horrified. Me? Did the person who asked even READ my stuff? Blood! Guts! Gore! Uh…”friendly” encounters! Not exactly something parents would approve of for their small humans.
I thought about it (all right, I agonized) and, after much discussion with friends and family, agreed to try it. I wrote a short story with the specific intention to prove that I couldn’t write for a younger audience. I deliberately went the complete opposite direction of what was expected of me. I didn’t write about a girl turning into a vampire or finding out her boyfriend has joined a vampire clan or learning she’s a vampire hunter.
I wrote about a girl who learned she was a vampire healer.
My evil plan to prove I couldn’t write for young adults backfired. The short story was loved. More was desired and after many drafts and over a year, the novel version of that original short story is available now as All Wounds. In Time Heals, Rebecca learns more about who she is and what being an Ethereal Healer really means, and how that which can help can also harm.
LE:Why Rebecca MacDonnell? What was it about Rebecca that drew you to her and want to tell her story?
DJ: I wouldn’t say it was who she was that drew me, but rather what she did. Rebecca doesn’t just heal vampires, she heals Ethereals in general. If it’s supernatural or thought to be imaginary, chances are it will be coming to her for help at some point. What kind of person would be able to handle that? What’s more, who would want to? Rebecca evolved from those questions, and I got to learn about who she was along with the others in the story.
LE:What was your inspiration when you created your characters and the worlds they live in? How did you determine how they were going to interact with each other? Are any of your characters modeled off anyone you know?
DJ: For inspiration, I thought about all these vampire hunters and slayers running around, and about how it seems that not one person takes pity on these poor fanged fellows. How awful! Not all slayers and hunters are competent, you know! Sometimes they miss and only wing the intended target. That has to hurt! So where does a hurt vampire go for help if they need it? That’s the question I wanted an answer to. I suppose I’ve always been sympathetic toward the villains in stories, and instead of writing about vampires being the baddies, I wrote them as something like heroes. Or at least not wholly bad.
As for their interaction with one another…well…just like people, not everyone gets along, so I play a little on that.
The characters themselves aren’t modeled off anyone I know (with the exception of the dryad’s dietary remarks in Time Heals, and that was just a total fun poke at a friend of mine I tease about her own). I do admit to taking some of my friends’ names, because I threatened them that I’d name the characters after them long ago, and so I have. The characters are themselves, however, and not based on anyone I’m familiar with. Not intentionally anyway.
LE: Can you introduce us to a few of the side characters that we’ll be meeting or who will play an important role to/for Rebecca? Was there any character that didn’t make as big of an impact on the story that you thought they would? Was there a character who stayed on the page longer than you thought they would?
DJ: I’m a believer in an ensemble cast. I think that our view of the world is tremendously shaped and influenced by those around us. Rebecca has her teacher, mentor and boyfriend, the Master vampire Sydney. She has her grandmother Martha, whom she calls Nana. There’s also Ryan, Syd’s thrall and Rebecca’s former schoolmate. Billy is a man-wolf (not wolf-man!) – his people are called Anubi, though we would (inaccurately) call them “werewolves” – and Rebecca’s bodyguard who keeps her safe from those who would harm her (and there are many beings that have no love for Healers).
Those are the core characters, but there are many, many others. Dryads, tomte, gnomes, goblins, hellhounds, demons…to name a few.
The character that didn’t make as big an impact as I thought they would is probably Nana. Originally I’d had much bigger plans for her, but Sydney ended up taking on more of her aspect as teacher, so I just let him have his way. I’ve learned that it really is futile to argue with characters.
The character who stayed on the page longer (and had a bigger role than I ever intended him to) was Noth the hellhound. He ended up shaping the story in a way I never expected and I’m not at all sorry for it.
LE:Was there any part of the Stranger Things world that you would like to expand on in the future? Was there anything that could have been more expanded, for instance storyline wise?
DJ: A part I’d like to expand on in the future is the role of the Healers in other races. Perhaps more about the origins of Healers and how the Enclaves came into being.
I think the character Robin’s role of Helper to Rebecca’s Healer could have been expanded a little more storyline-wise. Helpers bridge the gap between the Stranger and Regular worlds, and it’s an aspect I’d be interested in looking at in more detail.
LE:Is there any particular legend or mythology that you came across that was the root of inspiration for you that was used more than others or was there a wide source?
DJ: I did use the Egyptian god Anubis as the basis for the Anubi race of man-wolves in my story, but that’s pretty much it for particular legend. I drew on my gaming experience when considering new races for Rebecca to meet/Heal – the drow elves’ spider-goddess Lolth in Dungeons and Dragons served as inspiration for the spider-people I call T’Maru (based on a real genus of spider – Tmarus).
LE:What kind of reading experience are you hoping to create for your readers? What do you want them to come away from your books saying, thinking, and feeling?
DJ: I really hope my readers have fun and want to spend as much time in the Stranger world as I do. I want them to come away wanting more time with those characters, that world. I want them to think about who people are instead of what they are, like Rebecca is trying to learn to do. I want them feeling as though there is always a light, even in the darkest of places, and possibly from a source you never considered.
LE: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?
DJ: I’ve always been a paranormal girl. Vampires have always had my heart, as have mythology, theology, and world religions. Every culture on Earth has a vampire myth. A werewolf myth. A creation story. I’ve always been fascinated with the differences and similarities between such stories, and how they endure.
While I’ve always written stories to amuse myself, I’d never actually considered writing books until I was given an assignment in school. A teacher left a casual comment on it when it was returned to me that simply said, “Wonderful! I’ll pick up your book someday!” Up until that moment, I’d never considered I could write books. That was something other people did. I read books; I didn’t write them! Well, not like that. Sure, I wrote constantly in my own bedroom on notebook paper, but I didn’t let anybody read that!
I do now. Well, the stories I write now. Not the ones on notebook paper.
I’d say this to teachers, but it applies to everyone: Never, ever, think you don’t have an impact on someone else’s life. Even the most off-hand comment can change someone’s life in ways you never imagined. I’m sure that teacher had no idea how much their comment would shape my future. I have since tried to find/get in touch with them, but it was a long time ago and they were older back then. I very much doubt they are still among the living, but their influence is.
LE:And because I love asking this question, which authors do you read and/or think “Damn! I wish I had thought of that”?
DJ: I’m insanely jealous of Jacqueline Carey’s ability to seamlessly blend world-building with the absolutely heart-wrenching characters she makes us love. I really, really wish I’d thought of her warrior-priest caste of the Cassiline Brotherhood, but I’m glad she did it first, because there’s no way I’d ever be able to do it the justice she does. Joscelin makes me weep with his beauty. Honestly, if you haven’t read Kushiel’s Dart, do it now. NOW!
Meet Dina James!
Dina James is an unapologetic geek/gamer girl addicted to writing. She graduated from high school when she was sixteen, holds a college degree in nothing in particular in addition to multiple certifications in various things that captured her interest at the time, is an avid knitter and loves Darth Vader. She lives in Oregon with her husband and a menagerie of pets. She has website at www.dinajames.com which has a far-more-comprehensive biography than this one. It mentions sushi.
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